Being a gyopo in Korea

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Christian asked what it was like to be a gyopo in Korea, so here's my response:

On 9/27/05, christian gonzález-rivera wrote: hey gyopo TEPers:

i want to talk about gyopos this afternoon in my teacher's class. i
collected some quotes by gyopos that i found in online newspapers,
mostly related to the experience gyopo men and women have in finding
romance here. do you (personally) have one or more quotes i can add
to the collection? i can identify you as the author if you want, or
you can choose to remain anonymous.

my teacher's class is at 2:30 this afternoon, so if you're interested,
please send me an email before then.

thanks!

cgr



Christian and Gyopos and others...

I was initially going to make this a private post, but I would like to know other people's experiences as a Korean/foreigner. Also, for those that know Korean, what does Jaemigyopo literally translate to.

If I travel with a foreigner, the Koreans automatically assume that I speak Korean, even though often the white foreigner will speak better Korean than I. I get several sorts of reactions when people learn I don't know Korean these range from a blank apology to anger. Yes, people have gotten angry with me because I don't speak Korean.

This is because they feel that my upbringing is lacking because if I had "real" Korean parent they would have taught me Korean. When I tell them I am adopted, they wonder why I would want to come back to Korea. These questions I've had posed to me by very forward strangers and by "earnest" Korean friends, now these are the same people who will say to me, "Oh, you look fat today." or "Are you Christian (not a pun in your name, but Jesus Christ Christian)?" Koreans can be quite blunt.

With my students, I think I have to work harder because I don't have the stamp of "foreigner" on my head. I have to initially gain their trust and belief that I DON'T SPEAK KOREAN. After that, I tend to build closer relationships or so it seems from talking with my other foreigner friends. I've had Koreans claim me as their best friend after 2 weeks, which is kinda like a girl telling you she loves you over an innocent cup of coffee.

Now work and the hagwon situation is completely different. Hagwon owners are not in the business to educate. Let me rephrase that, most hagwon owners are not in the business to educate. They want to make money. If you haven't noticed, money is ever so important in Korea. There is a hierarchy of those hired, I believe. The creme de la creme is a pretty blonde girl, next the handsome blonde man, oh, on nationality, it's Canadian first, then American, English, Scottish, Irish, Kiwi, and then Austrailian (this is the preference order that my hagwon boss had given me when I hired my replacement.) After the blondes, it's those that are considered beautiful or handsome. If desperation arises, the gyopos are considered. I was a desperate choice (a teacher confided in me.) Now you would think qualifications would be the upmost requirement. But hagwon owners have a free trial period and they've found that handsome or beautiful teachers tend to keep students longer.

This has changed a bit since the whole, "Foreigner men are lecherous, perverted players" scare about 8 months ago. An internet site posted a forum on how to pick up Korean girls. It was like something out of Maxim or some other men's magazine. This caused an uproar and the Korean "Netizens (Internet Citizens)" were on the warpath with scythes deporting and ostracizing as many foreigner men as possible. I was not considered one of these foreigner men, thank go. Appearance is ever so important in this country and so I went under the radar. My red haired, blue-eyed friend, Stefan, was not so lucky.

Now there are corporation hagwons like CDI that try to hire gyopo's exclusively. The money is great but they expect the gyopos to work like Koreans. This means constant evaluations, cameras in the classrooms, 6 to 7 day workweeks, including Saturdays and Sundays, and the first vacation coming after a 6 month evaluation.

Also, the most coveted jobs in Korea- the University jobs- are often out of reach of gyopos. Universities would lose their esteem if they don't hire a "foreigner" teacher (this I know because the HR manager of a University confided to his associate, who later confided in me.)

Dating, I haven't had much of a problem. A lot of my friends who date Koreans tend to think that their most attractive feature is their green card. I tend to get girls that like me for me and then for a green card (plus I cook for them and wash dishes.)

Those are my rambling thoughts on my day off from school. (My students have field day today.)

I hope that helps,

Dan



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