By Park Si-soo
A group of illegal foreign residents from Middle East and African countries were apprehended Wednesday for teaching children English at 30 private language institutes in Seoul.
The Korea Immigration Service said it had detained four Iranians, one Libyan and one Moroccan. The agency said the six had light colored skin and spoke as if they came from countries whose mother tongue was English.
They mainly taught pre school and primary school children, as it is easy to conceal their poor proficiency it said. They also had overstayed their visas and will be deported.
The arrested Libyan said “Nobody suspected me of being a non-native English speaker due to my white skin and blue eyes.”
The immigration service also detained a 36-year-old Korean broker and 30 language school owners for helping and hiring the foreign nationals overlooking their illegal status. The institutes will be fined for hiring them.
It’s not new for people from English-speaking countries to teach Korean students without permission. However, it’s the first time that foreign nationals from Middle East and African countries have been caught giving English lessons.
The Korean broker said, “Language school owners prefer white people to colored foreigners. In the market, the demand for white instructors is very high.”
A manager of a major English education academy also agreed that skin color is sometimes more important than teaching ability on the market. “For instance, there was an ethnic Korean instructor who emigrated to the U.S. at an early age and graduated from a top-notch university there. She was evaluated to be excellent in teaching English. Right after her debut lesson, however, she faced complaints from her students, who alleged her English tone was weird,” she said.