Koreans prefer fellow Koreans as English teachers

According to the Korea Times (October 10, 2012):

Academic research has established that Koreans have a clear preference for Korean teachers and professors, followed by a slightly lower preference for Caucasian teaching staff.

Negative preference values, however, were found for Chinese and Indian teachers. Our study extends testing the “country of origin” effect previously found for products such as cars or cosmetics to the services sector.

According to the article:

While generally Korean teachers demand more respect and enforce stricter discipline, Korean students and their parents in fact prefer Korean teachers. Local teachers working attitude and manners reflect the Korean culture, whereas in English conversation classes led by foreigners the teaching style may deviate from the traditional Korean approach.

Our study found significant preferences by Koreans for their own teaching staff (teachers and professors), followed by a slightly lower preference for Caucasians. The study measured these preferences on a scale from one to seven, where values above four indicated a preference, four itself indicated no preference either way, while values below four indicated dislike.

Values for Chinese and Indian teaching staff were found to be slightly negative, indicating that when Koreans do have a choice, they prefer a Korean or Caucasian teacher. The chart below visualizes the Koreans ethnicity preferences for educational services.

Now I realize I do not know much about this subject but I did think this one paragraph was kind of important:

We have identified and measured three explanatory factors visualized in the figure below:  country image, perception of service quality, and trust. The Koreans in this study, sampled in Australia, view their home country in a positive light, and generally also view Caucasians (represented by Australians in this study) positively. Values for Chinese and Indians revolve around the neutral zero mark.

Wonder what the results would have been if the study had actually been done in Korea?

I wonder if these Americans prefer to learn Korean from fellow Americans?

  • Creo69

    Breaking news! Koreans prefer rice and kimchi over non Korean foods….Who the hell is surprised by this? Koreans are some of the most predictable people on the Earth when it comes to anything even remotely related to nationalism.

  • JK

    It’s their personal preference, Creo69. Wasn’t it you who went on and on about freedom of to speak their own mind and make their own choices without fear of consequences? http://www.rjkoehler.com/2012/09/29/open-thread-262-happy-chuseok/

    What, are you gonna blame the Korean gov’t again and say that Caucasian Americans don’t have their own preferences either?

  • Q

    When my father was in high school, an American visited the school. Principal asked English teacher (Korean) of my father to interpret their conversation during touring the school. The English teacher was so frightened that he disappeared soon after the request:


    I think Korean teachers are easier to understand when it comes to teaching grammar and written tests for scholastic exams. Native English speakers are better at training communicative verbal language skills. I guess the slight more preference to Korean English teachers simply reflect the fact that students are pressured to pass difficult written English tests to go to college.

  • enomoseki

    O RLY?

    I swear, the last time I’ve heard about this, those Koreans preferred white honkies over any Asians, including Koreans.

  • sojufan_5944

    not really surprising…

  • http://www.chinasmack.com/tag/funny/page/3 Jakgani


  • http://bcarr.com Brendon Carr

    I’ll tell you what, though: I’ve studied Russian, Korean, Chinese and Japanese at the 101 level (good grief), and in all cases, I strongly preferred my American (i.e., second-language user) instructors to the native speakers. At the higher levels, of course, being able to practice with a native speaker is invaluable, but at the elementary levels there is a definite advantage to learning from a person who is able to explain things thoroughly, in language which is comprehensible to the student.

  • gbnhj

    While the short article suggests that the differing teaching styles of Caucasian teachers in English conversation classes may be an explanation for the sample population’s relative preference for Korean teachers, it’s not clear at all whether this study focused on student perceptions of language teachers. If, in fact, their data were collected in Australia, and measured student preference by race for teachers in general, I wouldn’t rush to claim the study’s merit in describing Korean-based Korean students’ attitudes regarding their native-speaker teachers for language courses.

  • http://asspos.blogspot.com geronl

    Isn’t that wacist??

    *slaps self*

    Sorry. I had a bit of PC burp through my brain.

    I would imagine it is easier for Koreans to understand a bilingual Korean

  • Yu Bum Suk

    Officials conducted a huge study done in Korea last year. Korean students and their parents preferred Korean teachers “with a high level of English”. The problem is that Koreans with a degree and “a high level of English” – i.e. they could write a grammatical paragraph – can most likely get a better job than as a conversational English teacher starting at 2.0m / month at the bottom of the totem pole at a public school. If they can’t they’re probably fuck-ups who should never be put in a classroom.

    When and if the NEAT finally unseats the CSAT for English, either high schools will be scrambling for more NETs or the market for HS hagwons with NETs is going to explode. It may well explode even if HSs retain their NETs (at a ratio of 1 to every 500+ students). I’ve got to know the NEAT fairly well and there’s just no way 80%+ of current Korean English teachers can teach it properly. In fact there’s no way anyone can teach it properly to a class of 30 students of very mixed levels. The new series of approved HS textbooks, which I reviewed earlier this week, will do little to help – basically they’re the old textbooks with the Korean removed. The writing books are appalling.

    I see almost nothing but schizophrenia in government plans from the past 15 years and for the immediate future. One thing’s for sure, however. If there’s any motivation, be it instrumental or integrative, for Koreans to learn how to speak and write English well, foreigners are going to have a huge role here for a long time to come.

  • Yu Bum Suk

    Edit: remove “done” from first sentence.

  • brier

    Korean teachers are mostly horrible at teaching grammar. They only teach form generally and not much about meaning and usage except for a few examples thrown in. Lots of local students dont no jow and when to use the grammar.

  • brier


  • Elowel

    What about learning from gyopos? Do we know of a preference for them? I ask because I am one myself. (:

  • http://www.chinasmack.com/tag/funny/page/3 Jakgani

    Gyopo? Sure you can teach them English – just don’t sell them your drugs…

  • Mryouknowwho

    I agree with #3 and #7.

  • untold

    Horses for courses really. Korean teachers are better for many of the tests that are important to students. It depends what the aims of English study are.

  • Yu Bum Suk

    Elowel, I’ve known and talked to (and read posts and blogs from) a lot of gyopos who’ve taught in the PS system. Their experiences seem to be as varied as non-Korean native-English teachers, both positive and negative. Some schools seem to like them more, some seem to prefer a white, and some had no preference. Some schools think it’s an advantage to have someone who can speak Korean, and some think it’s a problem because 90%+ of the time if the kids think you can understand it in Korean, they’ll say it in Korean – no matter what your race. Some had the best of both worlds (celebrity who doesn’t need a translator to do anything) and some had the worst (treated like a disposable foreigner and expected to act like a good, overworked Korean junior).

    In the hagwon industry, however, the preference is clearly for whites in the majority of cases. There’s the odd hagwon that prefers gyopos but for the most part they want non-Asians because that’s what fits with whatever image they’re trying to create to the parents.

  • Elowel

    @14 Ssshhh.

    @17 Thank you for taking the time to share that with me, Yu Bum Suk. I don’t think I’ll end up teaching in schools or hagwons, and stick with privates instead.

  • inkevitch

    enomoseki wrote -“white honkies”

    Class action for $150,000 anyone?

  • Yu Bum Suk

    Are there any other kinds of honkies?

  • http://www.sperwerslog.com Sperwer


    I prefer self-help. 😉

  • Seth Gecko

    Are there any other kinds of honkies?

    Black honkies (Blonkies).

  • http://populargusts.blogspot.com/ bulgasari

    @18 There’s the odd hagwon that prefers gyopos but for the most part they want non-Asians because that’s what fits with whatever image they’re trying to create to the parents.

    I couldn’t help but remember this hagwon which preferred gyopos.

    When I started working at a public school one of the teachers told me that everyone would be happy because they had a “real foreigner” at their school, unlike the gyopo who had previously taught there…

  • Creo69

    “It’s their personal preference, Creo69. Wasn’t it you who went on and on about freedom of to speak their own mind and make their own choices without fear of consequences? http://www.rjkoehler.com/2012/09/29/open-thread-262-happy-chuseok/

    What, are you gonna blame the Korean gov’t again and say that Caucasian Americans don’t have their own preferences either?”

    Where did I say Koreans have to eat pizza instead of their beloved kimchi and rice …or, where did I say they must learn English from native speakers? That’s right I didn’t!

    I was merely pointing out the obvious. Anyone who has spent 6 months could have given you the conclusion to this study in five seconds.

    And the study states “Strict teaching” as a possible reason Koreans prefer Koreans. Please, I taught at a high school in Korea and Korean teachers are hardly strict and certainly culpable for the inferior educational system in Korea. Allowing your students to sleep because they disrupt class less is not a good teaching practice, but an absolute standard of almost every Korean teacher I have ever worked with.

    And no, Korean teachers do not have the “choice” to allow other people’s kids to be cheated out of an education (by allowing them to sleep) because they find it is easier to teach them when they are sleeping.

  • jd

    I don’t doubt that they prefer Korean teachers. But it would be much more interesting to see who’s actually teaching the students more effectively.

    It likely comes down to what’s been mentioned above, in that it depends on the level of the students. I’d rather learn a new alphabet from someone who knows what it is like to learn it as an adult. But I would want a native speaker to walk me through the more advanced stuff, and have them do it in the target language so I have a chance to use the language as a tool to get something accomplished, in this case learning the language.

    Mr Snake, bite that tail!!

  • http://www.chinasmack.com/tag/funny/page/3 Jakgani

    The problem is that Koreans with a degree and “a high level of English”

    Koreans with a degree and a “high level of English” usually don’t work in Public schools.

    They choose to work either for a company or for the SAT schools (like ETOOS or SKY – where they are paid like 10 million won per month teaching kids who didn’t get a high enough score to get into University.

    I know because my best (Korean) friends do that – and earn that – and they think Public school teachers are lazy lamers.

  • silver surfer

    Koreans are more comfortable with other Koreans. What a shock.

    You can bet NETs are more comfortable with students from …anywhere outside the sinosphere… too.

  • http://www.chinasmack.com/tag/funny/page/3 Jakgani
  • SomeguyinKorea

    ” four itself indicated no preference either way”

    So, they employed a 7 point Likert scale despite evidence suggesting that it shouldn’t be done when the respondents are Koreans because they have a relatively high tendency to opt for the middle, and therefore safer, option. No mention of their Cronbach’s alpha results, eh?

  • SomeguyinKorea

    No mention of the sample size or of the type of sample used. Demographic information would have also been nice.

  • SomeguyinKorea

    Furthermore…Are Koreans (possibly adults) studying or living in Australia representative of the majority of young Korean English learners? I wouldn’t think so. Besides, most Korean kids have never been abroad, and so one could imagine that they might have a slightly more positive view of foreigners than those who have.

  • FishOutOfWater

    Korean parents feel more comfortable with a Korean teacher since they can better communicate with the teacher, thus clearly express their expectations. Nowadays there are many Korean ESL teachers who are bi-lingual, and actually just as proficient in English as a native speaker. Plus foreign teachers have a poor reputation to contend with. Makes sense to me.


  • Pingback: A chicken in every pot, a round-eye in every classroom()

  • SomeguyinKorea


    Not really. The sample used in that study is not representative of the general population.

  • TheKorean2

    IF non-Korean ESL teachers has ability to speak Korean and English , its fine by me. Most don’t, that’s the problem.