Wednesday, December 05, 2012

giving up hope

Well, folks, at this point, I seriously doubt that Sungkyunkwan University is going to swoop in and declare that I'm a candidate for interview. It's Tuesday-- almost Wednesday in Korea-- and I've still heard nothing at all. I'd have to leave the country on Thursday for a face-to-face interview, and there simply won't be time to arrange a ticket by the departure date.

I've received private reassurances that it isn't for lack of qualifications that I've been shoved aside: it's merely the fact that I'm not in-country. I don't see what difference that would make since, in my application paperwork, I clearly expressed a willingness to come to Korea for the interview. I suspect a certain amount of stubbornness and bureaucratic stupidity on the part of SKKU. I suspect they didn't actually bother to contact the references whose recommendations I had submitted with the rest of my application. I suspect that they'd rather deal with people who are already employed in Korea, because that's how they usually garner new employees. I'm reminded of the sort of single-minded, unthinking mentality that makes a Burger King worker in Seoul give me a Double Whopper with onions when I specifically request one without.

I suppose that's a bit of a cultural paradox, isn't it? On the one hand, Koreans are almost dangerously nonlinear; on the other hand, once you give them a set of instructions, they follow it to the letter, never deviating even a little, and screening out external cues that they should alter their approach. Bureaucracies are guiltier of this than Burger King.



John from Daejeon said...

Yes, it looks like "in country" is the current modus operandi here in South Korea regarding the upper tier of ESL gigs, and qualifications aren't really worth the paper they are written on as I have found out over last week as I was offered two different jobs that I am not exactly qualified to do without submitting anything. I just happened to be in the right place at the right times, and with the right students, for both. One even had the audacity to offer me a pretty sweet job right in front of my bosses. Had that job been in Daejeon instead of Seoul, I'd have been hard pressed to turn it down.

Charles said...

That sucks, dude. It would have been nice if we had reason to celebrate together (not to mention the chance to invite you over while you were here).

I doubt it was the interview that was the problem, though. That is, I don't think they didn't hire you because you weren't in Korea for the interview. Bringing someone over from abroad requires a lot more paperwork (not to mention shelling out for a plane ticket) than hiring someone in-country. It's just more of a hassle. Doesn't make it right, of course.

John said...

Sorry to hear about that job not happening, Kevin. Have you considered taking a lesser job here in order to be in a position to compete for the good ones?

I did want to take slight exception to something you said however. I don't do much fast food in the states or in Korea, but I've noticed a big difference in quality. And Korea wins hands down. I don't even bother with McDonald's in the USA anymore, because EVERY TIME, regardless of store, I get a sloppy, messed up burger. Here in Korea, the meat and bun are always stacked neatly (almost as good as the menu picture). It pleases me that even a fast food worker in Korea takes some pride in their work.

Granted, I don't eat Burger King and I like onions, but still...

Kevin Kim said...


I could have gotten a plane ticket for the interview, and could have offered to fly myself over if hired. That would have been a load off their shoulders. If only they were thinking this through.


I agree re: overall quality of fast food in Korea vs. America. But try ordering somewhat off-menu, and see what happens. The staffers aren't trained to think: they're programmed to perform the same motions over and over, mindlessly.

This is a carry-over from the general way in which Korean restaurants are run: customers just order what's on the menu and passively accept it with no variations. "Pepperoni pizza" in Korea means pizza with pepperoni, ham, and a ton of onions. Try ordering it without onions, and you get onions.

So I stopped ordering pepperoni pizzas because I was sick of having my order routinely fucked up, and started ordering Hawaiian pizzas because those, at least, are designed to come with no onions. It really is like dealing with robots that can't transcend their programming.

Kevin Kim said...


As to your question:

"Have you considered taking a lesser job here in order to be in a position to compete for the good ones?"

Good point, but I'm 43 years old, and I see no point in aiming low. Not with my level of debt.

Frank said...

Sorry to hear the job.

As for fast food in Korea, I put up a post many moons ago on my old blog about an episode I had at the BK drive-through on base there; I ordered a fish sandwich made like a whopper and hilarity ensued.