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K-Pop Through The Eyes Of Industry Leaders: An Interview With PlanetESL

By Rachelle D. | February 28, 2015 05:50 AM EST

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Welcome to "K-Pop Through the Eyes of Industry Leaders." It's an ongoing KPopStarz series where we talk to leaders in several Korean industries, including education, fashion, entertainment, technology, tourism, e-commerce, and more. It's no secret that the Korean Wave, or Hallyu, is giving Korea more of a spot on the world stage. With that wave continuing to spread, KPopStarz wants to talk to the people leading that charge about how they see Korean pop culture having an influence on their work both inside and beyond Korea's borders.

Today we're featuring an exclusive conversation with Jiyeon Kim, the founder and CEO of PlanetESL, a resource for English speakers outside of Korea that are looking for teaching jobs in Korea. We had a great talk about what makes a great English teacher in Korea, why teachers think they want to head to Gangnam, and the kind of impression K-Pop makes on potential teachers worldwide. Enjoy!

KPopStarz: Tell me a little bit about what you do at PlanetESL.

Jiyeon Kim: I mainly speak and counsel with ESL teachers from the initial interview, securing a job, guiding their visa process and arrival.

KPS: Could you describe what you see as the ideal applicant for an ESL job in Korea?

JK: Most school directors care most about a serious attitude when coming to Korea to teach. A lot of teachers want to come to Korea for only the fun parts of exploring Korea and traveling. However, teaching in a classroom, working 30 hours a week, and finishing a year contract is not something you can take only as fun. Teachers who are open-minded to learning about new culture and who can accept Korea's traditions, rather than looking at why Korea is behind versus Western culture are the ideal applicants who can happily live in Korea.

KPS: What are some of the most common perceptions about Korea that you hear from applicants? Do you think their idea of Korea matches up with the "real" Korea?

JK: Right now there is so much hype about Gangnam because of the song, so all applicants want to come to Gangnam and teach only there. However, in my experience, Gangnam has no Korean spirit or culture. There are plenty of other areas and cities where people can experience Korea.

KPS: As K-Pop is becoming more popular in all parts of the world, are you seeing a rise in the number of people that want to take an ESL job in Korea?

JK: I don't see a huge difference when it comes to applicants who want to teach in Korea. However, I see there are more expats who are coming to Korea on working holiday visas from Europe.

KPS: Do you think K-Pop becomes a big part of life for people who come to Korea, whether or not they were fans of it before? How can an understanding or knowledge of K-Pop help ESL teachers connect to their students and the world around them?

JK: I think people from outside the world, they know more about Korea from K-Pop. However, it's hard to say if it makes a positive or negative expectation about Korea. What I hear from people around the world is that they think all Korean men would look like women and put on makeup. Also, that all Korean women would do plastic surgery. I think this is becoming the more common thoughts toward people in the world about Korea. I think it's time to approach a different aspect of knowledge about Korea.

KPS: What's your favorite part of the job?

JK: I enjoy my job because I feel I can help teachers finding the right job where they can work better and be happier. In that sense, it motivates me to continue doing this job.

KPS: What are some of the key pieces of advice you give to people when they're ready to take an ESL job in Korea?

JK: With my experiences, teachers from Western countries complain or feel things are unfair because they think Korea has no equality. Yes, Korea has a hierarchy system which is the foundation of Asian society. It is the foundation of Korea that builds relationships and society. There is beauty and support in the system. I hope people can see more than just white and black. 

Tagged :  KPop Industry Leaders, interview, Gangnam, Gangnam Style, plastic surgery, teachers, english teacher, PlanetESL

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