Title Trouble

Over on tumblr I’ve been talking to an internet friend about the phenomenon of college instructors in South Korea (almost exclusively white males, like me) who present themselves as “Professor So-and-So.”

In fact, if you teach at a South Korean college like I do, you’re probably on an E-1 visa, and in translation that makes your a “Professor” (“교수”).

This is a mistake though, since “Professor” implies 1) you have a Ph.D. and 2) you’ve got some sort of job security beyond a renewable one-year or two-year contract.  (And yeah, there are tons of underpaid adjuncts here just like in America, but that’s for another post.)

Anyway, if you’re ever in South Korea and some non-Korean dude tells you he’s a professor, my suggestion is to immediately ask him where he got his Ph.D.

A dick maneuver?  Kind of.  But I’ve been here long enough to get some enjoyment out of popping ego balloons.

I refer to myself as a college instructor or, more colloquially, that I teach English at a college.  Simple.

And of course, there are tenure-track foreign professors in Korea as well.  But they don’t go around introducing themselves with false credentials because actual professors would die of embarrassment if they did.

For what it’s worth, my job did require a M.A., but some of the longer-term expats around here were grandfathered in with just B.A.’s.  And when they try to pass themselves off as “Professors” I know it’s best to run, not walk, away.

Without exaggeration, they’re awful people.  And they’re definitely a “thing” among the expat crowd here in South Korea.

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This entry was posted in English, ESL, Korea, South Korea, Teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Title Trouble

  1. Fatemeh X says:

    One of my Professors in Uni just had an M.A.so we always referred to him as simply ‘Professor.’ Those who had Ph.D. we called ‘Doctor.’ I always thought this was a given distinction (well, at least in the US). As for just havaing a B.A., I would assume they would just be called ‘instructors.’

  2. Fatemeh X says:

    (Ugh, I see some grammatical errors and I cannot edit my post! Sorry!)

  3. Conor says:

    I worked with this guy http://rogerthompson.info. His id would take what you just said and multiply it like a megaquadzillion times. Don’t gete started on his lesson content either!

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