Before setting up a private class, screen for ulterior motivesThe story in the news about the young Korean women who were fooled into transporting drugs for Nigerians reminded me of a teaching job I had a few years ago. The girls said they met the drug dealers on the pretext of taking English lessons from them. Likewise, I started teaching conversational English to a businessman, and feared that it would involve other responsibilities.
At the time I was teaching a lot of private classes in an apartment complex near Olympic Park in eastern Seoul. The businessman, Mr. Ahn, lived there, and had noticed me walking to and from the building. He asked one of the mothers of the children I taught if he might be able to arrange a private class with me. Soon after that we met one afternoon at a cafe in the Shilla Hotel for our first class.
Mr. Ahn spoke English very well, but he didn’t seem especially keen on improving his business English. Instead, he seemed to want to practice his unctuous English. All he wanted to talk about was me and how attractive he thought I was.
Frankly, I’m no beauty queen, but at the time I had bleached my hair and was getting my share of second looks. Mr. Ahn seemed to like being seen in the company of a flashy foreign woman. That didn’t bother me ― he paid well ― but I was afraid he would try to cross the line.
We continued to meet a couple of afternoons a week at the same cafe in the Shilla. But I could tell that Mr. Ahn wanted to somehow move the class into a cozier environment. He began to ask me if I would meet him for drinks in the evening. I was always ready with a good excuse not to.
This went on for a few months, and Mr. Ahn’s enthusiasm for the class began to flag. I was about ready to suggest that we stop it.
But I didn’t have to.
One weekend I got tired of the blonde bimbo look and decided to dye my hair black. Jet black. I wanted to go from standing out to blending in. I wasn’t thinking about how Mr. Ahn would react.
When he showed up at the cafe for our next class, he was dumbstruck. He seemed really, really upset. “Why did you do that?” he asked. I told him I just needed a change.
He couldn’t relax and have a conversation. Finally his anger boiled over and he said what was on his mind. “Why would I want to have a class with you anymore?” he said. “You are no longer beautiful.”
That’s all I needed to hear. I got up and said goodbye.
As I rode the bus home, though, I chuckled and realized that I knew all along why he had arranged the class.
The writer lived in Seoul from 1995 to 1997, and is now an elementary school teacher in Toronto.
by Nicole Hughes