Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Contracts in Korea

There is a big debate going on, on my Facebook page about contracts in Korea. A couple of my friends are annoyed that contracts aren't honored here, to the same degree they are back home. However, by understanding Korean culture, it makes a lot more sense.

Koreans are all about relationships and the group. In North America, we think we can have a purely professional relationship with our bosses. Like some greetings when seeing them in office, talk of projects and tasks, performance reviews and the like. In Korea, your boss and coworkers will want to be much closer to you. They'll want you to become part of the group, to kind of blend into the rest of them. This will happen through long work days and parties that usually involve a good deal of drink that seem to go on for hours. So the person who comes in 5 minutes before they work and leaves 1 minute after is seen as not part of the group. Same with someone who doesn't come to work events/meetings, no matter how trivial they seem.

How does this all relate to contracts? Well, many foreigners before they teach here seem to think that the contract is the most important thing. They negotiate endlessly over the little details, when in reality it doesn't matter. If your boss is dishonest, you'll get screwed no matter what your contract says. If you are part of the group, this will probably happen to a lesser degree. If your boss is honest, you'll probably get what is owed, as long as you maintain a reasonable relationship with them. If you don't, well, then things could get tricky. Think kissing ass.

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