Monday, November 2, 2009

Getting Ripped Off

Korea has a reputation for ripping English teachers off. It's not the universities or public schools that are such a problem (with some exceptions of course) but the hagwons. I think not getting ripped off is actually the exception. And you can count yourself lucky if you only get screwed over on some small thing and not on the big stuff like your salary or plane ticket. A big part of the problem is government agencies that are supposed to look after stuff like this but they essentially have no power to enforce any of their rulings. For that, you need to move higher up into the court system taking money, months, and translators. Few people will go through the hassle for a couple thousand dollars.

BUT...I'd also say that part of the problem is the teachers and their convoluted thinking. Recruiters are not looking out for you. They're looking out for their bottom line and a teacher placed is money in the bank. They don't really care if you get ripped off or it's the sketchiest hagwon around.

And...the hagwon owner or manager is not looking out for your best interests. They're looking out for their bottom line. When they rip you off, that adds to their bottom line, hence why they do it without the blink of an eye. Ethics and morals for those outside the "family" are almost non-existent. Your contract also isn't worth the paper it's been written on.

So come to Korea, but do your research before. There are plenty of information kind of sites out there (eslcafe) and blacklists so ask around about the school you're considering working at. Know your rights and at any sign of rip-offery, stand up for yourself. If you don't, you'll just keep getting walked over all year long to the point of not getting your bonus money.

Get references of past teachers who've finished their contracts. Like 3 or 4 of them. Email or phone them. The current ones are useless usually because perhaps they won't get their bonus money if they say bad stuff about the school and you don't sign.

Be prepared to stay after your contract. To have a sit-in, if necessary to get your airfare and bonus money. Do not leave the country before you get this. Your school will not send it to you in America. Also, be prepared to bail mid-contract if things look bad. It's often difficult (but not impossible) to change schools, so have some reserve money for a ticket to Japan/China/Taiwan to find a job there if Korea sucks for you.

Those are my tips for you. It's up to you to look after yourself, if you're coming to Korea. No one else will.

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