Life Lately #22 1/2

Since my Life Lately #22 that I posted last night was a little bit of a surprise to almost everyone in my life, and some people are interested, I though I’d share some of the facts with ya’ll over my sudden relocation. 

I’m sure that a lot of my regular readers know that I wasn’t happy with my job in South Korea. While I love living there, the contract that I had was with a school that had so many problems.

At first, it was just small things, like in my contract it states that I was suppose to have a TV in my apartment, I didn’t. My boss told me it was because it was “too expensive” too run. But if I’m paying the bills what does that matter? Anyways, I didn’t bring it up at first because I don’t watch Korean TV so it really didn’t matter to me. Another thing was that it stated they were to provide clean bedding. When I arrived at my apartment there wasn’t even a pillow let alone bedding. While this did result in me getting NEW bedding, not just clean bedding, it did mean that I had to pay for it myself. So just small things.

Then the small things turned into bigger things. When I had my skype interview I was told that I would only be teaching elementary school aged children who had passed the phonics classes. Then I arrived and in January I got my first adult student. Then I was required to go into phonics classes once a month, which are the lowest level possible and not what was agreed to, then I got a regular phonics class on Thursdays. Then more adult classes. Eventually it worked out that 3 out of the 5 days I didn’t get a break at work. But, again, I let it slide. My contract stated I was to work until 8:30 but also went home no later than 8, and the other two days out of the week I had only 2-3 classes each day so I had large chunks of time left wide open. This extra time all added up to the legally mandated break times so I didn’t press it.

I’m not a confrontational person. So I just let a lot of things slide. Things that didn’t really affect me or my life too too much. I just decided that I wouldn’t be renewing my contract at the end of the year.

Then I found out that I didn’t have national health insurance like my contract stated. I had private coverage, which isn’t as good, and didn’t cover any dental work. Then I found out after I had been sick that if I wanted any money back from my insurance I would have had to send in my bills from the doctors. I didn’t even get told this by my school, but a fellow English teacher months later.

And of course, the big pension blow up in August. Legally I was suppose to get a pension. The school pays 50% and I pay 50% each month. It’s about 70,000 a month each. Well they weren’t paying into it. They also weren’t taking the money off my pay so that was good, but their end wasn’t there either. I confronted them about it and was told that I didn’t qualify for it since I’m a foreigner. Except that it’s been legally mandatory since 1999… My school agreed to pay it since it was in my contract, by splitting it into 4 equal payments for my remaining pay cycles for the year – sure no big deal. Currently I have only received two of those payments.

Then this whole ending my contract thing happened. I was told the school was closing, when it’s not. It’s just changing ownership. With my E2 visa, I just automatically transfer over to the new ownership no problems. It happened when I was in Osan too, it literally didn’t effect me at all. But not here, apparently that means that my contract was now over, in the 11th month, which is a popular time for schools to break contracts so they don’t have to pay out the final year end bonuses.

As soon as I heard that my contract was over, I was done. I changed my ticket the next day, after hearing I wouldn’t be getting my bonus. The reason being that I wasn’t finishing my contract – well duh you just illegally ended it. They stated that they had no money. No money for bonuses, no money to keep the school open, and probably no money the day before they thought I was leaving to pay my final month’s pay and flight allowance.

I’ve contacted my recruiter in Canada, the Korean recruiter that the school used, called the labour board, was assured that I could pursue legal action from Canada if I needed to. I will also report the school to a few other agencies which look out for schools who do this type of thing. I talked to the last teacher and he said he was treated in a similar manner and was shocked to hear that the school was still in business.

So I packed up my apartment, set about trying to see as many friends as possible before leaving and Sunday morning I left my apartment, got on a flight and came home. When I landed at the airport in Toronto, I sent an email to my boss telling him I wasn’t going to be back, and then sent an email to the recruiters telling them both how I had been treated this year.

I guess I could have stayed that extra 8 days, but really I had just had enough. I was so over them breaking the contract, and even though they did, I stayed, and was willing to stay until my end date. Mostly because I had signed a legally binding agreement to do so. But I was really let down by them. I am really shocked that my recruiter would sign me with such a place, but this treatment does happen very often in Korea. It’s a sad fact but it’s true.

Now that I’m home though, I can be open about all this instead of cryptic. I think over the next week I’ll do a little “working in Korea: the good, the bad, and the ugly” series. Plus a post on tips for finding a decent job there. I really did love living in Korea, I had just hoped that it would have ended on a much more positive note.

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