I realized yesterday that I have been home from Korea for a whole month already! Where has the time gone?! Even though it has been over a month, the Korea saga continues in my life.
First of all, I wrote up my review of my previous school on “The Korean Black List“. This website is run by a man who used to teach in Korea and benefits lots of people. The black list is a list of schools that treat their employees badly for any number of different reasons. My review of my school is up there if you want to check it out. It’s under the name “Jin Myung Langauge School”. You can’t use your name or your employer’s name, but you can give any other details you wish (as long as it doesn’t list any illegal activity…which my post did but it still got posted). It is currently the 4th posting on the site.
Secondly, I have yet to be paid what I am owed by my school. I knew that this would be a hassle – especially since I left without notice. When I arrived in Toronto, I sent an email to the man who I considered to be my boss telling him that I had left and that I was expecting my remaining pay “on or before November 10th”. This is the day that we would have been paid if they were not acting illegally by terminating my contract. He replied that he was “very disappointed” in my decision but that he wasn’t my employer, nor did he work for the school anymore.
I knew he would say something to the effect that he was just the manager of the school, but unfortunately for him, it’s his name signed to my contract – which I have reminded him of. He said that my boss was a woman (which is news to me since I was introduced to a man when I first arrived) and that he would forward my request to her (I highly doubt he did since I received no response at all). He then replied asking for the code to access my apartment, which I gave him, and thus ended our correspondence. He has totally ghosted me.
I waited, very impatiently, for my money to arrive in my account. It never did. I wasn’t really that shocked. But on November 11th, I backed up my first email by reporting them to the labor board. Or at least I thought I was reporting them to the labor board.
I filed a petition on the website called e-people. This website will petition various branches of the government for those who have been wronged by their employers. The petition was easy enough to fill out. I stated my case saying how the school had terminated my contract illegally and early and had broken it several times over. I stated how much money I was owed by the school, but this time I didn’t take off the monthly deductions that I was kind enough to withdraw from the amount I gave the school (had they paid on time). You can even add documents to support your case. I should have uploaded my contract with sections highlighted but I didn’t think of it at the time.
Within a week or so I had a reply back! I was shocked since the website said that it would take roughly 3 months. It wasn’t great news. First, the petition went to the pension office not the Ministry of Employment. The message said that they had physically visited the school and spoke directly with my former “manager” and this woman who was apparently my boss. They were told that I was listed as a “business income earner” not an “employee income earner”. This means that I was not entitled to a pension and so the amount that I listed as a pension payment was not enforceable through this petition. I knew already that the school thought it wasn’t responsible for my pension but it had agreed to pay anyways since it was in my contract. I guess this is how they got around it in the first place.
Even though that message was a little disheartening, it did have a few gems of good news in it. The best news of all was that the agency actually went and spoke to the people at the school. It also confirmed that the school had stayed open (since it listed my former “manager” as the new owner of the school). It also means that they know I am taking the matter further. A petition on record for the school is not going to look good for them.
Secondly, it said that the petition was sent to the Ministry of Employment and Labor. It took a little detour through the pension office, but now it is on it’s way to the correct place. I have to say that I am not getting my hopes up at all over this. I am fully prepared to never see any of the money that is owed to me. But I think it’s worth the try. Le Brother asked why I don’t just sue them for what they owe me. If I had stayed in Korea I might have considered it, but since I have left, it would cost way too much to pursue that kind of legal action against them.
Right now they owe me roughly $3400 Canadian. This is without any deductions. Now if I had stayed until the end of my contract, they would have had to pay me an additional $5000 (one month pay, one pension payment, bonus month pay for completing my contract). I think it is important for corrupt schools like this to know they can’t treat people in such a way. It is so important for workers to know that they have rights as well. Don’t let them bully you into thinking that just because you aren’t Korean, you don’t matter or that there is nothing in place to help you.
I know this sounds like a massive headache (and it is, trust me!) but I still loved living in Korea. I recommend it to anyone who wants to go there and teach. It’s a great experience! But you need to have the right school and employers who will treat you properly.
Make sure that you are getting what is listed in your contract. Make sure that you are listed with the correct health insurance and pension payments. Investigate. Talk to previous teachers, current teachers, use a recruiter! I wish I had brought my issues up with my recruiter in advance, they might have been able to help me. Reach out to other non-Korean teachers who are willing to share their experiences and help you. Just because you are not Korean doesn’t mean that you are not covered by the labor laws.