Know Before You Go!
This investigative report documents over four-hundred complaints reported by Native English-speakers who taught English conversation at language institutes in South Korea. This guide can help prospective teachers to avoid these problems.
Examples of complaints in the book voiced by teachers:
Complaint Group Cluster Number 19 of 405 (missrepresentation of facts and suppression of information): American, British and Canadian citizens, who were full-time managers and part-time recruiters for hakwons (language institutes in Korea), posed as teachers and gave job applicants making housing and working condition inquiries from overseas false and misleading information by telephone, written letter, fax and e-mail regarding actual working conditions and company housing. Job applicants had asked to speak or otherwise communicate with "only to teachers on staff, not employers, directors, managers or recruiters" to get unbiased information.
Hakwon managers-part-time recruiters provided misleading information to secure signed contracts from English teachers abroad to obtain USA$1,000 commissions from their employers for each teacher successfully recruited from abroad to Korea to teach in the language institute.
A number of publicity photographs in promotional advertising shown on Internet web pages and brochures faxed to job candidates showing smiling teachers with students were in fact, not teachers, but native English speaking full time hakwon managers holding textbooks posing in classrooms full of students.
Recruiters made false assurances to job candidates stating that if first employment placements did not work out second job placements could be easily found.
Recruiters most often advised teachers abroad to enter South Korea on three month tourist visas. "Don't worry. Your Director of Studies will send you to Japan to get your Work Visa within three months. Teachers worked illegally for three months. Some passed the three month unspoken probation period while others did not.
Foreign English Teachers Teaching English on Tourist Visas -Immigration Police making unannounced raids at English language institutes confiscated foreign teachers' passports, fined them WON600,000 or more, gave the teachers 14 days to exit South Korea and imposed a re-entry ban on those teachers. My Korean English student said to me, "After Korean Immigration Police obtain 600,000 Won fines from the foreign teachers, that money is split with the Hakwon Director or the language institute owner. Hakwon Directors and owners are not fined or have any penalities imposed on them. This insures that the hakwons remain in business as cash cows for the police and hakwon owners and that there is a continual turnover of new unsuspecting English teachers that can be imported used to replace the teachers who were fined and deported."
The process is a cycle that is repeated again and again during the months throughout the year. Because the local police have the final word in any appeal or complaint investigation the foreign teachers may have filed, the teachers have no recourse. Foreign teachers who have been granted work visas by the employer say nothing so they can retain their jobs, collect their one month severance pay at the end of their contract, obtain positive letters of recommendation, and regain possession of their passports which are held as security by Hakwon directors preventing teachers from bolting out of Korea until their labor contracts (one year teaching) have been fulfilled."
Dear Mr. Bass,
I purchased your ebooks 1, 2, and 3 combined. The amount of information provided therein was tantamount to overload. What I learned, everything from selecting an honest recruiter, to teaching and housing conditions to Hakwon contracts enabled me to ask the right questions to the right people. I turned down three somewhat iffy contract offers before I found a recruiter and an employer who could respond correctly to the questions I asked that were contained in one of your books. The three month "honeymoon" period is over. Now I have been in Korea for nearly seven months. The teaching conditions and housing conditions are better than I could have hoped for. My monthly salary of US$2,000 is deposited into my bank account on time, every time, each month. Your books helped me make the right choice. Thank you.
Los Angeles, California
Stephen has been teaching English for fourteen years. His first teaching job was at the University of Oregon (Eugene) where he taught English to university athletes who were on academic probation. This teaching position was followed by a one year teaching assignment in South Korea. For six years in Thailand he taught English at Rangsit University, Sukhothai Thammathirat Open University, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Budget and Finance and a Bangkok language institute teaching English for Specific Subjects (military air and ground terminology), English for Business, Quality Control, English for Young Learners, English for Medicine, English for Attorneys, English Foundation courses and more). Currently he is teaching English in Latin America where he has been posted for the past seven years.
Photo: The author, Stephen Bass, is seated at the head of the table. Pictured on either side of him are his South Korean English language students.