Learn to TEACH English with TECHNOLOGY. Free course for American TESOL students.

TESOL certification course online recognized by TESL Canada & ACTDEC UK.

Visit Driven Coffee Fundraising for unique school fundraising ideas.

Texas ISD School Guide
Texas ISD School Guide

Travel, Teach, Live in Korea

Understanding the Korean Hierarchy in Your School and In Korea All Around You (Part II)
By:Daniel E Massicotte

In the previous article (part 1) we looked at the theory of how the Korean hierarchy works. This system applies throughout all of Korea, not just in Seoul. It also applies to any business, school or private hagwon throughout South Korea. The chain of command is very important if you want to get along with your co-workers, bosses and the top guys who hired you so you can sign on a second year or have a good reference letter to pass on to employers back home when you leave South Korea.

Example #1

Say SMOE asks you during an interview for recommendations for next year's English program, you may haphazardly mention something about your school that accuses your school in some indirect way of doing something that SMOE doesn't agree with. The SMOE representative you're talking to will ask you a few more questions and likely use that information against the principal and vice principals at your work in the future when they do reviews for your school.

It's not really your fault since you didn't have any bad intentions. In this instance you have broken the chain of command. If your school finds out through you or anyone else that you mentioned things about it at a meeting that either weren't your place to disclose or didn't need to be brought up they will resent you for it. They'll see you as a tale-bearer who could cause problems later on. I'm not suggesting that this simple mistake (hopefully) could get you deported, but it does set the odds against you, so be careful what you say in your interaction with SMOE or recruiters when you're talking about someone else who is above you.

Example #2

Now let's say you're sick and you can't come to work for 4 days. The first person who will find out about this the English co-teacher who is in charge of you. Everyone has one, this is the person who gets the emails from SMOE and passes them on to you.

Keep in mind that the English co-teacher sitting next to you is going to be aware of your 3 or 4 days of sickness and they're going to talk to the head teacher and the vice-principal. Are they going to talk to the principal? No. Will the principal know about it? Maybe. Will the principal get involved? Probably not, aside from asking you how you are doing.

This is the way it should be. The vice-principal doesn't want to look bad by getting the principal involved. Just like your principal doesn't want to get SMOE involved because it makes them look bad (not doing a good job) and jeopardizes their end of year promotion. Bosses typically promote people under them and if they don't the usually play a role in providing feedback to those who do the promoting.


Never jump more than one level in the chain of authority. If you have a problem with a co-teacher, go see him or her and try to fix the problem with them first. Don't go talking about your co-workers or co-teachers to other employees at your school. Likewise if you have a problem with the vice-principal's rules regarding what you are allowed to do at your school, don't go complaining to the principal, or worse yet to someone lower in the Korean hierarchy like the head teacher.

Always remember that while these rules are very clean to me at my school, I see them play a role in my Korean friends' jobs in other companies that are located both inside and outside Seoul.

Dan teachers Native English Teachers how to survive in Korea by cooking, giving and being loving at their schools. Join his free newsletter: http://www.survivalinkorea.com.

[Edited by Administrator (admin) Wed, 06 Jul 2011, 07:10 PM]

Go to another board -