Friday, June 25, 2010

Ivy English School - YongAm-Dong Cheongju Part 7

Lessons Learned.

I did learn some valuable lessons from the Ivy School meltdown and the fuckery that ensued.

1) 90-95% of Hagwon owners rip you off one way or another. It may be something minor like not paying into the pension plan (by law they have to). It may be cheating you by charging double the income tax rate and pocketing the extra.

My 1st boss was a pretty good one BUT she was charging me 6% income. My first 2 years with Ivy school I was charged that. The 3rd year Mr. Kim made a big show of lowering it to 5%. Based on my wages and that there was no Pension or Hational Health Plan deducted it should have been 3-3.3%.

I can't count the number of people I met who praised their Hagwon by saying "They pay me on time!" That is pathetic. If that is the best thing you can say about your job something is wrong. It should go without saying that you are paid on time.

2) Contracts mean jack shit in Korea. Directors will change the terms at a whim. At one point, even though we were supposed to get 5 vacation days summer and 5 winter, around a weekend, the Kim’s were going to give ONE. THAT caused all the foreign teachers to threaten to quit. As it stood we never got the 5 and a weekend. After the 1st year they would give us 3 and a weekend and promise to make up the other days.

That was reinforced at the seminar that all Hagwon teachers had to attend in 2010. The seminar was put on for the Korean government and one of the things they said was that “The contract inKorea is a starting part not an ending one.” Which means they are not worth the paper they are printed on and subject to the whim of your Director.

3) No matter how good things are if/when they get bad the Hagwon will turn on you QUICKLY if they see it as being good for them. The fact you have been loyal for years and work hard means nothing if they can bring someone in who knows little about the system and works for less.

4) If you give in to their demands ONCE, even out of kindness because it isn’t a big deal, they will ALWAYS expect you to do what they want when they want. As soon as you say no you are a bad teacher. They will either make an example of you, get rid of you, or both.

5) No matter how much you have right on your side if it comes down to your word vs a Koreans most Koreans will NOT believe you. Even if they know you well and trust you. You just don’t count as much as a Korean.

6) You can’t always count on your foreign co-workers in times of trouble. Most of the time they will be more worried about themselves and how things will affect them. I have been prepared to quit in the past when co-workers were being treated like shit for no good reason. When the shit hit the fan at Ivy school the 4 out of 6 foreign teachers who weren’t being screwed over wouldn’t even tell the Kim’s they were wrong to treat us the way they were. I didn’t expect them to quit … but they just gave lip service and hoped they wouldn’t be fucked over when it came time for them to leave.

Some people actually delude themselves that the Hagwon owners won’t turn on them. One of my ex-Ivy co-workers would go on about how the Kim’s liked her so she had nothing to worry about. Until they didn’t like her because she said no. And that ended up happening to her.

I remember one idiot who worked illegally at a Hagwon. 1 teacher had finished his contract and was never coming back because of the assholes in charge screwing them over. Another one pulled a runner. The third one pulled a runner. The fourth one, working illegally, convinced himself that he was safe working there because they needed him and would have to treat him well. Of course they ended up screwing him over too.

It boggles the mind how these people can see the bullshit going on but still convince themselves that it won’t happen to them.

This lack of backing each other up is one reason why Hagwons get away with the bull shit they pull.

7) As your final month wraps up many hagwon owners make what I call “The Big Cash Grab!”Ivy School did it to MOST of their foreign teachers and not ONE of them told those left behind.

Basically, they don’t finish paying you until your last day. For most foreign teachers that means they are leaving Korea in a day or two. Then you find out at the end of the day that there are aLOT of dodgy deductions from your pay leaving them with a lot less money than they expected. Surprise bill charges. Not getting the deposit money back. Little things like that. Since they are leaving they have no real recourse.

As I said, this happened to just about EVERY Ivy School foreign teacher. Some of who stayed in touch with their old co-workers yet NEVER told them what happened. In one case, it was a couple, they BOTH had the FULL cost of the bills deducted from their last pay even though they shared an apartment. I had actually recruited them and it wasn’t until I told them of my problems leaving Ivy that they told me how they were screwed over.

8) Pay your own bills! Get a pay stub! Document EVERYTHING!

My first school deducted my bills from my pay. I figured it was standard practice in Korea. So when my 2nd school did it I just accepted it. That was stupid! It just opens the door for you to be screwed over. As I ended up being.

Make them give you a pay stub showing deductions. No matter how honest you think they are or how much you trust them you HAVE TO get this and keep it in case you need it. I trusted the Kims the first 2 years .. and there were some signs I was being screwed around with … so I didn’t care. In the 3rd year they REFUSED to give me a pay stub. They refused it to almost all the teachers.

One of the Irish teachers went and demanded a pay stub. After a lot of complaining they agreed to give ONLY her a pay stub as long as she didn’t tell any of the other teachers. And she didn’t. It was until my BS with Ivy came out that she mentioned it. Like I said, no wonder they KNOW they can screw us around, we don’t help each other.

When it came down to deciding what I could do about Ivy School screwing me over I had NO paperwork. Which meant I couldn’t prove a lot, just what my bank statements showed. It would be my word against a Koreans and I already covered that in #5

9) If you get screwed over and stay or come back be careful of the chip on your shoulder. I came back with a big one on mine. I was working for a good boss but kept expecting him to screw me over. While it is good to be wary I was ready for a fight over anything. That isn’t healthy. Luckily, I got over it. For the most part, it still colours my view of hagwon owners.

I would apologize for the length of this tale but it could easily have been longer. ;)


  1. Pity they're so capitalistic.

  2. Capitalistic or criminal? I don't think a person has to be a lying, cheating, piece of shit like the Kim's to be a capitalist or a good businessman. I find they try to use it as an excuse for their bad behaviour. Mr. Kim used to say "I am a businessman." When he was screwing people over as if that excused or explained why he was cheating people.

  3. ummm well shit, I was just offered a job teaching there. The guy who I've been talking to works there now and has told me about how it's a pretty good job, that they kick out bad kids to making teaching easier and are pretty decent. I mean, he has no real motive to lie to me as he isn't an owner and I'm not even replacing him, specifically...maybe the owners changed? Is that too much to hope for? Is it hard to get out of that job and switch your paperwork around to another job if need be? God, I was getting so excited but your story is freaking me out.

  4. Is it Ivy School in YongAm dong, Cheongju? I had heard it closed and they were running an SLP now. (They were running both at one point.)

    As long as you haven't processed the paperwork through Immigration (no work visa) you can back out easily enough. If it has been processed I have no idea.

  5. ohh phew, no, maybe it's a different one then because it's definitely not in Cheongju.