Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Vacation Time

Vacation time in South Korea can be broken into two categories. First is what you get at Public Schools and Universities. The second is what you hope to get at a Hagwon.

The public schools and universities tend to honour vacation time. (I haven't heard of any that haven't. Which doesn't mean it hasn't happened, I just never heard about it. ;) ) You will probably have to teach a "camp" during the overall vacation period. However, you will receive your alloted vacation time, usually after the "camp"

The "camp" is just extra "intensive" classes. (Damn my " key is getting a workout today.) Intensives are extra classes, outside your regular schedule and curriculum, that kids (and University students) take during their vacation period. Instead of enjoying their time off school they are usually forced (kids) to take these extra classes. They are called "intensive" because what is normally done in 1 semester is crammed into 3-4 weeks. For example, a 20 chapter book that normally takes 2-3 months is done in 1.

Not much of a camp eh?

At the public schools you will have to do what is often called "desk warming" or "chair warming" time. School will be closed for the vacation period but you will still have to be there. Usually a Korean teacher will be there too. A Korean teacher I used to know said that they would rotate. One teacher would be in for a few days or a week. Then it was someone elses turn. Based on what I have heard the foreign teacher is usually there too the whole time (sans their week of vacation and camp time.)

Hagwons are a whole other story. My 1st contract simply said I received 2 weeks of unpaid vacation. When I asked about booking my vacation time a few months into my 1st year I was told we don't book it. We get it after we finish our contract. It was the 2 weeks you had before you HAD to leave the contract after your VISA expired. The director considered THAT to be your 2 weeks of unpaid vacation time. Yeah, pretty shitty but pretty standard for the way Hagwons screw around the foreign teachers.

Any contract I signed after my 1st stated that I got 10 paid vacation days. Ivy school said it would be 5 days in the summer, around a weekend, and 5 in the winter, around a weekend. That actually worked the 1st year. The 2nd year they shaved a day off each vacation. The third year they tried to force us to take a TWO day vacation plus weekend. In the end they screwed everyone out of 2 vacation days, making it 3 days plus a weekend.

The next school had the same amount of vacation days. The boss said he would TRY to give us 5 and a weekend but was never able to. However, we were able to take vacation days here and there with permission. Including around chuseok and seollal.

The guy who bought that school turned out to be a real asshole and was just like the scum that ran Ivy School. He was going to give us ONE day and a weekend. It ended up being 2 and a weekend. Luckily he sold the school before I had a chance to quit.

Vacation time is a prime example of what is wrong with contracts in Korea. They are only honoured IF the director wants to. While you can complain to the Labour Office don't expect it to go to far when the OFFICIAL government policy now seems to be that contracts are not binding.

Yes, that is what I said. A contract, according to the Korean government is not binding. In a seminar that all Hagwon teachers were forced to attend in the spring of 2010 teachers were informed that contracts are a starting point not an ending one. You should expect to be asked to do things that aren't in the contract and you should accept at least part of what you are asked to do.

I particularly liked their comments about "never give an inch" not being the Korean way. Hagwon owners rarely ever give an inch, YOU are expected to. I only ever had one Director in Korea that understood what compromise was, and was willing to do it. And he honoured his word. Most of them don't. One of the pitfalls of working in a Hagwon.


  1. Yeah, I started at a uni and then migrated to a public school. I don't think that I would even consider a hagwon unless it was a part time job. (I've got an F visa, if I wanted I could probably do a class or two a night at a hagwon, and if the dicked around on me I could just walk without loosing my house.)

    Actually, I'd like to move back to a uni so that I can get that 4-5 weeks vacation, and use that flex time to work at camps or something like that.

    Every school is different though. I never had to desk warm at my job, but they have given me classes with three or four students to teach for a few weeks in order satisfy a monthly time requirement. That's fine by me. I think that it would be somewhat dreadful to go camping with 30 kids for a few weeks.

  2. I could never see myself going back to a hagwon EXCEPT one run by the "good boss". I would work for him anytime.

    Right now I am pondering what to do. What country should I go to. Someone has been whispering "China" on a blog. I would love to try out Qingdao. Been there a few times. Loved the city.

  3. Qingdao......better beer.