Friday, December 22, 2006

Korea's Worst Contract -- I hope!

Well, I'm fishing for a University job for 2007 for real. In 2006 I wanted something a little more flexible so I could spend several months in the Philippines and now that everything is pretty smooth it is time to try for a more stable/respectable job.

Whilst I await a reply to my University applications I am also toying with the idea of taking on a high-powered hagwon job. And yet, the responses I have received so far, though voluminous, because of my resume posting on Dave's ESL, do not bode well for a future between hagwons and me!

Here are some excerpts from one of the most recent hagwon contracts that I have been reading and madly, but no doubt vainly amending:

f. Teachers may be required to do overtime work depending on the schedule.

Snip, snip! No thanks, I am not the sort of guy that can be compelled to work overtime for a mere 18,000 won an hour.

m. The preparation time, students' evaluation and staff meetings are not considered as teaching time. Teaching time is considered to be time spent instructing in the classroom.

Deal breaker but possibly negotiable. In isolation this is pretty standard for hagwons but this particular hagwon appears to have in excess of 6.5 solid hours (i.e. all instruction time, not including any of the breaks!) of teaching per day on the schedule.

q. All materials developed by the Employee while working for the school will belong to the school.

Standard part of contracts but this is toothless as it is not enforceable.

s .As soon as the Employee arrives at the school, he/she has punch his/her time card. If the employee doesn’t punch-in he/she will be regarded as absent.

Draconian, but by itself not a deal breaker.

    a. The Employer agrees to pay the Employee a monthly salary of 2,000,000 won paid in Korean currency.

    b. The Employer agrees to pay the Employee an amount of 200,000 won per month in recognition of the teacher’s certificate held by the Employee.

    c. The Employee agrees to pay the Employee an amount of 300,000 won per month in recognition of the Employee’s work experiences.

f. Article 5- b, c will be considered as a bonus and will not be included in calculation of employee’s severance pay.

i. The Severance pay (Bonus) is 2,000,000 w on will be issued upon completion of this contract.

This section is so gone! Nice trick, but this is not a common practice in Korea, because it breaks Korean law. The bonus should actually be the average of your last 3 months income -- all income -- not just what they want to call salary!

By the way, the first bonus is supposed to be because of my Permanent Teacher's Certificate from Canada.

b. The Employer is to provide the Employee with an economy class ticket from the nearest international airport to Korea. Upon completion of this one-year contract, the Employee will be provided with a return ticket to the point of original departure, international airport to employee's nearest home.

f. The employee hired in-country will be offered a round-trip airfare to Japan. However, in case the Employee fails to complete the contract, the Employee shall pay the actual amount of airfare and visa fee back to the school.

Also standard except for the repayment part. Snip.

This probably implies that no airfare to the employee's home country will be forthcoming, but it would be silly to settle for those terms.

c. During the orientation/observation phase the Employee will be paid 30,000Won a day.
Please! What a ridiculously cheap thing to have in a contract. No chance -- it's gone.


    a. The Employee will be given around 7days Christmas vacation (weekends included), 7days summer vacation (weekends included), and all Korean holidays (Election days excluded).

    b. Vacation days have to be scheduled by Employer.

It's sad but true, that this is absolutely the hagwon industry standard. The only thing you can do is have a gap between contracts so that you can have a reasonable holiday. However, after my first contract my first employer was so happy that she was willing to give me an extra 4 weeks holiday just so I would re-sign. I went back to Canada and had a grand holiday in India to boot. She also sent me back to Canada at her own expense and paid for my flight to Canada again at the end of my second year.

d. A doctor's invoice with the diagnosis and prognosis is required to be paid for sick days and is also required for any sick days that are beyond the allocated 3 paid sick days.
This is ridiculous. The last thing I need when I have the flu is to have to drag my sweaty ass into the doctor's office just so I can give a note to my boss. Snip, snip . . . snip.

f. For the first three months, the Employer will collect a security deposit of 300,000 (total 900,000)Won, in order for the Employer to pay off final utilities, telephone charges, and other bills left unpaid at the end of contract. Also any damages to teacher's residence can be deducted from the security deposit. This will be determined by an inspection before the employee vacates the residence. Employee will receive the balance of funds approximately two months after the Employee has left.

Ha, ha, ha ha . . . Wooo, oooooo. I just peed myself.

This is definitely a deal breaker. Besides the fact that they cannot legally make these deductions, I would not trust anybody to transfer US$1000 to my Canadian bank, 2 months after I have left the country. Not a chance in hell. No deposit, not one single won deposit – those are my terms. There are plenty of hagwons out there that are not brash enough to so openly flout the law and try their foreign teacher's patience.

8. In the case that the Employee fails to complete this contract, the employee will be charged certain amount of money as a penalty to compensate all the loss caused from the Employee. (expenses to hire new teacher, airfare, administrative fee, psychological damages to the students, ruining the school images) (my emphasis).

Wow, for me this is a clear sign that this hagwon has absolutely no interest in doing business in a fair manner. Time to stop reading the contract, no honest person would try to push this garbage on a poor unsuspecting teacher. But let us keep on reading just for the fun of exploring just how audacious this prick can be!

2. The Employer agrees to give THIRTY days notice prior to dismissal
3. If the Employee wants to terminate the contract before its maturity, he /she may do so only if he/she submits a SIXTY days advance notice in writing to the Employer in order for the Employer to have enough time to find and hire a new teacher.
4. The Employee must leave the school earlier if the new teacher’s arrival time is before the completion of those sixty days.

Wow, again. Not only do I need to give twice as much notice as the Employer, but this part of the contract basically says that I can give 60 days notice and then be expected to leave my apartment and position ONE day later (just an example, but it could definitely happen)!

I have gone well past the point of no return. I want to know just how much of a monster this employer is. Nobody with half a brain would come anywhere near this employer. But she says that there are 12 fully licensed Canadian teachers working at this hagwon now. Ouch.

7. In the case the Employee leaves before completing this contract, he/she cannot obtain another job in Korea. If the Employee does transfer to another job in Korea, he/she will be charged US$5,000 as a penalty.

I wonder if Korean law is such that they would actually be able to claim this US$5,000 penalty? If it is, then it does not say much about Korean law. Nonetheless, the signer of such a contract would have to be dumber than a doorknob.

Well, that is all that I could find wrong with the contract. I shall fix it up after all, and just to see what happens -- send it back with all the bullshit crossed out. I am curious.

Can I get this employer to agree to a reasonable contract after all of this bullshit?

I will let you know. We shall be discussing the new terms tomorrow afternoon over the phone.

I will say right now that I will not absolutely rule out this job, that would be dishonest of me to proceed with tomorrow's talks, but I have serious doubts that the employer could ever live up to the level of credibility that I would consider essential to a good relationship.

If this was the only contract I was looking at right now, life would look pretty sad.


I just spoke to the employer's representative. She says that I am the first person to chop up her contract like that and it made her feel "embarrassed". Wow, I have trouble imagining a world in which that statement could be true!

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