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November 29, 2006


Andrew Reeves

Uh, "She threatened to have me deported" isn't really the strongest evidence for anything. Let's say someone in the U.S. or U.K. has a run-in with a complete psycho and she threatens that she'll tell his boss that he was doing something that will get him fired. That she's made the threat and believes that it will work says nothing about the actual state of affairs in the Anglo-American workplace.

The linked discussion says nothing about whether or not said psycho actually followed through on the threat, just that she made it. "I know people who've managed to do it" strikes me as extremely tenuous evidence.


In other circumstances I'd agree with you, but I know for a fact that it really *does* take only an anonymous Korean's allegations to land one under suspicion with the authorities for alleged drugs or visa violations. Korea is so notorious for this, in fact, that the US embassy in Seoul actually *warns* prospective English teachers about such matters, especially when dealing with employers. This guy isn't being some chicken little.

PS: I found the US embassy warning page I was talking about.

["TEACHING ENGLISH: The U.S. Embassy in Seoul receives many complaints from U.S. citizens who enter the Republic of Korea to teach English at private language schools ("hagwons"). The most frequent complaints are that the schools and/or employment agencies misrepresent salaries, working conditions, living arrangements and other benefits, including health insurance, even in the written contracts. There have also been some complaints of physical assault, threats of arrest/deportation, and sexual harassment. Some U.S.-based employment agencies have been known to misrepresent contract terms, employment conditions or the need for an appropriate work visa."]

This is putting it mildly: think passport seizures and holding unto promised bonuses by firing foreign employees just before the end of their contracts, and you'll have an inkling of the abuses Korean employers can get away with in a system in which a written contract, much less a foreigner's word, counts for nothing, and under a visa regime pretty much designed to facilitate abuse of foreign labor.
[" Korean school owners have Hagwon Associations across Korea. It is known that at their meetings they receive advice from their legal people on ways to 'bend,' 'manipulate,' and even 'break' some laws that would otherwise give foreigner's protection. As noted in the Deceptive Practices pages, this usually results in the following situations that unscrupulous school owners will devise:-

i) By wrongfully dismissing the foreign teacher, they know that Immigration will only grant a 10 day period to stay in Korea following the dismissal. This makes it very difficult for the foreign teacher to take any serious action: Thus problems relating to final pays, non payment of wages, wrongful deductions from the last pay, becomes exacerbated.

ii) By refusing to give a Letter of Release, the school directors are able to effectively hide their wrong doing by preventing the teacher from remaining in Korea and taking some form of legal action against the school owner. "]

As one lawyer working in Korea puts it:

["Brendon advises the following for would-be English teachers:

(1) Don’t come here! (2) Since you’re going to come here anyway, dummy, make sure that you have six months’ living expenses (a single young person can live in Korea on about $1000 a month) and cash for return transportation home. Odds are good that you’ll be cheated. At least if you take steps to make sure you’re not helpless, it will be a mitigated disaster instead of an unmitigated disaster.

I fully concur with this advice. However, I want to expand it. My first bit of advice is exactly as Brendon says. DON’T COME HERE!!! Just don’t come. As Brendon points out, the US Embassy virtually screams “DON’T COME HERE TO TEACH ENGLISH, LEAGALLY OR OTHERWISE!!”"]

PPS: Yet more reading material.

This may look like overkill, but you really have no idea how precarious the positions of these ESL teachers are if you think this guy is exaggerating the dangers of one spurned Korean woman's vengefulness. Korean fawning over white skin and blue eyes set aside, these guys are glorified indentured laborers.

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