If you’re thinking about coming to South Korea on an E2 visa then you’re standing in the shoes of a lot of people who’ve come before you. You’re probably running on equal parts excitement and anxiety.
So it’s understandable that the prospect of a yearlong adventure in a foreign land could make you a bit hasty when that contract arrives. I mean, you’ve already spoken with the recruiter to get the background on the place you’ll be working. You’ve talked with the director of the school you’ll be working under and he seems like an upstanding guy. Why shouldn’t you slap your John Hancock on that doc and get one step closer to your new job?
I’ll tell you why.
No matter what your recruiter told you or what your new boss said over the phone or in e-mails nor what the one teacher your boss put on the phone said the only thing that matters is the contract. That document and what’s in it will be your only recourse if all the promises that were made in good faith start disappearing or worse never appearing at all.
So here are ten Warning Signs not to sign your contract
1. Your Working Hours are not specified
You want the exact days and hours you will be working. Who wants to be told that on Saturday you suddenly need to show up or that your six hour day will be split instead of consecutive hours? Make sure it’s in the contract.
2. Your number of classes, breaks, and length of classes are not specified
So you’ve gotten your six hour day Monday through Friday from noon to six pm, but now the boss says that you’ll be working six hours straight with no break. Now either you’re a robot, shooting meth, or should have gotten it specified in the contract.
3. Your salary, overtime pay, and payday each month is not specified
You’ve just worked a long hard month in Korea, putting in extra hours because of the new class you agreed to teach when you go to the atm and discover that you didn’t get paid. Ouch. The boss tells you that he has to pay you next week and hopes you understand. Fine, you grit it out till then on ramen and goodwill. Then when next week rolls around you find out that your bottom line is short by 300,000 KRW.
4. Your teaching duties, job duties, and attire is not listed
You roll into work expecting to slide into class whip out your meticulous planned lesson and dazzle the students, but your boss gives you a boring antiquated text book instead. He does that after telling you of the two hour meeting after work every Tuesday and the measly ninety minute prep time that must be done at work before your first class that you must teach wearing a shiny Shinsegae suit with purple necktie.
5. Your Pension allotment, National Health Insurance, and Severance is not stated
Even though these may not be listed on your contract you can still get all three by pushing, nudging, cajoling and downright threatening to go to the Labor board because, by law, these three items should be yours. However, who wants to deal with an employer who has to be forced to do what he should be already doing? It’s a warning sign of possibly worse things to come.
6. Your allotted consecutive vacation days and time are not specified
Christmas has come and you’re all set for your five day winter holiday back home when your boss surprises you by saying that you can take two days one week and then another two days next month. Good luck flying home on that schedule.
7. Housing details are not specified
You’re fresh off the plane, picked up by the boss, and put in a lovely Love Motel to rest before your first day of work tomorrow when you learn that you’ll have to find your own apartment which you’ll be paying for out of your salary. Whether a stipend or actual housing is provided make sure its in the contract. Also be mindful of things like maintenance fees and utility bills you are responsible for.
8. The terms of your Airfare home are not specified
Your year is up and you’re ready to book your flight when suddenly the boss tells you that to get the flight you want you’ll have to cover half the cost.
9. Sick days are not specified
You’ve been a trooper coming into work even when you felt sick, but this time the Mongolian flu you got from one of your student’s trips abroad proved too much to bear. You need to stay home and recuperate, but the boss orders you in to work you don’t have sick days just wear a face mask and don’t touch anyone.
10. Dismissal and resignation terms are not specified
Your boss has just had a walk in teacher looking for a job and he’s sorry but that blond hair blue eyed beauty would be a better fit at his school than you. He gives you a day to pack your belongings and go. What about your 30 days notice or months pay? Was it writing? Alternatively, you’ve had enough and want to switch jobs after six months. Fine, your boss agrees, but you’ll be covering the cost of your apartment until he can find a replacement teacher.
There you have it! I hope these ten warning signs steer fresh faced potential teachers in the right direction. If you have any to add to list please leave a comment so I can add them!