Arirang News Category Image Updated: 2013-12-30 PM 10:52:50(KST) Korea develops special education assistant robots for young children

Sooo, now Koreans will learn even less about the rest of the world and probably still say ‘lunchee’

Sadly, I suspect this won’t work so well in the ‘real world’ with normal students.  If the education system says you can’t fail a student, then they will just ignore the bot (or make fun/goof around with it) just as much as they do with the current English teachers.  A robot will not change kids attitudes.  Sure it’ll entertain them for a bit but it won’t change their learning habits if they don’t have a fear of failure.


Wow, Korean interviewing arrogance

My wife is currently seeking for a new teaching position because her current school decided that their teachers have to have an Educational degree to teach at their Elementary school.  I covered this briefly here but basically it’s a PR move.

My wife had a Skype interview and I had nowhere else to be so I just sat on the bed, out of view, and played a game on my Galaxy Tab and listened to the interview.  The interviewer, a Korean guy who spoke fluent English, was asking some very direct and significantly professional questions.  Speaks to his background and thoroughness but I felt that it was a little too much at times.  Regardless, no my place to tell him how to do his job.  Then came the kicker.  After one hour of interviewing they got onto the topic of “What happens if you were offered another position?  Are we your first choice?”  My wife, answering honestly because she is like that, said “No, you are my second choice.”  He then replied “If we are not your first choice then are we both wasting our time here?”

Wow, what arrogance?!  Seriously?  You only want to interview people who think you are your first choice?  This gets even more wild because he said he has taught in Korea as well.  Makes me wonder if he only ever applied to one school between jobs.  Absolutely ludicrous to think that you should only be interviewing people who want you and only you.

Most people don’t think beyond their own little world.

Update: My wife shortly (like literally 2 mins) after getting off Skype with him, from the recruiter.  The recruiter told her that the interviewer liked her.  Truly surreal.  I told my wife that she should have told the recruiter “Am I your #1 candidate for hiring?  No?  Are we both wasting our time here?”

Korean Law?(Update 1, 24/1/2013)

Working as an English Teacher here in South Korea can be quite rewarding at times but you have to have either a lot of skills or know where to get your resources for help.  Teaching contracts here are in a category all to themselves.

First, I would highly recommend you learning WHERE to get help.  Your first stop should always be the Seoul Global Center, NOT Google.  First, most people don’t use the ‘sort by date’ option, so you are more likely to get information that is 2+ years out of date.  Second, you are probably in a position that is SIMILIAR but not exact and the solutions found will not likely apply to you any ways.

Seoul Global Center(SGC), which is run by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, is a comprehensive support center for foreign residents in Seoul.
SGC is a one-stop service center for offering daily living, business activities, administrative services, various educational courses and international exchange events. Also provide basic to specialize counseling regarding legal, labor, tax and real estate related issues to help expats settle in Seoul.

They are the experts and especially critical if you need clarification on what you might think is an issue or not.

In Korea, there is a near incomprehensible belief that you never take a sick day off of work.  Really, there are ZERO laws regarding this.  If you need to take a day off, a Korean will simply use his accumulated vacation time.  Now, the government-run programs (EPIK and GEPIK) are well aware of how westerners work and what they are used to.  So in their contracts, there will be some allowance for sick days (some as low as 3 days per contract year) but when it comes to the private hagwons, it is entirely up to that business whether they include them or now.  This ‘optional’ sick time off bleeds into the public system if you get hired for an ‘after school program’ which is in a public school but contracted out to a recruiter/company because the school couldn’t get the budget for a full-time teacher.

Now we all know that there are old and out-dated laws floating around.  Well, while browsing for ‘sick days’ laws I came across this little gem:.

Prohibition from work in Pit

I’m not even sure I want to know.  Who am I kidding…of course I want to know!  Then I can blog about it!  :)

FYI, GalbiJim is a popular website and has only mirrored the Korean Labour Laws.  It was easier to screenshot that then open up the pdf version and do it.


As if on cue, my wife gets horribly sick and throws up about 4 times last night.  Calls to work in the morning to see if there is anyone who can take her classes, unsurprisingly there isn’t.  So she drags herself into the school, barely makes it thought only to find out that the supervisor, who does teach classes, had NONE and could have helped out but did not.  My wife did leave early as one of the other teachers was able to take her last class….guess what, the supervisor still had no classes to teach.  This ‘must sacrifice your well-being for the good of Korea’ mentality will be their downfall.

Getting your slice of home in Korea

Many people come here to teach English.  Most don’t think beyond ‘this will be like a big holiday’ and are suddenly slapped with a grand dose of home-sickness.  They miss their Timmies or their family, or maybe just their surrounding environment.  The unfamiliarity comes rushing in when they realize that 2hrs after landing and getting driven to your new place, you are usually unceremoniously dumped and left to fend for yourself.  Although a good co-worker will at least help you get through your first night but they are usually busy with their own lives and do only as much as needed to make sure you get to your new place.

The vast majority of people go on holidays with friends, family but when you come to South Korea to teach, extremely few are here with anyone but the 4 walls they live in for one year.  So the holiday tends to end within 4hrs of arrival.  Then to add to this, what do you do about food?  Great co-workers will help you buy food.  They won’t buy it for you, you should have been told to bring some money with you to sustain you till you get your first paycheck and/or settlement allowance.  Just about everyone thinks that all they will need is food but the reality is that you have no idea what you are missing till you get here.  Sure the ad said ‘fully furnished apartment’ but oddly, this means just a bed, maybe a chair/couch and possibly a TV.  There is a distinct lack of mentioning of utensils, blankets, towers, toiletries, cups and those, while not terribly expensive, do add up and can chew heavily into your food budget.  Suddenly your 4 weeks budget is dropped to 2 weeks.  Then you find out you have to pay for your medical test because in order to get your Alien Registration Card you need this done.  But wait, before you can get your settlement allowance you need a bank account.  Oh wait, before you can get a bank account you need an ARC (Although this has recently changed and you can open a bank account with a passport now).  But wait, in order to open that bank account, you need to go to the bank during 9-5….same hours that you are working and you hope to God that a co-worker is nice enough to help you through this process…wait, did I mention that you work during these hours?  If you are reeeeealy lucky, the school will let off early because the day after you landed you are immediately working and of course your body had adjusted to the 13hr time difference right?

Well, that is a rather bleak view on your arrival here, but it is a common one.  You have to do your due diligence when you make such a decision to go to a completely foreign environment and realize that “you’re not in Kansas any more”.  Once all the initial crap is over, you can truly start enjoying your time here.  For the most part, you will be in the target age of 20-29 and will be hanging with other foreigners, at bars, drinking every weekend, partying in Hongdae with the crowd.  I find this to be truly sad because most of these people miss out on the experience that is surrounding them.  They seem to be continuing their ‘college days’ and have no one around them to be accountable to except their job.  Hell, even the girls (and guys) are good-looking, so why not hook up every weekend right?  Sadly these are the same people who end up quitting their job because it is not what they want/signed up for/believed they were getting.  They thought it would be fun and easy and get to see the world yet they spend more time-wasting (wasted?) on things that don’t help with their positive experience here.

Well, at least there are Foreigner Markets here so that you can get some thing familiar.

From Daily Image of Korea

These are a kind of ‘black market’ sellers.  Obviously not really illegal but more of where they get it from, typically US Military personnel, who are not supposed to be selling like this but it happens.  Don’t be surprised at the outrageous prices you’ll pay here.  I also question the dates on any food items here.  If you are close enough to a big city, there is always CostCo in Seoul and Daejeon.

Should you be one of the ones that truly take a look around,  spend the time to learn at least SOME Korean, you’ll find it truly rewarding and be surprised at how much the Koreans appreciate you trying to work with them on their terms.  I have found more positive and friendly gestures here than I ever have in Canada.  It can be somewhat of an odd feeling because us Canadians think we’re the ‘nice people of the world’ but get to know a few Asians and you’ll soon realize that there is a world of difference here to enjoy.

Teaching English in Korea

There are many times where most teachers simply want to scream, click their heels together and be back in their respective countries. They become frustrated by the lack of consistency, the seeming-lack of courtesy, the lack of language comprehension and the lack of consideration given to ESL teachers. Now that paints a pretty bleak picture but it is merely one side of the coin. The experience, the culture, the beauty and the sense of accomplishment that a teacher does eventually achieve plays a major balancing act and usually is the winner when it comes to deciding if you like it here or not.

Bharati’s school put on a performance of various English skits. Most were modified fables and stories to suit the number of students in each class. Her school is in the outskirts of her town. It really should be classified as ‘rural’ as the immediate area is surrounded by ‘low end businesses’, to put it politely. Small farms, what looks like scrap yards and a convenience store. Overall it looks like a part that has yet to be taken over by the urban sprawl. Maybe I’ll get pictures of it some other time.

In order to get to her school, Bharati normally takes this little ‘school bus’ (meaning something slightly bigger than a mini-van where 40 kids + her gets squeezed into). There is a public bus that runs ‘close’. Close meaning dropped off then a 20min walk. So with me going to see the performance we had to take the city bus. Short enough trip (45mins including the walk) but there was this cool little stream that ran beside the road we walked along.

It was neat to see some ducks but they were severely skittish.

What I really love about this country is the scenery. The landscape has real character, unlike southwestern Ontario. And the Hamilton ‘mountain’ is a real joke compared to something like this:

Nothing does wonder for the soul like a good scenery.

We arrived at the school and I got the customary tour and introductions to many people who understand I was Bharati’s “남편” (pronounced nom-peyong) husband. All the little girls kept saying I was ‘handsome’. The teachers were very polite and the principal smiled a lot (I don’t think he knows anything beyond hello and some other rudimentary English but I am sure he’s learning more each year).

Bharati has a very nice classroom, spacious and quite a number of computers for the kids.

Bharati’s room also includes the Library.

And here we have Bharati at her desk:

I’ve done the rest in an album slideshow, lest this post grow to 18 pages long :)

All-in-all, the kids did an amazing job. They were funny and many of them spoke incredibly clear. Bharati was also given to judge them with a sheet. The Korean culture is very big on academics (another point in the Korean favour as Canada doesn’t seem to care at all in comparison) and it was interesting to see one of the parent check out Bharati’s sheet and the scores she was giving each grade level. We got an invite for dinner from one parent, I am looking forward to that but also concerned that they will miss my strict ‘meatarian’ diet.