Coming to Korea to live and work can be an awesome experience.
Most people leave after a year after having made many new friends, having had a great experience, and having experienced a culture and a people like no other.
Many people stay on for a second or third year, or come back after some time away to teach again.
For others, the korean experience will have been marred or totally spoilt by their work situation.
A lot of people come to Korea with false expectations, or having done little research about the place they plan to live for the next year. Korea is a confucionist society with a very different outlook on life and a very different view of the workplace.
Some schools make allowances for their foreign staff, others do not. Likewise, some foreigners can adapt and cope with the korean way of doing business. Others will pull their hair out with frustration. Most people will do both.
The best advice for avoiding a bad situation is to do your research beforehand. Chose a reputable recruiter, ask lots of questions, do not be rushed into a position. Get any promises in writing.
Find out plenty about Korea, and the kind of place you'd like to be teaching at. Find out about the labor laws and your legal situation. Demand to speak to the foreign teachers currently working at the place you are considering.
Read your contract thoroughly. If it does not seem professional, do not sign it. Ask for ammendments where necessary. Do not sign it until you are completely happy with it. For more advice on your contract, visit the ESL Law website (see links).
After you are in Korea, and things aren't going according to plan, your first step must be to try and resolve things with your employer. Courtesy and respect are imperative when dealing with your korean employer. Losing your cool will get you nowhere.
If you cannot resolve your situation, and your contract is not being honoured, or the labor laws are not being upheld, you need to take action.
Your first port of call must be the labor board. Sometimes they can help you. Explore all your legal avenues (see links), and get the word out about your place of work.
By publicising your situation through the blacklist, and letting your employer know that you are doing so, we are hoping that some teachers will be able to resolve their situations, and that directors will think twice before mistreating their foreign staff.
If we can gather sufficient evidence that a school is not acting legally, we will do our best to publicise the shortcomings of that school to potential teachers and recruiters, hopefully making it very difficult for them to lure new teachers.
If foreign teachers work together, and refuse to put up with the illegalities that abound in hagwons across Korea, maybe one day mistreatment of foreigners will be a rarity.
Problems such as as non-payment of overtime, tax evasion, breach of contract, unsubstantiated deductions, missing severance pay; as well as a total disrespect for the labor laws are not acceptable. Foreigners are being treated as second class citizens when it comes to legal issues. Too many hagwon directors take advantage of their teachers in one way or another.
Do not put up with it.