Just got tweeted a link from some site called "GO! Overseas", which has a "10 Don'ts for Teaching Abroad in South Korea." Sounds like it was written with the following editorial guidelines in mind: "Be as frank as possible, but don't make Korea look bad, since we're a promoter of overseas workers and need to make everything seem as pleasant as possible." With your amateurish, out-of-focus classroom shot and generic stock image of Korea.
Typical seeming helpful-but-not pap. Like any of you idiots have any deep knowledge of the problems on the ground here.
What really got me, though, was the following quote at the end of their insipid article:
For some reason, there are teachers in Korea who don’t like teaching and don’t like Korea. Do they leave? Some do, but others opt to stay on and gripe to anyone who will listen about how things “make no sense here.” Stay away from these downers. Instead, make friends who enjoy teaching and who can help you through your problems. Make friends with Koreans who can explain why certain cultural bits are the way they are. Just don’t bitch. You’re only spreading negativity.
Readers, you all will have to excuse me, because I'm gonna have to make it raw for these idiots.
A hearty "fuck you" to Go! Overseas.
"For some reason?" You know, I am really sick and tired of this glossing over of why perfectly decent college graduates from North America, who are no better or worse than their peers, overall, get no understanding as to why many "gripe" or "complain" after working here. I've seen and sent (with recommendations) many an undergraduate I taught in my classes to Korea. I myself went on a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship (ETA) in 1994, well before the English teacher boom started. I saw the Korean government's horrible attempt to launch a program like ours -- the EPIK/KORETA program -- fail miserably in its first years, and continue to limp along today. I see the thousands of kids coming to work their first jobs in hagwons get crunched on by this very corrupt, largely unregulated system and spit out again.
It's not the kids, folks.
Let's just talk about the Fulbright ETA program, which has a primary goal of promoting cultural exchange and international understanding -- not exploiting these kids for all the English they can get. Beginnning with this markedly different assumption, we also get an applicant pool with a ratio of about 1/5 people applying being accepted. Fulbright ETA is actually not super-comepetitive, actually. But it scrutinizes enough. And we don't even have TESOL or any certificates! Yet, we've always been the most-desired teachers in any provinces. What keeps the experience pretty positive? The Fulbright office in Seoul is an advocate for the TEACHER, not the school or institution. Go into KORETA and you're getting screwed on your contract? You don't have anyone in your corner. We also have a 2-month orientation, including language training and all kinds of pedagogical work, from the history of the Korean education program to classroom workshops, lesson planning, etc. Fulbright draws upon the same pool of kids who are always accused of "bitching," yet our program's turnover rate is nearly negligible, and our returnee rate getting higher every year. And the Korea ETA program has been lauded by the US State Department (who sponsors it) as not only one of the best programs of its type, but one of the best-run ETA programs of any country with one.
Why is that? And why did Fulbright turn down the Korean government cold when it proposed expanding the Fulbright ETA program to "2000 by 2000" in 1994? After which it began its KORETA (later, EPIK, after that program's massive failure) program?
Because Korea is a backwards country when it comes to business adminsitration, strategic organizational planning, human resources management, and simply the fine art of doing business and sticking to contracts.
I know many, many businesspeople who HATE doing business in Korea, or bitch about it to no end, for the same reasons as English teachers do. There is no respect for contracts here, there is little recourse for breach of contract or illegal treatment, and often, Koreans will just plain lie when entering into a business relationship.
So, it is precisely BECAUSE Fulbright in Seoul runs interference for its grantees that the vast majority of us (myself included) have a positive experience as an English teacher here in Seoul.
Now, I won't even list the comedy of errors that is common to just about any Korean government-run program. Suffice it to say that it is a matter of INTERESTS. The government-run programs have the same set of interests as a hagwon does, which is telling: "Milk that teacher for all s/he's worth, for as little money as possible. And since they are essentially indentured servants with no legal recourse or rights (as a practical matter, anyways), we can violate contract terms and generally act like dicks. Or you can go the fuck home."
And many do, after completing their contracts. A few even do a "midnight run." It's really funny that no one ever asks the question of why foreigners sometimes do break their contracts and just go home. Most of the people who come here are not surly losers who plan to uproot themselves from all they know, move to East Asia, and plan to dedicated a year or two of their life to working here, fresh out of college. I would characterize most of these people as being possessed of some sense of adventure, discovery, and a desire to have some decent fun while doing it.
And what do they find here? Not only are many disillusioned by the lies they've been told, their work environments are very unprofessional. Given no specific training on-site, with textbooks that are often handed to them the day of class, and the supervision of mostly uncouth and crass owners, emotional and overly partial Korean managers, and the illogic of Korean office management, on top of having no help with cultural adjustment, etc.
These young kids go negative, get unprofessional, and start hating "Korea." Which they don't, but their work life defines 90% of "Korea" to them, and it SUCKS.
So, those who tend to have a negative view of Korea are those who tend to have a negative work experience, in my broad base of experience. And by extension, many young people who come in through different vectors -- internships, exchange programs, etc. -- tend to be far more positive.
And again, many of those in say, the ETA program, have had a positive experience by virtue of the fact that we have ample PROTECTION from same backwards administrative practices, etc. Because they do HAPPEN, but we have a particularly well-connected HAMMER OF THOR who can squash just about any problems that comes up, such as when your country-ass principal starts grumbling about farming you out to the local community college because his best friend works there, or your vice-principal starts bitching about why you shouldn't just sit in your desk staring into space until 5PM, like the other teachers, when your last class ends at 11AM. Like you can do anything useful in the school, anyway, as a foreigner.
Point is, the big, motherfucking, fat elephant in the room is KOREAN ADMINISTRATIVE PRACTICE and UNPROFESSIONALISM, which even Koreans are sick and tired of, but just can't do anything about.
You really want to know how to have a good experience in Korea teaching English? You don't need 10 fucking tips from an idiotic copywriter. You need only two, from someone on the ground, who yeah, hates Korean business culture, but doesn't hate Korea.
1) Find a program like the American-run Fulbright ETA program or something similar, which has someone running interference for you and has your back if you have a problem.
2) Try to find a job or Korean-run program in which you've heard people had generally good experiences, not by fiat of luck, but because of the administrative practices themselves.
And go fuck yourselves, Go! Overseas for publishing pap that you try to pass off as "helpful tips," while avoiding conversation about the real problem and blaming the victims.
Again, a hearty "Fuck you," Go! Overseas!