Hagwon Nonsense

My school is a little different from most in Korea in terms of time-off. While most schools give predetermined time off–a week or two in summer and winter is the norm. My school gives 15 days, usable in 5-day chunks (or less) throughout the year. Thus far it has been a bit challenging to get any time off at all, but persistence does pay off.

At my school, when you don’t use all your vacation time, you get paid the excess at the end of your contract. They actually pay a bit less by purposely miscalculating your days worked, but whatever. I only used four days my first year, so get to be reimbursed for 11 days off. It should work out to be 800 bucks or so.

I finished my contract in June and didn’t get paid for my excess days. I contacted the office and they said they might have forgotten. No worries, I said, just pay me by my next check.

They didn’t.

I reminded them again. They said they had forgotten again. I have waited for this payment for 2 months now, so that I can transfer money home. They say they are on it, but it will take 3 weeks. This isn’t ideal, but as long as a resolution is coming I can hang.

And then it comes down from the new big boss (who is on a bit of a power trip) that he doesn’t want to pay me. Even though my contract has said one thing for a year, it’s okay for him to come in and change things how he sees fit. So why don’t I just take that time off in the next year? Well it is a problem because I had budgeted to have this payment and transferred money accordingly. If I don’t get it, I have 300 dollars to live on for the month.

I actually like financial challenges like this, and it it’s not unbearable (I once lived on 20 pounds for a month in the UK.) It’s rather indicative, however, of just how things work here. Constant “forgetting,” changing the rules every time I ask, and repeated contradictions are just par for course. I do miss the North American worry-free assurance of getting paid on time, per your contract. If you’re supposed to get a yearly raise, a new boss can’t just decide he’s not doing that anymore.

Here it’s easy to get a job, but you have to fight so hard just for what was already agreed upon. The need to constantly press your boss is annoying, but then again I’m complaining about vacation time and money. In a world where a billion people are starving, I realize this isn’t actually a very big problem at all.

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