South Korean Schools - English Teachers under Surveillance

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South Korean Schools - English Teachers under Surveillance

Unread postby koreawow » 14 Jun 2008, 11:54

I have been looking into South Kora recently and have read some disturbing reports concerning the English teaching industry's attitude towards foreign English teachers.

This site ( http://blacklist.tokyojon.com/ ) has several reports of schools installing spy cameras and microphones in the classrooms (without the teachers knowledge). To a certain extent I can understand the cameras, but to not tell the teachers about it - to keep it secret - sounds machiavellian to me.

This next link talks about a man who tried twice to teach at a South Korean School, but got screwed both times.
http://blacklist.tokyojon.com/dont_teach_in_korea.html

Anyway, I was hoping for some comments on these things from people with experience. My concerns have nothing to do with the Korean people in general. I am specifically referring to the English Teaching Industry within Korea.

These particular complains I have never hear in reference to Japanese schools.

Thanks!
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Re: South Korean Schools - English Teachers under Surveillance

Unread postby Chopvac » 29 Jun 2008, 09:39

koreawow wrote:This site ( http://blacklist.tokyojon.com/ ) has several reports of schools installing spy cameras and microphones in the classrooms (without the teachers knowledge). To a certain extent I can understand the cameras, but to not tell the teachers about it - to keep it secret - sounds machiavellian to me.


Video is only a problem when it invades one's privacy. The classroom is not such a place.

First off, employees who don't expect it in this day and age are naive. Employers should tell people, but don't. The prospective teachers should ask.

Second, video is evidence. If anyone falsely accuses you of something, the video will say otherwise...unless the school is lying and hides the video, of course. I use my cell phone with video to record classes and date them. If there's ever a false accusation, I have evidence that says otherwise, and if kids are misbehaving, I can prove it to the parents.

koreawow wrote:This next link talks about a man who tried twice to teach at a South Korean School, but got screwed both times.
http://blacklist.tokyojon.com/dont_teach_in_korea.html


Did you not read it carefully, or do you have an agenda? The poster of the text said 1996 to 1998 which is ancient in the changing ESL world.

I taught in Korea for a few years until 2004 - the first year legal, some illegal - and never had any problems. I met people who had been screwed by unethical school owners, but most were no problem and I was always paid.

And the fact that his story took place during the economic collapse of the 1990s is telling. As I write the won trades at 1040 to the US dollar, almost par on paper notes. There may be a coming economic breakdown, but that hasn't happened yet.

koreawow wrote:Anyway, I was hoping for some comments on these things from people with experience. My concerns have nothing to do with the Korean people in general. I am specifically referring to the English Teaching Industry within Korea.


You should have talked about the people. The biggest problem a foreigner will have with schools in Korea is the christians - Koreans are very heavily into proselytizing, more than most. Some expect employees to join their churches, demand attendance at religious functions, etc. It's not widespread, but that is something I encountered at every school.

It's one thing for them to be religious, which is no problem, but it's quite another to say, "Go to our church or we'll dock wages," which did happen to me...at the school where I worked legally, but did not happen at the others despite them being christians as well.
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Re: South Korean Schools - English Teachers under Surveillance

Unread postby koreawow » 06 Jul 2008, 05:26

Regardless of how things are managed at a South Koran school is is only fair that the English teacher be told how things are done. Hidden spy cameras, hidden microphones, contracts subject to ongoing negotiation and administration rummaging through teachers personal belongings are all things that a teacher should be aware of. (I talk more about that below)

How often do these things really happen? That is my question.

Chopvac wrote:Video is only a problem when it invades one's privacy. The classroom is not such a place.


I suppose it depends on the type of classroom you teach from. If a teacher moves about the school from room to room, then I doubt that very little in the way of private matters would occur. On the other hand if a teacher works from a permanent classroom, privacy can certainly come into play. As I am using my cell phone to talk to my spouse, during lunch break, I would like to know if someone else is listening in. Schools encourage teachers to manage private matters during break times, but this encouragement coupled with hidden spy cameras and microphones paints quite a different picture.

Chopvac wrote:First off, employees who don't expect it in this day and age are naive. Employers should tell people, but don't. The prospective teachers should ask.


Cameras and microphones in the classroom can have valid uses. I am not concerned about those valid uses, and I certainly don't have a problem with them.
Projecting a false sense of privacy and security (by using hidden cameras and microphones), I do have a problem with.

Is assuming a degree of privacy naive? Must a teacher ask in an interview, "Will you be using hidden microphones to listen to me during break time as I use my cell phone?"

Chopvac wrote: Second, video is evidence. If anyone falsely accuses you of something, the video will say otherwise...unless the school is lying and hides the video, of course. I use my cell phone with video to record classes and date them. If there's ever a false accusation, I have evidence that says otherwise, and if kids are misbehaving, I can prove it to the parents.


Cameras and microphones in the classroom can certainly be used to protect teachers from false accusations. I would also like to add that this could be a great tool to evaluate teacher performance. The teacher can watch the video, with or without a supervisor, to determine areas for improvement. It could be a great way to observe student behavior from a new perspective!

Chopvac wrote: Did you not read it carefully, or do you have an agenda? The poster of the text said 1996 to 1998 which is ancient in the changing ESL world.


My purpose in asking about these issues is to know more about management techniques used by South Korean school administration when dealing with English teachers. The web page that I was originally referring to talked about immigration officers using entrapment operations to get English teacher exported.
(http://blacklist.tokyojon.com/dont_teach_in_korea.html)

If Korean officials are using entrapment techniques like this, what would stop school administration from employing their own entrapment operations to nail a teacher they don't like?

Here is another post describing attitudes and management of English teachers who work in South Korea. I would appreciate it if someone, again, can respond to this.
http://www.lilith-ezine.com/articles/po ... Korea.html

Specifically it mentions:

1 - "The rule of thumb in Korea is that if you're not Korean, then you don't really matter. You really have almost no legal rights. If a company decides to terminate your contract, for any reason whatsoever, they can and they will. So if the company is planning to swindle you anyway (and most do) then no amount of caution is enough."

2 - "They will try every trick in the book, including stealing your wallet, in order to take your money (or keep it to themselves)."

3 - "During my second trip to South Korea the company that fired me refused to pay me the money they owed me for the previous month, even though it was required in their contract to do so. The fact of the matter is that my supervisor there had never even read the contract. She didn't have a clue what it actually said in the contract."

These comments are not in isolation. The US Embassy in Seoul, Korea has a web page entitled, "Teaching English in Korea."

http://travel.state.gov/travel/living/t ... _1240.html

Following are some excerpts from this US Embassy web page:

Contracts:
"Koreans tend to view contracts as always being flexible and subject to further negotiation. Culturally, the written contract is not the real contract; the unwritten, oral agreement that one has with one's employer is the real contract. However, many employers will view a contract violation by a foreign worker as serious, and will renege on verbal promises if they feel they can. Any contract should be signed with these factors in mind."

A foreigner's position in society:
"...One should always treat one's inner circle with complete respect and courtesy, while one treats strangers with indifference. Korea is not an egalitarian society; one is either of a higher or a lower status than other people. How do foreigners fit into this scheme? The simple answer is - they don't. Foreigners are completely off the scope."

Another poster expresses his strong suspicions that his employed entered his apartment and looked through his belongings:
http://blacklist.tokyojon.com/ (search for "REI Andong, Korea")

So, here I see two reports of South Korean employers sorting through their employees personal belongings. Has anyone here hear of this happening? Or are these isolated instances?

The fact that paper contracts are so "flexible" in South Korea also complicates things. An English teacher is in a strange new land, and probably doesn't speak the language nor understand how the concept of "contract" is viewed in Korea. Contracts are supposed to act as a protection for both parties. A paper contract allows both parties something to refer to when there is a question about roles and responsibilities. If this contract is oral, and under continual negotiation, is is easily subject to social pressures, misinterpretation and distortion. It seems to me that this would give school administration an unfair advantage over the teachers.

Does the South Korean concept of contract fall unfairly on the English teacher, or do schools generally handle this with integrity?

Chopvac wrote: The biggest problem a foreigner will have with schools in Korea is the christians - Koreans are very heavily into proselytizing, more than most. Some expect employees to join their churches, demand attendance at religious functions, etc. It's not widespread, but that is something I encountered at every school.

It's one thing for them to be religious, which is no problem, but it's quite another to say, "Go to our church or we'll dock wages," which did happen to me...at the school where I worked legally, but did not happen at the others despite them being christians as well.


I find that really curious. When you were attending church, did they and others at the church talk to you about work?

Well, again I am not criticizing the Korean country or its people. I am asking questions about how English teachers are managed.
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