My old hagwon closed!

You may have heard about my awful first 6 months in Korea with CPIS.  I arrived and started working within 12 hours only to find out the “school” that hired me was a huge web of lies.  We had issues with paychecks, health insurance, eviction notices, incompetent administration and just about every issue that you hear about from a hagwon.

You can read about my struggle to find a new job and acquire a “letter of release,” the threats and accusations the administration came up with and a wholly negative work environment but I’m happy to announce they shut down!

I do feel sorry for any teachers who lost their jobs and if you happen to be one of them don’t hesitate to contact me.  I’ll do my best to help you get a better job!  As for the kids its nice to hear they’ll have a brief reprieve from the long hours in school although I”m sure their parents have already found alternate hagwons.

I usually don’t like to rejoice over someone else’s misfortune but the circumstances that this atrocious school & administration created soured my first experiences in Korea.  They took advantage of us every time they could and instilled a false mistrust of Korean administrators that I’m still working through.  So today I will let that smile creep into a grin as word about my old hagwon’s closure fills me with joy.

CPIS’s hagwon atrocity continues

Earlier today I got this anonymous comment on my Last week at CPIS post.

I wish I would have read your blog before signing a contract with CPIS! I am currently working here and find it to be the biggest group of unprofessionals to ever exist. Before I even came to Korea the school was nutty. (After 6 months of paperwork and hundreds of dollars) They told me that if my visa did not come back in time that my job offer was gone. It came through just in time and I was sent to Korea the next day. The horror continued as I arrived in Korea late one Sunday night. I was put into a filthly basement room where the toilet had been overflowing all over the ground – for what appeared to be weeks (I will spare the details but it was DISGUSTING!).
This school has switched through 3 directors and two presidents/owners. This will be our third contract (in 2.5 months) this coming week, and I have experienced many missed pay days. We still do not have health insurance, yet they have been taking money out of our checks every month. Our pension has not been added into our accounts, we call the pension agency daily… (Wondering where all my money is going!).

I could keep going… but I can’t believe this school has caused my life this much added stress. For those out there who may read this prior to signing a contract, DO NOT DO IT! As of May, 2014 this school has not changed a bit. The ridiculous continues into another year…

It deeply saddens me to know that as many as 9 foreigners are facing what seems to be worsening conditions to what I had to deal with.  If you happen to be one of those unlucky individuals stuck with CPIS’ disaster of a “school” let me know how I can help! (You can find my facebook or  I struggled through it but managed to get a letter of release and a new job.  Korea is awesome; don’t let a crappy hagwon spoil that for you!

After getting this message I contacted the pension department with a few of my cohorts.  We discovered that although we were paid the rest of our paychecks somewhere in the scuffle December’s pension payment was still missing.  That’s roughly $100 from our paycheck that they stole and were supposed to match for just over $200 missing in our pension accounts.  We aren’t gonna roll over and let them steal from us.  The current plan is to swing by CPIS in the near future.  At least we’ll get to visit some of our favorite restaurants after…

CPIS = awful hagwon = 28 more days!

The hagwon life at CPIS continues to baffle us; Friday we were given slightly less than half pay(which was already 5 days late).  Monday I found out the Korean teachers got even less.  My director hinted that she’s skeptical about the key money we were previously told would cover our lost pay if the CEO closed the school.  She had a disturbing meeting with the CEO where he deflected and laughed off every question she had about paychecks, pensions and the $1 million key money (deposit) he had on the building.  She translated that to us as “it may not be there.”

28 more days!

After a laborious staff meeting that kept going in circles we realized there is a divide between the Korean staff and native English speakers.  The complaints were universal but when it came time to see who was ready to take action the only raised hands were white.  So far our new director is doing a good job of keeping us in the loop. Unfortunately the resulting discovery of [the owner’s] refusal to communicate left us with an even greater feeling of hopelessness.  It seems that she shares this frustration and also feels powerless to negotiate with him.

Today is Wednesday January 15th; my latest birthday present was the news that [the owner] is in fact selling the business.  At first I thought that was a good thing but now I’m less sure.  We don’t have any answers about how the sell will effect us and have heard stories of teachers being fired in the 11th month to avoid paying severance.  Who will take over paying us and the pension?  Will we have new contracts, will it void our old contract?  We are suspicious that this is a ploy to get out of some of what we are owed.

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Half a paycheck, still no pension

Payday should be on the 5th of every month.  We accepted that we wouldn’t get it before our week off so thought the paychecks would be deposited the day of our return on January 6th.  Wrong.  Today is Friday and this whole week we’ve been working without pay, and have gotten zero answers about our pension accounts.  Well, that’s not entirely true.  I called the National Pension office and confirmed that my account in fact has ₩0 in it.  So I’ve got that going for me.

A friendly letter with clearly stated advantages & disadvantages of diligent payment was drafted.  It outlined how employee morale has bottomed out highlighting the stress of not being paid, the revelation about our fraudulent pensions and the uncertainty of the future.  It further stated that the simple solution to avoid complications at the school was to adhere to our contractual payday.

I really wanted to have this translated and left on the boss’ desk but I was out voted.  Only myself and the author were willing to sign our names.  I guess it doesn’t bother me too much since I didn’t really think there would be any effect other than some angry Korean.  It was more of a symbolic olive branch to try and fix the problems while helping our CEO see the benefit to a good business practice aka paying his employees.

Its bad enough on a normal Monday morning but everyday past our payday it grows harder and harder to remain motivated to do any work and to come each in morning.  I look forward to leaving this job in a way I have never before experienced.  I chalk most of the trouble up to the language barrier and cultural differences.  If Mr. Bae spoke any English or we spoke Korean well enough to have a conversation perhaps he could convince us what he was doing made sense.  Well, no chances are it would make me hate him even more if I understood what he was saying.

As a result of the stress and uncertainty we have had some interesting developments.  This week there have been a handful of absences; they can largely be attributed to catching viruses like the devil I brought back from the Philippines but I wouldn’t be surprised if one or two were directly related to the lack of pay.  I know I’m planning on taking at least 1 ‘sick’ day next week to give myself a 3-day weekend for my birthday and am certain the remaining 7 weeks will include coworkers following suit.

The unfortunate side of a teacher calling in sick is that we are required to give up our prep periods to sub.  Today that backfired on one of our administrators.  Roughly 10 minutes before the class started (the teacher has been absent all day yet they waited until the last minute to ask) they approached a teacher with a prep this afternoon asking her to cover.  It got a little ugly when she refused; stating significant work (including a private school application) and the intent to visit the doctor since she had been sick.

As teachers we can’t understand why our principal doesn’t cover on these occasions.  Her main responsibility is to develop our curriculum (which she fails to do) and online shops or chats on her phone most of the day.  She deals with parents when the need arises but usually pawns that responsibility off to our coteachers who are on the phone most of the school day as a result.  Well, anyway a screaming match ensued in the hallway; it was exacerbated by both parties lack of pay and resulted in a “warning” letter which was mistranslated as a “call to immigration.”

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My new mantra – “2 more months!”

I apologize for interrupting your regularly scheduled programming of travel and leisure to bring you back to a show we recently canceled and are re-airing as “2 more months!”  At least this time my principals had the good will to inform us first thing in the morning that we wouldn’t be paid on time.  We “might get paid by Thursday” when the 5th was technically payday at CPIS.

In other news we also found out the owner/CEO (aka guy who causes all the problems) has been stealing our pensions.  Yep, he takes it from our paycheck but not only fails to deposit his matching share but fails to deposit anything into our pension accounts.  The pension money isn’t a huge sum but its even more of a slap in the face from this asshole.

The sliver of good news was that we were given permission to have “more play time” today; you better believe every student had a blast today.  Even without the most recent salary shenanigans we were all beat from our trips and planned for an easy day.   I’m fighting off what I hope is simply a cold I brought back from the Philippines and I know I wasn’t alone in being exhausted on this lovely Monday morning.

At the end of the day I was planning on meeting with my coworkers to discuss our plan of action when the director called me into her office.  Her first order of business was a suggestion from the accountant that she deduct the airfare from my salary to which I flat out refused.  I reminded her that there was no chance of any transaction without a documented receipt and used this as an segway to bring up the pensions.

“I have to check my pension and my paycheck but based on some of my coworkers it appears that [the owner] has been deducting our pensions from our monthly pay but failing to deposit the money in our actual pension.  That’s stealing.  I understand the school may be having troubles and while I am quite angry the paychecks are delayed, again, I can understand.  He is blatantly stealing our pensions and we won’t stand for it.” Continue reading