From Korea with Love

"I carry your heart with me… always."


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Questions Frequently Asked about Teaching in Korea

When I started this blog a couple of years ago, I vowed to myself that I will never ever abandon it no matter how busy I am… but I couldn’t keep that promise. Now that I’m back to blogging, I feel like I’m in zombie apocalypse. Everything has come to a standstill. My brain refuses to function when I try to organize my thoughts. I can’t figure out how to reply to all the messages and comments that have piled up from last year. My dear readers, I owe you an apology. Here’s a big ghost hug!

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This time, I’m going to try to answer SOME of the most frequently asked questions in my blog about teaching in Korea.

Let’s start!

  1. Can a Filipino teacher work as an English instructor in Korea? 
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My 5th graders performing a role-play

Yes, but if you’re applying for a teaching job here and you’re currently in the Philippines, there is only one way to obtain a teaching visa. It’s known as the E-1 visa, one that is given to lecturers and university professors. The other teaching visa, the easiest to obtain, which is the E-2 visa, is only given to citizens of one of the following English speaking countries: Australia, Britain, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa or United States. No matter how fluent you are in English and how impressive your resume is, if you’re not from any of the countries mentioned, you won’t be given an E2. Yes, the requirement is racial bias and it’s BS… but this is Korea where getting a teaching job is not as easy as pie if you’re not Caucasian-looking.

 

There are also Filipinos who come here with a student visa (D-2) or training visa (D-4) and teach part-time. This is legal ONLY if you get a written permission from your school or one of your professors.

Other Filipinos who are in Korea under a missionary or religious worker visa (D6) try their luck on teaching, and they succeed; however, the D-6 visa is NOT a teaching visa. This means that if you teach here with a D-6, you’re not teaching legally. Some hagwons may hire you, but only as a part-timer. This is somewhat risky and temporary. I had a colleague who taught English in an academy while she was on a D-6. Eventually, they had to let her go, because she couldn’t be registered as a legal employee.

The easiest way for a Filipino teacher to teach legally in Korea is through the F-6 visa or the F-5 visa. This means that you’ll have to come to Korea as a spouse and/or attain permanent residency here. Most of the Filipinos married to Koreans I know teach in private institutions like hagwons (academies) or public schools. Some of them don’t even have teaching degrees. (They are graduates of other courses.)

I’ve written about this topic five years ago, and the rules haven’t changed. You can read more about it here.

2. How much is the salary?

In hagwons, monthly salaries range from 1.8 to 2.3 million won (around 1,589 to 2,031 USD) if you work full-time. A full-time teacher in Korea should work for at least 30 hours a week. The normal workload is 6 hours a day, 5 times a week. Note, however, that there are private institutions who require teachers to work from Monday to Saturday (for example, hagwons that have more middle school students). If this is the case, you should not work for more than 5 hours a day. Other private institutions will offer non-native speakers lower salaries, but do yourself a favor… don’t settle for less than what you deserve just to have a job. You can always find a hagwon that will treat you fairly.

In public schools, the average monthly salaries for teachers range from 1.5 to 2.6 million won (1,324 to 2,296 USD) depending on credentials. Those with no teaching experience can expect to get somewhere between 2 to 2.3 million won (1,766 to 2,031 USD) . Education majors or licensed teachers can make somewhere between 2.2 to 2.6 million won (1,942 to 2,296 USD). There are some foreigners who claim (or boast) that they are making 3 million won or more, but this is kind of hard to believe, because public schools have a certain budget for foreign teachers. They can’t just offer higher salaries. Universities offer the highest salaries starting from 2.3 to 3.5 million won (1,766 to 3,091 USD). There are even reports that university professors with outstanding credentials can get up to 5 million won (4415 USD).

Private tutors are usually paid per hour. The rate depends on you, of course, but just to give you an idea of what is acceptable, 30,000 to 35,000 won (26 to 31 USD) is good enough. In affluent areas in Korea, you can ask for 40,000 won (35 USD) per hour, 50,000 won (44 USD) for business English classes. I had a college student who agreed to 40, but I taught her for just a couple of months before she flew to London.

3. Is private tutoring legal?

If you’re on E-2 visa, NO. You can take your chances and do it secretly, but if you get caught, you might end up getting fined or deported. It is illegal for an E-2 visa holder to work as a tutor… unless his employer allows it and submits a written permission to the immigration. Also, the income from tutoring should be declared to the tax office, so that the tutor can pay the appropriate taxes.

On the other hand, it is good news for F-6 and F-5 visa holders. Being on a spouse visa or a permanent residence visa gives one more leeway to work any jobs in Korea, including tutoring; however, it is mandatory to report the income, just like with the E-2, and pay taxes.

For D-6 visa holders, there is NO legal way to teach privately.

I’m going to answer more questions next time and share with you how I manage to earn more as a teacher in Korea.

HAVE A HAPPY WEEK! ^^

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Prejudice against Filipinos in Korea

I thought that I have lived in Korea long enough to evade discrimination or at least get used to it, but when you are a Filipino living in Korea, you have to accept the fact that there will always be prejudice here against Filipinos, and you just have to deal with it, period.

Don’t get me wrong, life as a Filipina in Korea isn’t that bad. I have made a lot of Korean friends who are kind and unpretentious, worked with wonjangnims who treated me well, and met a couple of Koreans who have much respect for Filipinos and have good things to say about the Philippines; however, there are others whose blatantly racist remarks about my country and its people have made me feel so small, such as:

Oh, I can share a number of personal experiences with discrimination from the moment I came to this country, but to do so will make this article too lengthy and boring to read. I used to cry and complain to my husband about others’ unfair treatment, but I have learned that the best way to deal with prejudice is to NOT LET YOURSELF BE DRAGGED DOWN INTO THE PIT OF OTHERS’ IGNORANCE AND ANIMOSITY by feeling angry or drowning in self-pity. It’s either you ignore them, or you speak up. You can ignore jokes or petty remarks, but if you feel the need to say something, do so. Don’t sound so defensive, though. Speak to enlighten others of their wrong perceptions and not to argue.

They can't even get it right... T.T

They can’t even get it right… T.T

Last week, I started working in a new hagwon. While I was getting ready for my next class, a co-teacher approached me to say that if students ask where I am from, I should tell them that I’m from the United States and not from the Philippines, because as she puts it, Koreans “look down” on Filipino teachers. Although that wasn’t the first time I was asked to lie about being a Filipino, I was flabbergasted at how facilely those words came out of a fellow educator’s mouth. She probably thought that she was doing me a huge favor by giving me a heads up and by lying to the students about my nationality: “Some students were asking (me) where you are from and I said (that) you are from the USA.”

She wanted me to lie, too: “Maybe it’s better (if) you don’t tell them (that) you are (a) Filipino, because if they know (that) you are (a) Filipino teacher, they will not listen to you.”

“If their parents know (that the foreign teacher is from the Philippines), maybe they will not like it.”

As she was gabbling on and on about what Korean students or their parents might think if they find out that the new foreign teacher is a Filipino, I was thinking whether she was really referring to others’ prejudice against Filipino teachers… or she was trying to feign her own xenophobic attitude.

I was fuming inside, but I knew that if I let anger get the best of me, I would prove her right about all the things she previously said. “You know, the first time I was hired to teach in Korea, I was also asked not to tell the students that I am from the Philippines. I had to say that I was a Kyopo. I soon quit that job,”

I wanted to tell her to read my resume and watch me teach, so that her preconceived notions about Filipino teachers will somehow change, but even if I succeeded in changing her opinion of me, there are so many bigots out there who will always see Filipino teachers differently no matter how we try to prove ourselves.

Photo Take from: Pinterest

Photo taken from: Pinterest

“I’m not going to lie to keep a job,” I told her. “Besides, I already told most of the students that I’m from the Philippines, and they don’t seem to mind that their teacher is a Filipino.”

She looked at me, slightly surprised, perhaps not expecting that answer. Her last words to me before she left me alone were: “It doesn’t matter.” That was the only thing she said to me that day that actually made sense. I have been an ESL teacher for more than ten years, and I know that to the students I have taught, where I come from doesn’t really matter. I am a teacher who happens to be a Filipino. As an educator, I am damn good at what I do, and there are many Filipino teachers in Korea who are very good, too. It’s just disheartening that in a country like Korea, there are still some who believe that Filipino teachers are not competent enough to teach English, even if they have the degree and years of teaching experience.

An accomplished Filipina professor in Daegu, Prof. Emely Dicolen-Abagat, was also not spared from this kind of discrimination. In the Philippines, she wasn’t just any teacher, she was a respected administrator… but when one of her friends recommended her as a private teacher, this is what happened:

One time, my friend recommended me as a private English teacher to a “Gangnam Omma” to her daughter. We met in a coffee shop in Gangnam and the first question she asked me was, “Where are you from?” I proudly answered, “I’m from the Philippines!” Without hesitation, she tactlessly answered, “I don’t want a Filipina teacher for my daughter. I want a native speaker.” Without letting me finish my coffee, she left. When some Korean moms learn that I’m from the Philippines, they would immediately quote a lower price of tutoring fee compared with westerners.

(Source: abs-cbnnews.com)

If you search the net for teaching jobs in South Korea, you will usually find ads that require NATIVE SPEAKERS ONLY. Some hagwons (academies) will hire Filipino teachers, but will offer the lowest salary. When I started looking for a teaching job in Korea, some hagwons offered me a salary that I thought I didn’t deserve, but no matter how I wanted the job, I DID NOT accept the offer. If you are a Filipino teacher in Korea, please do not accept less than what you think you are worth as a foreign teacher. It’s not merely about money. It’s about being treated fairly.

Discrimination is everywhere. The truth is, we can never get rid of it… but we can learn a lot from it and strive to be better. Because of experiencing prejudice in a foreign land, I have learned to love my country and appreciate my heritage. I have learned to be humble and tolerant of others. I have become stronger in my beliefs.

All the things that I heard Koreans say about the Philippines and Filipinos, whether good or bad, have helped me grow as a person. I may not be able to evade discrimination or get used to it as I have gotten used to kimchi, but now I know that I can cope with it by maintaining my integrity as a Filipino.