I work for a school that has placed me in sub-standard living conditions, refused wage payment and constantly lies about everything from visas and taxes to refrigerators and roommates. I want to get out of this school, but don't know how as I have a visa. Also, I'm worried that if I do somehow manage to find a way out, I won't get my last months pay. This is not an option for me due to financial obligations back home. What should someone do in my position--I love Korea other than my school and want to stay?
I get emails like this one almost everyday and my reaction is always the same: When is the Korean government going to get serious about these kinds of shady practices and don't they realize that for every million spent on branding, five million is lost from poor treatment of teachers.
Getting a letter of release is crucial, but the questioner already tried that route in the form of "If you don't pay us, then you must release us." Still, it didn't work out since the director has probably been up to these shenanigans for years.
How to get out?
1) Keep a clear and detailed record of everything that has taken place while you've been working.
I say this because your hagwon probably assumes you're not and they're also hoping that once they pay you, the complaints will fade. You gotta hold on to pat stubs, emails, memos and anything else that you can use to pressure this school into not only releasing you, but to incriminate them when you contact the right people.
2) Stay strong and confident.
Since you have all of your records organized, go into the director's office as much as possible with your files in hand. I mean it. Go in there every damn day and sit down with them and just rail into them with facts. Directors like this are banking on the fact that teachers will just give up and leave, but that only makes it worse for teachers to come. Sure, they might try to laugh it off. They might try to paint a positive picture of what's going on, but you gotta remember that when Koreans laugh in serious situations it's not to express a relaxed confident attitude, rather it's covering up their embarrassment. If they laugh, then you pounce when they're vulnerable.
3) Call the Labor Board.
These guys are getting more organized and will certainly be able to take it to your director. Korea4expats writes this:
Complaints to Labor Board or Commission
An employee's complaint against her/his employer may be heard by either the Korean Labor Board or the Korean Labor Commission. The nature of the complaint determines which body will hear the case.
Types of cases
1) unpaid wages / unpaid severance pay / unpaid overtime pay
2) claim for sexual harassment cases
3) claim for industrial accident cases
Types of cases
1) Unfair Dismissal
2) Unfair Suspension / transfer / reduction wages
3) Unfair labor practices
Ministry of Labor Hotline:
Call 1350 and press 7 for English, between 9AM and 6PM
Ministry of Labor Website: http://english.molab.go.kr/english/
I hope that one day my inbox won't be filled with these complaints. I hope that employers will one day be held to the same standards that teachers are, but until then you've got to be organized, strong and connected. Final word: Contact the labor board and put the pressure on. You'll be surprised how fast they cave...