In case you missed it, my current hagwon is a disaster so I’ve been interviewing and figuring out how to get my letter of release and a new job. I’ve been keeping my recruiter up to date on all of the delinquent paychecks and other nonsense going on so after November’s late paycheck they took me out to dinner and told me they would help me find a new job.
Unbeknownst to them I actually had an interview scheduled for 2 days from then but I accepted their offer to find another school mentioning that I didn’t want to work at another hagwon (private Kindergarten). She said that would be hard to find but she could look. For now she had a “good hagwon” with slightly better pay and a much more stable environment. I figured why not take the interview for practice with a Korean negotiation and as a backup in case I don’t get offered a better position. That interview got pushed back a week and at the moment hasn’t been rescheduled.
The Saturday after meeting my recruiter I interviewed at Young Hoon Elementary School. This is a prestigious institution thats been around for over 50 years. They have 4 classes at each grade level and function similarly to an international school although are not allowed to use that title due to Korean regulations on % of English instruction.
My interview went very well and ended up being more of a tour of the facility with the English immersion director than a typical interview. He asked some of the standard questions and we spoke about teaching pedagogy but by the end we were discussing which grade I would fit best in and how he could see me doing well on his “team.” He needed to reach out to my references and I informed him about my current school predicament. He said as long as I can get a “letter of release” everything should be fine.
Monday back at work I spoke to my principal and let her know that I had interviewed and expected to receive an offer. I reminded her of our conversation a little more than a week ago saying that I didn’t want to leave before the end of their school year (February 28th) but that I would not complete my contract here. I said that I would like a letter of release and asked her how best to proceed. She wasn’t exactly happy but told me she would speak to the owner and gave me a little advice.
“Even if no letter of release you can leave country to get new visa.” I had heard about this a few times where schools would send their future employee to Japan for a few hours and suddenly be able to issue them a new visa. I told her I hoped it wouldn’t come to that and thanked her for speaking to Mr. Bae on my behalf (especially since he doesn’t speak English).
Tuesday I stopped in her office after lunch only to receive a “did not communicate with Mr. Bae yet,” to which I responded “okay, I will stop by later.” I’ve learned over the years that being polite will almost always work in your favor, this is especially true in Korea. Don’t be a push over, be firm in what you want but be sure to remain calm and speak slowly. I’ve heard that from a few foreigners and Koreans and so far its working for me.
I stopped back again at the end of the day and she had some real news!
“Mr. Bae need more time to decide. He make decision first maybe second week December.”
“Okay, I was really hoping for something in November. Especially since you will be leaving and I have been communicating with you.”
“Yes.” She reminded me of the Japan trick with the visa before saying “if he says no you can give him a letter [of resignation] saying you no get severance or flight home.”
“Thank you, I need to confirm that I have a job offer but I would be willing to submit my letter next week if it means I’ll get the letter of release sooner.”
She didn’t seem to quite understand everything I said but said she would speak to Mr. Bae and try to help him see that “you leaving will be good for school.” The rest of the conversation seemed to reiterate the previous points so I thanked her again and promptly left to discuss this with some of my fellow foreign coworkers.
The dominant theme of each conversation was “She’s lying to you.” “She hasn’t spoken to Mr. Bae and is just buying time until she leaves” and other voices of concern about my situation. I resolved to speak to Mrs. Yi’s replacement in case things go south but today she was in meetings all day. Some other good news is I spoke with my interviewer and he let me know that I don’t need the letter until we actually transfer my visa. He said as long as my references come back positive “everything should work out.”
Tomorrow I’ll try again with my future principal and keep putting pressure on Mrs. Yi. I’m pretty confident that everything will work out in the end but I think I may have to do a bit of grunt work to make it happen.