A protest by native English teachers in the district of Gangnam over diminished housing subsidies has hit the wall with the district office issuing a "take-it-or-leave-it" ultimatum.
The Education, Technology and Science Ministry is taking side with the district, pointing out that its action is in full compliance with its guidelines.
Native English teachers were upset when Gangnam, the wealthiest district in Seoul, informed them of its decision to stop offering free housing and instead provide a monthly housing allowance of 900,000 won ($770) per month from next year.
By doing so, the office can save large housing deposits.
In response, some of the teachers, who are employed by the district as "teaching assistants," complained about its unilateral decision, arguing that they won't be able to find housing in Gangnam on the allowance.
They are considering taking the matter to the central government's labor dispute mediation board.
However, the education ministry was not sympathetic to the teachers' plight, saying that they are among the best treated foreign teachers.
"Schools don't have to necessarily offer housing to their foreign employees and many employers just provide their workers with a housing subsidy," said Hwang Ji-hye, an official in charge of managing native English teachers at the ministry. "Still, the housing allowance the Gangnam office proposed is more than two-fold higher than that of other regions."
In the last article Kang wrote that "Teachers in Gangnam Rebel," and he starts this one with "a protest by native English teachers" (sic), yet he provides no evidence to back these charges up. In this latest article he doesn't even quote a single teacher, and it seems he's getting his information from blogs and messageboards. The article goes on by saying that English teachers in other countries don't have it as good as they do in South Korea.
According to data collected by the ministry, most European countries don't offer housing or airfare to native English teachers. In addition, they receive a much lower salary.
For example, France offers a maximum $1,400 per month, the Czech Republic, $1,488, and Finland, $1,430. All prefer native English speakers who majored in English education with teaching licenses. France even requires foreign English teacher hopefuls to have a certain level of French ability.
Besides the salaries, Korea offers entrance/exit and settlement allowances along with round-trip air tickets.
That all might be true, but that's not really germane to this conversation. Oh, and it closes with:
Lee said that less than 10 of the 89 native English teachers were participating in the protest.
What protest? He went the whole article without even saying what teachers are doing to "protest" or "rebel," aside from writing that some teachers are planning to go to the Labor Board. Which doesn't seem that unreasonable, considering.
Besides, with less than 10% of teachers "participating in the protest," why didn't he approach the article by acknowledging that 90% of teachers are tolerating what's going on? If he's going to belabor the point that teachers are dissatisfied, he owes it to readers to at least fairly present their argument. Christ Almighty, this is what you get from the worst journalist in the English-language Korean press.
For the record, I don't have a huge problem with Gangnam simply providing an extra 900,000 won per month for teachers to find their own housing. Sure, it will mean some teachers---those who don't have money saved and thus, by extension, those without experience in Korea---won't be able to work in Gangnam, but working and living in one of the most exclusive areas of the country isn't a right. And, if we take Stafford's---the teacher who broke this story---clarification on my last post into account
Over Chuseok it has emerged that changes won't take effect until 01 January 2010 OR when current leases run out - which ever comes first.
In 99% of cases it means Teachers won't have to find a new place until their current contract has finished.
This means those near the end of a contract won't need to find short term housing and those near the beginning of their contracts have almost a year before needing to make arrangements.
then it's really hard to find fault with Gangnam. Districts make changes all the time, and make changes to upcoming contracts while current contracts are in place.
But I do have a problem with Gangnam making these changes mid-contract and forcing teachers to agree to them. If they were to begin with the next batch of contracts, fine, but to change an already agreed-upon contract just gives another black eye to Korean public schools, operating in an industry with an already poor reputation.
And, it should go without saying that I do have a problem with Kang Shin-who and his one-sided reporting. Not only didn't he talk to a single teacher in this piece, but he didn't even report on the "protest" that opened his article. Moreover, he went out of his way to present the school board's case without even telling readers that the objection chiefly isn't losing their free housing, it's with breaking and redoing a contract. And now by talking about an "ultimatum"---an ultimatum that was basically in place from the beginning, since if you don't sign a contract you don't have a job---he's racheting up the rhetoric and making teachers look more whiny and combative.