An English immersion village has been warned by the state human rights watchdog not to discriminate against Korean-American instructors in terms of payment compared to other native English speakers as long as they speak English fluently as their mother tongue.
A 30-year-old Korean-American filed a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) last May, claiming Busan Global Village, an English-immersion facility in Busan, paid him less than other native English speakers due to his birthplace, South Korea.
The petitioner was adopted by a family in the U.S. when he was 18 months old. He grew up there as a U.S. citizen, using English as his primary language.
He was hired by the institute last year and coerced to sign a contract that treated him like an English-speaking Korean, whose annual pay was roughly 7-10 million won ($6,100-8,700) less than those of native English speakers who were not ethnically Korean. He worked there between July 2009 and April this year.
The NHRC investigated the case and concluded the petitioner should not be differentiated from native speakers when teaching English.
Here is the release from the 국가인권위원회 in Korean.
This ruling on one English Village is not law, and I suspect some schools will continue to pay gyopo teachers, especially their non-Korean-speaking ones, less than their native speaker English teachers. It's an important, and instructive, ruling for overseas Korean adoptees returning to South Korea to teach, though the NHRCK's recommendation to the English Village and its hiring practices reminds us it's better to be aware of, and take preventative measures against, shady contracts than to try and win anything a year or two later.
The agency recommended the institute pay the difference in wages to the instructor.