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11 Month Rule in Korean Hagwons

Updated on August 4, 2014

What is the 11th Month Rule?

This is usually an awful occurrence that happens with teachers working at a private language school (hagwon) in South Korea. To put it simply, it refers to a teacher being fired from his or her job 11 months into their teaching contract. If someone teaches English in South Korea, the norm is to sign a 12 month contract whether it is at a public school or a hagwon. While this has never happened at a public school, some small hagwons have been known to let go their teachers on the 11th month mark. So, why let a teacher go after 11 months? Why not earlier? Of course some hagwon may let their teachers go much earlier than 11 months, there are a few reasons a hagwon owner would fire a teacher.

Severance Pay

In South Korea, it is quite common for public schools and hagwons to pay a teacher severance after completing a 12 month contract. Severance pay in Korea is the equivalent of one month's salary. While there is no specific way severance is calculated, depending on the school and hagwon, usually the last three months of your contract are averaged when determining your severance pay at the end of a teaching contract. For example, if your monthly pay was 2.1 million won before deductions and you earned that for the last three months. Then you will receive only 2.1 million won for severance. However, if you had some overtime pay at your hagwon, about 2.1 million, 2.3 million, and 2.1 million won during those last three months. Your severance pay will be around 2.16 million won.

Now, before being able to get severance, a teacher must have completed his/her contract or a full 12 months. If a teacher is fired before completing those 12 months, then that teacher will be unable to get severance pay. It can be a sneaky loophole for hagwon owners who want to save money and avoid paying severance to their teachers. It is also very unfortunate since a foreign teacher could be let go for absurd reasons.

Books about Teaching in South Korea

Return Flight to Home Country

Similar to losing out on severance pay, most contracts may stipulate teachers must complete the full 12 months before having the school pay for a flight ticket back to whatever country the teacher is from. Besides losing money on an airplane ticket, some hagwons may try to get teachers to pay back a portion or all of the money for the flight they took to get into South Korea. Even if it doesn't state that a teacher must pay back for his or her flight on their contract, depending on how sketchy the hagwon is, an owner will look for some ways to manipulate the wording of the contract or just ignore the contract conditions all together.

Finding a New Place to Stay ASAP

Getting fired early in your contract will mean you must vacate your apartment. Some horror stories have teachers trying to clean, pack, and leave the apartment within 24 hours after being told they are let go. It could mean that the owner was unable to pay the rent of your apartment in a timely fashion or maybe a new teacher is being hired and will move into your apartment upon arriving to South Korea.

Ways to Avoid This Situation

*Apply to franchised hagwons

*Look up information on a hagwon blacklist

*Ask on forums

*Try to talk to teachers currently working

*If possible, ask students currently studying at the hagwon

You may need to have a Korean to come with you to ask if your Korean isn't high enough yet.

*If you know you will definitely be let go soon, prearrange a place to stay in advance.

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