By Park Si-soo
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.
“Considering that he lived nearly his entire his life in the U.S. and speaks English as his primary language, the petitioner should be treated the same as other native speakers in payment,” the NHRC said in a statement.
It said at the time of signing the contract, the instructor was not fully aware that the terms were different for Korean and native speakers.
“Even though he voluntarily signed the contract, it doesn’t necessarily make the discriminatory treatment permissible,” it said.
The agency recommended the institute pay the difference in wages to the instructor.