Foreigners Complain About Contract
By John Redmond
A common complaint amongst foreigners in Korea concerns the breaking of terms and conditions stated on a contract. What many don't realize is that contracts are negotiable and are binding by law for both parties.
Most complaints stem from English instructors who feel that their employer has not honored a clause in the contract, and these often relate to severance pay, overtime and termination of employment.
Technically speaking, a contract is an agreement enforceable by law and should cover every aspect of your employment, however, in the case of English instructors, the terms of a contract often include living conditions, as many are only in Korea for a short period of time.
A typical English instructor contract normally covers the following in great detail, and must be signed by both parties:
Term of employment: Hours. Overtime. Salary. Duties. Tax. Severance pay. National health insurance. Paid sick leave. Bereavement leave. National pension plan. Airfare. Alien registration. Paid vacation. Housing. Dismissal. Resignation. Letter of release. Governing law.
Many complained of having a contract terminated shortly before they were to receive severance pay and return airfare. ``I'm still owed my severance pay from a job from over two years ago,'' grumbled a New Zealand English instructor who wished to remain anonymous.
He explained that he was unfairly dismissed one month before his contract was due to expire, thus leaving him ineligible for severance pay and a return airfare.
Not wanting to back down, he took the employer to court through the Korean Labor Board, and won. The ruling was in his favor, however, to this date he hasn't received a penny of his entitlement. He also found he'd been placed on a black list.
Another case involving Andy McDuff, a Canadian, was where his employer insisted he work Saturdays as part of his regular workload, even though his contract stated otherwise. When questioning his employer he noticed that the contract had been rewritten after he had signed it.
The copy of the contract that is handed in to the immigration office is the one that's legally binding. In McDuff's case he found himself another job and put it down to experience.
Probably, the toughest situation to overcome is when an employer refuses to issue a Letter of Release. Without this document you are not allowed to work for any other employer than the one stated on your visa and registration card.
A common situation is usually where there is tension between employer and employee, often over money or ``modifications" to the original contract, resulting in the employee handing in their notice.
Upon finding another job, the employee has to either obtain the Letter of Release, or wait till the former contract expires. If this situation occurs early in your tenure, you're better off negotiating with your former employer.
Admittedly, these examples highlight some of the negative experiences of a small proportion of foreigners here, however, there are many websites that offer advice concerning these issues.
Letter of Release: http://www.efl-law.com/letter_of_release.php