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Friday, November 26, 2004

Korean Work Culture 

Bitter but well informed tirade to follow.

Korean work culture (well indoor work culture) can generally best be described by this sentence: People in Korea work for very long hours but don't actually do anything.

Typical office culture in Korea entails that you should be at the office at the crack of dawn and leave after dark but while at work you are free to chat up (and feel up if you are ranked high enough - more than enough anecdotal evidence gathered there) members of the opposite sex at your leisure, play computer games, chat with your friends on msn and, if you want, sleep at your desk or under it. The later may be necessary if you were out on the Soju the night before.

Anyhow what really motivatated me to write about this now was todays nail in the coffin.

Now I'm sick today. The two panadol I've taken have helped somewhat but I'm not stupid enough to believe that they are anything other than a temporary fix for a flu problem that is going to get worse. And it's this reason that is the driving force in why I called in sick to work this morning. Or rather why I had my wife call in sick.... THREE TIMES to date!

In Korea there really is no such thing as being sick. If you're sick you still go to work anyway. And if you die in a corner somewhere they'll just say, "gee, he really was sick, y'know when he called in sick 12 times I thought he was just joking and would be fine if we made him come in to sleep on the floor anyway". As if the floor at work is more comfortable than your bed anyway. The logic is truly astounding.

So to start the story at Sunday night. I ate some old snack food without checking the use by date. I puked in the morning and I won't go into details but there wasn't much of anything left inside me by mid morning. So I took Monday and Tuesday off as I managed to get hold of one of the secretaries who doesn't give a stuff if I go off to teach or not. Then on Wednesday I forced myself to go back prematurely because that's how things work round here.

Cut to Thursday night, and I'm a zombie again. The two days teaching had been too much for me and that was despite the fact I just gave my kids puzzles and work sheets. It's now down to about 5 degrees during the day which basically screws your body big time too. This time 3 months ago it was 35 degrees.

So this morning I wake up feeling like dog turd and ask my wife to call in on my behalf. The reason being that if they get me on the phone I'll be forced to come in like it or not. But alas, despite her telling them that I'm fucked and can't even get out of bed they complain that they have no subs and that I have to teach.

A lot of swearing by me and she calls again and says "No, he really is too sick to teach". The reply from my boss (female to boot, shouldn't they be more motherly?) is that they have nobody and I will have to teach.

So my wife calls a third time to say that he's getting worse and we are going to the doctor. The reply this time is that I have an open class at 4pm (that means mothers will be there) and I have to go and that I should call after we go to the doctors and that I can just teach my 3 and 4 o'clock classes.

So basically I've moved to plan B whereby I try and arrange a teacher to sub for me since they are too fucking stupid, incompetent, rude and a bunch of &$%&(&'s to do it themselves.

I'll be glad when I walk out of this job in 7 weeks. I suppose physically I could go into class rugged up to the eyeballs, pumped up on drugs and give them some handouts and collapse at the desk and then feel even worse for the next few days. But what's the point? Also that's the shit that sets precedents so next time when you call in sick you get the same deal as before. At least my way, they are starting to get a hint of the picture.

Unfortunately round these here parts stories like that are par for the course when you're teaching kids in Korea. My old academy a few years ago was just as bad. They would literally beg you to go to work and then you'd get there, give them puzzles and put your head on the desk for 6 hours. As if one of the office girls couldn't do the same thing on your behalf.

My contract at that time stated that you would be paid a bonus if you completed a years work and only missed less than 12 classes. That's right, 12 classes NOT days. Considering your average day entailed 6-8 classes and I worked Saturdays for 7 months there wasn't much room for a little tickle in the throat. I remember being dragged in after just wiping the puke off my mouth a couple of times to say I couldn't work and then somehow being persuaded to go in. What's more when my contract was up they won't going to give me the few hundred bonus because I had missed exactly 12 classes in 15 months. I damn near blew the building up, pointing out that I would have missed a damn site more if not for them dragging me off my death bed and they owe me a shit load more than the few hundred bucks they were stalling out on.

And I was just talking to my wife about the issue of substitute teachers. She said that in Korea they don't have them. Never really even heard of the concept because they are considered a waste of money by all and sundry. Since nobody expects anybody to do anything here then it's also considered possible and indeed necessary that every man women and dog is present and correct 365 days a year, whether it's to sit online shopping at the insurance firm, baby-sitting disguised as teaching or boozing until 5am every chance because first one home's a fag and gonna be on minimum wage at the company till he hardens up.

To give this some balance though. When I was working at a two year college and felt ill I could simply mention it to one of my bosses (the other being a cunt and not worth shitting on let alone talking to) he said, no worries, go home and take some time off and we'll cancel your classes. That's the attitude!!!!

And now I'm informed that it's actually snowing lightly outside.

Anybody got the number of the Human Rights hotline?

Nah, not for me, for the NZ cricket team. Aussie are 86/0 at lunch.

Update, my bosses secretary called and I told her i can't teach. She then hands the phone to my boss and she tells me they have nobody to teach this special open class for mothers to watch us teach.

Quite frankly I find these classes easy to teach and no reason to fake an illness.

So I had to point out to my boss that it might not look too impressive to see a zombie (who plainly should be at home in bed) teaching the students.

A light switch clicked in her head and she agreed and told me to get well and see ya later.

Now my only worry is who the ehll is going to take a wicket for NZ
Same thing goes on here. No one calls in sick. They just wear silly mouth covers to stop colds spreading. Its bullocks. I reckon its just a way of saying "Im very ill...yet I came to me".
If Im gonna take a day off I have to get a Docs certificate. If Im crook...I know Ive just gotta rest...dont need to spend $50 for someone to tell that to me.
Crazy fuckin countries.
Never to ill to stop blogging though ey! With its tendency for sloth in the workplace Korea sounds like the place for me.
if u just hate this kinda KOREAN way, fuck off to ur home.
why u stay and complain?

back to ur home, it becomes like sinking ship!!
This ain't your country if you haven't figured it out by now. Koreans do things differently here. If you don't like it, tough it out but the culture's not about to stoop down to what you're used to.
Totally agree with the original poster. Pointless displays of conspicuous self-sacrifice are used to ingratiate an individual to the company and prove loyalty. The fact that they make their colleagues sick is irrelevant.
I just discovered these responses to my original post all these years later. Hilarious that some Korean guys tell me to go back home in 2009 and 2010 when I was in my 5th and 6th years back home respectively. Also, try improving your back yard instead of excusing what is clearly a fucked up situation.

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