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22 June 2004
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Korea Life Blog - Miscellaneous


I've been sitting here in the PC bang for at least 2 hours trying to get through all my e-mail, paying my student loan online (payments due until the end of time), trying to sort out a discrepancy in my balance (those bastards!) All the while I've been subjected to a steady stream of smoke and loud Korean ballads that really get under your skin.

Technically I'm sitting in the non-smoking section. At least there's a sign above that says so. Out of about 100 computers, there are 8 in this section. However, it doesn't make any difference. The PC bang is a big cloud of smoke and there's no escape. I need one of those doctor's face masks and an oxygen tank. How can anyone work here 10-12 hours a day as they do? It must be the most unhealthy job in Korea.

One of my long time readers contacted me about a laid back job opening at his school. The other teacher is leaving next month. It's basically 5 classes in a block schedule from 3:30-7:30 or 8:15 depending on the day. Nothing like a part time schedule with full time pay and all the benefits (visa run, health insurance, vacation, bonus pay, apartment rent, etc). The pay is around 2,000,000/ month but is somewhat negotiable. That's around $1800-1900/month (depending on negotiation) for less than 5 hours/day of work. Now that may not sound like a lot of money to anyone who has never been here. But when you consider these points, you'll understand better:

1. Your apartment is free. Either provided by the school, or you have your own place and the school pays your rent. Obviously having free housing saves you a lot of money.

2. Tax. If they even deduct it (my last 3 jobs haven't), it's only 3.5%...compare that to something like 30% in the US.

3. National health (and dental) insurance. Last I knew it was around 50,000/ month ($42). Americans can appreciate how good that is. Imagine walking into a hospital, paying just 2,000 won ($1.80), and getting treatment and medication. Dental insurance is under the same system.

4. Transportation. There is no need for a car here. Public transportation is cheap and extremely convenient. Subways and busses to just about anywhere come every 5 minutes or less. A short ride in a taxi is only a few bucks as well. Back in America a car is a necessity. Public transportation is not nearly as convenient, especially if you live outside a city. Also, you just look like a dumbnut without a car unlike here where nobody cares. If your school is near your apartment here, and it usually is, you have no transportation cost to and from work.

5. Cost of living is much cheaper here. DSL cost me 30,000 ($25) a month, cable TV is something like 10,000 won ($8) depending on your package. My total monthly bills (not including cell phone) averaged about 100,000 won ($80) last year in the winter and 40-50,000 the rest of the year. Food is also much cheaper (and much healthier) than back home. Sales tax, included in the prices, is barely noticeable, and no tipping.

Many people have asked me why, since I'm qualified with an Education degree, I teach here rather than America. Money is one reason. As you can see, almost $2000/month is a lot of more than you think. It is not unreasonable to be able to save 2/3 of that and still live well. Now imagine if your sig. other is making the same as you. Together, you could save about $3000/month and still live very well. And that's working just 4-5 hours a day! Now imagine having another part time job in the morning or whatever, at the going rate of 30-40,000 won/hour ($25-$35)...even just one extra hour/day could mean an extra 600 bucks/month per person. It's all up to how motivated you are.

I should point out that there is a downside. You don't have money deducted for things like a pension or whatever saving system as would be standard back home. You have to be responsible in saving your money and investing it, which isn't all that bad. There is also no job security, in a tenure like sense. However, jobs are a dime a dozen around here and I like it better this way. If I were a tenured English teacher back home, seeing as jobs aren't nearly as easy to come by, I'd probably be unlikely to quit and give that up - even if I was miserable. I guess it depends on how you look at it. For most people it may give a strong sense of security, after all we were raised to believe that, but for me it would feel like just another thing holding me in place, free yet not really free as I feel here, and this is a good feeling to have.

Back to the job at hand. My reader has been working there for 7 months (and may stay on another year) and insures me the boss is very kind and doesn't bother anyone. I'll be happy to work there and not having to deal with a recruiter and schools I know nothing about. It's always good to have someone on the inside like this. Also, the job doesn't star until the end of July, so I'll have another month to lounge around like a bum and work on my Geoje-do story (coming along well, 175 pages and a lot of editing). I need to get down to the island to get photos too.

That reminds me. Julie had contacted a publisher for the book. They seemed interested at first anyway. The problem they wrote back today is the target audience. Since the company doesn't normally publish in English, they're a little unsure of who will be reading it and hence the risk. They were unable to give an answer or advice.

I had also wondered about my audience and if I'd have to have it translated or not. The ideal: have it published in English for foreigners and fluent Koreans. If, and that's a big if, it were to show signs of becoming popular, have it translated. It's not like it's Dostoevsky or anything though. It's written in pretty simple English. I just worried a lot of the humor would be lost in a translation but I have no idea really. I know Brenda used to say she couldn't understand American sense of humor. Also, translating it may be confusing at times. For example, when a Korean person in the story is speaking in English, is that translated into Korean? I'm not sure how that works.

If anyone has any suggestions or leads, send me an email. If it's a good one, I'll give you a G-mail account invite. I have a bunch more to give away. If any gyopo-type fluent person would like to volunteer translating a chapter, that would be great too. I could use it as a sample chapter for the publisher. Don't use the chapters from the website, though, much of that has been edited. I'll send you one on e-mail. I guess it would be about 10 pages or a little more.

Finally, here are a few photos for your enjoyment.



This meal is bo ssam, one of Julie's favorites. Like with Kalbi, you mix pieces of the meat and kimchi and whatever else and wrap it in the lettuce leaves and chomp away, enjoying the volcanic eruption of taste. I liked it, but not as much as her. Since it's similar in price, I'd rather just have Kalbi. However, that was some damn good kimchi. Wow.



It sure is nice to be back in Seoul. I picked all this up at E-mart yesterday. Crackers, Australian cheese, a bottle of Charddonay, olives. Mmm...can't wait to enjoy these.

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