When I accepted my current teaching position at Woosong University at the end of November last year, I knew that the vacation time I would be getting as well as my salary would be a lot less than what I had gotten when I had been teaching at Yonsei’s Foreign Language Institute.

However, there I was back in the States—spending too much of that hard-earned pension that I thought I would be saving for the future—hoping that I wouldn’t have to wait too long to find another job.

And then this job offer from Woosong comes along.

Do I wait for something better to come along or do I take what is on the table in front of me?

I knew, when I eventually signed my contract that I would only get five weeks vacation my first year and that my salary would 2.4 million won a month (before taxes, health insurance, and pension). There would not be the one month’s salary as an end-of-year bonus that I had gotten before, but I would be reimbursed for my airfare (800,000 won) and housing would be provided.

I suppose if you were just coming to Korea for the first time or had been teaching in some language institute this would seem like a very attractive offer. On the other hand, if you had been here for awhile and teaching at a place like Yonsei, it would seem like you were settling for something less. Indeed, when I first came here, the thing I heard from teachers at Woosong the most was that most people start out here to go to better teaching gigs; not the other way around.

Despite the lower salary and little vacation time, I came to Woosong just happy to have a job and have some money coming in again. I would deal with the vacation time later and try to work something out.

What I hadn’t counted on was when I could take those five weeks of vacation.

It turned out that even though I would be teaching at Woosong University, I would also be teaching at the language institute during semester breaks which pretty much made the gig another glorified hogwan—kind of like FLI, but without the salary and vacation time.


Then yesterday I found out that I wouldn’t be able to go home for Christmas this year. Turns out this so-called promotion that I got means that I will be working more but making the same salary and having to take my vacation time after these “immersion classes” have finished. And when does the first immersion class take place? You got it, right after the fall semester ends and right through Christmas.

If I hadn’t taken this promotion, I probably could have gone home for the holidays.

I know it may seem trivial to some, but for myself, this will be the first Christmas since 1991 that I have spent alone in Korea and the first one since 2000 that I have also spent in Korea (after my wife died in 2001, I have gone home every year for the holidays). And I am not too happy about that. And when I have to break the news to my mom I know she is not going to be too happy about it either.

If I were younger and new to Korea like I was when I came here in 1990, I probably wouldn’t mind hanging out here for the holiday. Not now though and definitely not in Daejeon where I still don’t have any friends.

The next four months leading up to Christmas are definitely going to be quite depressing that’s for sure.

I just don’t see how my quality of life in Korea is any better now than what it was a year ago.