This story is from today's Korea Times article.
Chungdam Learning, a leading English language institute here, has been accused of having not paid severance pay and other allowances to native English teachers who have completed their contracts.
Nine Americans who worked at the institute’s three branches in Seoul filed a collective petition with a labor ministry office, Tuesday, demanding the institute pay a total of 140 million won ($124,500) in overdue pay.
The petitioners, who claim they were “permanent employees” of the institute, said they worked “under tight control” of the institute — running classes for 26 hours, five days a week with the academy-designated teaching material and code of conduct with an hourly pay ranging between 32,000 and 45,000 won.
However, Chungdam has insisted they were “freelance teachers,” refusing to offer severance pay and to compensate for work on holidays and weekends when they finished their jobs last year. Freelance workers are not subject to the disputed payments, according to the institute.
They were not entitled to paid leave. They also claim that no compensation was given for a 20-hour training session they underwent before being included as Chungdam’s faculty members, which was in violation of the country’s Labor Standards Act, the teachers said in their petition.
“The petitioners should be seen as permanent workers hired by the academy,” said Jung Bong-soo, a labor attorney who filed the petition on behalf of the nine.
“Their teaching activities were tightly controlled by the institute’s management, which is key evidence refuting the academy’s allegation that they were freelancers.”
Jung added the academy’s allegation doesn’t make sense, given the nature of the E-2 English teaching visa that is issued to English-speaking foreigners invited to Korea by a Korean employer.
Chungdam insists that the nine were hired as freelancers so that it does not have to pay the disputed compensation.
“We inform all teachers at the academy of the contract terms. So we believe that the nine petitioners were fully aware of their status while on duty,” said a Chungdam spokesman anonymously.
“We will try to settle the problem as early as possible.”
The spokesman refused to elaborate on the issue since he has yet to receive official documentation regarding the case from the labor office.
According to Chungdam, all native English teachers at its 14 branches across the country are employed under the same contract terms — as of January 349 foreigners work for the institute.
The labor attorney Jung expects many of them to file similar petitions against Chungdam if the court rules in favor of the petitioners.
Andrew Krebsbach, one of the nine petitioners, said they took the action to send the message that the growing community of “expatriates living in Korea and offering their services to businesses will no longer tolerate prejudicial labor practices.”
“Ensuring fair and equal treatment for its increasingly multiethnic workforce is a step Korea must take in order to continue its dynamic growth in the next decade, which is something I believe all of us living in Korea today desire,” Krebsbach said.
Chungdam was established by Kim Young-hwa in 1998 and has shown a meteoric rise in the private language academy industry. It was listed on the Kosdaq market in June 2008, and is targeting 102 billion won in sales and 7 billion won in operating profit this year.