Friday, December 31, 1999

more bad news—from da boss and elsewhere

[Originally posted at 7:05PM, Saturday, August 22, 2015.]

A few days ago, my boss reassured me that the "work 6 days a week" issue wouldn't be a problem: we'd find a way around it, so there was no need for me to "overthink" (my boss's words) the problem. Well, having a certain level of paranoia when dealing with a corporation that is part hagweon isn't, to my mind, overthinking: it's a matter of survival, and a matter of preserving dignity. If you're not careful, Korean businesses will fuck you.

And it seems my paranoia is justified. My boss at the Golden Goose just called, and now there's a new problem: he says that GG's HR department is having a hard time accepting the notion of paying me a salary of 4 million won a month. HR wants to cut my salary down from 4 million to 3.5. In the back of my mind, I've long suspected that GG might pull shit like this, because it's in the nature of Korean culture to engage in last-minute shenanigans.*

About the only people who seem to be on my side at GG are my immediate boss and Mr. Y. Human Resources doesn't know me; it doesn't care about me, and it incarnates everything that is dysfunctional about Korean hagweon-style thinking: eleventh-hour changes, budgetary stinginess despite rolling in millions of dollars, and general shadiness. My brother David was texting me the moment my boss called; when I texted David the bad news after my boss hung up, David replied, "It's shady to be fiddling with your salary this late in the game."

Yeah. No shit.

So with this further insult, I now have to start thinking seriously about alternatives to the Golden Goose, or about whether I should swallow my pride and take the truncated deal, which will severely throw off my budget. I just ran the numbers, and I will no longer be debt-free before I'm 50 if I accept this deal. I will, however, have a nearly free place to live, plus steady work. My net salary will now be well below the psychologically significant $40,000/year mark. It's possible that, if I continue to do KMA work, I might be able to bump up my salary with supplementary income. In the 2014-2019 budget that I designed last year, I didn't factor in any KMA income at all after 2015, which was my attempt at making a conservative budgetary assumption. A move from a gross of W4 million a month to W3.5 million a month means going from a net of about W3.6 million to an even W3 million. That's a loss of W7.2 million over twelve months. With KMA, which gives me work only infrequently, I might make back W3 million of that lost money, at most.

Also working against me is the faltering Korean won. Over the past year, the won went from 1,100 to the dollar to 1,200 to the dollar, which means I have to use more Korean money to wire home the same amount of American dollars. This also erodes my budget, and it's one reason why I'm keen to pay my smaller debts off as soon as possible: I'll be able to send less money home every month. It would be nice to see the won get stronger again. That might be a hardship for people coming from the US to vacation and shop in Korea, but it'd be good news for people in my predicament.

A lazy part of me thinks it would be best, for stability's sake, to accept the cruel pay cut and make do with a steady job. My Golden Goose boss, trying to soften the blow, suggested that, after a year at the reduced salary, he'd be able to pull some strings and pump me back up to a proper W4 million. Given his track record at making promises that his company is unwilling to keep, I have to take such talk with a big grain of salt. While I don't blame my boss for being generally supportive of me and for wanting to hire me on, he's proven to have very little power over important matters like the conditions that will be stipulated in my contract. W3.5 million a month isn't that much more than what Dongguk was paying me: Dongguk paid W3 million a month gross, and took out about 20% of that for various reasons: admin fees, insurance, tax, etc. The Golden Goose doesn't seem to deduct nearly as much from the gross, or that's what my coworker claims. He's a full-timer, and he says his net is about 90% of his gross (hence my W3 million figure above).**

A not-so-lazy part of me thinks it's time to look elsewhere for lucrative work. This involves a great deal of risk, though: I have no idea what guarantees, if any, I'd have regarding housing. I have no idea about work conditions (including whether I'd get along with my coworkers), and no idea about salary. I do know that, if I manage to get my F-4 visa, I'll have plenty of legal freelance options.

The other bit of bad news—or maybe it's just potentially bad news—relates to my F-4 visa. After watching with dismay as my control number began falling down the queue instead of rising to the #1 position, I wrote USCIS over a week ago, and the office finally replied:

This case was closed on 08/08/2015 and a final agency response was mailed the following business day.

This is frustratingly vague. My brother says he's received no mail from USCIS from August 10 (the "following business day" referred to in the quoted email) to now. Even the slowest form of UPS domestic mail doesn't normally take that long to reach someone. David should have received something by now. Also, the phrase "a final agency response" sounds ominous without actually saying anything.

Everything is for naught if it turns out that USCIS has merely sent a letter of regret to inform me that they never found Mom's paperwork. I hope that isn't the case. The other problem is that USCIS did send a CD-ROM with Mom's paperwork in PDF form on it, but the package could have gotten lost in the mail. That would truly suck.

So this weekend, things are a mite stressful here chez Kévin. The future is far from certain. Stay tuned for more news as it happens.

*I know I'd only just written that, after ten years in Korea, I've gotten used to last-minute changes and zigzaggery. But I still get annoyed when the nonlinearity deeply affects my life in some way.

**I can also lighten my debt burden by once again requesting a several-month forbearance on my Sallie Mae loan repayments. That would save me about $350 a month.



  1. Damn. Your life is an f'n roller coaster these days, and not the fun kind. Obviously, you'll have to make the choice with the biggest upside long term. Still, 3.5 and almost free housing is a start in a "bird in the hand" kinda way.

    It's disconcerting that a mailed document has failed to reach its destination after all this time. Contrary to popular belief, very little mail gets lost in my experience. Misaddressed perhaps or mis-delivered. In the latter case folks use just put in back in the mailbox for the letter carrier the next day, so that shouldn't cause this much delay. I wouldn't read much into the "final response" language, that's likely the default language they use for all inquiries. I wonder if you'd have to go to the end of the queue if you requested it be resent.

    Damn. Good luck to you Kevin. I'm sorry for your troubles.

  2. Thanks, John. Fingers and tentacles crossed.

  3. I'm with John. Here's hoping it all turns out.



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