Wednesday, December 22, 2004

interesting developments

I didn't have the expected meeting with the bu-wonjang-nim, because it seems that that guy, whoever he was, has decided not to take over the management of our branch. Word has it he doesn't want to work with Imelda (not her real name). The guy wasn't really a bu-wonjang in the sense of someone well-established: he was merely a prospective bu-wonjang. (See previous rant to find out what a bu-wonjang is, and who Imelda is.)

This means I won't be meeting with anyone about my lab coat. How long can my defiance last? I'm as curious as the rest of you.

NB: Smallholder advises me to suck it up, honor the contract, and wear the damn lab coat. His arguments would make sense if we were in America. My emailed reply to him (slightly edited):


Ah, you think like a Westerner-- contracts are actually important to you.

Yeah, if I were in the States, I'd agree with you. We could actually talk about "principle." But here, where the bosses don't really give a shit what the contract says, all's fair in love and war. You keep your dignity in whatever way you can. I'm probably going to lose mine after tomorrow.*

As for your sympathy for my boss-- don't worry: she needs none. The woman's a sneaky little bitch, using the receptionists as spies, laying guilt trips on Korean and expat teachers to get them to do her bidding, issuing random threats about firing Korean teachers-- even writing up a TWO-PAGE-LONG list of complaints about one of the expat teachers, a newbie, who in my opinion is trying her best & didn't deserve such shitty treatment (she's only been in Korea for six months). If my boss were to get canned for failing to manage me, that'd be icing on the cake.

Part of what allows me (or any expat here, for that matter) to think and act so extravagantly is that being fired isn't a tragedy. There's no black mark on your permanent record-- all hagwon (language institute) jobs are shady to some degree or other. In all likelihood, you'll be fired for unfair reasons. That's typical of many expats in Korea. Foreigners who toe the line to the Korean bosses' satisfaction almost never receive extra perks for their good behavior (or the perks are insultingly minimal). If anything, they're screwed harder, because they've proven they can be used. It doesn't pay to be a good little soldier in a Korean business.

In such a poisonous environment, idealistic talk about upholding a contract means little.

I loved the poem all the same, but thought I should inform you of the ugly realities here.

BTW, as I blogged before, my brother already gave me the "stick to the contract" lecture. Heh. Yeah, in a perfect world...


UPDATE: I also talked to B this evening. She came over to our branch office with a few boxes of Krispy Kreme donuts, and after I caught up with her a bit, I told her about Imelda's claim that B had been negligent. B's response: to look glum and say, "Well, maybe I did make a mistake." Personally, I don't think B made any mistake, but I'd put her in the uncomfortable position of having to defend Imelda. Why? Because that's what a good Confucian would do. This isn't to say that Koreans don't talk trash about their bosses; they do-- all the time. But we were in the staff lounge, and the door was open. I guess B had little choice but to play nice. Upshot: I came away feeling I was right to think that Imelda was, in fact, the lying party in this.

*I wrote this before I found out the bu-wonjang wasn't coming back.


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