Wednesday, July 22, 2015

if the gods be good...

I got an email from Dongguk University that talked about how the school calculates pension deductions from one's salary. My mood immediately soured: Dongguk takes a full 20% out of our salaries—much more than the 3.3% tax deduction. Those extra fees are for pension, insurance, and the always-mysterious and very bullshit-smelling gwalli-bi, i.e., an "admin fee," which I've come to understand as a catchall term for "we just want to fuck you a liiiittle bit harder." So after reading the first line of today's email, I already wasn't receptive to what it was going to say. Unreasonable deductions are yet another reason why I'm flying the Dongguk coop. However, as I read further, it dawned on me that the formula for pension deduction might be a way to calculate how much I'm going to get back from Dongguk in September. I had been told, before leaving campus, that I'd be receiving some sort of retirement/pension-related repayment in September, and when I'd asked, at the time, how much that would be, I was told to ask again later. Well... now is later, so after reading today's email, I wrote my office back and asked them how much I'd be receiving in September. For the past few months, I've been steeling myself to hear something pitiful, like "W100,000."

The email had said that Dongguk takes out 7% of our standard monthly (gross) salary for pension. Take the yearly income stipulated in the contract, multiply that figure by 0.07, and that's how much is taken out for pension for a year. In my case, that amount comes out to almost exactly W2 million, which sounded about right. When I emailed the office, I included the above mathematical reasoning. But a staffer wrote back with what I hope is—if it's not mistaken—excellent news:

The real figure is 4.7 million won.

Life just keeps getting better. I've adjusted my budget to reflect the new reality.

This may be one of those cases when it's good to start off with extremely low expectations. Going from W100,000 to W4.7 million, in my mind, is a wonderful feeling. This also means I won't have to worry, for another month, if I'm not working full-time for the Golden Goose by the time September rolls around. And more than that, I'll have the funds to buy a plane ticket and get a hanbok made, with plenty of time to spare for the October wedding. For once, it would seem that the gods' wishes are in line with mine.



John (I'm not a robot) said...

Keep on rollin'!

Charles said...

For what it's worth, all universities have various and assorted deductions, but they also generally categorize and compartmentalize your salary to reduce the effect of the already low taxes. This isn't something Dongguk was doing specifically to screw with you. (And the pension is pretty good, especially if you stay in the system for a while.)

Kevin Kim said...


You know it.


Yeah, I suppose there's something to what you say. Daegu Catholic also took about 20% of my gross income, but they ended up being much stingier than Dongguk about retirement after I'd worked there for a year: I got back only W160,000 from them. When I saw the deposit after checking at an ATM, I recall laughing out loud.

Charles said...

The thing about the pension is that it's supposed to be a long-term thing. Stick around for five or ten years and things improve greatly. Stick around for twenty years (if I remember correctly) and you're pretty much set. I honestly don't remember all the details (you know how I am with money), but I do know the rule of thumb: the longer you stay, the better. You do kind of screw yourself out of a lot of money by only staying a year.

That being said, W160,000 after a year of 20% deductions sounds incredibly stingy. I'm not even sure how that's possible, unless they were literally paying you peanuts (not sure what the market value of peanuts is these days, but that's the only way that makes sense).

At any rate, money in pocket that you didn't expect to be there is always a good thing.

gordsellar said...

Huh? That doesn't make sense.

Oh, wait. You're talking about pension. I assume you were on Teacher's Pension at both unis, Daegu Catholic and Dongguk, right? If that's the case, maybe it's your pension contributions from Daegu Catholic that are coming through, now that you've left the teaching profession? (Though I thought you had to leave the country in order to collect pension money.)

The reason I'm asking is that you don't actually receive pension money from the uni, you receive it from the pension system. (Since matching pension contributions don't kick in until something like 5 years at one place in any case... then the pension really does become good.But that extra money has to come from someplace, right?)

Oh, and I've never seen a gwalli-bi on my pay-stubs. That does sound fishy. (If it's a substantial amount, you might check into it: one expat teacher I know discovered that for a few months, the school had been double-charging him for housing expenses. Someone had applied a different prof's housing gwalli-bi to his paycheck, on top of his own housing deduction, for no reason anyone could figure out.)

Kevin Kim said...

Gord & Charles,

I do vaguely recall having had a discussion with one of the jo-gyo at Daegu Catholic re: what to do about pension—either receive it all now or roll it over to my next job. The jo-gyo did specifically ask me whether I'd be moving into another teaching job, so I guess she was wondering whether I would be remaining in that pension scheme.

I don't remember what box I checked on the form. I had thought I'd checked the "pay me now" option, but given my fuzzy memory, it's entirely possible I decided to delay gratification and have the money rolled over. So maybe Gord is right, and my current pension is the result of having spent TWO years in the system.

But if that solves one problem, then another problem emerges: why didn't the Dongguk jo-gyo ask me the same questions re: my future? No one at the office was the least bit curious as to where I'd be off to next. My colleagues were curious, but not the office staff. So apparently I'm just going to receive the entirety(?) of my pension once my contract with Dongguk ends. Hey, that's usable money for me, so I'm not going to curse my luck.

Since the Golden Goose is both a hagweon and a publishing house, it's possible that I'll be reentered into the pension system—if not the university system, then into its hagweonish analogue, so I can start building up an investment there. We'll see.

John from Daejeon said...

You need to head over to your local pension office and get some verifiable answers. Well, as verifiable as you can from any government drone.

Kevin Kim said...

Daejeon John,

I'll do so if I don't receive 4.7 million won. That's really all I'm worried about for now. Once I transition over, I'll have the luxury of exploring this issue at my leisure.

John from Daejeon said...

I don't think you are going to receive your lump sum payment unless you apply for it in person (and fill out quite a bit of paperwork) at the pension office with proof that you are leaving South Korea (usually an airplane ticket). As you are not leaving, I doubt you will receive it. So, it will just keep growing until you do leave or retire and stay in South Korea.

This is from the NPS website:

"How can foreigners apply for a Lump-sum Refund?
① Applying before departing from Korea (for applicants in Korea)
The insured person has to visit one of our local offices with the following documents:

An application for Lump-sum Refund (This form is available at any local office.)
Passport of the insured person
Alien registration card of the insured person
Proof materials of the insured person’s bank account (such as a bank statement, voided check, or bankbook showing the applicant’s name and account number, etc.)
Flight (or ship) ticket (the date of departure has to be within a month from the date of application)
② Applying after departing from Korea (for applicants outside of Korea)
An application can be made by an agent or mail."

John from Daejeon said...

I also think that your ex-school thinks you are leaving the peninsula which is why they believe you will receive your full, lump-sum payment from the pension office, and the 160,000 won you received from Daegu was probably pre-taken from your last paycheck and had to be refunded back to you as you were no longer on the official payroll anymore.

Usually, it takes a couple of extra months after you finish a contract and leave the country before the pension office will credit your bank account. They want to make sure that they haven't been shortchanged by your employer (one of my employers waited 6 months to begin deductions which screwed both of us), and that they don't make a mistake and give you more money than you actually paid into the system.

I've been through the process three times now (collecting), and that's how it has always worked out for me in the past. Stay year after year and the accumulations pile up or leave the country and have the funds credited to your overseas bank account within 90 days.

Kevin Kim said...


The Dongguk office tells me that it was enough that I filled out the pension form they had sent me, so I'm good to go.


gordsellar said...

NPS != Teacher's Pension system, IIRC: my last employer switched over at some point, so I'd accrued both types. and while I don't remember much about it, I'm pretty sure that my National Pension and Teacher's pension were refunded to me at different times. NP, I was able to receive from a small office in the basement of the airport that I barely found before our departing flight, and I did indeed need to be leaving the country, though the refund was almost immediate. Teacher's Pension, I'd swear I received before I left, but after the end of my last teaching contract. (But it's hazy memories from a hectic time.)

If I were you, Kevin, I'd try check in with both the NPS and the Teacher's Pension offices (or websites!) when you have the time to do so, just to be sure. Most unis use the Teacher's Pension because it's better for the long-term profs (who, at least where I was at the time, voted en masse to switch over when the question was raised). But the admins also love it, I suspect, because it discharges them of the need to pay severance to shorter-term instructors, which is why so many unis stopped offering severance pay as part of their contract package a few years ago.