Thursday, November 20, 2014

Massive education cuts in Korea

I recently made the news! KBS needed some background footage for their news report on education budget cuts, so they came by my school and spent a couple of minutes filming my class. 

No matter what country you are from, politicians make stupid ass uncosted short sighted promises in an effort to buy the votes of their constituents. And no matter what country you are from, people are dumb enough to vote them in.  

Each province in Korea at the moment is making massive cuts to their education budgets. Right across Korea teachers (both western and Korean) are not getting renewed in their thousands, and benefits are getting cut (schools are not paying for flights, salaries are getting cut, and the number of holidays are also getting slashed). 

Why are jobs getting cut left right and center? Well, for a number of years education departments have been running deficits, but the straw that seems to have broken the camels back are the string of election promises the president made at the last election (free child care, free preschool for children under 5, and free lunch for all students (rich or poor) across Korea. 

I have copied a couple of the relevant articles below.

By Jung Min-ho <original article>
Some regional education offices have decided to reduce the number of native speaking English teachers at public schools in an apparent bid to help local governments secure money for free childcare programs.
The job cuts come amid growing disputes between the central and municipal governments over who should pay for free childcare and preschool education for children under five years old, which was a key campaign pledge of President Park Geun-hye.
Local governments are moving to scale down other projects to secure a budget for the troubled programs amid complaints from the affected parents. In line with this, regional education offices are cutting jobs for native teachers.
The Incheon Metropolitan City Office of Education said Thursday it has cut next year's budget for employing native language teachers at its elementary, middle and high schools by 5.4 billion won ($4.9 million).
This means that 76 out of 180 English teachers and 22 Chinese teachers in Incheon will lose their jobs next year, with only 9 billion won allocated for 126 teachers.
The education office in Daegu has also decided to reduce the number of its native language teachers to 323 in 2015, down from 443 this year.
The North Chungcheong Province Education Office also plans to cut its native teachers to 113 from the current 308.
Early this month, superintendents of regional educational offices agreed on allocating part of their budget for free childcare, after the central government pushed ahead with the populist programs without any specific plans to finance them from the nationals budget.
Native language teachers are not the only ones hit by the push.
Although the Incheon education office will have a 2.78 trillion won budget, 80 billion won more than this year, it is planning to cancel 387 projects, including mathematical contests and more sex education for students. It will also limit spending on 982 other projects.
The office said the spending for free childcare and expenses for its workers have increased much more than the additional budget.
Last month, Rep. Yun Jae-ok from the ruling Saenuri Party pointed out that the problem of fewer language teachers has been getting more serious over the past years.
He said 81.9 percent of 11,368 elementary, middle and high schools nationwide had at least one native English-speaking teacher in 2012. Only 65.1 percent of the schools have a native teacher today.
Some observers say fewer native language teachers mean less opportunity for students whose parents cannot afford such education at private institutes.
An Incheon education official said it had to reduce the number of native language teachers due to the "urgent situation." He also noted that it would be difficult to recover the number until the central government comes up with measures to cover the costs.
BY YOON HO-JIN <original article>
As local education authorities struggle to find funding for free school meals and day care, the Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education said it will fire about 1,400 temporary teachers to free up money for the two welfare policies next year.
According to middle and high schools in Gyeonggi, the education office circulated a document on Thursday that says master teachers and career counseling teachers must teach all of their classes and that temporary teachers who fill in for them will be dismissed. Previously, master teachers and career counselors were exempt from teaching half of their classes and would instead use that time to work as counselors for or privately with students while temporary teachers took their place. The document also said one-year research leave for regular teachers will be suspended.
With master teachers and career counselors teaching full-time, 610 temporary teachers will lose their jobs, along with 358 who fill in during research leave. The layoffs will take effect next year.
The provincial education authority also plans reduce its number of contracted school nurses and teachers who specialize in teaching disabled students by 400.
The local education office estimated the layoffs will save about 62 billion won ($56.5 million).
The plan drew acute criticism from temporary workers, and master teachers also did not welcome it.
“We lost our job because of the free school meal policy,” said a temporary worker who requested anonymity.
“It is like master teachers are driving away temporary workers, who used to be their coworkers,” said Kim Su-bun, vice president of Gyeonggi Secondary School Master Teachers’ Association. “Some master teachers are even saying they will quit instead.”
But the Gyeonggi education authority said the lay-offs are inevitable.
“The restructuring is necessary because the provincial education office already has 640-billion-won deficit even without setting aside for the free day care budget,” said an official of the education office.
Due to financial difficulties, the provincial education office has not set aside money in its budget to fund free day care for the next school year, which starts in March.
Provincial education offices nationwide held a meeting earlier this month and most decided to allocate money in their budget to support free day care for about three more months.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

1 Year wedding anniversary in Korea

1 year ago today, I got married in Korea. The time has gone by really quickly and it is hard to believe I've almost finished my second contract to teach English in Korea. I've been sick for the last week and was a little worried I would be too sick to go out this weekend, but happily I was well enough to visit "Iron Chef" on our anniversary. It's a little pricey, so I have steered clear of it until now. I'm happy we went, the food was quite good (the best lasagna I've had in Korea so far) and they have cool Iron Man figurines decorating the restaurant. 

It is on the ground floor near Subway and KFC near timeworld (shopping complex) in Daejeon. 

In case there is any confusion, there is a life size Iron Man statue in the front window. 

So cool. I want one. 

The menu is decent, though a few of the items are a little pricey. Steaks are > 35000won ($35).

They have an open kitchen where you can sit at the bar and watch them cook if you like. 

Fried pork... on fire!

Here is the lasagna. I can't say it is the best lasagna I've ever tasted (that title goes to Mamma's Italian Restaurant), but it was easily the best lasagna I've had in Korea. The meat sauce, pasta layers and cheese was all tasty. 

Since the portion sizes looked a little small in the menu, we decided to order a third dish. The jumbo burger came with cheese, 2 hash browns and two thick proper ground beef paddies. It was good. We couldn't eat it all, so brought half the hamburger home with us. 

After eating enough to feed a 3rd world country, Jihyeon insisted I posed for a photo in front of the life size Iron Man statue. 

As you walk in the front door, you are also greeted by this cool display case packed with figurines. 

The Iron Chef. It's not cheap, but not excessively expensive either. The food is definitely a notch or two above most other western style restaurants I've tried in Daejeon. 

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Halloween in Korea 2014

For those of you that are living under a rock, last Friday was Halloween. I'm anti-Halloween* so my students lucked out and had to put up with my regular classes, but Jihyeon told her students they could dress up (if they wanted to) and let them watch a Halloween special episode of the Simpsons before playing a game. 

In her class, Jihyeon gives out achievement stickers to students for the work they do, and then at the end of the term hands out prizes to the students based on how many stickers they have earned. The prizes are simple things like pencils, pens, erasers and rulers (which she pays for out of her own pocket). My mum also sent over some tiny Koalas which all the children love. Jihyeon creates prize bundles and hands them out the next day.

Here are Jihyeon's elementary students. They were all pretty excited about getting dressed up and receiving their prizes for English class.  

Elementary Grade 1 phonics and basic speaking class. They were the only ones to dress up. 



Elementary Grade 3/4 intermediate English class (this guy was the only student that dressed up from this class).

Watching the Simpsons Halloween episode. 

*a) it's not an Australian tradition (though it is gaining some traction in Australia) and b) it is a silly excuse for children to demand and eat excessive amounts of candy. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

FREE Qantas Frequent Flyer Membership - Save $90

I have some great news to share! Until the 31st of December, it is FREE to become a Qantas Frequent Flyer member. Normally it costs $89.50 to join. I definitely recommend it. Qantas has partnered with a load of businesses to offer you points for doing every day things. Some of the big partners I can think of are Optus, Visa, Woolworths, eBay, Apple, BWS, Budget, NAB, Commonwealth Bank, ANZ.... There are heaps more. 

Sign up for FREE online here with the FAMILYFREE promotion code. 

This code is only for people in Australia or New Zealand. If you are in another country, I have some more great news! I found out today that it is actually FREE to join any time (no code needed) for any country other than Australia and NZ. The regular sign up page is here.

Please like and share!

Happy travels.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Crime and Honesty in Korea

I saw a couple of video's get posted on my timeline about Honesty in South Korea and thought I would share them. When I first came to Korea in 2011 with my Taekwondo club, my instructor left his camera tucked into the pocket on the back of the bus seat and one of the students traveling with us did the same with a large sum of money. After a panicked phone call to the bus company and a 4 hour wait (the bus had to do a round trip between the cities again), we got the camera and money back.... along with a test photo someone took on the camera of our bus driver. 

Here is a lost wallet test. I'm not sure Australia would score this well, but I'd like to hope so. 

After watching that video my thought was "but the person was right there in front of them, of course they would return it. What if they were long gone?" Coincidentally this video was posted within an hour of the wallet experiment. 

Another good result. 

Korea isn't crime free though and you should always be mindful of your surroundings and belongings. Hagwans (학원, also known as hagweon or hakwon) have a bad reputation for using dishonest tactics to rip off English teachers. I also just read about a foreigner who set up a business only to have his business details copied and used to defraud people out of money on a dodgy website. Generally speaking though, I've never felt unsafe in Korea and it is not uncommon to see a shops stock spilling out onto the footpath (a shop lifters delight) with no one standing guard. 

To finish things off, here is a kpop (Korean pop) video about enforcing good social etiquette and being honest. FYI, the domed building he is standing in front of at the end is the Korean parliament house :).

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The East Sea

After visiting the Royal Tomb of King Sejong the Great, we continued eastward in the heavy traffic.

Later in the evening we stopped at a market place to buy some fried chicken and hotteok.  

There were lots of places selling fried chicken. We chose to stop at the busiest shop and try some of their free samples. It was good, so we joined the queue to buy some. 

Fresh made hotteok (tastes a lot like a doughnut). 

Finally, after being on the road for hours, we arrived about 7pm.

Yum, can't wait to eat! 

After dinner we decided to set some fireworks off at the beach. In Australia fireworks are illegal (without a licence) so lighting my own fireworks was a novelty for me. They were between 2000won ($2) and 4000won ($4) each. 

I chose one of each the convenience store had on offer...

And we headed down to the beach to light them up!


My first firework. We decided to start with the cheapest and work our way up.

It was OK, but a little disappointing. 

My second firework. This one was filled with 30 firework shots. It shot each one about 15m into the air.

It was a little disappointing. 

The third one was a little better, though you wouldn't know it from the photos. 

The final and most expensive one (cost 4000won). It was similar to the second firework, but instead of containing 30 shots, it only had 15. 

Wow, much better. 

Afterwards, we walked along the beach. 

A ferry out on the water put on a fireworks show.  

The next morning we started the long journey back to Suwon. 

On the way back to Suwon, we stopped off at another beach which was better than the one we visited last night, but still not particularly good when compared to what we have in Australia.  

My mother-in-law was excited though. 

We took Haru (their dog) for a walk along the beach.  

We then started heading west and climbed the mountain range once again. At the top, we stopped at a lookout. 

Wind turbine near PyeongChang, the city where the 2018 winter olympics will be held. We stopped here to visit a sheep farm, something that is a novelty for Koreans. Having grown up on a farm in Australia I wasn't terribly excited, but I seized the opportunity to stretch my legs. 

It was crazy busy. The farm must make an absolute fortune. At 4000won ($4) per person for entry, they would have been rolling in money. There was a steady stream of people coming. If I had to guess, I would say they took $20,000 in that one day alone!

If you want, you can cash in your ticket for some hay and feed the sheep.  

We decided to climb the mountain to get a view of the farm and the valley. 

Over in the distance on the right is the city of PyeongChang where the 2018 winter Olympics will be held. 

In the distance, you can faintly make out the ski jump ramp. 

Photo at the top of the hill. After taking this photo I spotted someone's wallet in the lush green grass on the other side of the fence. We picked it up, checked it for a business card, and managed to get in touch with a very thankful Korean.  

Last photo before it started raining.

The eastern coast of Korea is one of the nicer places to visit in Korea, just steer clear of it on public holidays and vacation periods as the traffic is horrible. There is definitely a lot of construction going on in the region in preparation for the PyeongChang winter Olympics, so hopefully that will help ease traffic congestion in the future.