Pension: Storm in a Teacup

One of the foreign teachers at our school is leaving Korea. Her reasons are her own, and she feels it is time for her to leave. Something that she had to do before she leaves was claim back her pension from the Korean pension fund. On Tuesday, she went to their offices expecting to find a not-insignificant amount of money waiting to be claimed. She was told that the school had not paid a cent towards her pension the entire year. Thus began the storm of frustration, confusion, and anxiety that plagued the teacher’s room until today.

Every month, a portion of our income is deducted, allocated to the Korean national pension scheme. According to the rules and regulations of this scheme, the hagwon is supposed to place this amount in a pension account for each teacher, and match the value each month. The fact that our employer had not moved a single cent into our colleague’s account the entire year understandably caused some mild panic. All who could check their balances did so, and found the situation to be the same. The teachers who had spent prior years at the school had been paid up until the beginning of this year only, and the new teachers had not been paid at all. The panic levels increased significantly when this was discovered.

Since earlier events have caused us to question the security of our school’s continued existence, all of the teachers are wary for signs of potential financial collapse – oracles staring into flames to hope to discern whether to tuck tail and run before the metaphorical axe falls and cuts our bodies off at the wallet. Pension not being paid for the entire year is such a sign.

Kris and I were mildly less concerned because, as South Africans, we cannot get any money from this pension scheme, despite paying into it every month. The only reason we pay it is because we are obliged to, and because the payment cannot be separated from our healthcare. Even still, we are tempted to drop it and simply put aside the money that would otherwise go into the pension into a ‘Oh bugger, we have become ill or disfigured’ fund.

Nevertheless, there was a flurry of job seeking, looking up potential avenues to claim our money back, and headless chicken syndrome. Thankfully, this did not last long. The pension officer that our colleague dealt with contacted our employer and apparently threatened to press charges for the lack of payment. The next morning, all of the pensions were paid up in full.

So, all in all, it was little more than another day in the life of a foreign teacher. In one way or another, you are probably getting screwed. Your employer will not communicate properly with you. You are always looking for jobs, just in case. But hey, the money’s good, and life could be much harder.

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