Foreign nationals looking to teach in Korea recently faced frustration, as it was revealed Tuesday that Incheon’s education office had cancelled the hiring of new native English teachers for the fall semester.
The Incheon Metropolitan Office of Education has withdrawn all offers of employment for the fall term of 2014, according to the office of English Program in Korea, the unit in charge of recruiting foreign teachers under the National Institute for International Education.
EPIK conducts a screening process for native English speakers applying for teaching jobs and recommends them to local education offices. IMOE was to officially hire EPIK-approved teachers in July or August.
“There seems to have been a change of plans at the Incheon office, so all of the recruitment plans for native teachers were cancelled,” an EPIK official said. “The potential hires for Incheon will be allocated to other regions, if they hope to go there.”
The botched hiring process was revealed in a posting on Waygook.org, a website where Korea-residing foreigners exchange job information.
The unexpected change of plans is a direct result of budget issues, according to an official from the IMOE.
“The overall budget execution has been temporarily frozen,” the official said.
“This is because the IMOE is suffering from financial difficulties. We are currently reexamining our programs, especially budgets.”
The official said that native English teachers are “of course needed” and are very proficient in classes. She left open the door for the possibility of recruiting more native speakers in the future, but remained mum on when the hiring process will resume.
“We are hoping that will happen, but (new hiring) can only take place once the budget problem is settled,” she said.
This decision is expected to negatively impact the lives of those seeking teaching jobs, said a native English teacher who was hired three months ago.
“Suddenly the education chief came in and said there are no jobs available because of the budget cuts. So it’s affected a lot of us,” she said.
She also claimed that her former employers abruptly asked her to resign while citing budget cuts by the IMOE, raising suspicions that the budget cut is also affecting current staff.
Lee Cheong-yeon, the newly elected education superintendent-elect for Incheon, has made it clear that his office will be run on a tight budget. He said in a recent press conference that the IMOE needs an additional 100 billion won ($98.8 million) to carry out all the programs that it had scheduled for the second half of 2014.
The IMOE was not the only education office short on cash. The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education recently announced that its budget was 300 billion won short.
The move by the IMOE garnered angry responses from foreign teachers.
Many claimed that while EPIK promised to place native speakers in other regions, there are probably not enough jobs left. This means that a considerable number of qualified candidates may not be employed.
One said that teachers in Korea are being “used as pawns in a game” and are never provided enough protection from authorities’ decisions, which can devastate their lives.
Another disdainful native English teacher claimed that Incheon was “never a good destination for EPIK teachers,” and said that the education office there hires too few and its practices are “shady.”
By Yoon Min-sik (firstname.lastname@example.org)