I have been made aware, though, that they are now seeking new employees, and so for the sake of all those who may be recruited to work with this school, I am going to share my experience with ECC Dongducheon, so that you will have all of the information you need before you go work for them.
Let me just start by saying that my experience here is not indicative of all ECC's. I actually spent three years working at an ECC in Shiheung, and that experience was completely positive. I enjoyed the work place, the apartments provided and made some wonderful friendships there!
ECC Dongducheon is a bunch of craziness all on it's own! My first day at ECC I heard the American teachers (Army spouses) talking about how they would never get paid on time, and that to get paid, they'd have to ask over and over for it. Of course, that was a warning sign, and so I asked the other foreign teacher (FT) there about his pay, and if he ever got paid late. He assured me that he always had his pay on time. So, that was fine. Shortly, though, it became very evident to me that I needed to get the medical insurance sorted out, and so I went back to my contract to see what it stated there about it, and found that it didn't say it was provided, but didn't say that it wasn't provided either. My contract also didn't state that severance would be paid out, but pension was stated that it would be paid. So.. yes, I'm not sure how I missed that, but I did when I signed the contract. I was just happy to have a job that paid well, close to my friends, and so I thought it would all work out, I guess.
Well, I started asking about these things, severance, pension and medical insurance. Each time I did, I got the run around. Actually, if it weren't for my knee problems (which I now know was osteo-arthritis beginning) I probably would have been fine without any of those things, I might have just said, "Okay, I can handle a year here doing this." We were getting paid on time, and the hours seemed fine. Overall, it wasn't a terrible situation for my husband and I.
Then, in May, I went to work one day, to find out that the school had been sold to a new owner, and that's when things just went from tolerable to much worse. Of course, we were still hopeful. Mostly, we were hopeful that the new management would have more sense, things would improve, and they would make sure that things were done properly according to acceptable hagwon standards. Sadly, this was not to be so.
As soon as the new boss took over, pays started being late. At first there was the excuse that the old management took some kind of credit card that belonged to the school, and she didn't have the money to pay us until she got it. Then there came less and less excuses, and more and more anger with the fact that we'd even think to ask about why our pay was late. All that we, as the foreign teachers requested was communication. If our pay is going to be late, let us know. Her argument, though, was that she was the boss, and she shouldn't have to explain anything to us lowly teachers.
There were numerous meetings where we were told to bring a brighter attitude to work with us, despite the stress of not getting paid, and the constant changes. I will admit, I have a reactionary problem. For instance, if I come to work and check to make sure my schedule is what it should be, and then, when class starts, and I'm not scheduled for a class, and five minutes into the class the boss lady comes and asks why I'm not in class when I'm supposed to be, yes, I have a problem with that. I tend to get angry. Boss lady didn't like that. Eventually, the accusations started. That students were leaving because of me, and I was a terrible teacher and all of that. All of this, and nothing had been stated before.
Actually, when the boss lady had a problem with someone, she'd talk to the other FT's, and not that individual person. At first, there was talk that she wanted to get rid of the other FT's, because of their skin color, then probably she wanted to get rid of me because I wasn't thin enough. Really, in the end, I'm pretty sure she wanted to get rid of me because I was too vocal about the lies, and problems that were going on.
Because of late pays I ended up having a huge credit card bill, and whenever my pay was put into my bank account, it was automatically withdrawn for the credit card bill. Since the card had also been shut off, that meant that I wasn't getting any money. So, I asked Boss Lady to change my bank account information, so my pay would go into a different account. She said she would, but she never did.
It all came to a head in September when I was supposed to have a meeting with the boss lady one week, but she was too busy for me, and finally, a Friday, during my break time, we had our meeting. Basically, I had to sit through her saying that I was the entire reason that students were leaving (regardless of the kids who loved me), that I was a huge disappointment to her because as head foreign teacher I should be more supportive of HER, and should be more cheerful regardless of the millions of problems and so on. I just kept asking, "What does she want to do?" Really, why beat around the bush, right? Well, she told me I was going to be let go, I had six weeks left, and that was it. By this time we'd already expected something like this, and we'd purchased my husband a plane ticket home with the money we did have for the following Friday. She told me I was fired, and then expected me to go back to work and teach my final two classes. She left me with the promise that if I didn't do my best, then I wouldn't get any pay for the last six weeks. To me, this translated as, "You won't be getting any pay." Clearly, the best that I'd been giving all along wasn't enough for her, why would anything else?
Let me just share with you where I was emotionally, and mentally at this point. I was a mess. I had never experienced depression before, but it suddenly hit me harder than anything I've ever felt before. I truly thought that if my husband were to leave the following Friday, and I didn't go with him, I might not ever leave, I really didn't know what to expect, the way I was feeling. I knew I just wanted to go home, and be with my family, but we didn't have the money for that. It was suggested that I just 'suck it up' for the next six weeks, and try to make it through, and yes, if I didn't have the problems with my pay being taken solely for the credit card, then that might have been fine. But, since my boss refused to change my bank account information, I knew that for the next six weeks I wouldn't have any money to get by on, and so sucking it up wasn't really going to be much of an option. It was a mess, I was a mess, and going to work where I was being bullied and made to feel like I was the scum on the bottom of the pond didn't help matters much.
Thankfully, by God's Grace, I did get home. Someone sent us money, so I could buy a ticket home with Derek the next Friday. It was a miracle, and one for which I will always be grateful. I went to work the Monday and Tuesday after I was told I was fired. I dealt with death glares from the boss lady, and was treated like crap, and so, when I had money to buy my ticket on Wednesday, I called in sick for work, so I could go to Seoul and get my flight booked. On Thursday, I also called in sick, and then DH and I packed everything up, as much as we can. See, at this point, I was also having panic attacks and could barely function. I just wanted to get out of there. Get away from where they could find us, and make sure we'd get to the airport with no problems. Finally, on that Friday, we did get to the airport without having to deal with anyone, and we made it home with no problems, and with our cats.
I've since heard that the boss lady and her son were trying to get revenge with me here in Canada, that they figured they were going to call someone, and make my life more miserable. They accused me of telling lies about them, and of still causing them problems. As you can see, since September, until now, I've not posted about them, I've not shared my story, and so have not told lies about them. What I've posted here is the truth. They may state that it's not, but it is. Was I perfect and completely without blame? No, of course not. Was I totally to blame? NO, absolutely not. The school does not follow the law, in giving teachers pension, insurance and severance. Sure, I could have stayed and took them to court to get all of that, but with my mental state the way it was, it wouldn't have worked so well for me. The best thing that could have happened was for me to get home. I'm pretty sure I didn't do anything but cry for the first three weeks I was home, and that's NOT like me. I'm usually a much stronger person than that.
So, if you're applying for work in Korea and you're recruiter suggests ECC in Dongducheon, Kyounggi-Do, please think about the risks you may be taking. Late pays, lack of communication, long hours, constant changes, and a contract that truly is nothing but a means of getting you your visa, it certainly isn't anything to be followed. If you have any more questions, please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org . I will be more than willing to answer any other questions you have.