Sunday, June 15, 2008

Minimum Wage

The current minimum wage in Korea is 3,770 won per hour (~$3.60 by today's exchange rate) or 787,930 won per month (~$754) based on a 40 hour work week.

Let's put this into perspective:
A bibimbap is 3,500 won.
A can of soda is 700 won.
A latte at Starbucks is 4,000 won.
A liter of gas is almost 2,000 won.
An apple is 1,000 won.
An hour of private English tutoring can be between 30,000-60,000 won.
A month of tuition at a private English academy is well over 200,000 won.
A 6 week summer writing class, like the one I'm teaching, at an elite private academy in Seoul is 5,000,000 won.

My students all cite the need to get into a good high school to get into a good college to get a good job for why they have to work so hard starting in elementary and middle school. Many of my classes will be cancelled in the upcoming weeks because my middle school students need to prepare for their final exams. American middle school students don't even have final exams! If they did, I doubt they'd be preparing weeks in advance and dropping out of their extracurriculars in order to study.

America has the Ivy League and a score of top-tier universities that practically assure students a decent (if not outright successful) future. A college degree from any other school still opens up opportunities. In Korea, students aim to get into Seoul National University and a couple of other top schools. Competition is fierce for spots at these few prized universities. Without a degree and the connections from these schools, the best jobs are hard to come by and one's career may be limited.

Most of my students won't ever have to worry about taking a minimum wage job. But for those that don't take their studies seriously and don't have parents that can provide them with additional educational opportunities outside of public school, the bottom rung is quite low.


Blogger JOLLY ROGER said...


Intelligent design

The Korean government are forward thinkers. Some bright spark at the internal affairs office realised that instead of buying costly street sweepers they could just use bored middle aged women. Thusly every Korean mother or aunt is bowlegged, shaped like a question mark and smells of bins. But those street corners, wow.

...more at:

4:22 AM  
Blogger Emily said...

thanks for sharing:)

11:11 AM  
Blogger aileen said...

hi, i'm thinking of teaching english in korea for the summer and stumbled across your blog. i was wondering if you had any advice as to where i can find a high-paying gig at an elite tutoring center like the one you mention! if you get a chance, can you please email me?

thanks in advance :)

6:31 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home