[Letter to the editor]Free the E-2 visa from schools’ controlYou seem to think Korea needs to make things friendlier for foreigners, so let me tell you one way to make things better here for English teachers: Change the rules for the E-2 visa, which is what English teachers have.
As it stands now, your school controls your E-2 visa. What this means is that if you decide to quit your job, your school retains control of your visa and can deny you a release from the visa. You won’t be able to legally work anywhere else until your original visa expires. This also means that if you are fired from your job you lose your visa and are unable to get another job until you’ve obtained a new visa.
Clearly this gives schools a considerable amount of leverage over their foreign teachers and makes it difficult for foreign teachers to quit schools that treat them badly.
Now consider if the rules changed and the visa was granted by the government, independent of the school. Of course the government would still require that the visa applicant have a job in Korea. But if the teacher arrived and found that the school treated the person poorly, or if the school fired that person, he or she could simply give notice, quit and work somewhere else. If teachers were able to change jobs easily, the schools would be forced to treat them better to retain them.
If the schools treated the teachers better, then the reputation of English schools in Korea would improve, making it easier for the schools here to attract teachers (as of now, there is a shortage of English teachers). If more teachers were willing to come here, the schools could be more selective about the teachers they hire and the quality of teaching would improve.
Besides improving the teaching in English schools here, freeing the visa from the schools’ control would also make it easier for Koreans to hire native speakers as private tutors; it is illegal under the current rules for English teachers to teach private classes (or earn any money in Korea outside of the school they work for).
An editorial about this topic would be much appreciated. Perhaps your paper could help the government see how changing the visa rules is in the best interest of the English schools, as well as the English teachers. By the way, I’ve worked for two different schools here and they’ve both treated me well. But some teachers haven’t been treated well and this is unacceptable.
Mike Mackenna, Yongin, Gyeonggi province
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