Unlicensed agents, teachers arrested

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Unlicensed agents, teachers arrested

Forty-two people have been arrested for illegally recruiting native English-speaking instructors at primary and secondary schools around the country, police said yesterday. Those arrested included 33 teachers who the authorities said were not qualified to teach here and had been recruited by online agencies for jobs outside the formal educational system.

The Gyeonggi Provincial Police Agency said that those arrested included six heads of unregistered recruitment agencies. Since 2011, police said, the six had recruited more than 1,400 English instructors in countries including the United States, Canada, South Africa and the United Kingdom.

The recruiters connected the prospective teachers with the National Institute for International Education, which is under the Ministry of Education, and city and provincial education offices for placement at schools. A typical recruitment fee for those services ranged from 800,000 won ($720) to 1 million won. In total, police said, the unregistered recruiters earned from 240 million to 350 million from their efforts.

They added that the recruited teachers were qualified to teach here and had not been charged.

But Gyeonggi police also said that the three Internet recruiters were indicted for recruiting foreigners already living in Korea who did not have the educational background to teach legally and placed them in jobs with private education institutes (hagwon), kindergartens and in-home tutors. These recruiters put profiles and video clips of their prospective instructors on their Web sites and introduced them to clients for a fee.

Those recruiters, the police said, collected 70 million won in total from their efforts, which began in January and were shut down in July. The instructors were often placed in part-time teaching jobs that paid about 60,000 won per hour, with the recruiters collecting a third of their paychecks.

The 33 English instructors who were hired through those online agencies, none of which had English-teaching qualifications, were the ones booked and released by police.

One 29-year-old American instructor earned about 7 million won per month tutoring English while staying here on a tourist visa since 2011, traveling in and out of Korea a dozen times during the period. A tourist visa allows only a 90-day stay here.

Foreign English instructors are required to have an E-2 teaching visa, but the process to acquire that visa, although not onerous, is more time-consuming than hiring someone already in Korea and dealing with the change of visa status.

The police said those teachers who were working without proper credentials faced deportation. But the authorities also admitted that ferreting out illegal workers here is difficult, especially when the teachers give lessons in homes or offices or work at institutes that are willing to look the other way.

BY SARAH KIM [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]
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