Hagwons go wild to hire star teachers on cyberspace

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Hagwons go wild to hire star teachers on cyberspace

Woo Hyung-chul, a mathematics instructor nicknamed “The Shovel” because he likes to joke that he disciplines his students with one, has millions of online followers. Recently, he broke an exclusive contract with Etoos, an online private education company, to transfer to a higher-paying institute. Kwon Kyu-ho, a popular Korean language lecturer at the same company, is planning to follow suit - these days, so-called star instructors can earn up to 10 billion won ($8.6 million) annually.

Private education companies invest vast amounts of money to bring in popular instructors like Woo and Kwon, and public school teachers are transitioning to high-paying companies, too. Choi Tae-sung, who appeared on KBS’ “The Day, History Journal,” recently quit his job at Dae Kwang High School in Dongdaemun District, Seoul, to join Etoos. “After the antigraft law [the so-called Kim Young-ran Act], teachers are restricted from giving out paid lectures outside school. It’s likely that more teachers will transfer to the private education sector to earn higher salaries.”

“When Shin Seung-beom [a highly-paid mathematics instructor] moved to our company from MegaStudy,” an official from Etoos said, “he raised our sales by roughly 35 billion won.”

MegaStudy filed a suit against Shin at the time to request a preliminary injunction to prevent him from offering lectures. The official added, “Star instructors are just like moving companies.”

Private education companies have become increasingly dependent on star instructors; online lectures can accommodate a large group of viewers and can be viewed at one’s convenience.

According to the Ministry of Education, the combined sales of Etoos, MegaStudy, Skeyedu and Daesun amounted to 503 billion won as of this year, up from 420 billion won in 2013 and 463 billion won in 2014.

As more students flock to fewer teachers, the field becomes ever more difficult for non-celebrities. Many companies, however, try to mitigate this by offering package programs by star instructors along with those of less-popular lecturers. “As the so-called package programs gain popularity,” said an instructor at a private academy, “companies that bring in popular instructors generate profits for less-popular lecturers, as well. Company’s success, in other words, depends on a single instructor.”

BY PARK HYUNG-SOO [kim.yuna1@joongang.co.kr]
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