By Jane Han
Jeon Kyung-shik, headmaster of an Ansan- based ``hagwon,'' recently bought two sets of flat-screen televisions to install in the newly vacated studios he plans to offer to his incoming foreign employees. That plus a 10 percent pay raise might help quickly fill the teaching positions, Jeon hopes.
He said a few applicants from the U.S. and Canada showed interest, but his hagwon's secluded location, furnished but tiny living suite, 1.8 million-won-a-month ($1,300) salary and a 35-hour work week weren't enough to cut the deal.
``Frankly speaking, even if I were a native English job seeker, I'd probably shoot for a better offer because hagwon are starting to pitch better compensation packages,'' said Jeon, who runs a small-sized English language institute, which now employs three foreign teachers after two left last month. ``Demand seems to be outstripping supply.''
Lee Jae-hee, a senior recruiter at X Recruiting, a Seoul-based English teacher placement agency, said hagwon are finding it tougher to attract well-qualified professionals, as the government is emerging as the preferred employer among native English teachers.
The Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education said last month that it would hire more foreign teachers so that all English classes offered in Seoul's public elementary, middle and high schools could be taught in English starting 2012.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology said Sunday that it expects public schools to ramp up native English speaker recruitments by 20 percent in 2009, compared to last year.
``Given an option between hagwon and public schools, job seekers typically pick state-run schools,'' said Lee, who places teachers for dozens of private institutes every month.
Shorter work hours, longer vacation, better medical insurance coverage and overall easier working conditions are just some of the reasons, he said, adding that these factors force hagwon to come up with better offers.
Lee said a month's salary of 2 to 2.2 million won used to be the ``market standard,'' but now more employers are paying around 2.3 to 2.5 million won.
A recruiter at Park English, one of the largest English teacher placement agencies here, said the competition to secure teachers will likely continue as the pool of native English-speaking teachers shrinks against rising demand.
``The weak Korean won is a turn off for prospective teachers,'' said the agent, who didn't want to be named. She said the dismal job market in the U.S. ― the No. 1 preferred country of origin ― isn't helping to draw interest in teaching positions in Korea.