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Lecturer Uses Facebook to Expose The Poor Working Conditions of Part-Time Instructors In South Korean Universities

by Jean Marie Abellana

About 70,000 lecturers from several universities in South Korea are working part-time. These teachers renew their job contracts every semester. While the majority of them desire to be given a full-time status, most schools prefer not to grant them such since part-time employment is seen by universities as more cost-effective and practical.

The Korea Times reported on Friday that most part-time lecturers in South Korea were engaged in labor with poor working conditions. In 2010, one teacher committed suicide because the university system, along with its senior colleagues, failed to provide a satisfactory working environment.

Part-time instructors in most South Korean universities suffer from poor working conditions and low income. (Photo by Chung Sung Jun/Getty Images)

Part-time instructors in most South Korean universities suffer from poor working conditions and low income. (Photo by Chung Sung Jun/Getty Images)

In 2014, Kim Min Sup, a 33-year-old part-time lecturer, launched a Facebook page revealing the poor working conditions of individuals like him. He worked at a University in Wonju and was paid on an hourly basis. For three years, he taught students about Korean Literature, which earned him about $8285.80 annually. However, his income could not supplement the amount needed for his family to acquire medical insurance. Hence, he worked at a branch of McDonalds for at least 60 hours per week so he could be qualified to receive the health insurance. In addition to his lecture, he also had to deal with additional tasks provided to him by the school and full-time colleagues.

“My efforts were not recognized or appreciated, let alone compensated,” Kim said in an interview.

In 2011, a law was passed to improve the lecturers’ job security but was not immediately implemented. Several schools had terminated the contracts of part-time teachers as they could not afford to comply with it.

Kim, like other part-timers, was saddened by the delay in enforcing the law. He urged lecturers to voice out their sides and universities to become more responsible.

“Without requests from lecturers, the universities won’t act to improve their wellbeing,” Kim said. “Both the schools and the lecturers have to act, instead of just passing the buck to politicians.”

On April 6, 2008, The University World News also reported about the undesirable conditions of part-time lecturers.

According to the report, part-time lecturers “teach [40 percent] of classes at universities. Since their status was downgraded 34 years ago under the Park Chung Hee regime, they have been unable to enjoy basic benefits such as pensions and medical insurance.”

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