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Negotiating with Koreans

September 23, 2009

The other day I interviewed for a part time job with a Korean hagwon. They told me the maximum rate they pay their part timers, and I told them I typically get 25% more than that. They asked me if I’d accept 12.5% more than their maximum instead. I told them that would be acceptable. We agreed on a schedule, and I left. Three days before I was to start, they called and asked me if I’d accept their standard maximum. I told them I would not. They said “Well, thanks for your time then,” and hung up. Then they called yesterday and said “Can you start in two hours, if we meet your payment requirements?”

This reinforces the idea that in Korea, the deal isn’t agreed upon until the contract is signed, even if a verbal agreement is reached, or one party declines the offer.

I’d like to stress the fact that when negotiating with Koreans, it is vital to have an alternative to working with them that you don’t find unappealing. Having a good fallback gives you much more negotiating strength. If I absolutely NEEDED that job, I would have had to take their offer.

NOTE: Someone left a comment to this post expresssing doubt over whether or not I am in Korea. It was written in rather pointed terms and violated my one rule: be nice, so I did not allow it to appear. However, I will answer it. I am currently NOT in Korea. This interaction took place outside the country, which is why I didn’t mention specific amounts of money, as they are not in won. I have worked for Korean-run hagwons teaching Korean students English in three countries.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Ryan permalink
    October 16, 2009 5:17 pm

    hmmmm…..koreans. why do they always do that shit? so, i’m still trying to gather if you took the job or not.

  2. October 18, 2009 3:21 pm

    Just wanted to say that this topic has been covered a million times but hardly as concise and accurate in this short post. I like how you point out that it is a game – it’s not wishy-washy-ness or anything else. It’s a game that has rules and like you said, having a backup is vital to staying on equal negotiating terms.

    anyways, good post ^^

  3. ROK Hound permalink
    November 16, 2009 5:54 pm

    “This reinforces the idea that in Korea, the deal isn’t agreed upon until the contract is signed, even if a verbal agreement is reached”

    I always say about verbal agreements in Korea: They aren’t worth the paper they’re written on.

    (Or if you prefer: Handshake deals only mean there is still one hand free to stab you in the back)

  4. November 16, 2009 7:57 pm

    Translation: they weren’t able to find someone to meet their needs cheaper, so they call you, desperately hoping you’d accept the original terms as agreed upon.

    Yes, it’s a game – and you’re a player in it. It always makes sense to CYA, but in this case it would’ve meant the school was out a teacher and would’ve stood to be embarrassed far more than the teacher. In any case, bravo. Negotiating is a fine art, and not unlike playing poker in some ways.

  5. November 16, 2009 11:32 pm

    I dealt with this sort of thing with my public school. They were asking me to do all sorts of things that were not in my contract (write a textbook for them, etc), and I kept refusing, but they kept making up BS about how their items were covered by the words “other duties”. I refused to do them, and when they kept pressing me, I eventually printed out a job offer email from another school and said, point blank, that if they would not stop asking me to do these non-contractual things, that I would leave their school and accept the other job. They shut up immediately and treated me relatively well for the rest of my tenure there.

    So yes, having a bargaining chip is extremely useful in negotiating with Koreans. In fact, I’d say it’s essential.

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