Applying to teach at EPIK with tattoos (6 Answers)

EPIK health check and tatoos

Applying to teach at EPIK with tattoos (6 Answers)

Question asked – 

In my EPIK application to teach in Korea it asks if I have “visible” tattoos, so I said “no”. But I do have one tattoo on my back, which can’t be seen unless I take off my shirt and turn around or wear a bikini. When I get my health check will I have to remove my shirt and will the nurse will see it? Will they make a note of it in the health report and will EPIK find out? Am paranoid or what?

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“You don’t have to remove your shirt during the health exam unless you are wearing metal. During the TB test, you can’t have any metal on your body. Metal would obviously include any body piercings.”

“Don’t forget you’ll need to do an EKG test, where they’ll remove your shirt, but that’s just your front side. They may not see the tattoo on your back if you move stealthily so they can’t see it. But so what if they do?  Having a back tattoo doesn’t affect your health. Do they mark it down on the health report? I wouldn’t know because I don’t have tattoos. Anyone?”

“The x-ray technician will ask you to remove your shirt, if you’re a male during the x-rays. If you’re a woman you can remove your bra but leave your shirt on, so they won’t see your back tattoo. Some girls wear bikini tops in stead of bras. Having done hundreds of these exams, I doubt the tech would even care about your tattoos. That’s not what they’re testing for anyway. They’ve probably seen hundreds of tattoos and body piercings, among other interesting things on humans’ bodies. Koreans and foreigners alike!

“While the x-ray tech may catch a glimpse of your back tattoo, they probably don’t care.  If the EPIK manager knows them they may ask and could find out if you have tattoos, I suppose. Just remember that EPIK has zero tolerance for tattoos of any kind, anywhere. If you find yourself having to go to a public swimming pool with your students, then what? Better to come clean on the back tattoo. It isn’t visible like on your hands, arms, neck or face, while your teaching in the classroom, but on the beach it will be.”

“Once you sign the tattoo declaration for EPIK and they learn you have tattoos, you may have a problem. But in your case, the only way they’ll find out is if you have to remove your shirt or wear a see through shirt. I wouldn’t worry about it. They asked about “visible” tattoos, so you’re fine. If you have to go swimming, then wear a thick dark coloured T-shirt in the water. Korean women wear t-shirts over their bikini bras so you won’t look conspicuous.”

“Unless the x-ray technician or nurse “rats” you out to EPIK during the medical exam, don’t worry about it. Not likely this could happen, but EPIK is a government public school program and they may see themselves as being above the code of medical ethics in Korea and doctor patient confidentiality, especially when it comes to hiring foreigners.” Tattoos are becoming more mainstream in Korea. Here’s an article about it in the Korea Times.


Should I do a midnight run to escape my hagwon job?

Question asked

I was hired to teach English at a hagwon in Daegu and came into Korea on a single entry visa. I applied for my alien registration card and it should be ready in a week. I don’t like the job and want to leave Korea. It’s mostly personal reasons though. Because I came into Korea on a single entry visa NOT a multiple entry visa, will I be detained and questioned as to why I’m leaving less than a month into my teaching contract?

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“Nobody can prevent you from leaving Korea. You have a foreign passport and haven’t committed any crimes in Korea (I presume), in which case immigration would obviously be alerted about and would be waiting for you. What happened at your hagwon to make you want to bail so soon?”

“As long as you’ve got a valid one way airplane ticket and a valid passport, you can leave. Why would Korean immigration care? You are not their problem unless you were involved in a crime, for example. To hold you in Korea would be a human rights violation.”

“Well, I came in on a single entry tourist visa and I’m waiting for my ARC to process. I suffer from anxiety and it’s really gotten the best of me in Korea. The traffic, the noise, the motorcycles going down the sidewalks. The pressure of teaching and being monitored. It just isn’t what I expected. For my own sanity, I should leave. My hagwon doesn’t know about my situation, but if they did, they’d probably fire me anyway for a mental disorder or something.”

“As long as you came in on a tourist visa, that hasn’t expired.. meaning…. if you’re American and you haven’t gone beyond your 90 days, then you are free to leave. The ARC card is what you need to be legal to teach in Korea as a foreigner. It extends your stay in Korea beyond a tourist visa and gives you working rights along with health insurance and pension, etc.

“Wait a second. How can you leave Korea, without a passport? Didn’t you have to turn over your passport to immigration in order for them to process your ARC card?”

Yes, I did… I’ll have to wait to get my ARC card before I can leave then… 

“So here’s what you do: Wait until your ARC card is ready. Then go to immigration and pick up your ARC card. Next, book your flight out of Korea. Lastly, show up at the airport with both your ARC card and your passport but turn in your ARC card to immigration. It’s that simple.  They can’t stop you from leaving, but they will most likely run you through their database to see if you’ve committed crimes. After all, you just got your ARC card, and now you’re turning it in.” Don’t tell your hagwon owner you’re bailing. I’ve heard stories where they called immigration and made up lies about teachers, just to hassle with them.

“Be prepared to have Immigration ask you why you are quitting your teaching job so soon and leaving Korea. I’d say, you have a family emergency to attend to and have to return home and you don’t know how long you will be there. Tell them your hagwon owner understands your situation and has found another teacher. They’ll understand this explanation. Don’t mention your anxiety and NOT telling the hagwon owner. It’s better to have a straight forward, plausible, with no red flags story. Good luck and take care of yourself.”


Hagwon wants me to sign an Non Disclosure Agreement. Should I?

KOrean hagwon Non disclosure agreement

Question asked

I’ve been offered a teaching position at what appears to be a pretty good school. They pay 2.3 million won per month, with single housing, and all the benefits. I’ve done interviews with the recruiter, hagwon manager, director, and even got to chat with the head foreign teacher. Problem is… they are asking me to sign an NDA. What the NDA implies, is that I can’t talk about my salary, benefits, or disclose any internal things specific to the school. Is this normal verbiage in hagwon contracts?

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“What did your recruiter say?”

She said it’s a standard clause with teaching contracts in Korea and I don’t have anything to worry about. She also said the hagwon would not remove it. Supposedly, it’s to protect the hagwon against teachers sounding off negatively to other teachers, on ESL forums, and such. So much for employer transparency. Should I just sign it and take the job?

“Sometimes they pay certain teachers more than others. For instance, Koreans versus native speakers. They don’t want side conversations happening in or around the hagwon about how much your getting paid versus a Korean teacher. Creates bad blood I guess. It’s pretty common these days to see these NDA clauses in ESL contracts.”

“This is just a way for hagwons to silo every employee and prevent them from talking about the school. As if people don’t talk about their jobs, pay and working conditions anyway. I wouldn’t sign it. Plenty of other schools to apply to that don’t insist on this. Obviously the school must have something to hide from teachers or they wouldn’t be asking for it.”

“They just don’t want you shouting your salary from the rooftops to everyone who works with you. Many companies in Canada have NDAs and non compete clauses as well. It just keeps the atmosphere professional in the workplace. Pretty sure it’s mostly about water cooler talk such as “how much is your salary compared to mine” that the hagwon wants to avoid. Just sign it. You’d have to do it back home if you’re working in an office somewhere.”

“Yeah, just sign it. I certainly wouldn’t let it keep you from taking the job, if you like the hagwon. Schools are doing it now. Guess where they learned this type of contract clause? The developed world! And that’s where you come from…”

“They also don’t want you talking about students, management or coworkers. I think students is the most important one. You’re a teacher and any issues, or personal information about your students should be kept to yourself. That makes sense to me as a parent. I’d hope all schools in Korea would enforce an NDA.”

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