April 13, 2011

same same.. just korea (pt. viii)


Turnover is a trend that exists in all industries, and all facets of life. The lifecycle can even be viewed as turnover, it's a very generic term. However I'm going to apply it in two ways that directly relate to my experience in Korea.

I have played part in a major event in hagwons, The turnover of staff. February is the single largest time for staff turnover in the country, more teaching positions open up in February than any other month (next is September, and there are other random times peppered throughout the year). The biggest reason is because the school year starts in February in Korea, and it is the easiest time for there to be a switch in schools. Many teachers leave positions to find new jobs, (I'd be included here) or leave the country and start another adventure. I find it sad to have to say goodbye to those I've actually gotten along with, mostly aware that we probably won't cross paths again. Yet, that is Korea, it's like a wild washing machine, we are all thrown in, spun for a cycle (a job as an english teacher can be as strange, if not stranger than most) and then discarded at random times, to random places around the world.
One of my co-workers told me that working in Korea is like triple time. Because there are no lines between work and play. Being a friend with a person in Korea for even one year, is like being friends with them for three years in the real world. I would have to agree with that statement, I feel it holds a lot of truth. Korea isn't the real world in many ways (read just about any of my posts), and the staff turnover just accentuates my washing machine philosophy that as people are flung back into reality.

The second type of prevalent turnover is in business. Restaurants and clothing stores seems to change on whims. On the block I used to reside near, two restaurants disappeared over night to later reopen as a corner store and a coffee shop. Another went from being a restaurant to a hair supply shop, to clothing store, and back to a restaurant (all within 6 months). The transitions are violent as the entire spaces are gutted and the new tenant remodels the entire blank canvas. I've asked some of my former Korean co-workers about this phenomenon and they simply stated it was the way it was. Restaurants rarely make it past a year, and the same applies to just over every other type of establishment.

For example! two weeks ago I joined a local gym. I only signed on for one month because I wasn't sure if I would like the place enough to commit to a 6 month contract. I worked out regularly and everything was fine last Friday when I left. I didn't go Monday because it was my birthday, and Tuesday because I had physio in Itaewon for my knee. When I went to go this morning to the gym, I found all the gym lockers on the cement in front of the gym, along with all the drywall, mirrors, desks and carpeting. I was speechless, I couldn't believe they turned the gym into an empty whole in less than a week. Everything was stripped out, the yoga room, the golf simulators, even the change rooms were now stacked into untidy piles of drywall.

With a month's gym membership down the drain I walked away thinking it wouldn't happen in any other country than Korea. Okay that is most probably a lie, but my reality has become so warped in the year and change that I've been here. It's bizarre the fact that such turnover occurs with such regularity, Korea appears to have a one year shelf life, be it teachers, restaurants, or gyms. It makes me look forward to, and fear the end of my current spin cycle.

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