Sunday, 13 June 2004


Just next to my shop is a little grocery shop. I go there almost daily and have gotten to know the owner and his wife a little.

They don't speak English, but the man spent a lot of time in Germany and so speaks German. However, as I don't speak German this isn't of much use. Fortunately though, the Korean I'm learning is becoming useful and we're able to have short exchanges, most often about teaching each other words in each other's language. He's a very friendly man, and his wife likewise.

So today, we were having a "chat", and he began talking about his son and daughter. His daughter, it seems, is 23 and a university student. I'm not sure if it's English she's specifically studying or if it's just part of her course, but the man got round to the subject whether I'd be willing to help with her English. For a fee of course.

In the English teaching community of Korea, this is called a "private." They're technically illegal as they break the terms of our contract and work visa, but so long as you're discreet this is not a problem. Most teacher's have a private at some stage, some have lots. Matt, for example, earns over 1 million a month (£500) from a series of private lessons he teaches.

However, I've not been keen to take on a private so haven't even been remotely looking for one. My teaching hours are longer than most and while I enjoy the job, at the end of the day I very much like to be resting at home. The thought of another hour of teaching was not appealing.

My friend the shopkeeper is a nice man, however, and he asked me "How many?" meaning, how much would you charge? Well, the going rate is between 30-40000 Won (£15-£20) an hour but I thought about it quickly and realised I didn't want to charge him this. But I had a better idea.

She wants to practice English, and I need to convert my good written and reading Korean to good listening and speaking Korean. So I told the man "kong, zero" and "yongu-rul karuchyeyo, hankuku-rul karuchyeyo" which more or less means "I teach English, she teaches Korean."

This suits me fine. I'd not be comfortable with being paid stupid amount of money to speak English. Most English teachers in Korea have no real skills other than happening to speak their native language and having a degree in a completely unrelated field. I'm lucky to be here, earning good money for speaking my own language. I do work hard, but I'm still privileged. So I don't need to charge this man who works night and day in a grocery shop, for his daughter to improve her English. Especially now as I'll also benefit from her Korean.

Remember, I'm now a good person. I help out at an orphanage (you'd better believe that I milk this for everything it's worth and I let everybody know).

And also. This man, he's a handsome gent in his 50's. His wife is a tidy piece of fluff too, for her age certainly. Odds are on that this daughter is going to shape up well as a fine figure of Korean charm. After a few lessons, it will be a small step to feeding her gin and taking advantage.

And if she's not a beauty and is some sort of manpig, then I'll just walk away from her the moment I set eyes on the wench, and never go back to her father's shop again.

I'm a man of honour.

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