Hagwon owner admits to doing whatever the parents want

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In a stunning tell-all autobiography, a hagwon owner admits to ‘just doing what the parents told me to do’. Lee Min Woo, a 57 year-old hagwon owner, recently wrote what has become the #1 bestseller in Korea. The title translates to I Did What the Parents Wanted, and with the help of a translator, the author was kind enough to sit down for an interview with this reporter:

Chris in South Korea: What inspired you to go into the hagwon business?
Lee Min Woo (through translator): It was always about the money – the education was just the thing to make parents give it to us. If I could have opened a cell phone store or a Korean restaurant, I would’ve done that. The money needed to open up a school is pretty small – any old building with smaller rooms, a few old textbooks on the shelves, and some decorations.
CISK: Were there any problems in getting your business started?

In a stunning tell-all autobiography, a hagwon owner admits to ‘just doing what the parents told me to do’. Lee Min Woo, a 57 year-old hagwon owner, recently wrote what has become the #1 bestseller in Korea. The title translates to I Did What the Parents Wanted, and with the help of a translator, the author was kind enough to sit down for an interview with this reporter:

Chris in South Korea: What inspired you to go into the hagwon business?
Lee Min Woo (through translator): It was always about the money – the education was just the thing to make parents give it to us. If I could have opened a cell phone store or a Korean restaurant, I would’ve done that. The money needed to open up a school is pretty small – any old building with smaller rooms, a few old textbooks on the shelves, and some decorations.
CISK: Were there any problems in getting your business started?
LMW: The hagwon business wasn’t as saturated when I opened my first one in 1998. One per block seemed to be a limit at the time. Of course, these days three or four per block is more common in some areas. I think it was about 2004 when parents started demanding more from the schools they paid for.

CISK: And what did they want?

LMW: They wanted to believe that their kids were learning something. That their second job waving flyers at a subway station was making a difference in their child’s future. They wanted to see their progress in every possible way – weekly report cards, parent-teacher meetings, and elaborate performances or graduation ceremonies.

CISK: And what of the teachers?

LMW: A few parents wanted to ‘approve’ of every new teacher we hired. As if they could form a committee and do my hiring for me. In any case, the other hagwon owners I knew put their foot down on that, so I did the same.

CISK: But what about concerns over their children in the hands of a foreign teacher?

LMW: I heard way too many complaints about the foreign teachers. They weren’t paying enough attention to their child, or they were paying too much attention to someone else’s child. Sometimes they criticized the teacher’s methods, even though they were far from teachers themselves. Because they’re parents and paying money, they felt they got to control everything.

CISK: What’s the most unusual thing you’ve heard a parent demand?
LMW: One parent wanted to know why we hired fat teachers. I told the mom that a teacher’s size doesn’t affect their ability to teach, yet she demanded all foreign teachers enroll in a gym and do jumping jacks at the beginning of the school day.

CISK: How did you handle that demand?

LMW: I told her to look in the mirror and hung up. That was the worst mistake I could make, because the next day about half of the students had withdrawn from that school. Apparently, she called some of the other mothers, told them I said she was fat, and the mothers proceeded to withdraw their kids as well. That one comment literally ruined my hagwon.
CISK: If you could go back and say something differently, what would you say?
LMW: I would have said I’ll offer a gym membership to the foreign teachers, whether they wanted it or not.

CISK: Would you have told your, er, larger teachers to lose weight?

LMW: I probably wouldn’t have hired teachers that would’ve caused a controversy, but that was getting harder and harder. Korean moms don’t think a black person is an American, or anyone with a British accent can’t teach the American accent they want their kids to learn. Even white guys from the US are being stereotyped in the Korean media as sex offenders or illegal teachers. Now there’s this fear about AIDS in the public schools, which means the parents will want us to do the same. I can’t say I’m sorry to get out of the hagwon business.

CISK: What made you decide to get out of the business for good?

LMW: I’m getting old, and I’m feeling much more like the ajosshi I am. I’m looking forward to drinking soju at 10am on picnic benches, berating young ladies for getting out my subway seat, and playing Korean chess at the park. Besides, I made a tidy profit selling the hagwon to this American guy who thinks it’s all about education. Goodbye hagwon world! [Laughs quietly while taking a sip of soju]

The article you just read is completely satirical. It’s completely made up inside my head, then typed here for your enjoyment. This is the standard CYA text to let any gullible readers know. Don’t drink and drive. That is all.
Why are you still reading this italicized text? Comment if you like.

Creative Commons License © Chris Backe – 2009



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