Understanding the Korean Hierarchy in Your School and In Korea All Around You (Part I)

This article is part of a two part series that examines the most important thinks about the hierarchy in the office and at work in South Korean public schools. My extensive analysis and testing of the material here proves that it works and will show you how you can understand and use it at your own school. While I have understood these golden gems of information as they were revealed to me at a public school just outside of Seoul Korea, you can apply what you learn in these two articles (part 1 and 2) to almost any office throughout Korea.

The Korean hierarchy is really about understanding how different levels of authority the Korean systems of authority operate and communicate within your school. So immediately above you, you’ve got a head teacher, and this person probably doesn’t work more than 20. Remember, this is primarily how the public school system works. However, you can take the same steps I’ve taken here and understand how the chain of command works in your own private school, office or hagwon.

Above the head teacher who is above you there is a vice principal who may or may not work near you and your head teacher. The VP is at your school and is above the head teacher. Above the vice-principal you’ve got the principal. The vice principal and the principal of your school are very close and agree on everything. There is just one thing to keep in mind about their relationship, and that is that the vice principal still wants to impress the principal. Saving face is very important in Korea, especially among professional relationships. You may think that since my experience is primarily in Seoul that saving face is only relevant to this area. Other native English teachers have told me that their co-teachers from Busan and the principals and vice-principals from Daejon consider it of the utmost important that they always look good and have a clean image in the light of their superiors above them in the chain of command.

The vice principal also wants to keep a clean slate and a clean record regarding the problems he or she solves. This person will accomplish this by signing for the principal on a special document or never going against something the principal says, lest they are seen as being incapable of taking care of what is solely in their own jurisdiction.

The next thing is, who is above the principal at your public school in 강남홀덤  South Korea. Now, you’ve probably got a head section or head of the division for your area who regulates all the public schools. Say you’re at Gangnam HS, there is likely a person you will never hear about who is in charge of all Gangnam schools. Above this person you’ve got SMOE. The only time you need to go beyond the district supervisor is when you have problems with your contract. Even then, you should have fought your case with as many of the head teachers, principals and vice principals at your school first, so you’re blameless in your approach to the chain of authority in your city and/or school.

Now, SMOE hired you, and they’re pretty much the top dogs and they call all the shots. All your teachers know who SMOE is and of course they log on to their website and get training through them. Most co-teachers, principals, vice-principals and teachers fear SMOE. Even though you’ve worked with SMOE a lot, you don’t want to transfer that familiar familiarity when you deal with SMOE in relation to your school. You want to be really careful about the things you tell SMOE regarding what goes on at your school. I’m not even talking about complaining.

In the next part of the article (part 2), we’re going to look at some ways you can use these rules of Korean hierarchy to your advantage. Let’s take a look at some specific examples in the next part.


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