Lykeion Language Forum Suwon: Hagwon Blacklist

Teaching at Lykeion
Lykeion Language Forum

**Lykeion Language Forum Suwon Blacklist update 05/03/2019 – I was requested to write an updated post by teachers that have worked at the academy since my departure.

I urge all affected teachers to file the petition for violations in Korean hagwons and contact the police where necessary. There is only so much I can do to assist, considering I no longer reside in Korea. I understand it’s daunting to take action, but if you do not file report instances of violations. They will only repeat with other teachers in the future.

I am writing this post because it is something that I feel strongly and passionately about. That matter is the mistreatment of foreign language teachers at Lykeion Language Forum Suwon. My specific experience related to the Lykeion Language Forum Dong Suwon campus, however, issues have been reported at other campuses.

If you are considering a position teaching English at any Lykeion Language Forum campus, I urge you to read the below before signing any contracts or coming to a conclusion. Issues at the school range from lack of pension, healthcare, and other legal requirements, to physical abuse and bully tactics.

In summary I will discuss:

1. All of the illegal points in Lykeion’s contracts and why these aspects are illegal.

2. Numerous reports of negative treatment at the various campuses of the hagwon

3. Why Teachers stick ill treatment.

I want to be thorough here. I want to ensure you have every snippet of information you could need. That said, this article is likely going to rival my university dissertation for its length! Feel free to use the table of contents to skip to the sections that are relevant to you. If you want to discuss any aspect, you are free to contact me.

Context to the Lykeion Language Forum Blacklist

My wonderful students were not my reason for wanting to leave Lykeion Language Forum

I worked at the Lykeion Language Forum Suwon Ingyedong campus from 2016-2017. I loved living in Korea, and I moved to the country with the intention of having a job that made a difference (i.e. teaching children English). During my time there though I had a terrible experience teaching at this hagwon. Korean hagwons have a notorious reputation for treating their teachers badly. I never thought that a negative experience would happen to me but it seems that I could not have chosen a worse place to work.

Issues have been reported across numerous Lykeion Language Forum hagwon campuses in Suwon. Teachers have conducted midnight runs and have been left feeling as though there was no alternative. When I wrote a hagwon horror story on my blog back in 2016, I just wrote a rambled, journal-entry type post. My blog didn’t receive so many visitors then. It was more of a hobby than a business and I just wanted a place to vent.  

These days my blog is the first result that pops up under a search for “Lykeion Language Forum Suwon”. Other Teachers from various Lykeion Language Forum campuses (including mine) have reached out to me about my blog post and have told me that they had equally negative experiences. Some have done midnight runs. Others have felt trapped and in despair.

Reasons for Writing this Lykeion Language Forum Suwon Post

Lykeion Language Forum
Lykeion Language Forum: The students were the only positive!

My initial article was just my opinion and experience. It is not so eloquently written. It is also not objective and informative. Someone may read that article and interpret it as one person’s perception of Lykeion Language Forum Suwon.

To this end, I decided to create a more objective post in order to give those considering working at Lykeion Language Forum a wider view of the matter. I feel that I cannot morally let people wind up working at a horrible place and having the same negative experiences that I and so many others have had. I hope that the existence of this post makes it easier for you to make an informed decision about teaching in Korea.

#1 Providing More Supporting Information and Evidence to Help You Make a Decision About Working at a Lykeion Language Forum Suwon Campus

Lykeion Language School
Suwon Lykeion

This post on the Lykeion Language Forum Suwon contains a discussion of their illegal contract (this is an updated version sent to me by a Teacher that fled the Ingyedong Suwon Campus in 2018). It also contains snippets of conversations with Teachers who have experienced equally appalling conditions at various campuses since my departure (including the Suwon Ingyedong campus).

Illegalities of the Lykeion Language Forum Suwon Contract

When I moved to Korea to teach English I was naive. I was working in a corporate job and I so desperately wanted a change to doing something “good” and helpful to people. I also loved Korea after travelling there several times prior. I jumped at the first teaching offer I got (Lykeion Dong Suwon) and I didn’t do my research. I want to stop you doing the same.

A teacher that fled the Ingyedong Lykeion Language Forum Suwon campus in 2018 sent me a copy of their latest contract. You can read a Reddit discussion of everything that is illegal about this contract here.

Summary of Illegalities in the Suwon Lykeion Language Forum Contract

Lykeion discussion in Reddit 2018
Lykeion discussion in Reddit 2018

I will not post the full contract here, however an applicant who turned down a role at Lykeion has posted it in the Reddit discussion. I urge you to check it out. If this is your first time teaching English in Korea you may be unsure about what to look for in hagwon contracts. That’s okay. Below we will look at a few illegal snippets from the Lykeion contract.

To summarize:

Reddit discussion of Lykeion's illegal pension idea.
Reddit discussion of Lykeion’s illegal pension idea. Note: I never received mine

No State Pension – ILLEGAL

The school run their own “pension” which is highly illegal. Many teachers (myself included) left Korea without having received their pension (again, illegal)

Reddit discussion of Lykeion thread
Lykeion will charge you extortionate fees for leaving early. This is illegal.

Fees Charged for Leaving Early – ILLEGAL

“If the employee breaks the terms of the contract and gives a notice of less than 90 days, the employee will be subject to a penalty of 1 day’s salary for each day for which they do not give notice.”

If you are charged a fee for every day that you leave ahead of the 90 days, that can amount to a significant amount. It is actually laughable. This is illegal and not at all reasonable. Hagwons that operate above board do not have such clauses in their employment contracts. Find one of these above board hagwons.

As one Redditor states, this is not only bad ethics. It is illegal. Lykeion Language Forum Suwon think that they can get away with things because they feel that people don’t know what to look for. Let’s change that so you don’t fall into the same trap.

Incorrect Tax Deductions – ILLEGAL

Lykeion pay an incorrect tax rate for their employees. They are documenting them as Independent Contractors not employees. This is illegal.

Lykeion Language Forum state they will terminate contracts immediately if necessary – ILLEGAL

This is illegal. They must give their Teachers 30 days notice.

Teachers are Responsible for Agency Fees – ILLEGAL

Lykeion state that Teachers will be responsible for agency fees if they quit.

This is illegal (noticing a theme yet?) The agency fees are between the hagwon and the agency, nothing to do with the Teacher. Lykeion Language Forum are just trying to exploit employees as much as they can.

200,000 Won of final pay check used to pay bills

When I lived in Korea my monthly bills never amounted to 100,000 KRW per month let alone 200,000! Lykeion Language Forum will screw you over and steal $200 in the last instance.

Shady Visibility on Healthcare

All English Teachers working in Korea should be provided with healthcare. Many Lykeion workers are not. Teachers should also be provided with clear information on the healthcare plan prior to signing the contract and arriving in Korea. Lykeion’s avoidance of sharing this information just outlines that they are trying to conceal something.

The above factors in the Lykeion Language Forum contract are downright illegal. There are also things that are not strictly illegal (to my understanding) but also not pleasant. You can find better conditions elsewhere. These aspects are detailed below:

Why do Teachers put up with terrible work conditions? Sometimes they don’t know better.

Only 5 Days Vacation Per Year. Sickness Deducted from Here

Yes you read that correctly. While hagwons do have less vacation time than public schools in Korea, 5 days is stingy. Actually the funny thing is that Lykeion try and make it sound as though you have a whopping 7 days vacation by including the weekend… that you have off anyway. Sigh.

If you are sick, your sick days are deducted from your vacation period. I got sick with norovirus while teaching in Korea (which I suspect I got from a student). I had to take two days off which were deducted from my vacation.

Employees Required to Accompany Employer to the Korean Immigration Office to Notify of Termination

This is just a strange clause to find in a Korean hagwon contract. It’s not necessary for the Teachers to accompany the school to the Korean Immigration Office. The sheer mention of this suggests that they are trying to pull something. Just one more obscurity in the contract.

As I can attest to, if you sign a bad contract for teaching English in Korea, you are going to have a bad experience. My naivety was to blame, as I presume was the case with several other unhappy Teachers that fell into the Lykeion trap.

Read the Reddit thread and join in the discussion if you want further opinions. Waygook is another useful resource for discussing teaching jobs in Korea. So too is the facebook group “LOFT – Legal Office for Foreign Teachers in Korea”.

Recent Negative Experiences From Teachers at Lykeion Language Forum Suwon Campuses

My Experience at the Suwon Ingyedong Campus

I did a midnight run from Lykeion in March 2017. This was probably one of the worst periods of my life. As I summarised in my anecdotal hagwon horror story post about teaching there back in 2017, there were several reasons for my decision. First of all was the illegal terms of the contract that made me feel nervous and uneasy. Secondly, when a colleague had to return home to the UK because his father passed away, Lykeion made all manner of illegal deductions from him which added to my distrust of the administration.

The main factor for my decision to leave though was related to how teachers were treated. We were treated like petulant children, verbally abused and yelled at for ridiculous things.

In one instance, the Supervisor twisted my arm because the red circles that I had marked on a student’s homework book were not big enough. She made me go back and redo them all. The Supervisor has caused numerous teachers to leave the school including Koreans. I felt quite bullied by her.

Timeline of Events

Teacher Flees Suwon Ingyedong Campus – October 2018

Lykeion midnight run
October 2018: Another teacher leaves Lykeion Ingyedong campus due to terrible conditions

In Fall 2018, another Teacher reached out to me to tell me that various teachers had fled the hagwon since his arrival. This was the first communication I had from anyone at Lykeion since leaving in March 2017 so it alerted me that conditions had not improved. His experience was pretty much identical to mine. Ultimately he decided to do a midnight run.

Spring 2019 – Several Teachers Report Poor Conditions at Lykeion Gwanggyo Campus. All Leave.

For numerous reasons related to the working conditions, several teachers left the Hagwon in Spring of this year. I will not go into a lot of detail here as the Teachers that fled are concerned about the hagwon’s reaction.

If you are considering a position at the Gwanggyo campus, feel free to message me to discuss. If you are experiencing issues, I urge you to seek legal advice. Just be advised that the issues at the school occur over more than one campus.

Ongoing – 2017 to Present

Lykeion Language Forum Suwon
Old Lykeion Teachers often contact me to discuss how bad the working conditions were

In addition to the above instances, I should add that numerous people have contacted me stating that they have had terrible experiences with Lykeion over the past few years. Some have tried to grin and bear it which is quite upsetting. It’s scary trying to leave a contract in Korea, especially when your employer is brutish. Sometimes it can feel as though you are trapped. There is little support offered to foreign people working in Korea at present.

Lykeion Language Forum Suwon:
A Conclusion

Since publishing my initial article about Lykeion Language Forum Suwon, I am no longer in Korea nor am I teaching English. Starting a blog in Korea got my writing noticed by Forbes Travel Guide and I became a full-time Travel Writer. I moved to Italy shortly thereafter and now live in Europe. So why am I still writing about Lykeion Language Forum two years later?

As mentioned, when I first wrote my story, I wrote it as a personal way of venting. I hadn’t realised so many people would read it. The enormous numbers of people who have contacted me to say that they have had similar experiences at Lykeion Language Forum, or who have contacted me to say that because of my article, they escaped working there, has made me realise the severity of the issue and the importance of having a resource like this available to help those moving to Korea.

Life is Too Short to Do Something You Hate

There are tons of jobs for teaching in Korea. Millions of them. Trillions. Gazillions even! (Okay maybe a slight exaggeration but there are a lot. The ESL market is in no way in decline here).

Sometimes agencies will try and tell you that there are few positions available to try and force you into taking a particular job role. The truth is, they want their commission and they want to close the deal. When I accepted my role of death at the Lykeion school, the Recruiter advised me that there were no jobs in central Seoul and that I should take this one if I hoped to teach in Korea that year. I later learned that that was BS and got a lesson in not being naive!

Don’t accept this contract, or any sketchy Hagwon contract. Don’t try and negotiate and don’t waiver the red flags. Move on and find a good contract. Teaching at a bad place will taint your experience of being in Korea. Korea is an incredible and beautiful country and you should experience all of that without stress, anxiety, and abuse.

Why Do Teachers Stick Bad Contracts?

Korean hagwons are kind of known for treating their Teachers badly. It always sounds like someone has it worse than you. This attitude causes people to sweep issues under the rug, or normalise things that are not acceptable. Cultural differences and local norms get tied in with poor and abusive working conditions.

While I fully acknowledge that the Korean working environment may be “stricter” as compared to what you are used to, it should never be abusive. Don’t be one of those people who tolerate unacceptable, illegal, abusive treatment from their employers because you think it’s “how things work here”.

Doing a midnight run in Korea is kind of the ultimate faux pas. I didn’t want to do it, but I felt as though I had no other option. People believe that midnight runs contribute to Korean Employers not taking their Foreign Teachers seriously. My rebuttal is that Foreign Teachers should be treated with respect and compassion in the first instance. These are people who have left their lives behind and moved to a foreign country to teach and help people. Sticking terrible work conditions and accepting it is just as bad as midnight running in my eyes: It sets a precedent that ill-treatment is okay and it is not.

Message to Hagwons

If your staff have pleasant and safe working environments, they will stay and do the job well. The people you hire are degree-educated, intelligent people. They are not petulant children.

If you have any experience with Lykeion Language Forum, feel free to contact me. I hope that in time they will amend their illegal contracts and improve working conditions. Once things improve for the Teachers I will write that here accordingly. Until then, I will continue to expose illegal and unethical practices to protect those considering moving to Korea.

Have any questions about Lykeion language forum or teaching in Korea in general? Alternatively, do you have a hagwon blacklist story you would like to mention? Feel free to reach out to me and I will get back to you asap. Safe travels and happy teaching! Melissa xo

Melissa Douglas

Melissa Douglas is a British Travel Writer and Blogger based in Athens, Greece. She writes for numerous high profile travel publications across the globe - including Forbes Travel Guide, Matador Network, The Times of Israel and The Huffington Post.

2 thoughts on “Lykeion Language Forum Suwon: Hagwon Blacklist”

  1. What we need is an FTU–Foreign Teachers Union. Barring that, what we need is to warn others. I just went through my own hagwon nightmare in Seoul at CCLC, or as I like to call it, “The School That Made Me Quit Korea”. 7 months of my life that I will never get back, plus so much money lost, plus so many opportunity costs.

    And I could have been spared if only someone had bothered, in the school’s 10+ years, to write a review on Waygook, Dave Esl’s, The Korean Blacklist, an independent blog, etc.

    Of course CCLC wasn’t as bad as yours. In fact, it was your original post that inspired me to do my own midnight run and make sure I warn others. But I’m surprised foreign teachers are still going to Lykeion even after your easy-to-find and totally credible warning review.

    We teachers need to demand better; we deserve better. And we need to stop tolerating such poor treatment. But everytime we knowingly sign with a “blacklisted” school we keep the cycle going, making things worse for every foreign teacher.

    I’m glad you more than landed on your feet. Keep up the great work.

    • Hey George,

      Thank you for your message and I am so sorry to hear about your experience at Seoul CCLC. If you Google “hagwon black list”, there are a few sites that accept submissions on stories from problematic schools to help raise awareness for future teachers. One big problem RE people not writing blogs about negative hagwon experiences or openly discussing their experiences on forums is the libel laws in South Korea. There, it is considered “libel” if you write anything negative about anyone – even if it’s completely true! Hagwon owners often start harassing and bullying blog owners threatening them to remove their sites. In the case of my school, I spoke to a guy that had worked there before me who told me he dealt with the same issues and discussed it on Dave’s ESL Cafe, and action was threatened against the site so they had to remove it and more teachers fell into the trap! Terrible!

      Teachers definitely need to demand better. I hope in the future that there are more rights for foreign workers enforced in South Korea. Some sort of union as you suggest would also be extremely beneficial. I also hope that the mentality about teachers that leave hagwons due to the conditions there changes – too often things that are abusive and unacceptable are written off as “culture difference” or as the teacher just whining, complaining and not handling the situation well, without people even realising what the individual went through. Sure there are those who come to South Korea with no interest in their students and just to travel, party and drink but that doesn’t account for all of us who had negative experiences. It’s a sad victim-blaming mentality.

      I am glad that you got out. I feel the same about time, money, and opportunity costs lost. I left a very good corporate position for my role at Lykeion (though things worked out, so I just write it off as an experience). Wish you all the best going forward!


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