S. Korean police investigating tip on illegal English teachers
South Korean police are investigating whether Americans covered by the status of forces agreement are working illegally in off-base English language schools in Daegu.
Police were alerted to the issue by an informant several weeks ago, a Daegu Nambu police spokesman said Monday. No arrests have been made.
U.S. Forces Korea has not been contacted about an investigation into illegal employment of Americans at the schools, spokesman Dave Palmer said. USFK does not track employment of Americans outside its bases, he said.
But it does inform military community members that working without the correct visa violates South Korean law and SOFA regulations.
SOFA visa holders are not allowed to work off-post unless the Korea immigration office or Ministry of Justice issues them a work visa, the police officer said. English teachers must have qualifications, including a bachelor’s degree, and SOFA members must get an approval letter from their unit’s commander to work.
The police spokesman said there are a few U.S. base civilians with correct visas who are legally teaching English in hagwons, schools that offer extra instruction in a subject after traditional school hours.
Many nonmilitary hagwon English teachers come to South Korea on tourist visas and teach illegally, he said. A police spokesman said he didn’t know what punishment the DOD civilians could face. But if they weren’t covered by SOFA, they could be fined and forced to leave the country.
The officer said there is a high demand in Daegu for native English speakers to teach the language, but small cities have a hard time recruiting them.
"The Korean community will appreciate if DOD employees teach our kids the language, as long as they are legally qualified," he said.
According to information provided by U.S. Forces Korea last year, most active duty and DOD civilians cannot legally obtain outside employment, though most family members can get a Korean work visa. DOD-invited civilian contractors and their families are not allowed to work off-base, according to USFK.