Wangjangnim's perspective

How many do you know that speak English?

The LOR : Letter of Release (aka. The ESL shackles in the SK)

I have a whole list of resources for you to read through at the bottom of this post, but they are all saying the same thing.  They are not really discussing the real problem of the LOR.

Let us get down to some basics:

1. No institution is LEGALLY required to write a LOR.

2. Immigration REQUIRES a LOR for visa transfer to a different sponsor.  You obviously don’t need one to get a NEW E-2 (E-1) visa.

I just called Immigration on 1345 (3 * 0) and asked an officer there, under the pretense that I am hiring an E-2 visa holder, but that the other hagwon is not willing to write a LOR unless we “compensate” that school.  The answer was, “It is Immigration Law”.  I requested from her to tell me which law exactly, which book, which chapter, etc …  The officer in question could not answer, even after consulting her colleagues, and requested if she could call me in 30 mins.  I always love it when people say it’s the law, but when you ask which one, where is it written down, when was it ratified, a lot of people realize they have no basis for the information they spread.

My contention is that it violates The Korean Constitution, Chapter 2 Article 12 (1), which states:

Article 12  [Personal Liberty, Personal Integrity]
(1) All citizens enjoy personal liberty.  No person may be arrested, detained, searched, seized, or interrogated except as provided by law.  No person may be punished, placed under preventive restrictions, or subject to involuntary labor except as provided by law and through lawful procedures.

I believe that the LOR is a direct violation of this specific part of the Korean constitution.

Let me explain.  When you sign a contract, you fall under civil law, which, in case of trouble, needs to be fought in civil court.  Civil court is expensive.  When you start working for someone, you fall under Labor Law, now labor law falls under criminal court.  To start a criminal investigation is for FREE.  The visa restrictions fall under Immigration Law, and are at the discretionary power of the Immigration officers.

Immigration referred me then to the following site:, too bad it is in Korean.  They told me to look at Immigration restrictions, Article 26/2.  Isn’t it strange that a law concerning immigration cannot be found in another language.

I called immigration again, and the only answer I get is: “If the person did not finish the contract, he or she needs a LOR to be able to change visa sponsor.”  In effect, the teacher, under the discretion of his hagwon owner, cannot just terminate his contract and find new employment, which in effect, is in direct conflict with the Korean Constitution, since you are either forced to finish your contract or have to pay off your hagwon boss to get the LOR.  Indentured servitude is still being practiced in South Korea, and supported by Immigration, it seems.  I kept asking for anyone to send me an English version of the Immigration restriction article 26/2.  After 2 hours of searching, I still don’t have it.

Even 1345 could not give me the clear information, the agent on the phone even had the gall to say “whatever.”, after I thanked her for effort.  Which ended in; go to Immigration office (where no one speaks English) and get your information there, which will be exactly the same:  “It’s the Law.” Funk that!  What about your constitution!  I am not sure what 1345 is supposed to achieve, window dressing?

So people, if ANYONE that reads this can find the English version of Article 26/2 under Immigration restrictions, PLEASE send it to me so we can open up this can of worms.


I spend some time looking for the article and I found the Immigration control act. Now look at page 14, there you can find article 26, or can you?

Article 26 (2) A person who intends to report the change or addition of a workplace under the proviso to Article 21 (1) of the Act shall submit reports on the change of addition of a workplace, along with documents prescribed by Ordinance of the Ministry of Justice, to the head of the office or branch office..

Okay.  This rule establishes the need for the Teacher to inform that he changes the workplace, but I do not see the requirements that the LOR has to be written by the workplace.  The information at this point is thus STILL not clear and confusing.  My claim that the LOR is not consistent with the Korean constitution still holds true.

LOR Example

Details on contract termination

Visa Transfer doc reqs — VISA guide

Some opinions

Runner vs LOR

SMOE playing it dirty

Category: Uncategorized
  • thebobster says:

    Hey, Boss:

    I think you make some worthwhile distinctions here between civil law and criminal law, and further with immigration regulations that are not laws but might as well be due to the power wielded over people by them. It might be worth considering the original intent of such regulations, who benefits from them and what they intend to prevent or discourage.

    Of course, one obvious effect is to put limitations of the free movement of labor in search of better conditions and compensation, and this might go some distance to explain why salary offers for foreign teachers at private institutes never seem to increase very much at all even when looked at over many years or even decades. I suppose there is also the possibility that a very competent and popular teacher might get lured away to a competing school in the area, perhaps even taking some students along as well, thereby not only diminishing the income of his original school but increasing the market share of the new one. And perhaps this is the intent, that a prior employer would have the ability to accept or reject an employee’s next employer on the grounds of possible harm to his own interests.

    One question I’ve always had and as a businessman perhaps you can help – what is the motivation for an employer to keep someone on the job against his or her will, even for one day, when that person is obviously unhappy, and is positioned in exactly the place where the damage could conceivably be done due to disgruntlement? The only explanation I can think of is that the costs of instantly replacing an instructor from overseas would be more expensive than the unpleasantness and risk of damage, and of course the disruption to the business of having no teacher. There’s also the authoritarian nature of employment relationships, the idea that those in subordinate positions need to submit and do so without question or recourse.

    I’ve heard the argument about slavery before with regard to the Letter of Release, and it makes sense on an abstract level. In a more practical sense, though, it’s a temporary situation that only applies during the 12-month period covered by the employment contract – and usually quite a bit less, because very few employees are unhappy during the first weeks or months of a new placement. In most cases, people who choose to leave before completing their contract only have to wait a few months before becoming free of any concern with a previous school. This has been the case for several acquaintances who have decided to do the ‘Midnight Run’ – I often found them back in the country at a different school after the span of their original E-2 had expired.

    I always counsel my friends not to abscond in the night but rather to try to negotiate – either try to get a better deal and improve the situation where one is, or attempt to get some concessions in return for departure at a time that is convenient to the company. Abusive bosses exist and I’m sure some of the worst horror stories are true, but among the people I’ve personally seen who just cut and run, the level of badness just wasn’t high enough from what I saw to justify abrogating a contract, and they would have been better off trying something else. I’ve left schools on a couple of occasions a few months shy of my 12-month term, both to escape an uncomfortable place and to get into a better one, and in each case I was able to arrange a severance package that, while perhaps not extraordinarily wonderful, nevertheless was better than if I had just walked.

    Well, I’m sure we are all aware of the true nature of the problem: rights are not merely granted but have to be fought for and defended, and few among us have the means to engage the legal system in that way. So, we are on our own and have to accommodate, negotiate, compromise, endure … or just get out.

    22/02/2014 at 15:37
    • TheBoss says:

      Dear The Bobster,

      Thank you for your lengthy reply, I hope my answer will satisfy some of your questions. I will try to work my way down your paragraphs.

      1. We can only guess what the original intent can be for the measures that are in place. I am sure that behind closed doors, the motivations to instigate certain rules are closely guarded. T

      2. What you mention, reduction of labor cost and reduction of revenue loss, the government doesn’t give a damn about that. Don’t forget, they don;t like the private education system in place, they are just not capable of killing it off. The true reason for the use of the LOR is lies with the MoE (The public schools). This is where I believe lies the true intent, they want to exercise a certain control over the fleeting presence and chaos involved with hiring Foreigners. I am almost 100% convinced that they have pushed for the use of this document, and it has become mainstream, since it reduces the admin required by Immigration to deal with Visa issues. I can’t prove anything, but I think that is where the source of this document lies. Already the word used for the document “RELEASE” has got my hairs standing. Release from what?

      3. First I’ll talk like a trained manager. If you know an employee doesn’t want to work for you, the best thing to do is get them out of your business. Now if you are the reincarnation of Dr. Evil, in possession of sharks with freakin’ lasers attached to their heads, you might have a different perspective on this situation. Imagine Oldboy, the movie. The main character in this movie is actually irrelevant in this movie, it is the antagonist, the Nemesis of the main character that gives light to the identity of Korean man. Revenge! I once remember discussing terminating your contract with a Korean. He wanted to discontinue his work, he didn’t need the money and he wanted to start his own business. I was surprised he didn’t just walk away. It came down to the idea that creating bad blood between a boss and his employees has to be avoided, mostly due to the assumed “allegiance” employees need to show to their employers, and just quitting doesn’t work. Therefore, an employee deciding to terminate the contract then and there without consideration of the employers situation is felt by Koreans on a personal level, and we get an Oldboy situation, where the employer will use his energy to exact revenge upon his perpetrator, like a jilted lover.

      3. It actually makes sense on a very practical level too. People need an income. Very few people can walk around without having to think about paying their bills. Most people who come to Korea got loans to repay. the LOR, in effect, shackles them to their contract, which goes against the very idea of what Article 12, section 2 aspires too. I am not against the LOR as a document, I am against the practical implementation of the LOR as a tool to control the freedom of the employees. If the LOR would become an OBLIGATION to the employer, when an employee terminates his contract, then there is absolutely NO ISSUE with that document. The problem LIES in the APPLICATION of the LOR as a tool to reduce the FREEDOM of the individual to offer his labor onto the market. If an individual has to resort to a “midnight run”, just to exercise the freedom that is already guaranteed by Article 12, section 2, doesn’t that indicate that the document responsible for it goes directly against it? In Europe we have a term called “Un Petit Boss”, it refers to a small minded person with limited abilities that abuses his station of power to play silly political games. That is your typical hagwon boss, a boss that cannot cope with the complexity of managing people from a different culture. The LOR gives the employer power beyond reason to exercises his control over his foreign employees.

      4. Yes, but most English teachers that come to Korea are already fighting with the concepts on how Koreans do business. They see no way out, and they don’t understand the constant haggling Koreans resort to in order to maintain the peace on the workplace. Westerners try to use clear guidelines equal to all, wherein Korea, such guidelines are not accepted by the wonjangnim, it reduces his perceived power, and ergo sum, his sense of self-worth.

      5. I agree, but my assertion is still that the current implementation of the LOR reduces your negotiation power with your employer, unfairly, as per Korean constitution.

      24/02/2014 at 11:30
  • DM says:

    Article 12 [Personal Liberty, Personal Integrity]
    (1) All citizens enjoy personal liberty. No person may be arrested, detained, searched, seized, or interrogated except as provided by law. No person may be punished, placed under preventive restrictions, or subject to involuntary labor except as provided by law and through lawful procedures.

    The second word is important… citizens. Unless you are naturalized here, a dual citizen, or given an honorary citizenship you are not a citizen. By qualifying and given the right/ responsibilities of a citizen you qualify for the above stated law. Most foreigners are guests/ on a sojourn/ work visa. I agree it’s difficult and unclear and no one ever seems to know what is the “law” here but until you are naturalized deal with it or wait for them to change it. Welcome to being a foreigner in a foreigner country and on a work visa.

    21/02/2014 at 16:54
    • TheBoss says:

      Since they already have the E-2 visa, doesn’t that indicate citizenship, even if it is temporal?

      21/02/2014 at 16:59
  • TheBoss says:

    Do you have the name of that app?

    21/02/2014 at 16:04
  • Jon says:

    Enforcement of Immigration Control Act
    Article 26-2 (Reports on Changes or Addition of Workplace)

    (1) The term “persons prescribed by Presidential Decree” under the proviso to Article 21 (1) of the Act means foreigners, who correspond to a sojourn status 19. Professor (E-1) through 25. Specific activity (E-7) in attached Table 1, satisfying requirements publicly notified by the Minister of Justice.

    (2) A person who intends to report the change or addition of a workplace under the proviso to Article 21 (1) of the Act shall submit reports on the change of addition of a workplace, along with documents prescribed by Ordinance of the Ministry of Justice, to the head of the office or branch office.

    (3) The head of the office or branch office shall imprint a reporting stamp for the addition or change of a workplace on the passport of reporters, after checking reports and attached documents, and enter the changed or added workplace and the period of sojourn therein or a valid period, or affix a slip reporting the change or addition of the workplace in the passport.

    (4) The head of the office or branch office shall send reports submitted and attached documents to the Minister of Justice without delay.

    [This Article Newly Inserted by Presidential Decree No. 22483, Nov. 15, 2010]

    More Later

    21/02/2014 at 15:01
    • TheBoss says:

      Do you have the source available?

      21/02/2014 at 16:04
  • blackboxphotography says:

    The Korean Labor Law is available in English as an App for your phone … A lawyer at the Global Information Center showed me.

    21/02/2014 at 15:00

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