The QiRanger Adventures

Archive for the ‘Economy’ Category


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I’ve never really liked going to the Eye Doctor in the US. Not because they caused me pain or I was afraid, but because I hated spending the money on such a short visit and then getting assaulted at the desk when I’d ask for my prescription. This is usually how the visits went:

  1. Wait a year, then schedule an appointment.
  2. They’d ask for my medical insurance information and I’d give it to them (while I had it). At best, I received a $15 credit towards the examination and $0 credit towards lenses or new glasses.
  3. They’d examine my eyes and then try to talk me into a new examination procedure “that’s good for me, but not covered by my insurance.” Like that $15 is going to cover anything anyway.
  4. They’d tell me my eyes are about the same, but there’s a slight change. Then, give me a loaner pair of contacts to try for a week.
  5. I’d pay $100 for this visit.
  6. After one week, I’d return for a follow-up visit. The Doctor agrees that the contacts are working and then they order me boxes for each eye for $15 more than Costco.
  7. Finally, I’d get my prescription on paper.

It’s a long and drawn out process that takes way too much time and money. My lenses in the US cost me $50 a box. So a simple visit and a 3 month supply of lenses has me forking out $200.

Let’s contrast that with care here in Korea.

  1. I walk into a shop and ask for some new contacts.
  2. The technician sits me down in the chair and performs an eye exam.
  3. Following the exam, we order my lenses.

The exam is free.

The lenses are W45,000 ($40) per box. So my total expense is W90,000 ($80). Plus I get my prescription on paper (not that it’s really needed). The same can be said for glasses. Jo recently got a pair and this was the breakdown:

Frames: W25,000… but wait there was a 505 off sale! They were really W12,500!
Exam: FREE!
Non-reflective lenses: W30,000
Total: W42,500

Oh… and the glasses were ready in 30 minutes.


Written by Steve Miller

March 15, 2010 at 10:30 am

Teaching in Korea: Contracts

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Recently a subscriber from YouTube contacted me and asked me to take a look at the ESL contract offered from a school. Normally, I wouldn’t take a second look at such a personal matter, but seeing as how this has been a long-time subscriber and commenter, I thought I’d offer up some help… and I’m glad I did, since the contract raised many red flags.

Please let me be clear that the following are my own personal opinions and reflect the way I do business and your situation and beliefs may be different. With that in mind, let’s take a look at four (4) key areas of the contract.

First, the contract wanted this person to come to Korea one week prior to starting the position so that they could process the E-2 work visa. This was a massive red flag because it indicates the school is either shady or doesn’t know how the visa process works. At this time, all new E-2 Visa applicants must be interviewed by the Korean Consulate in their home country before a visa is granted. Asking someone to come to Korea without a visa, is simply illegal. In the old days, one could simply go to Japan and get the visa there, but that’s no longer the case for new teachers. Furthermore, if one comes to Korea without a teaching visa, then the school can drop you at any time, for any reason, and you have no legal recourse. In fact, they could fire you, boot you out of your apartment, and then you’d be stuck with not only trying to find a new job, but also trying to get home all on your own.

Second, the terms of the airfare in the contract was bogus. Most schools in Korea will either front the month for round-trip airfare or reimburse you immediately after you get to Korea and pay for your ride home. This contract offered only a W500,000 allotment for travel. Seeing as how an average ticket from the US is over W700,000, it’s a bad deal. Furthermore, there was nothing in the contract about the return trip home. In my opinion, unless a school is willing to front the airfare or provide at least a W1,000,000 travel allotment, then it’s time to pass on the job. 95%+ of the jobs here in Korea will do that and one will be better off in those circumstances.

Third, take a careful look at your accommodations. In standard contracts, the school will provide not only a studio apartment, but also a bed, chair, table, TV, washer, and basic cooking/eating utensils (not to mention aircon/heater). Now some contracts will offer a housing allotment, and in that case, make sure it is enough to pay for an officetel/villa in your school’s area (within walking distance). However, if they are going to provide housing, make sure they give you all the basics for free. If not, pass on the contract. There is no need to have to furnish your own apartment here.

Finally, we come to an area where many underhanded schools sock it to teachers: the pension. Schools usually tell rookie teachers that they don’t need to pay into the Korean National Pension Fund. Schools tell teachers this will get them more money- this is a lie. Most contracts are stipulated that the employee and the employer pay into the fund at equal rates (e.g. 50%). If your school isn’t participating in the fund, then, sure, you get more money each month, but you also lose out in the end. You see, if you’re from the US, they you can withdraw your Pension fund and send the money home. By not participating in the program, you’re losing out on an additional W1.5M each year (the exact amount is based on your salary). This is a tremendous savings for the school at the expense of the teacher.

If you’re coming to Korea to teach, take some time out and look over the contract carefully. Compare it with other offers you’ve received, and ask around. You’ll benefit from it. Trust me.


Written by Steve Miller

March 8, 2010 at 8:14 am

Rascism and the State of Affairs for ESL Teachers in Korea

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Over the past few months, I’ve received a handful of requests to make a video and blog about racism in Korea. I’ve resisted to post on this topic, since I really don’t have a good handle on the situation, because I don’t see it coming from the Koreans I interact with. However, today in one of the blogs I follow, The Korean tackles that question head-on. I think he took a look at the issue and did a fair job at looking at both sides of the racism card.

I will add one thing to the topic: while in Korea, I find the most racist people here are not Koreans, but rather  foreigners who have come here to teach English or serve in the US military. Most often, they look down on those here and think of Koreans as a lesser people.

It’s something that I really dislike, since I’ll see one foreigner complain about how they (foreigners) are treated and then in the next breath say something negative and racist about Korea or the Korean people. One of the things that Jo and I worried about when coming here was how she would be treated. A Korean friend of the family kept on saying, “Don’t go to Korea. They hate other Asians.”

When Jo got here, we found out just the opposite: She is warmly welcomed by everyone in this country and the only racism she finds comes from white foreigners. I (and The Korean) think the attitude stems from not knowing what it is like to be a minority in a new land. That being said, I’m really thrown for a loop when I see someone from the west (who would be classified as an ethnic minority) make racist comments. I would  think they would know better.

I really hope that in the years to come, the world does become a smaller place and these outdated notions of superiority will go the way of the Do-Do.

Written by Steve Miller

February 9, 2010 at 12:09 pm

What kids say… #6

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The majority of my classes revolve around a one month schedule for vocabulary as follows:

Week 1: Introduce the vocabulary and provide examples and sample sentences. Check comprehension.

Week 2: Quiz the students by having them match the English word with the English meaning.

Week 3: Quiz the students contextual knowledge of the word with a fill-in-the-blank test.

Week 4: Have the students write their own sentences with five of the ten vocabulary words.

Today I had a Week for test. The vocabulary word was polite… this was the sentence:

Two boys did polite to one girl.

You can’t make this stuff up .

Written by Steve Miller

September 28, 2009 at 7:53 pm

Posted in Economy, Funny, Korea, Language

Tagged with , , , , ,

A few answers…

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Cliff Palace

Cliff Palace

When ever I post videos on YouTube, I often get some good questions related to the content. With my recent post on Mesa Verde National Park, dorotwhy asked a series of questions that I thought deserved a more personal response. Here is what was posted:

Are they structurally safe? Although I am glad that they have been “preserved” for the sake of our access to native history, in a way it is a shame that the natives no longer own this property. Obviously it was theirs. Were these areas abandoned? Are any of these tribes still in tact today and were they displaced? Or, were they eradicated? It would be really cool to see the natives living in these dwellings. You mentioned climate change, so I’m not sure if that would be possible.

So I’ll take the main questions and address them below.

1) Are they structurally safe? Yes they are. The ruins are, for the most part, 75-85% original. They undergo continuous stress testing using x-rays, lasers, and other advanced imaging procedures. Furthermore, if a portion becomes weakened, the Park will often reinforce the structure to ensure it can be preserved. Since this is an ongoing process, Park Officials often modify visitation rules, to lessen the impact on these sites. This is why some ruins are no longer open to the public.

2) Although I am glad that they have been “preserved” for the sake of our access to native history, in a way it is a shame that the natives no longer own this property. Obviously it was theirs. There really is no one tribe or group of people that can clam exclusive rights to the dwellings at Mesa Verde. The Ancestral Puebloans left over a period of about 50-100 years ending in the early 1400s. Several tribes can trace their linage back to these early Americans. There is a large group of descendants living in the Rio Grande River Valley in northern New Mexico, the two Ute tribes in the Mesa Verde area, and the Hopi in Arizona. The Park service works closely with these groups and allows them to come onto the land to hunt and carry out special religious serves when ever necessary. So while the Park Service may be the land’s custodian, the descendants are an active part in its management.

3) Were these areas abandoned? Yes they were. Beginning in the 1300s something happened and most of the native people in the southwest migrated elsewhere. We see this with the Ancestral Puebloans, Sinagua, Salado, etc. We still don’t know why this occurred, but some evidence points to climate change. Other evidence also points to the idea that they never thought of these places as their final destinations. That they had a calling to move elsewhere.

Thanks again for the great questions!

Written by Steve Miller

August 16, 2009 at 5:00 pm


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So much for picking up Level 2 of Tagalog today… I got distracted by the opportunity to film a new Family Feud Episode. I also stole a few moments to record a video blog. That aside, I did work with Jo to start a new project: Giving.

For more than a year, I’ve known about I was first introduced about through my following of Brotherhood 2.0 and found the service quite interesting. Here’s their official statement:

Kiva’s mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty.

Kiva is the world’s first person-to-person micro-lending website, empowering individuals to lend directly to unique entrepreneurs around the globe.

The people you see on Kiva’s site are real individuals in need of funding – not marketing material. When you browse entrepreneurs’ profiles on the site, choose someone to lend to, and then make a loan, you are helping a real person make great strides towards economic independence and improve life for themselves, their family, and their community. Throughout the course of the loan (usually 6-12 months), you can receive email journal updates and track repayments. Then, when you get your loan money back, you can re-lend to someone else in need.

Kiva partners with existing expert microfinance institutions. In doing so, we gain access to outstanding entrepreneurs from impoverished communities world-wide. Our partners are experts in choosing qualified entrepreneurs. That said, they are usually short on funds. Through Kiva, our partners upload their entrepreneur profiles directly to the site so you can lend to them. When you do, not only do you get a unique experience connecting to a specific entrepreneur on the other side of the planet, but our microfinance partners can do more of what they do, more efficiently.

Kiva provides a data-rich, transparent lending platform. We are constantly working to make the system more transparent to show how money flows throughout the entire cycle, and what effect it has on the people and institutions lending it, borrowing it, and managing it along the way. To do this, we are using the power of the internet to facilitate one-to-one connections that were previously prohibitively expensive. Child sponsorship has always been a high overhead business. Kiva creates a similar interpersonal connection at much lower costs due to the instant, inexpensive nature of internet delivery. The individuals featured on our website are real people who need a loan and are waiting for socially-minded individuals like you to lend them money.

While I may not have huge cash reserve, I do have a responsibility to help out those are less fortunate than I am and those that wish to improve their community. I like the idea that I can funnel my money to those that will use it. One of the features I really like about the site, is that after the term of the load, the amount is credited to your account. You then have the option to take your money back, or re-loan it.

So I started looking through the site and quickly found too many good causes to support. I knew Jo would have some excellent ideas of where to lend the money and she found a create candidate:



Catalina is a joyful and hardworking woman. She is 36 years old and lives in her own house, along with her 2 daughters, who are 9 and 2 years old. They are the reason for all her hard work.

Catalina’s business is fuel sales, which she does as a street vendor. She goes to work very early in the morning in search of customers, who have no doubts about buying from her due to the affordable prices she offers. She is a very persuasive salesperson and almost always returns home with her containers empty. What she likes most about her job is talking with her customers. She has been doing this for 10 years and the most difficult part is having to be in the street all day, putting up with sudden changes in the weather. Even so, she knows she has to work very hard to achieve her goals. She hopes eventually to have a store where she can sell her fuel in more comfortable conditions.

Catalina is in her second loan from MFP. She is very determined to make her payments on time because she would like to receive future loans. In her communal bank she is a very participative and is supportive of everyone else. With her loan of 1500 PEN she plans to buy more fuel and increase the amount she sells daily.

I really can’t wait to see how this endeavor progresses.

Written by Steve Miller

May 12, 2009 at 8:05 am

The dangers of the “New Job Hunt”

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With the downturn in the economy, there have been more articles written about how to get a job in the past year, than I can count. They talk about how people are using sites like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or even creating domains to get a job.

Many have been successful in securing that new position this way; however, many more have not. My friend on YouTube made a video about how she’d never get a job in her area because of the videos she made and it finally seems that HR managers are waking up to the fact, that checking up on people before hiring them could get them into sticky waters.

You see social networking was originally designed to help people meet new friends and date. As such, nearly everyone who uses these sites puts personal information on-line. Information that has nothing to do with how one performs at work, but may make them look like a less than desirable candidate (do you really want to see Steve at the norebang?)

Recruiters either intentionally or unintentionally take this extracurricular activity into consideration when creating their short-lists… and BAM they run right into privacy concerns because while the information is in a public forum, the company is essentially snooping into their private lives. This snooping puts organizations on shady legal grounds, as it could bias their decisions when drafting the short-list.

Two HR managers have come out this week stating that they are not willing to risk lawsuits posed by potential employees who feel that a picture on a social networking site cost them the job. Pundits will go back and forth on this issue during the course of the next year or so, but take my word, there will be a lawsuit testing this out within the next two years.

Written by Steve Miller

April 29, 2009 at 9:43 pm