The vulnerable employment condition of adjunct instructors has long been a problem in Korea. Almost every year, I can find an article on a college instructor’s suicide due to the economic difficulties and frustrations on his failure to get a tenure position. In 2008, an instructor suicide in Austin, Texas, criticizing the politics in academia and vulnerable working conditions of adjunct instructors in Korea. When I was working as a professional, it was just a sad article for me. But after starting my PhD studies, I become more interested in labor conditions of faculty members and lecturers because it can be my story after few years.
I searched the details of Korean adjunct instructors’ labor condition. One instructor testifies that he does not have insurances or retirement plans offered by the university, his contract renews every 6 months, and he is paid $800 per month for his 4-hour weekly lecture. Another instructor works at McDonald as a part-time worker because could not pay for his basic needs for survival with his salary as a lecturer. He says that McDonald is more welcoming to him even though he is just a temporary part-time worker. In contrast, his university did not cover any social securities for him always showing authoritative attitude to him.
Even though these kinds of articles are published all the time, universities keep trying to increase the percentage of adjunct instructors while decreasing the number of tenure faculties. I am not sure how other countries’ systems are, but when I saw the data of the salary in the US institutions during PFP class, the situation of the US seemed better than Korea. The salaries for tenure faculty were similar while the salary for instructors or lecturers looked much higher. I hope that statistic data is a true, not just an official, and hope that Korean system will improve.