It seemed safe to expect things to calm down now that it's the end of the semester. They always do. Once the frenetic rush of grading and inputting is finished, events taper off. There's half a week where students are allowed to complain about their grades and plead on bended knee for clemency, and then the grades are finalized and printed and handed in. (I just did that today, as a matter of fact.) Then, after that...nothing. If you don't have summer classes, you're a free man for two whole months. From July 2 (the end of the finalization period) until the first Monday in September, it's vacation time.
Customarily, things calm the heck down during that period.
But not for us. Oh no. We lead a charmed life, Miss H and I. Just a scant two weeks before I leave for Vietnam, my fiancée's school decided to pull the rug out from under us. They asked us to move out of our apartment.
We were shocked, of course. We've been here a scant four months. Moreover the whole reason Miss H signed a contract with this school is so we could have this huge apartment all to ourselves. That was the agreement. Now all of a sudden the school says "You have one month to move out"? Oh no they didn't!
So we went in and talked to Miss H's immediate supervisors in person last week. They backpedaled and clarified, assuring us that they wouldn't revoke our housing completely; this was simply an expensive apartment, too expensive to have just one teacher and her pseudo-spouse living in it. They'd provide key money and rent for any other apartment, as long as said rent was ₩400,000 per month or less. According to the contract they'd signed with Miss H, they were legally obligated to do at least that much.
There wasn't much more we could do but agree to that. I'm the moocher here. I don't work for Miss H's school, and was allowed to stay with her in this apartment for no extra money down. But it just wasn't fair of the school to kick our stilts out from under us out of the blue like this.
Miss H and I quickly decided that there was no way we could find a new apartment, rent it, pack up this apartment, and move everything we owned in the scant ten days remaining before I departed for Vietnam. It just wasn't happening. So we went into meet her supervisors again just a couple of days later and asked them if we could stay in this apartment if I forked over my share of the rent. The supervisors told us that our place costs ₩800,000 per month for the school to rent, and I'd need to stump up half. After a little hemming and hawing and a halfhearted attempt at bargaining, I acquiesced.
But now I'm rethinking even that. If I shell out ₩400,000 per month (roughly $400), that's almost three thousand dollars I'll lose by March 2015—for no reason at all. It's money which should be used to make a security deposit on a stateside apartment, buy a car, and acquire miscellaneous housewares. Miss H and I got it in writing that no one else would be billeted with us in this place, but unfortunately we never secured the school's assurance that we'd never be charged extra rent or made to move out. The school's got us over a barrel.
I wasn't finished yet, though. On Thursday I marched to the Itaewon Global Village Center, which is on the same floor in the same building as the international clinic where I got my travel vaccinations two weeks ago. The Global Village Center, according to its own website, "offers a variety of services to support foreigners living in the area, and we have classes and programs that help to facilitate cultural exchange and understanding between foreigners and Koreans residents." Among those services is free legal consultation. I made an appointment at 10:00 AM on Tuesday the 8th to see a lawyer.
Here's what he said: there's nothing in the contract to prevent the school from charging us extra for this apartment. They only agreed to let this apartment to the two of us exclusively. As the lawyer put it, "It was a favor, not a promise." However, there was one spot of hope: if we had a witness to corroborate the school's agreement to let us live here at no extra charge, then we'd have a case. He advised us to get in touch with Miss H's recruiter and obtain her testimony, which I thought was a good idea. I'll keep you posted on what comes next, but...
All this would be hard enough to deal with if I wasn't leaving for Southeast Asia on July 12. That sure complicates things. It's really put the pressure on both of us. But Miss H and I really don't want to move. It's costly, it's a lot of effort, and frankly, we feel that we were promised this apartment and shouldn't have to abandon it because Miss H's school is worried about the bottom line. Moreover, after what we went through in Gwangnaru (living side-by-side in a studio apartment and sharing a twin bed and all that nonsense) we feel that we're owed a nice big apartment for our final year here in Korea.
And now you've heard the whole story. The fight's not over yet. I'm not going to pay those crooks a single won if I can avoid it. Stay tuned.