Deskwarming in Korea

I write to you now from Korea where I am deskwarming. I’ll cut to the chase, deskwarming in Korea is when you have to go into work even though you have nothing to do. There are no classes to teach, nothing to prepare for, and often times there little to no other staff. In most cases you will have to bring your own lunches as the cafeteria will not be open.


Korea is very about showing “work ethic.” Under completely normal situations the average Korean citizen will work until their boss leaves, or even wind up going drinking with him. Productivity in Korea is a rock bottom levels along with Japan. My time in Tokyo was eerie as I realized almost everyone on the subway with me was falling asleep standing up due to exhaustion from overwork. People do next to nothing at their jobs. A lot of people will argue with me on this, but I have watched most of my coworkers streaming Netflix, taking naps, online shopping, or watching sporting matches. Other people I’ve talked with who have non-teaching jobs seem to be in similar situations. They have no issues texting me throughout the day and discussing how they don’t have anything to do for hours at a time.

And yet people will go to work with the flu, desperate not to use their government provided paid sick days. Because the appearance of working is more important than actually working. Korea also doesn’t have great work-from-home structures. For a country that was hit fairly hard by the SARS epidemic I don’t know why they haven’t gotten an online schooling system in place. Some hagwon teachers have been required to do online schooling but the systems are very bad and not ideal for teaching.

I‘m a contract teacher. This is the only explanation I’ve ever seen for why things are different only for English teachers and the occasional Korean teacher. It means that the general government rules/school rules don’t seem to apply. While everyone else gets to go home, I have to stay here, risking my health and the health of others around me if I get sick. It’s a brilliant plan (that was sarcasm).

My Situation

Luckily, I have only had to deskwarm a few days up until now. I managed to time my vacation days so I only had one or two days at a time. There is nothing necessarily wrong with having a few days to maybe prepare. However, I normally have around 3-4 hours every day that I can prepare in so this is not useful to me. However, many people get stuck in the situation where they are at work for weeks at a time. Now that Coronavirus has struck, most English teachers are still expected to come in to deskwarm. Does this make any sense at all? No. I am taking an uneccessary risk by riding the bus every single day, and wasting school resources turning on the heat/air conditioning/lights. The school is operating with about 4-5 people total,

How Long Does It Last/How Often?

Most people can expect to deskwarm around a week or two each in Winter and Summer. Some people may wind up deskwarming in Spring if they took their vacation time somewhere else. From there it’s the occasional holiday that isn’t a National Red Day (which you get off) but a generally observed holiday (like Labor Day, it’s at your school’s discretion). Now, of course, with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) things are different. School has been delayed for 5 weeks total now. Two weeks of it I spent in self-quarantine. Now I’m expected to come to work for another three weeks to do absolutely nothing.

So, I’m learning Italian and Korean. I am writing on this blog. I’m playing a lot of video games. Reading. I’m bored out of my skull but oh well….That’s my Deskwarming in Korea experience.

Check out my other posts!

Why Teach English in Korea

My Schedule: Teaching Abroad

Seeing the Seoul Sites Itinerary 

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