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Korea, South in Asia (School): One-Stop Prep (SPEP) - Private School - South Korea

One-Stop Prep (SPEP) is a private school located in Gangnam, South Korea.

 

Address: 861 Sinjwon Building, Yeongju-ro, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, 06023, South Korea.

Website: One-Stop Prep (SPEP)

2 customer reviews

0.8 out of 5 stars
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  • Experience
    10%
  • Professionalism
    10%
  • Work location
    45%
  • Living situation
    20%
  • Pay & benefits
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  • Support & facilities
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  • Health & safety
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Reviewer
1 rating
3 helpful voted.
Worst Job You'll Ever Have in Your Life
24 days ago.
Institute Review
SPEP is formerly known as "The Princeton Review" but because they had such a terrible online reputation, the company was sold and rebranded "SPEP" Speaking Proficiency Enhancement Program. They are managed by the same people as under The Princeton Review. They focus on corporate training for mostly Hyundai-Kia managers and employees around Korea. Their headquarters is in Apgujeong (Gangnam-Gu district) in Seoul.

It is frustrating not to be able to explain here how profoundly poor they do every function you can possibly imagine. Their "inter-office communication" consists of ignoring everything you say whether it's a small issue, a medium issue, or something that would land them a lawsuit, all are soundly ignored. So if you try to say "let's listen" and then "express yourself" they make excuses, ignore, or pretend to be addressing the issue when in fact they are ignoring.

The worst job I have ever had in my life is when I completed my contract a few years ago at their training campus in Paju ( 37°44'9.34"N 126°49'54.56"E ). You are required to stay there Monday through Friday. That in itself was a big mistake. I had to share my room with 2 or 3 co-workers and although I liked them, you do get tired of seeing the same people all day long and then all night long. There's no escape and no chance to unwind and get away from it all. There is no ability to meet people for dating opportunities, or hang out with other foreigners anywhere. You have no life at all during the week. Weekends are spent sleeping and recovering.

The days are extremely long, and they always have lots of unnecessary work to do. Your classes start at 8am, and by the time you finish your last 1:1 class, it's 8pm, then about 1 hour or more of comment inputting and administrative duties. You'll be lucky to be in bed by 10pm every day if you hurry.

The classes are stressful because students are cramming for a mandatory English exam what will enable them to get promoted and/or move to another Hyundai plant somewhere else in the world for higher pay. The students are not very good but must get proficient in an extremely short amount of time, usually 4 - 8 weeks. There is a lot of pressure to teach to the test and help them pass.

You are not allowed to leave campus during the week. There is nothing to do but work and sleep. There is very little vacation time, usually only 5 days in summer, and 5 in winter. It's a pressure-cooker environment with adult students away from their families, high stress to cram for their exam, no time for exercise or relaxation even though you can see from the Google Earth coordinates there are sports areas, they are rarely used. They use the same book regardless if the students are extremely low or high level but take the same exam. Some students can barely answer simple questions.

Whatever the issue, expect management to handle it in the s*u*i*est way possible. If you are assigned a room, unpack all your clothes and necessities, make it feel like home, stack things into your mini fridge, they'll make you break it all down, remove it, stack it up in the common area then re-issue new room keys 4 hours later. Often times, you get assigned the exact same room you just left, but now your ice cream is melted, and your milk is at risk for spoiling etc. You don't have to remove your items when the cleaning staff goes through, only when management can't decide who should be in what room. We've told them every single time they do this, to let us stay in the same room every week for stability, and they never listen. A 3-man room on the 4th floor is exactly the same as a 3-man room on the 1st floor, however, they seem more interested in inconveniencing us rather than allowing us to leave all of our personal items in one location. Instead we constantly have to move it around (sometimes twice a week), take it home and back again at their whim. Sometimes we can leave it in the same room for a month, then they decide we should drag everything home every weekend. Makes no sense.

Another thing they do is make you report to Apgujeong H.Q. at 6:30am SHARP! on Monday morning no matter how close you live to the Paju campus. So, some people spend 1 hour coming East to H.Q. then get in a shuttle van and go 1 hour back West, past their apartment, then arrive at the campus at 8am, wasting 2 hours. We don't leave H.Q. until 7am because stragglers ignore the 6:30am "sharp" deadline, so everyone waits for them and we leave at 7. Then, to complete the journey of s*u*i*, we have a meeting at 9am so you can't really get a cat nap before work, when we don't officially get paid until 9:30am. So, you get out of bed, go to the manager's room for a 2 minute meeting at 9, then go back up to your room to sleep again for 28 minutes, then students arrive at different times and class starts at 10am Monday only. So why get up at 5:30am, 4 hours early, for a 9:30am-10am job? No one knows, it's exactly the kind of ridiculousness that constantly goes on there, if it's not that, it's something else that makes zero sense. That's how it is for 12 months.

Lots of pointless busy work entering the same data into different areas. Other data such as comments for mid-term reports are rigidly checked for errors then never sent off to the students, we re-write them for the final report which begs the question, why bother doing it in the first place? Lots of favoritism. If they like you and you are late for a meeting, everyone will scour the campus to look for you, call and text message your phone. If you are not well liked, you are scowled at and berated for forgetting about the meeting, it's an extremely childish work environment. It's like enrolling in an adult high school. There are no secrets. You disclose something to someone you thought you could trust, everyone knows your business because it's a closed environment with nothing else to talk about.

The list just goes on and on, and you are trapped there, Monday through Friday, all day long for 12 months. The only redeeming value to it is that I had some friends and we helped each other make it to the end of our contracts and dreamed about getting out of there to live our lives once again. It's like being freed from Shawshank Prison.

There's no time to explain how other employees work in other branches of SPEP around Seoul. I met quite a few of them, and they have a laundry list of complaints as well.
The pros
The money is good, but that's how everyone I met there got roped into it. They will make you WORK for that income, and you'll later wonder if sacrificing friends, family, health, and your life for it is worth it.
The cons
Just about everything from the time you walk into the place until the time you leave is objectionable. How they treat people, how they organize their meetings and work associated with the job. You know someone does not know what they are doing when they have too few professional objectives because they don't know what's needed for the job, or go the other way and demand piles of work because they think at least some of it will wind up being necessary. SPEP opts for the latter, just mountains of needless work because they have no idea what is the proper amount to complete the task. Their ideology is to throw as many darts at the board as possible, some of them may hit the target.
Advice to Management
Everyone from top to bottom should be removed and replaced with properly trained people who are organized and ethical when dealing with other human beings. There should be a 3 strike process, if managers can't assign work that can be completed during the regular work hours, they should be let go. If the work is found to be duplicitous and time wasting, count as a strike. The Paju location is nothing but a glorified North Korean concentration camp. The days should be 9-5, not 8-10. If you can't get quality work done 9-5 and give people time to relax and enjoy their lives, get new management.
Institution Location
Paju, South Korea
37°44'9.34"N 126°49'54.56"E
Relationship
Liberated former employee
  • Experience
    10%
  • Professionalism
    10%
  • Work location
    10%
  • Living situation
    10%
  • Pay & benefits
    10%
  • Support & facilities
    10%
  • Health & safety
    10%
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
SPEP/One-Stop Prep, Based Out of Gangnam in Seoul
3 years ago.  ·  Yeongju-ro
Institute Review
The following is a description of a short and costly mistake I made agreeing to accept a teaching position with SPEP/One-stop prep, based out of Gangnam in Seoul. Before accepting any job with this organization I would suggest reading the following article very carefully. I sincerely hope that by sharing this experience it will prevent other foreign teachers from making the same mistake that I did.

As a new teacher to Korea I was targeting the adult hagwons during my job search. After a month of looking I had two job offers and SPEP/One-stop prep seemed like the better choice because you teach during normal work hours, instead of having split shifts like most adult hagwons. Immediately after reading the contract I could see that it was very one sided, half of the document talked exclusively about all the different reasons you could be fired with just 24 hours-notice and the various penalties you would be forced to pay (for your reference, if YOU wish to cancel the contract you need to give 3 months-notice). I’ll admit this made me feel very uncomfortable, but during the interviews on Skype the staff seemed nice on the surface, and adult teaching positions without split shifts were hard to find, so I cautiously went ahead.

(It is very important to note: based on what I was told after I arrived, the driver would pick you up early in the morning to take you to your client offices, and from there your classes could be spread out throughout the day until the early evening. Before arriving in Korea I had been told I would just be teaching during normal work hours, along with block scheduling. So, it was a very unpleasant surprise to find out I was going to be working split shifts anyways. The only difference was going to be that I would have to spend the hours in between classes hanging around company lunch rooms, instead of being in an apartment next to my school. This is what the other position was offering, an apartment of my choice, near my branch location and with split shifts.)

At this point I naturally began to ask questions about accommodation, but only received vague answers. I had assumed since they gave a 400,000 won housing allowance, instead of providing the accommodation themselves, that I would be able to choose where I wanted to live. Well, that wasn’t the case. I requested that I be allowed to select my own apartment during the time after I arrived in Korea, but before my contract started, which was denied because of “time constraints and language barriers.” It was at that point that their HR officer explained that they select your apartment for you and minimal furnishings meant a completely empty apartment with nothing except a fridge and microwave. After I was to move into my apartment the afternoon before my contract and classes started (“extra training” was scheduled in the morning), I was told at that point I could purchase a mattress of my choice and sleep on the floor that night. This is where things started to go in the wrong direction. The culture of this organization expects its teachers to be completely obedient and compliant with every decision they make, so by making requests regarding the apartment I would be paying for and living in for an inflexible one-year commitment, I was branded as “difficult and demanding.”

Once I finally got them to agree to at least provide a bed for my apartment it was time for me to book my flight. I had been told there would be 4 days of training before my contract would begin (paid at a “special training rate” of $4 an hour), so I booked my flight 9 days in advance to give myself enough time to adjust to the 16 hour time difference between Vancouver and Korea. I then sent off the travel itinerary to the HR officer who I had been dealing with. At this point I began to relax a bit and feel a little more optimistic, that was until I received my “revised” training and arrival schedule.

After my 11 hour flight from Vancouver I finally arrived at Incheon Airport at 2pm, I was then to use some instructions I had been given to buy a SIM card, travel card and find an air-bnb hidden on a small side street at the opposite end of the city using a map written in Korean (again, I had never been to Korea before, don’t speak Korean, google maps doesn’t work properly in Korea and Seoul has around 25 million people). Then, after unsuccessfully getting my SIM card registered after repeated attempts, I took my travel card and headed off with my suitcase on a 3 hour public transit journey to the small, run down building where I would be staying. I did eventually find the apartment, however once I arrived I found out that the address the HR officer gave me didn’t have the room number. So, now I obviously had a problem since my SIM card didn’t work. Luckily, there was a man who saw me wondering around with my suitcase looking for a pay phone and asked if I needed help.

So, at around 7pm and 20 hours of international travel with no sleep (it was a day flight) I finally arrived at my apartment! At this point I wasn’t sure what to do first. I needed to unpack my clothes, take a shower and try to find something to eat. After all of that, I could finally go to sleep at about 10pm. The problem was the cheap construction of the building let swarms of mosquitoes in, so most of the night was spent swatting and scratching in a desperate attempt to catch up on some sleep. Fast forward to 8am, I had to wake up and use another Korean map to find an obscure clinic on the second floor of a building in another part of the city. 4 hours later I was back at my apartment for a quick lunch before my “mandatory” meeting at 1pm.

I arrived at the SPEP/One-stop prep office a few minutes before my meeting and was promptly met by a new staff member from the HR department. She asked me briefly where I was from and then started talking about Canada for a few minutes before going abruptly into job formalities. She spent the next 30 minutes talking about company rules and regulations, and I also had to sign a stack of documents which I had never seen before or been informed about in advance.

The “revised” training schedule I had received in Canada had 7 full days of training and formalities, with only Sunday off during the 8 full days after I arrived in Korea and before my classes started. I had mentioned during the meeting that I was feeling a bit let-lagged and tired, but the HR girl just smiled and said she understood. The meeting finished 30 min early, then I was told to immediately report to the 2nd floor to begin my training. I then had to sit in a small room for 5 straight hours without a break, during which a new girl mostly talked about more company rules, procedures etc. Towards the end, I was forced to watch an hour long video of 2 very boring sample classes. Once they were finished, the girl came back in the room and asked me to take 15 min to prepare a demo class based on a chapter in the textbook. Once the 15 min was up, she asked me to begin the demo and took out her I-pad to record me for company records. Admitted, at this point I was starting to feel a little annoyed that I was being forced to do this after just arriving in Korea the day before (it was about 2am Vancouver time).

Upon finishing the training session at about 6:30pm the trainer asked me to give her my phone number so we could contact each other in case we needed too. I then handed her my phone (the SIM card was now registered) and she entered her number into my phone. At this point I finally got to go back to my hotel room and I found something to eat, something which I had done only once in nearly 24 hours because of the medical check that morning. As much as I was f*tigued and hungry, I think I was more disoriented than anything. The staff at SPEP/One-stop prep were very mechanical and ridged in my dealings with them throughout the process of getting hired, and they didn’t take into account any factors other than dates and times when organizing my 9 day schedule before my contract started. From their point of view I had arrived 4 days earlier than necessary, so they may as well use that time to add some “extra training,” rather than allowing me the opportunity to adjust myself after just arriving to a new country from the other side of the world. Their actions clearly demonstrated that as a new teacher you are just viewed as another company asset, and things such as courtesy, politeness, and basic human considerations, which should normally be extended to any new employee who has just arrived from another country, didn’t even enter into their thought process.

Fast forward now to my second morning in Korea, after I had spent another night battling mosquitoes and an internal sleep schedule that was completely turned upside down. My alarm went off an hour before I was supposed to report to the office for a full day of training, and I woke up feeling like I had been hit by a freight train. I was completely f*tigued, both mentally and physically, and looking ahead at the rest of the week there wasn’t going to be any opportunity to get any rest and catch my breath. So, I then sent a simple text message to the HR girl who had given me her number, explained that I was feeling extremely jet-lagged and tired, apologized for the inconvenience, and told her that I need just 1 day to rest before going back into the office to resume my training. Then, after killing a few more mosquitoes, I put my phone on silent mode and fell back asleep.

Here is where the story gets really good, prospective teachers considering this company should pay special attention to this part! About an hour after the scheduled start of training the head HR girl, the one who I had the meeting with the day before, showed up at my hotel room and apparently knocked on the door. Because I had fallen back asleep I obviously didn’t answer. She then called the landlord, had him open the door to the room, and then preceded to let herself into my room, wake me up, and then began shouting at me for not reporting to the office for training. During 11 years teaching in Thailand and China I had never dealt with an employer like this, so I was naturally unsure how to react. She was literally in the middle of my room shouting at me while I was lying in bed wearing nothing but my boxer shorts! I decided to just repeat what I had said in the text message, told the girl I would report to the office tomorrow, and politely asked her to please leave the room because her actions were bizarre and totally inappropriate. She then said she would see me tomorrow and slammed the door shut.

The next day I arrived at the office 30 min early, was met by the same HR girl, and then was promptly fired for failing to report for training. The only explanation I was given was that I apparently didn’t follow the correct procedure, didn’t answer the door when she knocked, and that they couldn’t accept me being absent on the second day of training (also my 2nd full day in the country). She also said that she regularly visits teachers at their homes and when she does she expects them to answer the door and let her in. I’m nearly 40 years old and I’ve never had a job (anywhere in the world) where your employer reserves the right to visit your home residence at their discretion. She then handed me an envelope with 20,000 won for 4 of the 5 hours of training I had done, gave me 24 hours to check out of the air-bnb, told me that my visa would be cancelled and gave me a week or less to exit the country. No refund was offered for any of my $2,000 cad in expenses.

As ridiculous as it sounds, and as hard as it is to believe, that was my brief experience working for SPEP/One-stop prep, based out of Gangnam in Seoul. I’m not saying you shouldn’t try working for this company, perhaps I just had a bad experience, however based on what happened to me and the behaviour of the SPEP/One-stop prep staff, I would highly recommend looking into other options first before you sign up for what would undoubtedly be a year of misery, assuming of course you are able to make it to the end of the contract.

I hope that this article has been informative and useful to all the teachers considering Korea as an option, and if you still decide to sign a contract with this company then I wish you the best of luck!

*An honourable mention also goes to Engkorea, the recruiter who recommended this job to me but provided no help or assistance whatsoever.*
Institution Location
Gangnam, Seoul, South Korea.
Relationship
Instructor
  • Experience
    10%
  • Professionalism
    10%
  • Work location
    80%
  • Living situation
    30%
  • Pay & benefits
    10%
  • Support & facilities
    10%
  • Health & safety
    20%
Show more
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
  • ESLinKorea 3 years ago.
    I agree. They are very unprofessional.

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