The following article was written by contributing writer Michael Smit and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Korvia Consulting or its partners.

It turns out Santa Claus is real. Who knew? I ran into him at Starbucks in Gangnam. I asked Santa if I could take a selfie with him, but he told me that he doesn’t show up in pictures. Instead, he agreed to give me his autograph to prove that this is all true:


Santa told me that the English teachers in Korea have been more nice than naughty this year (for a change), and because of this he’s going to reward us big time this Christmas. All we need to do is send him a list. Having taught here for two and a half years, I took it upon myself to get the ball rolling with a few creative suggestions. If you’re an English teacher in Korea, please read the list below and let me know if you approve of it before I send it off to the big bearded man up north.


1) An Anti-Ddongchim Device

What English Teachers in Korea Want for ChristmasIf you’ve ever taught in Korea, you know what 똥침 (ddongchim) is. If you haven’t taught here and don’t know what it is, you can google it on your own. I’m not going to describe it. This is a family magazine.

Ddongchim is a blight on my teaching experience. I should not have to live in perpetual fear while teaching third graders. Have you tried telling a third grader that ddongchim isn’t funny? It’s impossible. Ddongchim is all the things a third grader finds funny, rolled into one stinking prank.

I’m sure you can imagine how an anti-ddongchim device would function, so I’m not going to explain it. Again, this is a family magazine.


2) A Trash Can

What English Teachers in Korea Want for Christmas trash can Just one trash can. Santa has promised that as a reward for our good behaviour each and every major city with a population of 500,000 or more will be given a trash can of their very own. No longer will pedestrians have to shove their garbage into empty newspaper stands and the open bags of unsuspecting strangers.

I understand there are reasons why it’s so difficult to find trash cans in Korea. I know it’s because of the country’s impressively green recycling policy. And despite our desperate need for trash cans, we don’t want to mess up Korea’s respectable attempts to save the Earth. So the third item on my list is…


3) Automatic Recyclers

What English Teachers in Korea Want for Christmas recyclingYou know those coin sorting machines? You can dump your change into them and they’ll spit out neat little rolls of coins sorted by type. Well this is the same idea, except bigger. And smellier.

I spent weeks researching Korea’s recycling policy for a previous article on recycling in Korea, but even I still get confused by it sometimes. What exactly can I throw away? And in which pile? After this Christmas, we’ll be able to dump all of our junk into a handy automatic recycling machine and live a blissful life free of endless sorting.


4) A Giant Red Neon Light Above My Sink When It’s In Shower Mode

What English Teachers in Korea Want for Christmas sink showerLet’s be honest, the shower/bathroom units in Korean apartments are awesome. They’re spacious, easy to clean, and comfortable. Showering in a Korean shower is probably my favorite thing in the world. When I imagine what heaven feels like, it’s basically just taking an eternal shower in a Korean-style shower, except your fingers don’t wrinkle. But isn’t it funny how showering can be one of the greatest things ever, and yet surprise showers are one of the worst? This is what happens when you forget your sink isn’t in sink mode. And I forget at least once a week.

After Christmas this year, that will never happen to us again. Santa will hand-deliver a giant neon warning light to place above your sink to let you know when it’s set to shower mode. You can even activate the alarm mode, which will sound a lot like the sirens that go off when Korea is testing their public emergency system. It’s going to drive up your electricity bill and sleeping might become difficult, but it’ll be worth it. I really do hate surprise showers.


5) Better Books

What English Teachers in Korea Want for Christmas booksI teach at a public school, as do thousands of native English teachers in Korea. The Korean government spends millions of dollars flying us out to Korea and paying our salary. Then, after all that money has been spent, they have us work with books that teach conversations like this:

A: Look at the pigs. They’re cute.
B: How many pigs?
A: Two pigs.

This verbless “how many pigs” wanna-be sentence is not only the name of an entire chapter in my school’s textbook, it’s also repeated often in the dialogues of following chapters. These kinds of books encourage robotic memorization of specific phrases instead of working towards fluency by learning to build sentences. They are full of random vocabulary like “camel library.” And all too often they’re just flat out wrong.

So this Christmas, Santa has promised that he’ll hire one qualified native English teacher from among the thousands who are already in Korea to look over the public school textbooks and ensure everything checks out.


6) Pedestrian Turn Signals and Brake LightsWhat English Teachers in Korea Want for Christmas cross walk

Walking around here sometimes feels like a game of Frogger–one that’s set on “extreme difficulty” mode, where the cars can suddenly stop or change direction without warning. You’re all the way on the edge of the sidewalk thinking that the group of people coming your way will move an inch over to avoid collision, but they don’t. You think there’s no way the person in front of you will suddenly stop on a packed stairwell in the middle of rush hour, but they do.

I never liked Frogger and I don’t like walking among pedestrians in Korea. Thankfully, when we wake up on Christmas morning, English teachers in Korea will find everyone fitted with turn signals and brake lights so we don’t have to mindread to walk in safety. If we’re especially good next year, maybe Santa will even do something about the sharp elbows of busy ajummas. But for now, when you take a knee after they jab you, at least you can turn on your hazard lights.


7) Military Grade Magnetic Window Locks for Winter

What English Teachers in Korea Want for Christmas entryWe all want a white Christmas. It makes braving the freezing temperatures outside worth it. However, teaching at a school in Korea often means braving freezing temperatures inside as well, because Korean teachers seem to require at least one window open in every room no matter what the temperature is like outside. My school even leaves the doors open year-round. I guess they value “fresh air” more than I value not freezing my butt off.

It took some time to convince Santa that this is a problem for me. He spends all his time flying through the air in an open sleigh, after all. But eventually he came around and told me he’d see to it that military grade magnetic window locks are installed at every school. When I asked where he’d get his hands on something like that, all he would tell me is, “I know a guy who owes me a favor.”


8) Five More Years in Korea

Is teaching in Korea my long term career goal? No. Is it an amazing place to work until I’m ready for that long term goal? Absolutely. It’s tough to beat receiving free rent in one of the most advanced countries in the world while earning a good salary and playing with kids all day.

I’m looking forward to going back home and getting serious about a career. But for some reason I can’t shake this nostalgic feeling of being seven years old at the end of summer vacation.

What English Teachers in Korea Want for Christmas renewal


-Edited by Lindsay McEwen

-Featured images courtesy of Freepik (Trash, Recycling, Books, Pedestrian, Renewal) and Flickr (Gifts, Sink)