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Please clear up this"independent contractor" busin
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sincerely



Joined: 04 Apr 2011

PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2011 4:20 am    Post subject: Please clear up this"independent contractor" busin Reply with quote

OK, I tried very hard to make sure the job I ended up at considered me an employee but they were shifty in their language and somethings I didnt apparently fully understand when I signed my contract.

So here I am. An independent contractor with no benefits and being taxed 3.3%.

Is there anything good about this? I was interested in working some part time positions listed here and there. Technically illegal, right? Is it only illegal if I am considered an "employee"? Or illegal as an independent contractor as well? I have heard I can legally work a part time gig if I get "permission"? Is this true? Who gives me permission and who do I show this "permission slip" to?

And HEALTH INSURANCE! I called NHIC and they said I can come in and get health insurance on my own accord after 90 days (which is in 2 weeks) if the school doesnt provide it. Does my school get in trouble? I need decent insurance, Im a sick kid, is this my best option? My school is PLANNING on providing our teachers with private insurance next month (they said they could only do it after there were 5 of us working at the school, since then I have been using travelers insurance). Ive read here that private insurance doesnt cover all too much. I mentioned to my school that I may go apply for national insurance and they got real freaked out.

Sorry for all the questions. I am just trying to figure out if I should get my own national insurance or stick with their private - and does my status as an independent contractor allow me to work more than one job?
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big_fella1



Joined: 08 Dec 2005

PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2011 4:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The good thing about being an independent contractor is you can claim about 60% of your revenue as expenses.

The bad thing is that most employers "forget" to remit the tax they withhold to the tax office and you are responsible for making 100% of the NHIC and Pension contribution.

The labour board will see through the independent contractor charade should you have problems getting payment, but the tax office, NHIC and pension office are too lazy to do anything about it.

If your an independent contractor just run, many hagwons also screw their Korean staff as well as foreigners with this scam.

I for one refuse to work for any company that claims any staff are independent contractors which means I am unable to work for most of the large agencies (F visa holder before anyone claims it's illegal).

For those that get on here after me and claim that independent contractor at one workplace for a set number of hours is legal, no it's not, but good luck getting anyone to do anything about it.
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WadRUG'naDoo



Joined: 15 Jun 2010
Location: Shanghai

PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2011 5:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yet another reason the U.S. Embassy's website advises people not to teach in Korea. The country doesn't provide enough protection to foreign employees.

Sad, but true.
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big_fella1



Joined: 08 Dec 2005

PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2011 5:28 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

WadRUG'naDoo wrote:
Yet another reason the U.S. Embassy's website advises people not to teach in Korea. The country doesn't provide enough protection to foreign employees.

Sad, but true.


Korea has fantastic protection for all employees, better than the US in some cases, but the government agencies NTS, NPS, and NHIC are a different story. They don't provide protection to any employees foreign or Korean. Actually the NHIC will chase the employee if the employer doesn't pay.
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HarryMorgan



Joined: 02 May 2011

PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2011 6:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

If you're a little savvy and willing to push you can end up with some benefits, but they likely won't be much. I'm facing the same dilemma and got a pay bump alongside a some other perks, but it's not a good situation no matter how you swing it.

I haven't heard of this "you can get your own NHIC after 90 days" thing. I'm guessing your boss is going to hear about it though, so that might cause further problems.

You can search for other posts regarding the privates, permission, and paperwork, but I wouldn't get into that much here.

I just wish there was a way around having to do all the paperwork over again. You end up in a crappy situation, and unless you have backup documents, you have no choice but to tolerate whatever the situation is for nearly three months. Grr. So, bring backups.

At least it gives me more than enough time to plot the different ways I'll have to stick it to them when the backups arrive.
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shifty



Joined: 21 Jun 2004

PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2011 6:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

OP, check out this thread:

http://forums.eslcafe.com/korea/viewtopic.php?t=210465&postdays=0&postorder=asc&start=0

in which poster ontheway gives a comprehensive overview.
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PatrickGHBusan



Joined: 24 Jun 2008
Location: Busan (1997-2008) Canada 2008 -

PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2011 7:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

WadRUG'naDoo wrote:
Yet another reason the U.S. Embassy's website advises people not to teach in Korea. The country doesn't provide enough protection to foreign employees.

Sad, but true.


The Embassy (US) does not advise Americans NOT to teach in Korea. It does exactly the same thing Canadian Consular Affairs does for Canadians: it tells its citizens to examine all documents carully (ex: contracts), to respect the local laws, the mandate of the Embassy (what it can and cannot do) and discusses potential pitfalls and hazards and finally provides a list of possible resources...

http://seoul.usembassy.gov/acs_teaching_in_korea.html

Short quote to illustrate the point:

We advise anyone considering accepting an English teaching job in Korea to carefully review the terms of the contract regarding working and living conditions and to ask for references from persons familiar with the institution, especially former American employees.


Kind of classic common sense but not telling anyone NOT to teach in Korea.

Just sayin...

As for Canada:

http://www.voyage.gc.ca/publications/korea_coree-eng.asp

Short quote again:

The key to happy and fruitful employment as a language instructor in Korea is to be employed by a reputable school and to obtain a fair and clear contract. Many Canadian citizens have come to Korea under contract with promises of generous salaries, bonuses and other amenities. The majority of them have had an enjoyable and rewarding experience. A minority, however, have found themselves in positions far different from those originally promised.

Key terms: majority vs minority...

Anyway, back to the thread.
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ontheway



Joined: 24 Aug 2005
Location: Somewhere under the rainbow...

PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2011 8:06 am    Post subject: Re: Please clear up this"independent contractor" b Reply with quote

sincerely wrote:
OK, I tried very hard to make sure the job I ended up at considered me an employee but they were shifty in their language and somethings I didnt apparently fully understand when I signed my contract.

So here I am. An independent contractor with no benefits and being taxed 3.3%.

Is there anything good about this? I was interested in working some part time positions listed here and there. Technically illegal, right? Is it only illegal if I am considered an "employee"? Or illegal as an independent contractor as well? I have heard I can legally work a part time gig if I get "permission"? Is this true? Who gives me permission and who do I show this "permission slip" to?

And HEALTH INSURANCE! I called NHIC and they said I can come in and get health insurance on my own accord after 90 days (which is in 2 weeks) if the school doesnt provide it. Does my school get in trouble? I need decent insurance, Im a sick kid, is this my best option? My school is PLANNING on providing our teachers with private insurance next month (they said they could only do it after there were 5 of us working at the school, since then I have been using travelers insurance). Ive read here that private insurance doesnt cover all too much. I mentioned to my school that I may go apply for national insurance and they got real freaked out.

Sorry for all the questions. I am just trying to figure out if I should get my own national insurance or stick with their private - and does my status as an independent contractor allow me to work more than one job?



Your next step depends on just what you are willing to risk.

If you are actually a legal independent contractor, clearly layed out in your contract, then you are required to sign yourself up for health insurance (and the national pension assuming you're not a South African or in some other exempt group).

However, it is possible that the National Health insurance office will contact your school and determine that you are actually an employee. If so, your school will be forced to pay half of your health and pension and possibly sign up everyone else.

If you go ahead and sign up for national health insurance you must be aware that you will eventually have to sign up for national pension as well. If you are from a country that can get that money refunded that will just amount to a forced savings plan for a year. You can sign yourself up for both by visiting each office. The national pension office may also investigate your school as a result.

If your employer is nervous it is a sign that maybe your situation is not that of a legal independent contractor, but rather you are just going unreported altogether. There is a very strong chance that your employer is keeping you and the other workers and a large portion of its operation in the underground economy. There is a big difference between being a legally reported independent contractor and an unreported underground worker.

If your actions result in difficulties for your school (investigations or contact of any kind from one of the government agencies) you can expect to be fired, or at least have a miserable time.

You may want to get yourself mentally prepared and get whatever documents you may need to get a new job, and start looking now, depending on how this plays out.


The 3.3% independent contractor tax rate is for withholding. It does not necessarily mean that you will pay more taxes in the end. The income tax rates are the same for everyone - employees and contractors. However, as a contractor providing your own health and pension and incurring other deductible business expenses, you could end up paying less income tax in the end on the same income. This means record keeping and filing on your part.

There are several reasons that independent contractor withholding is at the higher 3.3% rate. (Actually, this rate would need to be adjusted upward for higher bracket contractors.) First, payments to independent contractors can come from many sources, but when the amount is small (under a certain minimum amount or hours) no withholding is required. But since all of your income is taxable at year end, even if nothing was withheld, you will need to have more withheld from your bigger jobs. Second, because independent contractors have the opportunity to earn more which may put them in higher brackets at year end - Korean progressive income tax brackets rise to 36%. In addition, independent contractors have more opportunity to cheat (unreported income, inflated expenses), so the tax office wants to have more withheld whenever possible just to get a more honest accounting in the end.


If your school says that you are an independent contractor, then you should ask for permission to add an additional workplace. This is required under the Immigration rules - you must have permission of your primary sponsor to add additional workplaces. This is for all visa sponsored workers in Korea, not just E2 English teachers. However, if you are truly an independent contractor this should be nearly automatic, although certain direct competitors (such as a school on the same block) could be legitimately excluded by your sponsor.
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shifty



Joined: 21 Jun 2004

PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2011 9:01 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another tour de force from poster ontheway!!

Sticky material if tacked together with the other thread.
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PatrickGHBusan



Joined: 24 Jun 2008
Location: Busan (1997-2008) Canada 2008 -

PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2011 9:17 am    Post subject: Re: Please clear up this"independent contractor" b Reply with quote

ontheway wrote:
sincerely wrote:
OK, I tried very hard to make sure the job I ended up at considered me an employee but they were shifty in their language and somethings I didnt apparently fully understand when I signed my contract.

So here I am. An independent contractor with no benefits and being taxed 3.3%.

Is there anything good about this? I was interested in working some part time positions listed here and there. Technically illegal, right? Is it only illegal if I am considered an "employee"? Or illegal as an independent contractor as well? I have heard I can legally work a part time gig if I get "permission"? Is this true? Who gives me permission and who do I show this "permission slip" to?

And HEALTH INSURANCE! I called NHIC and they said I can come in and get health insurance on my own accord after 90 days (which is in 2 weeks) if the school doesnt provide it. Does my school get in trouble? I need decent insurance, Im a sick kid, is this my best option? My school is PLANNING on providing our teachers with private insurance next month (they said they could only do it after there were 5 of us working at the school, since then I have been using travelers insurance). Ive read here that private insurance doesnt cover all too much. I mentioned to my school that I may go apply for national insurance and they got real freaked out.

Sorry for all the questions. I am just trying to figure out if I should get my own national insurance or stick with their private - and does my status as an independent contractor allow me to work more than one job?



Your next step depends on just what you are willing to risk.

If you are actually a legal independent contractor, clearly layed out in your contract, then you are required to sign yourself up for health insurance (and the national pension assuming you're not a South African or in some other exempt group).

However, it is possible that the National Health insurance office will contact your school and determine that you are actually an employee. If so, your school will be forced to pay half of your health and pension and possibly sign up everyone else.

If you go ahead and sign up for national health insurance you must be aware that you will eventually have to sign up for national pension as well. If you are from a country that can get that money refunded that will just amount to a forced savings plan for a year. You can sign yourself up for both by visiting each office. The national pension office may also investigate your school as a result.

If your employer is nervous it is a sign that maybe your situation is not that of a legal independent contractor, but rather you are just going unreported altogether. There is a very strong chance that your employer is keeping you and the other workers and a large portion of its operation in the underground economy. There is a big difference between being a legally reported independent contractor and an unreported underground worker.

If your actions result in difficulties for your school (investigations or contact of any kind from one of the government agencies) you can expect to be fired, or at least have a miserable time.

You may want to get yourself mentally prepared and get whatever documents you may need to get a new job, and start looking now, depending on how this plays out.


The 3.3% independent contractor tax rate is for withholding. It does not necessarily mean that you will pay more taxes in the end. The income tax rates are the same for everyone - employees and contractors. However, as a contractor providing your own health and pension and incurring other deductible business expenses, you could end up paying less income tax in the end on the same income. This means record keeping and filing on your part.

There are several reasons that independent contractor withholding is at the higher 3.3% rate. (Actually, this rate would need to be adjusted upward for higher bracket contractors.) First, payments to independent contractors can come from many sources, but when the amount is small (under a certain minimum amount or hours) no withholding is required. But since all of your income is taxable at year end, even if nothing was withheld, you will need to have more withheld from your bigger jobs. Second, because independent contractors have the opportunity to earn more which may put them in higher brackets at year end - Korean progressive income tax brackets rise to 36%. In addition, independent contractors have more opportunity to cheat (unreported income, inflated expenses), so the tax office wants to have more withheld whenever possible just to get a more honest accounting in the end.


If your school says that you are an independent contractor, then you should ask for permission to add an additional workplace. This is required under the Immigration rules - you must have permission of your primary sponsor to add additional workplaces. This is for all visa sponsored workers in Korea, not just E2 English teachers. However, if you are truly an independent contractor this should be nearly automatic, although certain direct competitors (such as a school on the same block) could be legitimately excluded by your sponsor.


Great response. On target, factual and free from unecessary commentary and unfounded opinion.

Well done.
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nachoinkorea



Joined: 25 Mar 2009
Location: Seoul

PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2011 8:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is going to be long because for years I have watched people post on here just blatantly wrong information about independent contractors.

Working as an independent contractor is completely legal. If the contract states that the company considers you an "independent contractor" and it says that you are taxed at 3.3% then this is legal. Ask any labor lawyer and they will tell you the same thing. We ran our independent contractor contracts by 2 different labor law firms (including Kangnam Labor Law Office) and they all said it was legit.

But if you have an E-2 visa you must be full-time and get benefits! - No, this is completely wrong. First, you have to understand that you are dealing with both labor law and tax law here. Now, South Korean labor law says that anyone who works 60 hours per month (yes, per month) is eligible (that's the key word here) to be considered a "full-time regular" employee. If the employee works at least 60 hours per month and the company is more than 5 people and considers the employee a "full-time regular" employee, then the company must provide that person with benefits and tax them on a sliding scale. However, there is a loophole in the law and this is what most people don't understand! Under South Korean tax law, any employee, regardless of how many hours they work, can be declared an "irregular employee / independent contractor" and taxed at 3.3%. It does not matter if the employee works 60 hours per month or 60 hours per week. It is up to the company's discretion. Any company in Korea can do this with any employee provided they know the appropriate tax laws (I suspect chaebols don't do this with their employees because they have labor unions that prevent this). So, being an independent contractor has nothing to do with your visa status or how many hours per week / month you work. It is all determined by a loophole in the tax law.

Regarding the CDI lawsuit, I don't know the full details but what I suspect they did is they declared their staff "regular" employees but taxed them at 3.3% and / or did not provide them with benefits. If this is the case, it is illegal. But, if the contract clearly stated that they were "independent contractors" and then they were taxed at 3.3% with no benefits, expect the lawsuit to be thrown out.

Think about it this way: any person who works 60 hours per month is considered (under labor law) a "full-time" employee. However, not all full-time employees are considered "regular" employees. The company can decide to consider you a "regular" employee (in which you should get full benefits and taxed on a sliding scale) or they could decide to consider you an "irregular employee" (i.e, and independent contractor), in which they are not required to provide benefits to you and tax you at 3.3% regardless of how many hours you work. All "regular" employees are "full-time" employees, but not all "full-time" employees are "regular" employees. It has to do with tax law, it has nothing to do with labor law.

Adding a 2nd job to your E-2 visa: this is totally legal and possible as long as you have your visa sponsor's permission and your 2nd job is not for more hours than your visa sponsor. All you have to do is fill out a "Permission to Add a 2nd Job" form from your company and take that along with info from your 2nd job to Immigration, that's it. Actually, they changed the rules so that you can now add up to 12 additional jobs to your E-2 visa. However, this does not mean you can do private classes, these are still illegal since you generally don't pay tax on them. Your 2nd job needs to be either a public school or a legally registered hagwon. In the past you were able to add any public organization, (be it a school, gov. TV station, radio station, etc.) I added a gov.-run radio station to my old E-2 visa years ago, but not sure if this is possible still.

Now, any 2nd job you get should be taxed at 3.3% because you should be legally considered an independent contractor at that company. If your visa sponsor considers you a "regular" employee and your 2nd job also considers you a "regular" employee....then by law they would both be required to provide you with benefits, which doesn't make sense. So, your 2nd job should always be taxed at 3.3%. I'm a "regular" employee at my company, but any extra work I do that I get paid for (in-house corporate projects, job fair presentations, study abroad conventions, etc.) I get taxed 3.3%. This is the law.

Health insurance as an independent contractor: my company has been told by NHIC numerous times that if foreigners want to apply for gov. insurance in their name then they must wait 3 months (this is to prevent any foreigner from coming to Korea and immediately getting gov. health insurance). However, recently one of our staff was told that this 3 month wait is not necessary, so who knows? It is our experience that the people at NHIC offices don't know their own policies very well even when explaining them to Koreans....so they really don't know them for foreigners. If you go to 3 different NHIC offices you will probably get 3 different answers. However, one thing everyone should know, if you are in Korea and have not had health insurance in the past and suddenly you want to apply for insurance in your name...then you will have to pay (in a lump sum) for all the past accrued premiums. For example, if you were in Korea for a year and your employee did not provide health insurance and now you want health insurance in your name...you will have to pay 12 months of premiums first before you can get health insurance.

Pension funds and independent contractors: if you are a "regular" employee then your employer is required to match pension payments into your pension account every month (even though right now only Americans, Canadians, and Australians get that money back. This has to do with tax agreements between the respective countries). Every month 4.5% of your pay is put into your pension account and your company is supposed to match 4.5%. All foreigners who are legally employed in South Korea (and this includes independent contractors) are required by law to pay into the pension fund every month. However, if you are an independent contractor your company is not legally required to match 4.5%. So this would seem to indicate that you have to contribute the full 9% yourself, since you are legally employed in South Korea. However, while you are required by law to make pension payments every month (even if you don't get that money back), as an independent contractor if you choose not to do this....then there is no punishment. It is technically illegal, but there is nothing on the books that says you will be punished (this was told to us by the NPS themselves). So, if you are an independent contractor and you don't want to put 9% of your monthly pay into a pension account that you may or may not get back, then you won't be punished if you don't do this. If you want to keep contributing to it, power to you.

Wow, wrote a novel here. If you didn't feel like reading it all I'll summarize it:
1. As long as the contract says you are an "independent contractor" and you are taxed at 3.3%, it is completely legal. The company does not have to provide you benefits.
2. It does not matter what visa you have or how many hours per week / month you work. Independent contractor status is determined by the tax law, not the labor law. Remember, all "regular" employees are "full-time", but not all "full-time employees" are "regular" employees.
3. As an E-2 visa holder you can legally add a 2nd job to your visa provided you have your visa sponsor's permission and your 2nd job is not for more hours than your visa sponsor. The 2nd job must be at a public school or a registered hagwon. This 2nd job should tax you at 3.3%.
4. If you apply for health insurance in your own name you (most likely) have to wait 3 months. If you were in Korea previously and did not have health insurance then you may have to pay all of your missed monthly premiums in a lump sum before you can get health insurance.
5. As an independent contractor the company is not required to match your pension payments. However, if you choose not to contribute to the pension fund (even though under South Korean law you have to because you are legally employed in the country) there is no legal punishment.

If you get the right situation, being an independent contractor can be a very lucrative thing. A large number of our staff are independent contractors. We give them permission to pick up 2nd jobs, many of them make 4+ million KRW per month. But, if your company or contract says you are a "regular" employee and they don't provide benefits or tax you at 3.3% then they are cheating you.

tl;dr being an independent contractor is completely legal.
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World Traveler



Joined: 29 May 2009

PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2011 9:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

nachoinkorea wrote:
tl;dr being an independent contractor is completely legal.


Obviously since you are a hagwon owner hiring E2s as independent contractors, you have a vested interest in convincing others it is legal. But that's not what I heard (from the labor board).

Isn't there a rule that says employers must provide E2s with health insurance and pay half? How do you get around that one? By providing near worthless private insurance and paying half for that? Isn't there a rule saying E2s must be enrolled with NHIC and pension? I read that. And isn't there a rule employers must give severance for one year contracts? Severance sounds like they are an employee to me. The independent contractor business for E2s is a legal gray area at best.
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nachoinkorea



Joined: 25 Mar 2009
Location: Seoul

PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2011 9:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Not a hagwon owner (that made me laugh). But work in HR for a very large institute, been dealing with this for several years.

Isn't there a rule that employers must provide an E-2 with health insurance and pay half? - yes....if the employee is considered a "regular" employee and taxed as one. We have plenty of our staff (including myself when I had my E-2) on this program. But there is absolutely no rule or law in South Korea that says employers MUST provide health insurance to all E-2 visa holders. Instead, what the law says is that all employers MUST provide health insurance to E-2 visa holders who are considered "regular" employees. There is a difference. Finally, you can totally be an "independent contractor" and get an E-2 visa. I just had 4 new independent contractors start last week, and in over 3 years Immigration has never made a fuss when they look at the contract and it says "independent contractor". They always still issue the E-2 visa.

We do not provide "private" (or travelers) insurance. Our independent contractors apply for NHIC in their own name. Now, we are not legally required to provide them with insurance, but because we want our staff to have insurance we offer to still split the monthly premiums with them 50/50 (they just submit us the receipts and we reimburse them). The only difference is that the national health insurance is in their name.

Yes, again if you are an E-2 visa holder and are considered a "regular" employee your company must legally enroll you in NHIC and NPS.

For severance, again that is only for "regular" employees. Our independent contractors do not get severance, we are not legally required to provide it (but our "regular" staff do receive it).

FYI everyone, you can legally allow your severance to rollover every year and let it accumulate. For example, if you start at 2 million and work 5 years and get a 100,000 KRW raise every year and never collect severance....then you decide to leave at the end of the 5th year you can get your severance at the salary of your 5th year x 5 years! Anyone who tells you that you can't do this is either lying or ignorant.

Again, being an independent contractor has absolutely nothing to do whatsoever with having an E-2 visa or how many hours you work. It is entirely a tax loophole and any labor attorney worth their salt in Korea will tell you this.
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hallabong



Joined: 29 Jun 2011

PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2011 9:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I have worked the previous three years as an independent contractor and have not paid for health insurance. If I was to try and sign up for health insurance now I would have to pay for three years worth of health insurance premiums?? Is there any way around this?

If it makes any difference I have an f2 visa. Can I simply get private insurance and choose not to contribute to the national health insurance plan?
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nachoinkorea



Joined: 25 Mar 2009
Location: Seoul

PostPosted: Wed Sep 07, 2011 9:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

hallabong, I don't work at NHIC so I cannot say for sure 100%, but after several years on this job it is my experience and belief that if you have legally been in the country and neither you nor your employer has applied for health insurance....then you will have to back pay all the monthly premiums from the time you arrived in Korea until now.

It does not matter what visa you have.

If you want to be absolutely sure, I would call the NHIC.
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