He commutes in a chauffeured Mercedes, makes more than $4 million a year — and he’s an English teacher.
Forty-four-year-old Kim Ki-Hoon is a private tutor who is thriving in South Korea’s test-score-obsessed, academic-crazed culture. Kim teaches in a “hagwon,” or “cram school,” part of the $17 billion after-school learning industry.
CBS News was with Kim at the school on a Saturday afternoon; he says studying on weekends is typical.
Kim appears on TV shows featuring “star teachers.” His students say his teaching is more engaging — and practical — than most. And to show his human — almost geeky — side, he’ll bust out the guitar.
“I was inspired about his lectures,” says 22-year-old Seung Jun-Yang. Seung says a typical school day starts at 7 a.m. and kept him studying past 1 a.m.
Students cheer on classmates before big exams, in this country where more than 70 percent of kids go to college. Competition is so fierce that parents can be seen praying for their kids’ success.
But when asked what the long hours of schooling mean for students, Seung says, “Personally, I think, depression time.”
“I’m not actually proud of my success,” he says. “The other side of the coin is the inefficiency of Korean education.”
Kim says students spend too much time studying the wrong way — learning lessons by rote that don’t apply to real life.
While an international educational poll ranks Korean students at the top for academics, they’re at the bottom for happiness. Kim is trying to change that.
“This is my favorite place to be, and I am happiest when I’m teaching,” he says.
If we had to guess, going to the bank isn’t too bad, either.