For the next three weeks I'm conducting my "winter camp." For the purposes of this post, all you need to know about it is that it means there are typically only two non-students in the school on any given day: myself and one of my co-teachers (the one with the throaty laugh). Or that's what I thought, anyway.
The maintenance/janitorial guys are around for part of the day, sometimes, but they generally take off before us teachers, and on Friday they locked the school's doors before leaving, trapping us in the school. I thought this problem would ultimately be solved with a cell phone and was surprised when my co-teacher--let's call her "Chortle" from now on--ducked through the nondescript door beside the copy room and brought out a shriveled old man. Turns out the nondescript door beside the copy room leads to the vestibule of a teeny little flat occupied by a man pushing 80.
After the shrunken guy who lives next to the copy room let us out of the school, I queried Chortle about the nature of his employment. She told me he's the school's security guard, more or less. Korean public schools hire pensioners with backgrounds in security to live in the school and guard it when everyone else is gone. I don't know what he's protecting the school from. The bars on all the school's windows efficiently deter forced entry, and I know grandpa security isn't patrolling the perimeter at night with a flashlight to intercept would-be vandals. Whatever.
When I told Chortle no one lives in American schools, she was astonished: Who guards the schools at night?!? I explained that hiring the elderly to live in and guard schools is not feasible in America because it would be prohibitively expensive, most reliable types already have their own homes and lives--which they would be loath to abandon for a teeny flat in some junior high--and we don't feel the need to guard educational facilities in this manner. I'm thinking these Korean school security gigs are just sinecures for the aged.