I was expecting a promotion at DCS in early May after one year probationary period. During the probationary period either DCS or I could terminate the employment contract by providing one month’s notice. After my confirmation as a permanent employee, the notice period would be three months. I thought that, if my position was confirmed by 30 June, I would resign on 1 July and after the three months’ notice period, I could leave Buyeo on 1 October, then stay with Jun-seo at Seoul for a week and from there, leave for Canada. Hye-jin and Joo-won would leave for Canada later—say in the third week of October.
My bosses, Prabin and Asvathan, couldn’t provide me with any hint of when the confirmation papers would be received from DCS head office, so I had to consider two uncertainties: whether or not Hye-jin would accompany me and when DCS would offer me the promotion. I tentatively decided to depart on 8 October and Hye-jin and Joo-won would leave on 22 October. Accordingly, I started to schedule other activities plus negotiations with all relatives to allow us to leave South Korea.
After scheduling the departure dates, I sat down to schedule dates of other events before departure. I planned to vacate the apartment on 30 September so that I needn’t pay the rent for the month of October. Here, too, I needed to provide two months’ notice to have the security deposit refunded. I was checking what funds I would have at that time and all cash flows to ensure that I could organise 45,000 won before 17 September. I was working to a very tight budget; the security deposit was important to me. On 15 May I borrowed 10,000 won from my provident fund of compulsory savings to be on the safe side. That day I told my landlady that I had plans to vacate the apartment on 1 October, but I would finalise the arrangement on 1 June.
On Monday 21 May, I paid 3,000 won to the travel agent and booked our flights from Seoul to Vancouver by Canadian Airlines. My departure date was scheduled for 8 October and that of Hye-jin and Joo-won for 22 October.
The very next day I made some excuse to take a long lunch away from DCS and went to the Canadian Embassy. After discussions with the visa clerk I submitted the visa application forms for Hye-jin, Joo-won and myself.
On 23 May I received a phone call from the Canadian Embassy asking me to report asap. I had to make another excuse to leave work at three o’clock to reach the embassy, where someone returned the visa application forms to me, saying that I should have read the recent bulletin stipulating that all new immigrants must now settle first at Abbotsford, not at Vancouver as discussed during the interview. The offer letter was issued subject to the stipulations in the bulletin.
I rushed to the travel agent to change my bookings. I had to pay another 1,000 won for the change, plus I was told that the new total charges were to be 48,000 won instead of 45,000 won as earlier promised. My revised departure date from Seoul to Abbotsford was scheduled for 7 October and that of Hye-jin and Joo-won for 21 October.
It was already five o’clock when I received the revised itinerary from the travel agent. I went to the embassy the next morning before the start of the day at DCS and submitted the visa application and passports again. After a couple of working days, I received the passports back from the Canadian Embassy after they had been duly stamped with respective visas for permanent residence at Canada.
On 15 July at four o’clock Asvathan, CEO of DCS, called me. As his PA escorted me into his chamber, Asvathan congratulated me and asked me to take a seat on one of the cushy chairs. Only a few times before had I entered this room, but never alone, and never had I been offered these cushy chairs. Most often I stood along with my senior colleagues and spoke very few words. Asvathan took out a big envelope from his drawer and passed it to me saying: ‘Congratulations, Jie-won, the Board of Directors of DCS is pleased to appoint you as an associate consultant. Please read the letter and sign your acceptance’.
I looked at the letter. It was dated 1 May. I was perhaps saying something to myself; my lips quivered but no words were pronounced.
Asvathan intervened. ‘I know, Jie-won, what you want to say—you’ve been already acting as a consultant—but in the history of DCS no-one has become an associate consultant in one year. The board has offered you that designation but couldn’t do anything better than that. We’ll see what we can do for you in six months.’
As Asvathan stopped, I found the courage to say, ‘Sir, this letter is dated first of May; should I get the difference in my salary for these two months, May and June?’
‘Of course you’ll get it’, Asvathan replied, ‘The difference is 1,000 won per month, so 2,000 won will be added to your next pay packet’.
‘Thank you, sir’, I replied. ‘Would it be okay if I resign from DCS with effect from the first of July?’
‘What?’ Astonished, Asvathan rebuked loudly. ‘Tell me why you would resign! Would you go back to Consultronics? Show me their offer and I’ll make it ten per cent better for you.’
‘Thank you, sir. Would you please allow me to resign from DCS with effect from the first of July?’ I reiterated.
‘No, you can’t backdate your resignation. We could only accept your resignation with effect from today or later’, Asvathan said. ‘Please tell me where you’d be going. This may help.’
‘I’ll be migrating to Canada in early October’, I said. ‘Now, after being a confirmed consultant, I need to give three months’ notice. I don’t have three months before October, that’s why I ask you to accept my resignation with effect from the first of July.’
‘You’d get foreign assignments from DCS soon; you don’t need to migrate to a foreign country and look for jobs there,’ Asvathan said, ‘but DCS won’t accept any backdated resignation’.
‘But sir,’ I added, ‘this very letter of offer is backdated’.
‘You may not accept it, if you so want’, Asvathan said. ‘Perhaps that is one option you may choose. In that case you needn’t give three months’ notice.’
‘Okay then, sir,’ I said, ‘I won’t sign my acceptance on this letter. I want to tender my resignation with effect from the first of October. Can I do that today?’
‘Okay,’ said Asvathan, ‘give me back the letter of offer. You may submit the resignation letter one month before the first of October. You have plenty of time to do that’.
Next morning the DCS monthly newsletter was circulated to all DCS employees. This newsletter showed three recent promotions, one of which was my promotion to associate consultant with effect from 1 May. I thought of showing this to Asvathan. I asked for an appointment through his PA.
I was called by Asvathan’s PA at ten o’clock, soon after he appeared in the office.
‘Please take a seat, Jie-won’, said Asvathan as I entered his office. Once again I sat on a cushy chair of this room. Asvathan handed over an envelope to me and said, ‘I’ve discussed with DCS’s top management at Seoul last evening and I’ve been instructed to issue this letter to you. Please read this. I’m prepared to change the wording to suit your requirements’. Asvathan continued as I opened the envelope and started reading the letter, ‘But the message would remain the same, a lot different from that of yesterday’. The letter, dated 16 July read:
The management of DCS is pleased to inform you that your services would not be required with effect from 13 August next. Please organise to hand over your responsibilities and charges to Mr Malakesh Hemrotra prior to this date.
DCS wishes you all success in your next venture.
‘Sir’, I said, ‘I’ve not submitted my resignation yet; my intention is to work until the first of October!’
‘You’ve no intention of continuing with DCS, as you’ve already chosen your next destination. DCS isn’t interested in wasting its time on you anymore. We have to serve you a month’s notice, so your last date is the thirteenth of August. If you hand over your charges prior to that we would release you earlier letting you leave for Canada, however, you’d be paid the salary till the thirteenth of August at the current rate.’
‘You mean I shall not be entitled to the increased rate at all?’ I said. ‘Over and above this I shall not be entitled to any salary for one-and-a-half months prior to the first of October?’
‘Unfortunately no,’ said Asvathan, ‘but look on the positive side, you may now start for Canada one-and-a-half months earlier’.
I had nothing to say. I still had the newsletter in my hand and I held it out in front of Asvathan and drew his attention to the list of recent promotions.
‘Sorry for that’, said Asvathan. ‘I didn’t remember to cross out this line before it got sent to the employees. Please strike off your name from there. In the next issue, we will publish a corrigendum.’
The date, 13 August, was always an ominous day in my calendar. I could never forget the day my home country became independent. Whenever Independence Day is celebrated, I remember nineteen coins being taken off Suk-hwan’s carom board to buy meals on that day. Now, I’d lose my job on 13 August next.
I emerged from Asvathan’s office much disheartened. I discovered the boundary between the world of DCS’s top management and the skilled employees; the same Oneness didn’t flow across the boundary. I was worried about funds already, now I needed to manage with even less. Also, I’d leave DCS as a probationary officer, not as an associate consultant.
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