Skip Navigation

Teaching English in Korea

Travel Forums Asia Teaching English in Korea

1. Posted by danahawkins (Inactive 128 posts) 10y

I'm currently teaching english in Japan but i'm looking for other options while still staying within asia... has any one taught, or is currently teaching english in Korea? How's the pay? How are the holidays? How's the language? What are the flight prices like to other countries?

...Cheers

2. Posted by bob_dog (Budding Member 3 posts) 10y

Quoting funkfaerie

I'm currently teaching english in Japan but i'm looking for other options while still staying within asia... has any one taught, or is currently teaching english in Korea? How's the pay? How are the holidays? How's the language? What are the flight prices like to other countries?

...Cheers

The good about Korea:

The wages are lower than Japan, but the cost of living is far lower as a percentage of income. Most schools pay 1,900,000won/mo. (check with XE.com for the exchange rate). Though there are horror stories of fly-by-night operations and non-payment of wages, it's rare. I was never ripped off by an employer and they did pay my bonus, but I met some who were not paid bonuses, including one coworker out of 12.

Within Seoul and other big cities (Daegu, Pusan, Gwangju) public transportation is very good and relatively cheap. Away from the big cities, local and inter-city buses are affordable and regularly scheduled. (Take work in the big cities if you want a normal life.)

The foreigner community is relatively large in Seoul and Pusan (less so elsewhere) and one could live solely on western food if necessary, though the minimum monthly cost of living would be 800K-1000K won.

Cost of living (on the very cheap) is about 600K won. Many employers still provide an apartment for free, and taxes in Korea for most teachers is 3.5% plus deductions or about 5% total. You'll net close to 1800K won per month and can save US$600-1000/month *if* you try.

The Korean written script is actually easier to learn and write than the Japanese Hiragana or Katakana. (Koreans say theirs is an original text, but it's just a younger copy of the Japanese system.) If you can write a tic-tac-toe game, you can write the Korean script; trust me, you'll understand. Chinese characters are only used in Korea for newspapers, government and business, and a few other areas. In everyday life, the Korean "hangeul" script and about a hundred words (numbers, basic verbs, directions) are enough to get by.

The bad about Korea:

Many Korean schools tend to be more entertainment than education. If you're looking for serious work, take your time accepting a job. Also, many Korean employers think they have a right to invade your privacy if you are an employee: opening mail, entering your home (they expect to have a key) or monitoring who you socialize with. Some will penalize you for socializing with people outside of the school.

Because of the US military, much like Japan there is resentment against Americans or any western faces. If you're a woman, wear longer hair and men should not shave on weekends unless you're on a date. The reason? US male soldiers have to shave every day. Also avoid associating with the US military except things like the Seoul Computer Club (www.seoulcc.org). In Itaewon, fights and violence are commonplace at night. Wife beating is illegal but still common.

Half of Koreans are christians and many christian employers will proselytize and harass you on the job. (I don't care if christians don't like hearing this, it's true.) Some will expect you to join their church, some will penalize or punish you if you do not take part in religious functions. I've been docked wages for not joining in "christian activities" that were unrelated to the job and happened on days off. And remember, Korea is the home of the Moonie cult: I knew one person who joined because he was homesick and desperate for attention.

While the Japanese have manners and won't be rude to your face no matter what they think of you, the Korean view is "I don't have to respect people I don't know". If you object to being bumped into on the street or Koreans driving on the sidewalks INTO pedestrians, you won't like it. (Koreans do park on the sidewalk. Parking spaces are nonexistent.) Spitting is everywhere, as is petty theft. Koreans won't steal expensive things, but good pencils, your lunch, umbrellas, and other small possessions will be taken. I don't know if it's a "community property" view or just a lack of respect, but they do it.

Also, while the Japanese are beginning to learn the dangers of smoking and it's becoming unfashionable, Koreans don't care and smoke like chimneys. They'll smoke anywhere, regardless of whether it's legal or safe (public toilets, your home, hospitals, while filling their car at a gas station...) or without permission. I'm not exaggerating.

Korean food is very different from Japanese. It's either spicy beyond belief, or utterly bland. Koreans also tend to eat anything and expect you to as well (squid, brains, intestines, etc.), even if it's against your personal or religious beliefs, or even if you have a food allergy. They have absolutely no concern for your preferences.

Additionally, with few exceptions, Koreans chew food with their mouths open. If you don't mind hearing people snorting, smacking and chewing with the mouth wide open and talking while they do, you won't have a problem. For people who were raised with manners and find this disgusting, you will be eating alone very often. Buy an MP3 player so you won't have to listen to it.

The ugly conclusion:

Korea can be tolerable if you are not at all picky, but for most westerners, it's a profitable but trying experience. I'm tougher than most and lasted three years. Some became basket cases and run after six months.

Visit there first if you can and find out if you find it tolerable, or speak face-to-face to westerners in Japan who have been there. See if their stories match mine; trust, but verify.

3. Posted by danahawkins (Inactive 128 posts) 10y

Woah. Cheers for the comprehensive post. Sounds a little like Japan in that it's all exciting and fresh at first, but you get over the daily life problems.