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Teaching in Korea

Travel Forums Asia Teaching in Korea

1. Posted by Bronco (Budding Member 35 posts) 7y

This thread is marked as being about South Korea

Hi guys

I'm currently applying to teach english in Korea and wondering if anyone who has done it before has any advice for getting a job over there. im applying through and so far they seem very helpful. has the recession made it any more difficult to get a job over there and is it viable to get a job in the same town/school as my girlfriend who is also applying? I've heard its much easier to get a teaching job without experience in korea than japan, is this the case?

If anyone has any good contacts for jobs or info on teaching in korea or japan posting them would be really helpful.


2. Posted by mindputty (Budding Member 9 posts) 7y

Hi Bronco,

Having worked in Korea for 5 years now, I can say that it should be no problem getting a job in Korea, despite the recession. Whether or not you can get a job in the same town as your girlfriend all depends on the city. Although even the smallest cities usually have 1 or 2 hagwons, they might not be hiring at that particular time. Unlike public school, however, private schools (hagwons), run year-round and have new teachers at all times of the year.

I would say that Korea is much more lax about starting requirements than Japan is, which is both good and bad. Korea makes it a lot easier for teachers to get here, but often those teachers end up being drunks or social misfits who do not understand the cultural difference in the workplace. It took me several years to figure it out, though, so it's not an easy thing to grasp quickly. Koreans are some of the hardest working people in the world (take their recovery from the IMF crisis as an example of how they have a certain do-or-die mentality to certain things).

After looking over their site, there are a few things that you should look into. Each school is different and so there is no "standard" contract as there is with the JET program in Japan. There are a few things that you should look out for before you sign a contract. First, it says on the website that 2 weeks paid vacation is standard. This is true, but the school might find a way to screw you on this, such as by giving you that vacation in broken up chunks. Most likely, they'll offer vacation time at set time (namely one week in the winter and one in the summer). Don't expect a Christmas vacation to be guaranteed, since this is not a vacation period for hagwons. Also, the website mentions national holidays. Unlike some other countries like Canada or the USA, if a national vacation falls on a weekend, you will probably not get a Friday or Monday off to make up for it. They're lost. Check your upcoming year on a Korean calendar for which are "red days" (national holidays).

A few other things to be aware of: many hagwons try to cut corners and save as much as they can, as they are often small businesses that often go belly-up. They may try to do sneaky things such as fire you a week or month before your contract is finished so they don't have to pay severance. Do you due dilligence - check to see how long the school has been in business (school with longer histories usually have lower chance of doing this). Working at a larger chain of schools can be a plus in some ways and also a disadvantage. You will be expected to work harder, but generally things at larger schools are more organized and better run.

About paid overtime: this is another area where you might be shafted. Overtime is not the time in excess of 8 hours a day, but rather hours in excess of monthly quota. Usually the schedule is fairly reasonable, but you may have a couple of 12 hour days and not get any overtime for it because it all fits within your agreed-upon 120 hours a month.

When you leave your hagwon after a year, make sure to collect your income tax refund. Since you are not a citizen, you are eligible to get back all the tax you paid plus the school's contribution as well! That means that if you make 2000 dollars a month, you will be paying *at least* 60 per month in taxes. Multiply that by 12 and then add the school's contribution of 60 per month (the school shoulders half of your tax contributions), and you have 1,440 dollars to pick up before you leave Korea. If you pay 5%, then you'll receive close to 2,400!

Another thing to watch for in your contract is the number of ACTUAL teaching hours versus hours that you need to do other tasks, such as prep work or simply being at school Although you may be at school for 9 or 10 hours, you only get paid for the time you spend in a classroom teaching. That means that if you have a ten minute break between classes, you'll only get paid for 50 minutes for every hour you're there at your school. That's pretty standard in Korea, and don't expect them to change their mind about it. The reason you should watch out for this is because they may make you do meaningless things for a large portion of the day and you won't be compensated for it.

One thing that you might want to consider, instead of going through a recruiting agency is to contact the school directly. They are usually always looking for new teachers, since there is a 1-year turnover period with usually about 2-12 native teachers per school (probably all with different dates they started). If you do in fact do this, you might even be eligible for a signing bonus, if you ask nicely, since schools pay 750-1500 per teacher that the recruiting agency finds for them. Save them that cost, and they might give you half. Just explain in your email that you wanted to save them the full recruiting cost. Some schools, on the other hand, usually don't go through recruiters, so they will probably scoff at this idea.

Check out Dave's ESL Cafe online or English Spectrum for the most comprehensive job listing sites. Recruiting agencies also post to those sites, and after a while, you'll recognize then easily. They usually post large generic posts about the 50+ positions they have with a variety of locations. There are other websites as well, but those two are pretty famous. Also, you should be able to find certain posting that ask for couples. This could be a benefit for you and your girlfriend.

Although I've pointed out a lot of the pitfalls and downsides of working in Korea, don't get me wrong. Korea is a wonderful place once you wrap your mind around the cultural divide. Great food, very friendly people, super convenience (everything is open much later than in your home country), low cost of living, many festivals and events, a good nightlife. Hopefully, you'll choose Korea over Japan (but that's just my bias talking... I've been here, as I said, 5 years, and am now married to a wonderful Korean woman).

Hope that helps, and send me a message if you have any more questions!


3. Posted by bwiiian (Travel Guru 768 posts) 7y

I've been here in Korea for 9 months now and I love it. I have a good hagwon where I work, which helps a lot, and I would recommend coming here. Mindputty has pretty much covered everything apart from what area of Korea you should look at. If you want a big city then Seoul is the most obvious choice, but if you want nature and beaches and mountains then there are other areas to consider. I am in Gangwon-do and I am in a beach resort town so the summers here are great. It's snowing now though, but I like snow too so thats ok! I am here with my wife (she isn't teaching though and we easily get by on my wage) and we get to Seoul regularly as well as it is a 3 1/2 hour bus ride away, not far really if you go for the weekend.
See ya in Korea!

4. Posted by Bronco (Budding Member 35 posts) 7y

Thanks guys for all our help. its great to have an idea what to look out for over there.
I'm thinking we would rather be somewhere smaller and closer to the countryside and beach rather than a big city like seoul but will just be happy if we can both get a decent job in the same area to be honest. i'll keep you posted if i have any more questions.

Thanks again.

5. Posted by Seany (Respected Member 268 posts) 7y

Can you teach in Korea without a degree? I don't have a degree.. so what am I limited to do in Korea without one?

Sorry to hijack the thread...


6. Posted by bwiiian (Travel Guru 768 posts) 7y


If you want the beach and small towns and lovely countryside then I suggest you look into Gangwon-do. The public school programme here is called EPIK, but if you wold prefer a Hagwon (I work at a Hagwon) then there are plenty of those as well. The main cities for beaches here are Sokcho, Gangneung, Donghae and Samcheok (where I am).

Unfortunately you can't teach in korea without a degree. I'm not sure what other work you could do here as I have only taught here and not done any other work.