Teaching English in Korea

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Korea Overview

South Korea is the most popular country in the world for many TEFL teachers. High salaries and reasonably low living costs enable many teachers to save significant portions of their wages each month. The demand for English tuition exceeds the supply of English teachers so many contracts offer excellent employment terms and conditions such as free housing, medical and paid airfares. However, this has begun to change recently and many schools only offer one-way airfare. Most teachers have a great time in South Korea but others complain of an unwelcoming host culture. One thing is for sure – with so many jobs out there it is fairly simple to meet a large group of other English teachers and have a great social life.

Type of Institution Typical salary (USD/month) Typical hours Typical annual leave
Language centres / private academies (hagwons) 1,800 – 2,500 (DOS) Various but often evening and weekend shifts 2 weeks plus national holidays
Public sector schools 2,000 – 2,500 8am – 4pm Monday to Friday plus some weekend work 3 weeks plus national holidays
International schools and universities 3,000 upwards 8am – 4pm Monday to Friday plus some weekend work 10 weeks plus national holidays

Main places for jobs

All major cities and towns.

Typical requirements

Degree, TEFL certificate.

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Tips

1. Public schools hire staff at the beginning of March and September. However, you need to begin the job and visa application process up to six months prior to actually starting the position. These positions are filled in a first come, first served basis.

2. Private sector schools recruit all year round but you should ideally begin the application process 2-3 months before you hope to begin.

3. There are lots of websites where you can make contact with other teachers in Korea. It is a great idea to get involved in a leisure pursuit outside of work in order to socialise with other foreigners.

Red tape

Those wishing to teach English in South Korea need to obtain an E-2 Visa. This process takes between 6 and 10 weeks. This should all be underway well in advance of arrival in South Korea. You will also need a recent and apostilled criminal records check (known in the UK as a Basic Disclosure check and in Canada as an RCMP Search), original degree certificates and transcripts (authenticated), plus a pile of passport photos for when you do arrive. Additionally you will need two original letters of reference. Once you have arrived in South Korea you will be helped by your employer to obtain your ID card (‘Alien Registration Card’). You will also be required to have narcotics ¬†and HIV tests at a local hospital. Should you fail either of these tests you will be sent home and will be expected to cover any costs incurred by your employer in this whole process.

Cost of living

Many employment contracts include the provision of rent-free housing as part of the deal. This is because it can be quite difficult and costly for a foreigner to rent a private apartment without paying rent for a full year in advance. Transportation and local food is cheap but imported foreign food can be expensive.

Tax and salary information

Salaries are usually paid monthly and your employer is responsible for tax. Some institutions offer tax-free salaries.

Summary

There is an insatiable demand for English tuition in South Korea A substantial number of employers in Korea have poor reputations so thorough research is important before signing a contract
Good salaries and benefits are the norm Employment contracts are less important in Korea than in the West so you may be unpleasantly surprised by the level of flexibility expected
Great social life with other English teachers Some teachers find Korean culture unwelcoming towards foreigners

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1 Comment

  1. Oneota says:

    Yes, SOME university pay $3,000 per month, but many more pay $2,000~$2,800. Most universities want a master’s, preferably in a relevant field (English, EFL, MAT, business, tourism). However, some universities have language camps during the semester breaks, and these can pay $500~$2,000 per camp.
    It is virtually impossible to get a university or public school position if you are over 65.

    You should get round-trip airfare if you work for a hagwon or public school A university normally will only pay for a one-way ticket.

    ROK is safe as far as crime and most health concerns. However, the drivers are not especially good drivers, so Korea has a relatively high traffic fatality rate (about the same as in the U.S., based on per capita, but about 2 1/2 based on mileage).

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