Teach English in Korea An Introduction & Guide
Thinking of teaching English in Korea? Hopefully this country profile will help clear up most of your questions.
You can navigate each country section with the left hand menu. When you select a section the contents will automatically open.
We'll go over everything from how much you can earn and where you can work, to how to get a visa and find a house (that part's easy actually, most jobs in Korea come with a house!).
So lets take a quick look at what's inside the Korean country pages:
- Introduction. After this summary we'll go through why you might want to teach in Korea and what to be aware of.
- Types of School: There two common employers for English teachers, public programs (EPIK, GEPIK, TaLK etc.) and private academies (hagwons), but there are also jobs in companies, universities and summer camps. There is an option for everyone.
- Accommodation: Korea's housing benefits are one of the main reasons you can save so much money. We go over both being given housing and searching for it.
- Visa & Minimum Requirements: What kind of qualifications do you need to work in Korea and how do you go about getting the right visa?
- In Pictures: One way to get a better feel for a country and whether you want to live or travel there, is through pictures. Here we look at curated picture feeds to get a better feel for Korea.
- Cost of Living Budget: How much does it cost to live in Korea? We answer the question with a budget in as much detail as possible.
- Taxes & Social Security: What taxes do you have to pay in Korea? What is an independent contractor? We cover it all here.
- Useful Companies & Organisations: This is a bits and bobs directory of useful companies and such for people teaching in Korea.
Korea and Education
South Korea‘s national pastime is education. In 2012 they spent nearly $17.9 billion on private tutoring with roughly 70% of the Korea’s children enrolled in it.
As it’s been described in a number of articles, South Korea has education fever. More and more people enroll in university with the competition getting higher and higher. The suneung, Korea’s day long university entrance exam is exceedingly competitive and preparation can start as early as primary school.
This intense competition in turn fuels Korea's private education market. The two main outlets are English and maths, however you can find private learning academies (hagwons) for virtually anything.
Of the 70% of the children enrolled in private education, roughly 50% are taking private English lessons and the average student spends $80 dollars a month on English tuition.
You’re probably getting the message by this point. Teaching English in Korea is big business.
Why teach English in Korea?
As we just mentioned, there are a lot of English teaching jobs in Korea. The high demand means it’s easy to get a job and the country has low requirements for teachers.
- Plenty of jobs
- Excellent benefits and salary at entry level positions
- An exciting travel destination
- A modern developed country
- Learn Korean
People will go to where the jobs are and there’s no doubt there are plenty of jobs in Korea.
Actually lets be a little more specific, people will go where the good jobs are and crucially teaching English in Korea is well paid at entry level. It’s possible to save $10,000 a year or over if you’re careful with how you spend.
Accommodation is paid, airfare is paid, half of your insurance is paid and you come away with a month’s bonus on completing your contract. And that’s pretty much standard for all positions. (Check out our example budget for a detailed breakdown.)
All those extras not only help you save money and reduce the one time costs for moving abroad, but also mean it’s easier to get set-up when you get there.
When it comes to Asia, Korea is often lower on people’s bucket lists when compared to places like Japan, China and Thailand. We can probably blame its tourist department, because it has no shortage of incredible places to visit. Jeju island was voted one of the 7 new natural wonders, it has stunning mountains like Seorak and like Japan in late March and early April, the country is covered with a coating of cherry blossoms.
Similar to Japan, Korea is very much a developed country. It’s the home of companies like Samsung, Hyundai and the world's best internet. You won't have to give up as many creature comforts compared to teaching in a developing country. Its cost of living is also relatively cheap for a developed country, cheaper than places like Japan and Singapore, although not on the same level you’ll find in places like Thailand and China.
Finally as you probably expect, South Korea is the best place you can go to learn Korean. And considering that for English speakers Korean is ranked as one of the hardest languages to learn, there are big benefits to immersing yourself in Korea. You’ll finally be able to enjoy South Korean TV without sub titles.
What to be aware of
Korea has a very strong drinking culture, it’s done often and it’s done heavily. There aren’t rules against public consumption and spotting drunk business men out and about is common.
There’s quite a complicated etiquette around drinking which covers everything from when to fill up your drink, to how to pour, although you can usually play the foreigner card to excuse yourself from getting it wrong.
No one is going to force you to drink, but be aware it’s a big part of the culture and they don’t respect drinking limits as much as people might do where you live.
Aside from the drinking there are several other large cultural differences people should be aware of.
The biggest one is that sexism is still relatively alive and well in Korea. The Korean culture is very patriarchal and although Park Geun Hye, Korea’s President, is taking measures to try and lesson the problem, it's definitely still a problem.
(Authors note: If you're interested in finding out more about Korean culture, I'd highly recommend the blog Ask a Korean. It's a fascinating look into all aspects of Korean culture.
There are some hygiene issues which can bother people if they stay there for a long period of time. Spitting is very common and due to the work ethic most Korean’s will continue to come to work even if they’re sick.
The plumbing is not great and you can’t flush paper down most toilets in Korea.
"as was the style that year" by Doug Sun Beams is licensed under CC BY 2.0. This photo has been cropped.
"Korea-Busan-Doosong Middle School-08" by Samuel Orchard is licensed under CC BY 2.0. This photo has been cropped.
"Cheonggyecheon, Seoul Korea" by Luke Ma is licensed under CC BY 2.0. This photo has been cropped.
"JEJU Island" by MIN_Photo is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
"Soju time!" by Graham Hills is licensed under CC BY 2.0.