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Overview

Korea is not a country that attracts many tourists from the Western world. Most non-Koreans that you meet there will be English teachers or part of the US Military based around Seoul. As such, you might find yourself in a place where you are the only non-Korean for miles. This can be rewarding but daunting.

Korea is one of the biggest TEFL employers in the world and certainly amongst the best paying.

The cities are big and busy and resemble cities from Europe or the US. But they are surrounded by rice fields and it is still possible to see a lot of traditional life continuing around the internet cafes and karaoke rooms.

Salary and hours
Most hagwons (language schools) will contract you to work either thirty hours or thirty lessons- prospective teachers should be careful of the wording of contracts as thirty hours at forty five minutes an hour means forty classes.

The salary is good. Tax is usually between 3- 5% and most schools’ starting is 1.8- 2.2 million won (about a thousand pounds). You will often be paid in cash, with a large bundle of 10,000 won notes being handed to you at the end of the month.

On completion of a 12 month contract, the school is obliged to give you an extra month’s salary as a bonus.

Type of teaching
Most people teach children in private language schools after school. It is also possible to find work in government schools and universities though. If you are in a big city you might be teaching more adult learners though this will require a split shift- usually before and after normal office hours.

You might be expected to teach kindergarten so it is worth remembering to specify ages when applying for jobs. Also, due to the way that Korean people count their age, people will actually be one or two years younger than the age they give- eg: a 5 year old could only be three or four years old.

Accommodation
Schools will usually provide accommodation. This could be in an apartment or in a one-room studio. The school will usually pay the rent and should deal with any problems with the landlord. You will be responsible for the bills- ask your school how often these have to be paid and how you will know. In an apartment block, the bill is often just taped to your door and you have to take it to the bank to pay it.

You will usually live near the school but taxis and buses are very cheap too.
Start of school year/ best time to look for work

If you are looking for work in a state school or university then you have to look at certain times of the year. Universities often recruit twice a year- in the summer and around Easter. If you want to work for a private school then you can start any time.

Red Tape
You will need either your original degree certificate or a notarised copy and your university transcripts (available from most universities if you ask for them).

Your school will either buy your plane ticket and send it to you, or you will buy it and it will be reimbursed after you have worked for a certain amount of time.

You cannot get a Korean working visa in Korea. So if you have time you can get your school to arrange the paperwork for you and you can take it to the Korean embassy in your country. Or you can go to Korea on a tourist visa and your school will pay for you to go on a visa run to Japan- usually just for a day though they can be persuaded to let you stay over a weekend. The school will pay for the ticket to Japan though nothing else.

Miscellaneous advice
Korean food is spicy and people will expect it to be too much for you and be amazed if you manage to eat it. They may also be fascinated at your ability to use chopsticks. The typical food is kimchi- spicy pickled cabbage- which is eaten with pretty much every meal.

There shouldn’t be any problems with attitudes to women- though you may suspect that at times your male counterpart is more favoured than you.

You should be forgiven most cultural ‘indiscretions’ simply for being a foreigner though it is worth remembering to take your shoes off every time you enter someone’s home and in some restaurants (look around and see what the locals are doing).

The Korean alphabet is phonetic and can be learnt in under an hour. And it is worth learning it if only so you can read a menu. Public transport is usually signposted in English.

FCO

Lonely Planet Guide - South Korea

GEOS

Epik

Tenetkorea

British Council