Teach English in South Korea

| 3 min read

Fast Facts

Here's a glimpse of South Korea.

Capital: Seoul

Major Language: Korean

Getting Around: Aside from paying in cash, South Korea has transportation cards which can be used in buses, subways and in some taxis.

  1. Subways are the more popular means of transport around Seoul especially with foreigners. Other major cities with subways are Busan, Daegu, Gwangju and Daejeon. It serves as the most convenient and usually most inexpensive way to get around.
  2. Buses are color-coded and numbered depending on the route.

    Seoul

    • Blue buses run for relatively longer distances and major roads
    • Green buses run for shorter distances like and drop passengers between transfer points (i.e. subway stations and bus stations for the longer routes)
    • Red buses are express buses that run from Seoul to suburban areas
    • Yellow buses goes in loops within Seoul districts

    Other regions

    • Express buses run on the expressway straight to the destination
    • Intercity buses usually makes stopover on smaller cities along the way before getting to the destination

  3. Taxis are color-coded as well for specific routes. Keep in mind to bring some cash to be sure.
  4. Trains serve intercity travelling.
  5. Uber, Grab, Lyft, and other popular ride sharing brands aren't available in Korea. Kakao Taxi is Korea's homegrown app / service that allows users to hail a taxi.

Famous Landmarks:

  • Gyeongbokgung Palace was the official residence of the royal family during the Joseon dynasty.
  • N Seoul Tower is located at the top of Namsan mountain and is popular for its view of Seoul's nightscape and famous love locks.
  • Bukchon Hanok Village is probably the more popular among the other places which still has the traditional Korean houses because of its location, which is near the Gyeongbokgung Palace. Previously, this area is where the relatives of the royal family lived.
  • Lotte Tower is the tallest tower in the country with 123 floors. Located in Seoul, it's also the 6th tallest in the world.

Visa:

E-2 Foreign Language Teaching Visa - This visa is restricted to applicants coming from countries whose mother tongue is the language they are going to teach. For example, a US teacher should teach English language, not French even if the same teacher is fluent in French. Citizens from Canada, USA, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and South Africa are allowed to teach English. Other requirements for the E-2 Visa is a bachelor's degree, a criminal background check, and medical checkup. Check more details about Visa Application Requirements on their official website.

Application and Contracts:

There are many recruiters online to process your application before going to South Korea. Not all are created equal, so it's best to do as much research as possible before signing a contract. Contracts are usually set for 1 year.

Who can legally teach here:

Make sure to check the category of the school you will be teaching for with your recruiter. Teachers holding an E-2 visa are not allowed to teach privately (i.e. one on one lessons outside school). It may be tempting to pick up a few private lessons, but there's a risk of being caught, fines, or the possibility of being banned from teaching in South Korea.

On the other hand, those holding an F2, F2-1, F4, F5, or F6 visa can teach privately provided they have a tutoring license.

Read more on Korea Immigration Service on their official website.

Types of English teaching jobs:

  1. Public schools

    Teachers can be assigned to teach in elementary, middle school or high school

    • EPIK Program (English Program in Korea) - The EPIK program is affiliated with the Korean Ministry of Education and aims to improve the English development of Koreans while promoting cross cultural exchanges. English teachers are exposed to public schools across the country.
    • GEPIK (Gyeonggi English Program in Korea) - The GEPIK program places English teachers in public schools in the province of Gyeonggi. It is sponsored by Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education and other individual offices of education in Gyeonggi. As opposed to EPIK, recruiting is for individual schools so teachers already know where they will be teaching before they arrive.
    • Graduates or undergraduate English native foreigners who completed at least 2 years of study from accredited institutions can try the TALK program which is sponsored by the Ministry of Education as well.
  2. Hagwon

    Students can be kindergarten, elementary, middle school, high school, university to adults. Teaching in a hagwon is the most common teaching position for foreigners in Korea. These range from mom & pop schools, to massive companies operating many locations and franchises across Korea. Bigger doesn't always mean better though, if you know what we mean.

  3. University

    Teaching in universities is a highly coveted job and most likely is a direct hire, not processed by recruiters. This position also has higher educational background requirements compared to other teaching jobs.

Local terms:

Most after school academies in South Korea are referred to as a "hagwon" (aka "cram school"). These are after school programs for various subjects, such as Science or Math, and not limited to language. However, foreigners using the term "hagwon" are often referring to after school 'English academies'. They are usually run by certified companies outside of the public school system.

Hiring season:

Public schools, colleges and universities start in March.

International schools tend to follow the US school calendar which starts at the end of August or the beginning of September.

Percentages of foreigners:

An estimated 3.4% of the total population or 1.76M foreigners live in South Korea according to the 2016 government data. Majority of foreigners live in Seoul and the surrounding areas.

Average salary:

Starting salary averages from ₩1.8M - 2M ($1,500 - 1,700 USD)

Typical benefits (housing, airfare):

Make sure to clarify the terms of this in your contract. Usually, housing is provided or subsidized. Airfare can also be given either 1 way or return tickets. A 1 month bonus is usually also given after completing your full year contract.

Average cost of living:

Monthly living will cost roughly $700 - 1,000 (USD), without housing.