Thursday, 28 October 2010

Step #5 - Criminal Records Check (CRC)

This is one of the most important documents you will need to get in order to obtain a Korean visa. It is also one of the documents for which regulations keeps changing.


At the moment,
if you are from the U.S. a state-wide check is acceptable but a local police check is not. HOWEVER, regulations are once again changing and as of the end of 2010 it will be compulsory to get a nation-wide FBI check done. You must therefore make sure that you leave plenty of time to receive this document, as it currently takes approximately 13 weeks to receive the FBI check and another 2 weeks to get it apostilled by the U.S. Department of State.


If you are from the U.K. a Basic Disclosure Certificate will suffice to obtain your visa. I would therefore suggest going to the Disclosure Scotland website and ordering it online. After you receive your certificate, you will need to Apostille it before you send it off to Korea. In order to do this, you will need to have the document notarised.


After you order your certificate online, you will need to send Disclosure Scotland an email telling them that you want your document signed by their notary. There is no extra charge for this and it will save you the hassle of having to pay a lawyer to do it for you for a whole load of dosh!
If you don't order your records check online and you get the local £10 police check, you will need to get it separately notarised by a solicitor/lawyer. This can be expensive, so I do not advise this.


In England, there are two ways of otaining an Apostille. By post and in person.

Via Post

To get your document legalised via post, you will need to go to the FCO website and order your Apostille. At the time of writing, the postal application will cost you £34.80. After you order the Apostille online, print out the receipt that you will receive in your email and send that, along with your CRC, to the following address:

Norfolk House West
437 Silbury Boulevard
Milton Keynes

The turnaround time for this service is usually around 2 days. Any delays in the turnaround time will usually be listed on the FCO website legalisation page. Expect delays after public holidays.

Note: It is advisable to send your Disclosure Certificate to the FCO via registered post for the quickest turnaround time and in order to avoid it getting lost in the post!

In person

If you can get to the FCO office in Milton Keynes, this is by far the most economical option in terms of time. The turnaround time is said to be 90 minutes, however, if you catch a good time of day you can be in and out of the FCO bulding within about 20-30 minutes. I suggest coming in the morning. After lunch the queues start to elongate rapidly.

Norfolk House West
437 Silbury Boulevard
Milton Keynes

If you need to get any other document certified, for example your University degree, there are also a number of solicitors within walking distance (2 mins) of the FCO office.

Monday, 9 August 2010

Step #5 - Gathering Documents: Sealed University Transcripts

At present, it is compulsory to verify your Degree qualifications to Korean immigration, by sending them a set of sealed and signed University transcripts. This may seem straight forward, but you would be surprised at how many people get held up at this step! There are, in fact, a surprising number of mistakes that universities can make, that can cost you precious time and money to correct. Transcripts without a seal, transcripts without a signature, transcripts with a seal and signature but not fixed in the correct fashion etc. etc. etc...I'm sure you get the idea. In order to avoid any of these mistakes being made, my suggestion to you at this point is as follows: send your university a picture of a correctly sealed transcript for them to view. This will hopefully prevent any misunderstandings.

Also, make sure to ask your university to seal each transcript individually, as it can sometimes happen that they put all sets of the transcript into one envelope and just seal that one, which would be useless to you.

Click here for an example of a correctly sealed transcript. And just for the sake of comparison, this is an example of an incorrectly sealed transcript...

Updates to E-2 visa regulations: Sealed University Transcripts

Note: These are the changes noted in the E-2 visa notice as posted by HiKorea here.

The change of 'self verification of the original diploma' system

- From 2010.9.1 when you get visa status invitation, apply for extension, apply for the permission to move into a new workplace and all kinds of sojourn related applications you will have to submit a copy of your diploma or graduation certificate or certificate of obtain degree which has a Apostille stamp or verification from the Korean Embassy in your own country or a verification from the Korean Council For University Education.
* The original rule for submitting the original diploma and sealed transcript system will be abolished.(from 2010.9.1)
* Submitting the sealed transcript will be omitted.(from 2010.9.1)"

Step #5 - Gathering Documents: University Diploma

All Nationalities (except Canadians)

As Korean immigration no longer accepts original degree diplomas, you now have the following two options available to you:

1) You can have a copy of your degree verified by your local Korean Consulate.


2) You can have a copy of your degree notarised and then subsequently Apostilled.

The process for getting a degree notarised and apostilled varies between countries. The links below connect you to the various organizations that can provide apostille services.



New Zealand

South Africa

Note: UK applicants can get copies of their degree certified instead of notarised. This service is far more cost effective (£5-15 instead of £65+), but will still be accepted for Apostille and is also acceptable to Korean Immigration.


Canadian Nationals

Canadians have the following two options available to them:

1) You can have a copy of your degree verified by your local Korean Consulate (preferred option).


2) You can have a Letter of Completion/ Certificate of Graduation verified by your local Korean Consulate.

For a list of Korean Consulates in Canada, please click here.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Step #5 - Visa Requirements

Gathering your visa documents for Korea is one of the most time consuming steps of the whole job application process. It is also the most important step to get right, as not doing so will inevitably cost you valuable time, more money and maybe even your job!

Korean E-2 visa requirements have been revised fairly frequently in recent years and the list of required documents seems to get longer each time. It is, therefore, advisable to start looking into your specific requirements early, as some of the required documents can take some time to procure. As many jobs in Korea are posted at relatively short notice (~1-2 months before the start date), employers looking to hire quickly may favour someone who has all their documents ready over someone who hasn't. Consequently, having your documents ready in time could be the deal breaker in nabbing that great job offer of yours...

Below I will attempt to outline the basic requirements for an E-2 visa. This information is valid at the time of writing in July 2010.

Note: It has come to my attention that E-2 visa regulations are in the process of changing once again over the course of this year. I will address these planned changes where they apply (change indicated by *), however, I nevertheless urge you to double check with your local Korean Embassy for the accuracy of these changes.

Basic Requirements for an E-2 Visa:

1) Your native language needs to be English
2) You need to own a passport from one of the following countries: Canada, USA, England, Scotland, Ireland, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand

Required E-2 Visa Application Documents

Document List #1 (to be sent to Korea)
1 Copy of University Diploma*
2 Sealed University Transcripts*
1 State-wide Criminal Record Check*
1 Resume
1 Photocopy of Passport Information Page
1 E-2 Health Statement
2 Official Passport Photos

Document List #2 (to submit to the Korean Consulate/Embassy when applying for your visa)
Note: This list can vary, so please check with your local embassy as to which documents they require)

1 Passport
1 Completed Visa Application Form
1 Consul's Checklist
1 Official Passport Photo
1 Sealed University Transcript
1 Resume
1 Fee for Visa Application

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Step #4a - Passing the EPIK Telephone Interview

Probably one of the scariest parts of the whole EPIK application process is the telephone interview. Especially if you have absolutely no experience teaching, it can be a little nerve wracking to think about the fact that you may spend anywhere up to an hour on the phone talking about yourself and teaching. However, the good news is that the EPIK interview is based on standardised questions and apart from a few exceptions it is very likely that you will only get questions from the standardised list. I therefore present to you, the ultimate EPIK/SMOE question list!


  • Why do you want to teach in Korea?
  • How committed are you to working in Korea?
  • What do you know about Korean Culture/History?
  • What are the differences between Korean culture and US/European culture?
  • Do you know much about SMOE, Seoul, or Korea?
  • Tell us what you know about SMOE, Seoul, or Korea, please.
  • Are you well aware of the job you have applied for? And the working conditions?
  • What do you find the most attractive about this position? And what the least?
  • Why did you decide to seek a position in this field?
  • What have you heard about teaching in Seoul or Korea that you don't like?
  • What do you think will be the most difficult thing in staying in Seoul?
  • This is a very different situation than you've ever worked at. How do you feel about this?
  • What do you think is the least interesting thing of this job? How will you handle the least interesting or less pleasant tasks of the job?
  • What do you think will be the most difficult thing in teaching students who don't know any English?
  • Give us the three best reasons why we should hire you?
  • Why should we consider you a strong applicant for this position?
  • What/How do you think a good teacher should be?
  • How would you help a co-teacher who is too scared to talk English in class?
  • How would you manage a class of 30 students/large class numbers?
  • How would you engage students?
  • How would you get students to care about learning English?
  • What is your approach to teaching English?
  • What do you think about lesson planning?
  • How would you deal with a multi-level classroom?
  • How would you deal with discipline in class?
  • How would you deal with an uncooperative/absent co-teacher?
  • What if your Korean co-teacher told you to only do repeat after me exercises in class and wouldn't let you do anything else?
  • How would you deal with stress?
  • What are the problems you envisage in the classroom?
  • Discuss your lesson plan.


  • Describe what you feel to be an ideal working environment.
  • How long do you plan to stay with us?
  • Why haven't you found a new position before now? How long have you been looking for a job?
  • Tell me about the best/worst boss or colleague you've ever had?
  • Looking back on the experience now, do you think there was anything you could have done to improve your relationship with that one bad person?
  • What do you want to be doing 3-5 years from now?
  • What are your most important long-term goals?


  • What led you to select your major? Your minor?
  • What skills did you learn during your degree that would help you teaching?
  • Tell me about your University and your degree.
  • What skills did you learn from non-related work that will help you teaching?
  • Tell me about your references.
  • Tell me about your TESOL course.
  • Why don't I see any internships on your resume?
  • How do you generally handle conflict?
  • How do you behave when you're having a problem with a co-worker?
  • Suppose your supervisor left an assignment in your “in” box, then left town for a week. You can't reach him and you don't fully understand the assignment. What would you do?
  • Your supervisor tells you to do something in a way you know is dead wrong. What do you do?
  • Say you're asked to do something by the principal on very short notice. What would you do?
  • Recall a time from your work experience when your manager or supervisor was unavailable and a problem arose. What was the nature of the problem? How did you handle the situation? How did that make you feel?
  • Give examples of your experiences at school or in a job that were satisfying. Give examples of your experiences that were dissatisfying.


  • Are you in good health?
  • What do you do to stay in shape?
  • Do you have any physical problems that may limit your ability to perform the job?
  • What do you like to do when you're not at work?
  • If you could change one thing about your personality at the snap of a finger, what would it be? Why?
  • By providing examples, convince me that you can adapt to a wide variety of people, situations and environments.
  • Give me a specific occasion in which you conformed to a policy with which you did not agree.
  • Tell me about a time when you had to go above and beyond the call of duty in order to get a job done.
  • Describe a situation where others you were working with on a project disagreed with your ideas. What did you do?
  • What steps do you follow to study a problem before making a decision.
  • We can sometimes identify a small problem and fix it before it becomes a major problem. Give an example of how you have done this.
  • Why did you choose the locations you did?
  • How flexible are you with teaching different levels?
  • What gets you stressed?
  • Tell me about your personality.
  • How much and how often do you drink each week?
  • What do you think about drugs?
  • How will you prepare to come to Korea?
  • How will you cope with being away from home?
  • How would you cope with sudden change?
  • Do you know what culture shock is?
  • How will you adapt/deal with culture shock?
  • It says on your application that you speak some Korean. Can you say something in Korean for me?


1) Prepare

The best thing to do before your interview is to go through the questions above and have an answer prepared for each question. Go over your answers a few times before the interview to make sure you know your stuff. Have a friend quiz you if you think this might help. If you do this, not a lot can go wrong.

2) Be confident and enthusiastic

The interviewer is interested in you as a person and what you may be like as a teacher. Try to show him or her that you are confident in your ability to teach (even if you haven't taught before) and show them that you are generally a congenial and enthusiastic person.

3) Be knowledgeable

You will probably get a few questions on why you chose Korea, what you like about Korea, why you chose the parts of Korea that you did, what you know about EPIK etc. Doing your research beforehand and finding out a little bit about EPIK and Korea will help you immensely in trying to answer these kinds of questions. If there is any aspect of Korea as a place, Korean culture/people or the EPIK program you find particularly interesting, mention this if the opportunity arises. Showing a genuine interest in the place and organisation you are planning to work in is never a bad thing!

4) Be flexible

One thing EPIK really likes is to see that it's candidates are flexible. This applies to location, deadlines, work etc., so do your best to show that you are someone who can adapt well to change.

5) Relax!

This interview is not the end of the world and the more relaxed you are going into it, the more likely you are to leave a good impression. Believe it or not the interviewer isn't there to make your life a living hell for an hour, they are there to find out who you are and what you are like. If you go into it with a positive mindset and you've done your preparations you really shouldn't need to worry!

Good luck! :)

Step #4 - Passing the Telephone Interview

In order to clinch the deal on any job contract in Korea, you will almost inevitably be asked to do a telephone interview. Depending on the institution, a telephone interview will last anywhere from 5 minutes to 1 hour. These interviews, however, are in most cases not something you should be overly worried about as long as you do some basic preparation. Much as I'd like to say that these telephone interviews are there to judge your actual suitability for the job, in most cases they actually seem to be more of a formality than anything. They just give schools an opportunity to form an impression of your character and your ability to speak English. If they like your voice and your attitude, the likelihood is you will get the job.

Note: I am going to subdivide this post into two: General Guidelines and EPIK Telephone Interviews. The reason for this is because the government run EPIK program telephone interviews are usually a lot more in depth than the average school telephone interviews and are also based on standardised questions, which is why I feel they deserve a post of their own.

Click here to view my post on EPIK telephone interviews.

General Guidelines

When you have a telephone interview, it is usual that the interview will be conducted by either the school director, school supervisor or a one of the native English speakers at the school. It will probably last 10-15 minutes and the questions asked tend to be quite basic.

Questions you may be asked are:

Why do you want to teach in Korea?
What do you know about Korea/Korean culture?
Describe yourself/ your character
What are your hobbies?
Have you worked with children before?
Do you have any teaching experience?
Describe your teaching philosophy/how you teach
What do you think makes you a good teacher?/ Why would you be a good teacher?
Do you have any relevant training/qualifications? (i.e. TEFL)
How will you deal with culture shock when you arrive in Korea?
Do you get home sick?
Have you lived abroad/ in Asia before?


1) Speak clearly

One of the things you should be aware of is that just because a senior member of staff may be interviewing you, it does not mean that their level of English will be anywhere near perfect. It is very possible that you will be interviewed by a person that really only has very basic English skills. This being the case, it is important to speak clearly and possibly slightly more slowly if you realise they don't speak English very well. Also, if you have a strong regional accent, you may want to try to neutralise it a little to make yourself more easily understood. Interviewers are trying to judge how effective your voice will be when teaching students, which is why they tend to prefer neutral accents that are easy to listen to and understand.

2) Sound Enthusiastic

The person interviewing you obviously wants to know that you are actually interested in teaching, so make sure to portray this when you speak. Show them that even if you haven't already got teaching experience, you are willing to learn and improve your skills in the future and that you are genuinely interested in working with students to improve their English abilities.

3) Highlight relevant experiences

Even if you don't have any actual relevant teaching experience, if you are asked, make sure to mention any experiences you may have had in the past that brought you in contact with children or a role similar to teaching. Baby sitting, helping out with younger siblings, working at a summer camp, working at an orphanage, being a part of a study group, managing a team etc. are all things that will count in your favour.

The most important thing when taking part in a phone interview is to listen carefully to the questions and answer them as best you can. Try not to be nervous and show the interviewer that you are in fact an open and adaptable person. It will be over before you know it! :)

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Step #3 - Finding a Job/Recruiter

(Recruiter recommendations are at the bottom of this post)

If you are new to the Korean EFL industry, it is very likely you will be applying from abroad and using a recruiter to do so. This being the case, you will probably be keen on finding a recruiter who will find you that one job that ticks all, or at least most, of the boxes of requirements you may have listed in your head somewhere. (If you don't have any idea of what you are looking for, I strongly suggest you look at this post if you haven't already.) I personally think it is very important to have at least some idea of what you are looking for before approaching a recruiter. This will help the recruiter in finding something suitable for you and will also hopefully prevent you having the wool pulled over your eyes, should you encounter one of the less savoury recruiters out there.

One thing you always need to keep in mind is that recruitment is first and foremost a business. Recruiters make their money by placing you in a job. This being the case means that while there are recruiters out there who will genuinely try to get you a job that will satisfy your wants and needs, there are also just as many who will try to tell you a contract is a good deal, just to get you placed. Once you have signed a contract, a recruiter has no further obligation towards you, so I advise you to do your research beforehand to make sure you are in fact getting a good deal out of them.

Finding good recruiters

So how, you may ask, do you go about finding a good recruiter who will work with your interests in mind? The answer to this is basically: Research.

There are so many different companies out there that it can be difficult to choose who to go with. The fact of the matter is though, that working with a recruiter is a unique experience and therefore you can only know if a recruiter is really suited to you by using them yourself. Nevertheless, I will give you a few tips to help you with your search below.

Things to look out for when searching for a recruiter:

#1 - Are they reachable?

A recruiter can only be of use to you if they are actually available to you when you need them. The way I try to check this is by sending recruiters a short email asking them some questions before signing up with them and then seeing how long it takes them to respond. I have had replies within a matter of hours, and replies which took 4 days...guess which one I signed up with? ;) Alternatively, you can call them by phone as well and see how easy it is to reach them in that way.

#2 - Do they know their stuff?
Most good recruiters will have very informative web pages, which pretty much give you all the information you need without having to ask. Nevertheless, there will usually be one or two questions you feel like asking anyways, so ask them and see how well they reply. If they say "I don't know", "Go find the answer yourself" or "I'm sorry, I can't help you there", then you might want to think about going with someone else. Recruiters should help you out when you need it, if they don't then they can't be very good.

#3 - Do they have any social networking options?

This is actually a personal preference of mine, but I thought it very important in my search for a recruiter. I think that if you are going to be moving half way across the globe for a job, it might be nice to meet a few people who are in the same boat. In some job situations you might be the only foreigner at your workplace, so it can be good to have some way of linking to the expat community. Some of the better recruiters actually have facebook pages, blogs and such set up to help you meet others who worked with them and smooth your transition somewhat. Some will also host events in Korea a couple of times a year, so that you have a place to meet fellow recruitees while out there.

#4 - Do they have good reviews?

I put this last on my list simply because a lot of the smaller recruitment companies out there, which still do a great job, actually won't have many, if any, reviews that you can find. Also, I find that reviews are a very subjective way of assessing a company. Working with a recruiter is a unique individual experience, and while some may have a great experience with one recruiter, others may have less favourable things to say about the same company. Of course, if you do see 9/10 reviews are bad you might want to stay away!

I think these four points pretty much sum up the most important things to look out for when looking for a recruiter. In the end, you need to find recruiters that you feel comfortable working with. Once you do sign up, do not let a recruiter pressurise you unnecessarily into taking a job you do not want, and make sure you are clear about what you are getting yourself into before you sign any contracts. Your recruiter should be willing to discuss good and bad aspects of a contract and help you with any queries you may have.

Working with multiple recruiters

One thing that gets asked quite a lot is whether to work with one main recruiter or a number of different recruiters. My answer to this would be, do whatever you feel comfortable with. I personally used two different recruiters, one for my public school application and one for my hagwon applications. I could have used more, but seeing as I wasn't under pressure to find a job super fast and I'm interested in personal service, two were enough for me. You can use as many recruiters as you like to find a job though. If you are keen to find as many job offers as possible in the shortest amount of time, using multiple recruiters is probably a good idea.

Note on public school applications:

If you are applying for EPIK/GEPIK/SMOE, you should only do so with one recruiter. If you apply through more than one it is very likely that your application will be rejected. You can apply for hagwon jobs through multiple recruiter though with no problem at all.

Recruiter Recommendations

Yes, this probably is the part you were all looking and waiting for, so I will get to the point. Here is a list of recruiters, I have personally been in contact with, as well as some that I have heard good things about, but not actually worked with.

My recruiters:

Adventure Teaching - My #1 recommendation! I have only good things to say about this company. They are very professional and do a very good job of keeping in contact and answering questions. They also have a great blog and facebook page, which is pretty interesting to read and they also offer an online add-ons package store so that you can buy some items before getting to Korea (i.e. Korean cell phones, duvets, plug adapters etc.). Great service! (I worked with Scot Sustad)

Flying Cows Consulting - I am going to recommend this company if you know what you are doing and what you are looking for. I have received a few contract offers through them which were very well targeted to what I had asked for. However, I personally feel this company has lost some of it's personal touch and charm over time, and is more about placements these days than when I first signed up with then a little over 2 years ago. They aren't that great at answering questions without an obvious answer and are most specialised in UK applications, though they do now accept applicants from different countries as well.

Park English - I have not actually sgined up with this company because I was looking for a public school job and they specialise in hagwon jobs. However, I have been in contact with them several times and they seem very professional. They also have an actual office located in Itaewon, Seoul, so I'm pretty sure they'd be in a good position to get some excellent contract offers from directly within Korea. (Ask for Chris Marionni!)

Other Recruiters:

Korvia - Korvia specialises in public school positions (EPIK/GEPIK/SMOE) in Korea and are meant to be very good. I personally didn't go with them because they seem to be a very large company and I prefer working with smaller companies, as I find the personalised service to be better.

ESL Planet - Another company I have heard is meant to be pretty good. I hear Rowan is the man to be with. They offer public, private and camp jobs.

Footprints Recruiting - These guys, I have to say, I hear mixed reviews about. Some say they're really good and others say they are awful, so I am guessing it depends on who you get as your consultant.

Korean Horizons - This company specialises in public school jobs. They seem pretty professional, but I have not heard much about them, so the jury is open on this one.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Step #2 - Getting qualified aka. a TEFL/TESOL Certificate

While a lot of people will tell you that it is unnecessary to obtain any qualifications to get a teaching job in Korea, I personally decided to get certified anyway.

There are several reasons for this:

1) I like to be prepared when I start a new job, regardless of what kind of job it is
2) I saw this video, which gave me the idea that classroom management skills might be a good thing to acquire before being thrown in front of 40 odd students...
3) I was interested in refreshing my grammar knowledge
4) The idea of a pay bump was just too tempting to resist! (100,000 won/month aint small change ya know!)
5) I thought, given the increased number of n00bs entering Korea without any qualifications due to the bad economies back home, a certificate might be that extra "something" that would get me hired

With these points in mind, I started trawling the internet in search of a suitable qualification.
However, this was easier said than done. Just typing in TEFL certificate into google brought up a good 213,000+ websites to look at, so this begged the question of how exactly are you supposed to find a good, reputable course without being 80 by the time you decide? Well, lucky for me (and in turn you), not too far into my search I found this lovely little site called It lists a large number of TEFL/TESOL/CELTA etc. providers and shows reviews from people that took the offered courses. It is through this site that I found my TESOL provider LinguaEdge, LLC.

I didn't have a lot of money at the time, so I was looking for something that was cheap, but still looked like it packed in all the essentials. LinguaEdge got quite a few good reviews, that all looked to be pretty legitimate, so I decided to take the plunge. The 100-hour course being a very reasonable $249 INCLUDING tutor support, I figured I didn't really have much to lose. Now that I'm done with the course, I must say I'm glad I did.

My tutor David was really encouraging, and helpful and had some great advice to give. The course was not super challenging, but definitely covered all the basics. I now definitely feel a lot more prepared to walk into a classroom and be fairly confident of the fact that I will come out alive and willing to repeat the experience ^-^. I only did 1-3 units a week, so it took me just under 3 months to do it (44 units in total) and I found it had a pretty interesting mix of reading, writing and online activities. The only thing I would comment on is that it might have been even better if there had been more opportunity to do lesson planning. Oh and final pointer, the certificate looks soooooo nice teehee ;)

While this post really does seem to have turned into a plug for LinguaEdge, the main point of this post is just to reiterate that getting a certificate before coming to Korea, in my opinion, does have it's benefits. If you've never taught before, I think doing a TEFL/TESOL certificate will really help in terms of preparing you for what's coming. Of course, it can't give you any real practical experience as it's all online (unless you choose to do an on campus course), but it will definitely give you an idea of what types of situations you might be faced with and how you might best deal with them if and when they do occur. As mentioned before, a certificate is a good way to get a pay bump and in terms of increasing your hiring potential, so it definitely has material value as well. That being said though, I know quite a few people who have been hired in Korea without certifications of any kind, so in the end it really is up to go and ponder! ^-^

Friday, 5 March 2010

Getting Started

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm guessing that if you're thinking about coming to South Korea in the first place you're thinking about teaching, studying, or travelling while you're out there. I would hedge a guess that teaching is top of the list of reasons for most people to jump the gun and head to Korea because they've heard of the good benefit packages the Korean EFL industry has to offer. Regardless of why you want to go there though, you're going to have to start somewhere in your big plans, unless you're the “ I'll jump on a plane and figure it out later” kind of person, and that is where this blog comes in. I know from personal experience that depending on what you want to do in Korea, gaining access to the country can be a walk in the park, or a hike up a seemingly endlessly high rubble covered mountain. As I therefore start on my rubble covered mountain trip to Korea the second time around, I will do my best to share my experiences in such a way as to help future generations of Korea bound adventurers avoid any serious pitfalls that may be encountered, and successfully plan their own journeys of discovery.

Step #1 - Deciding on a Job've decided that you really do want to go to South Korea and you want to work there as an English teacher...but where to start? There are literally hundreds of different sites out there offering seemingly competitive contracts to potential EFL teachers, but how do you choose which one to go with?

Well, in order to focus your options somewhat, I suggest that you decide on what kind of teaching job you actually want. Teachers new to Korea generally have the following three options available to them:

Public Schools
Private Schools (Hagwons)

The Low Down on... Public Schools

  • Stable income - Your salary gets paid on the same day every month
  • Holidays - You usually get at least 4 weeks plus any national holidays (ca. 14 days a year)
  • Co-teacher - You work with a co-teacher who can help you with teaching and class discipline if you need it.
  • Set curriculum - Public schools tend to follow a set curriculum, so you will have the materials you need to work with.
  • Set pay scale - There is no way of progressing up the pay scale once you hit the top.
  • Co-teacher - If you don't get along with your co-teacher you may be in for a tough year.
  • Set curriculum - You may not like the way the curriculum is set out, or the materials being used.
  • Lonesome stranger - Working at a public school it is often the case that you will be the only foreigner working at your school, which could make you feel a little out of place
  • Class size - You could be teaching up to 40 students in one class, which can be daunting if you are just starting out.
General contract terms:

Level: Elementary/Middle/High School
Teaching hours: 22 hours/week
Overtime: Sometimes available
Starting Salary (no previous experience/qualifications): 1.8-2.1 million won
Top end salary (relevant experience/qualifications): 2.7 million won (fixed)
Holidays: 18-25+ days/year + Korean national holidays
Flights: Reimbursed after arrival/departure
Housing: Furnished housing or housing allowance of 400,000/500,000(Seoul)
Severance pay: 1 month's salary
50% Medical Insurance
50% Pension plan
Settlement allowance: 300,000 won
Sick leave: 11-15 days/year
Hiring Boards: SMOE (Seoul), GEPIK (Gyeonggi province), CEPIK (Chungnam), EPIK (everywhere except Chungnam)

The Lowdown on...Private schools (hagwons)

  • Salaries - Hagwon jobs tend to pay higher salaries than public schools jobs.
  • Overtime - You will be more likely to have the option of picking up overtime if you want to.
  • Curriculum - Depending on the school, you may have a set curriculum, or you may be given the option of constructing your own curriculum altogether, giving you complete freedom over the material used and how to teach it.
  • Class size - Usually hagwon classes have between 8-15 students, so you can personalise lessons more.
  • Social Network - Hagwons tend to employ a number of foreign teachers, which automatically provides you with a network of people you can call on after you arrive.

  • Working hours - You are more likely to have more hours teaching students and less time for preparation available.
  • Job security - As hagwons are privately funded it is not unusual for schools to go bankrupt.
  • Holidays - You will most likely get the standard 10 days holiday a year + national holidays (ca. 14 days).
General contract terms:

Level: Kindergarten/Elementary/Middle/High School/Adults
Teaching hours: avg. 30 hours/week
Overtime: Usually available/required
Starting salary (no experience/qualifications): 2.1-2.3 million won
Holidays: 10 days/year
Flights: Usually prepaid
Housing: Furnished housing or housing allowance
Severance pay: 1 month's salary
50% Medical Insurance
50% Pension plan
Sick leave: 2-3 days/year

The Lowdown on... Universities


  • Holidays - The standard is around 8-12 weeks of paid vacation per year, but some offer anywhere up to 20 weeks!
  • Short hours - Most instructors teach students between 10-18 hours a week.

  • Large classes - As English is required for credit at universities, the classes tend to be large (up to 100+ students) and leave little room for personalised contact with students.
  • Benefits - Some of the benefits like airfare, housing, health insurance etc. provided as standard elsewhere, may not be provided.
  • Salaries - Although holidays are long, salaries tend to be pretty low around 2 million won/month which is that of a teacher starting out elsewhere.
General contract terms:

Level: University/Adults
Teaching hours: avg. 15-20 hours/week
Overtime: May be available
Starting salary (MA and/or 2-3 years experience): ca. 2.1 million won
Holidays: 8+ weeks/year
Flights: Not usually provided
Housing: May be provided
Severance pay: 1 month's salary
Medical Insurance: Yes
Pension plan: Yes

As you can see there are pros and cons to working in any of these institutions and in order to make your decisions, you will probably need to decide on what your priorities are. If you want a stable, regular income without the risk of losing your job and don't mind teaching large classes, you may want to try for a public school job. However, if you're more interested in making money, and want the option of working extra hours to do so, or simply prefer smaller classes, then a hagwon job would probably be a better option for you. If you want long holidays, then universities are probably the way to go, though they do tend to prefer to hire people with teaching experience in Korea and as mentioned, the salaries tend to be on the low end and benefits are not always included.

There are other options out there for teachers, which I have not covered i.e. university language institutes and corporate in-house language programs, but these tend to recruit within Korea and require more specialized qualifications, which is why I haven't covered them.

If you've had any particularly good/ bad experiences in any of these institutions feel free to comment below!