Teaching English in Korea

Thinking about teaching English in Korea? The best options are with EPIK, TaLK, or a hagwon (English academy). Get started today with our guide for teaching in South Korea.

Overview
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Schools
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Salary
Certificate
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FAQ
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Facts

Overview

South Korea is a fascinating country with a rich culture and unique architecture. If you go there with an open mind, the more you’ll realize how underappreciated it is. If it’s not the unique cuisine you’ll enjoy, it will be its extremely fun nightlife and some of the best hiking opportunities. 

One thing foreign teachers notice is how South Korea’s work ethic is off the charts. The country ranks 2nd in the world for hours worked annually. This trickles down into children’s effort in studying English. There are plenty of job offers in Korea such as in a private academy (Hagwon) or the public school system (EPIK).

To teach English in Korea, you need an undergraduate degree (or better) from your home country and a criminal record check. TEFL certification is an asset and shows you have taken the time to learn how to teach English as a foreign language.

Schools

The 3 big options for teaching English in Korea are the EPIK program, TaLK placement, and hagwon/private academy. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. Finally, the alternative is applying for an internship which handles a lot of the hassle of teaching English in South Korea.

  • EPIK (English Program in Korea) – The EPIK program is a government placement program in Korean elementary schools. EPIK generally offers a bit more than the other options. For instance, you get an orientation, a competitive salary, fewer work hours, and a bit more vacation than private academies. The downside about EPIK is how challenging it is to get accepted. Not only do you need in-class experience and a letter of recommendation, but it takes up to 6 months to get accepted.
  • TaLK (Teach and Learn in Korea) – TaLK is a government program aimed at hiring English teachers in rural teaching positions. You need at least 2 years of post-secondary education for a 6-month or full-year contract.  Similar to EPIK, you get an orientation, health coverage, accommodation, and an above-average salary.
  • Hagwon (Private Academy) – A Hagwon is an extracurricular school program for Korean students to improve their English.  As an English teacher, work hours are typically mornings, evenings, and weekends.  Recruiters help teachers find their landing spot in a Hagwon. Don’t forget it’s always good to get a recommendation from the current foreign teacher working to know it’s a reputable school.
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EPIK Program

The EPIK program is a government placement program in Korean elementary schools.

TaLK Program

TaLK is a government program aimed at hiring English teachers in rural areas.

Salary

A typical salary in South Korea is about ₩2,250,000 won or $2,000-3,000 US dollars. Search for schools that give benefits to their teachers. It’s very common to receive severance pay, a pension, free airfare, and subsidized rent for your apartment.

Besides a high salary, another benefit of teaching English in South Korea is its low cost of living. This combination makes it easy to save money. By the end of your contract, you don’t have to try hard to come out ahead for savings.

It’s a rule of thumb that larger cities like Seoul and Busan have higher living costs such as your accommodation. Despite a higher cost of living here, you can expect higher salaries in these cities too. Overall, you can save anywhere between $1,000 to $1,500 USD per month when you’re there.

Certification

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Frequently Asked Questions

You need a Bachelor’s degree from your home country and a criminal record check. Some employers also require a TEFL certificate from an accredited program.

Yes, you need an undergraduate degree or better to teach in South Korea.

A Hagwon blacklist is a list of private academies where the foreign teacher had a perceived negative experience. The best way to avoid it is to make sure your school is financially stable. It’s always recommended to speak to one or more teachers before accepting an offer. Even talking to a Korean teacher is better than nothing​. Not all Hagwon blacklists online are accurate and are complaints from personal experiences.

Yes. If you don’t like spicy food, you may have a difficult experience in South Korea. For example, a common ingredient is jalapenos such as in kimchi.

There are cases when foreign teachers have been fired ‘without reason’, teachers not getting paid, and schools closing their doors. It’s more common to hear about negative experiences online and assume it happens to a larger population. Generally, you will get paid on time and work the entire length of your contract. Even if you contact a foreign teacher before you get hired, you can still end up in a surprising situation. It’s also good to be part of the local community of foreign teachers to be able to find alternate employment.

South Korea is generally a safe country to work in. There have been instances of anti-American protests due to a large number of American bases on Korean soil. Most protests are peaceful without violence. No matter what country you’re from, it’s best to avoid locations of protest.

Because North Korea is nearby, it can seem like South Korea is not a safe place to live. But nothing has happened to threaten the general public since the Korean war. South Koreans live their daily lives without feeling threatened by North Korea so there’s not much reason to think otherwise.

Facts

  • The national sport of South Korea is Taekwondo.
  • Writing a name in red ink means it’s bad luck.
  • When babies are born, they are already considered one year.
  • The number 4 is such bad luck in South Korea that they replace it with the letter “F” in elevators.
  • Koreans know their blood type and believe that it contributes to personality traits.
  • Be aware of using fans at night as it’s a superstition that it can impair breathing.
  • Koreans are masters of side dishes during meals including spicy Kimchi.
  • South Koreans consume the most alcohol in Asia, especially their home-brewed Soju.
  • The DMZ separates North and South Korea with a 248-kilometer border.
  • On Valentine’s Day, women buy gifts for guys. One month later, guys return the favor on White Day.