Travel & Teach - Korea
There are fantastic opportunities for TESOL graduates in this modern, vibrant Asian country.
If your headed here as an EFL traveller you'll find a fully functioning modern democracy with a heavy dose of American influence in everyday life. Having formerly come under Chinese and then Japanese control for most of it’s existence, after World War II a republic was set up in the southern half of the Korean Peninsula, while a Communist-style government was installed in the north. The 2 sides went to war in 1950 following North Korean incursions and a bloody interval of 4 years ended in 1953, where the current boundaries were adopted. Since then, South Korea has achieved rapid economic growth far in excess of the level of North Korea. It is now a high-tech modern world economy, has hosted the Olympics and part hosted the Football World Cup. The drive for exportation of manufactured goods means that the population have a strong desire for learning English, which is good news for the EFL teacher. Indeed, Korea is fast becoming an economic heavyweight in the region and it is a great place to experience the culture and environment of the east, with the mod-cons of the west.
English is taught in mainstream schools, but there has also been an explosion in the number of students wishing to learn English at the Kindergarten level. Learning English in Korea is big business, and is seen as so. Sometimes the English language teacher will feel like a pawn on a chess board – the system of Hagwons (private language schools) sometimes seems to put the money before the standard of teaching.
British Council http://www.britishcouncil.org/
British Council in Korea: http://www.britishcouncil.org/korea.htm
Korean Embassy UK: http://korea.embassyhomepage.com/
Korean Embassy USA: http://www.koreaembassyusa.org/events/
Korean National Tourist Office: http://english.tour2korea.com/
Need more info: Teaching English Abroad available through our bookshop page
Global English students are working all over the world with their accredited TESOL certificates. Find out
how TESOL training from Global English has made a difference to their lives:
Global English grad Maggi Carstairs recorded an interview on teaching English in Korea, which you can hear at this link:
The Hagwon (private language school) I taught at for a year is located right below Suri Mountain in a beautiful city called Sanbon. It is a well established school with over 500 students enrolled and more than a dozen foreign teachers from Canada, America, Australia, New Zealand and the U.K.
The school offers an excellent salary range, particularly for first-time teachers with little or no experience. The school provides you with a paid return flight, accommodation and a bonus upon completing a one-year contract. You are assigned your own classroom and are allowed breaks between classes. There is a set curriculum and their supplementary resources are quite good.
Re-furbished in January 2003, there are now two decent sized staff rooms, twelve classrooms that are air-conditioned in the summer and heated in the winter, a kitchen, tea and coffee facilities and a computer room for the students. Teachers are allowed to dress casually at work and they are able to access the Internet and Email during break times.
This Hagwon offers (American English) classes to children aged between four and fifteen. Their students come mostly from affluent families. They are generally well behaved and are very studious. There are Korean teachers available to help with both translation and discipline if necessary.
During my year there, I never had any issues with my salary. I was always paid on time and I always received my overtime pay. My apartment was big. It was clean, fully furnished and located close to the school. I had many opportunities to travel outside of Korea, because my contract included a reasonable vacation allowance. Korea also has a lot of national holidays scattered throughout the year.
Sanbon has a great selection of restaurants, PC rooms, DVD rooms, singing rooms, shops, department stores and fast-food outlets. It also has a big, new cinema that shows English speaking films. There are bowling alleys, health clubs, parks and an international doctor’s surgery too.
If Sanbon doesn’t have enough to satisfy your mood, then the capital city of Seoul is only forty five minutes away by train. In my opinion, Seoul has the best night life in the world! You can see internationally renowned DJ’s in some very classy nightclubs. If you prefer theatre or live music, you have a diverse choice of shows to see every week. Seoul really is the city that never sleeps...if you want to go out at three in the morning, there is always somewhere open. For the shopaholics, some parts of Seoul even offer 24 hour shopping malls!!
However, there were a few negative factors about teaching in Korea:
A lot of conflicts occurred between the teachers and the Director, because teachers could never be sure that their conversations were being translated correctly. A couple of the Korean co-ordinators lack good social skills and have a tendency to upset the other members of staff.
There is also a tendency to throw the teachers “in at the deep end” without proper guidance from a more experienced teacher. There is no appraisal system in place which seems commonplace throughout South Korea. My interpretation is that Koreans in senior positions are quick to criticize, but they do not know how to praise you directly when you do something right.
You should be aware that in Korean Hagwons, ‘the parent is always right’! Although you are working in a school, you must not forget that it is also a business. The parents are paying large fees for their children to attend. If a mistake is made or a child is struggling, the fault will always be that of the foreign teacher. You will find that your classes are monitored on a daily basis and that you will be given feedback (most likely negative) on your teaching style.
It is also wise to understand that a “contract” is not as binding in Korea as it is in the Western world. A Korean Director will always find a way to manipulate the wording, if necessary, into a way that suits his needs. (For example, do not believe that you may take vacation whenever you like just because it says you can in your contract.) However, it would be advisable to have in writing that once you are given an apartment to live in you will not be moved on the whim of the Director. It is hard enough coping with the cultural differences of living in a foreign country without having the stress of an unsettled home life.
For the most part, I enjoyed my time teaching in Sanbon. I heard horror stories about other schools that make this one seem like paradise! My best piece of advice is be sure to research all the Hagwons that offer you teaching positions. If the school has a decent number of foreign teachers in their second or third contracts, then they are obviously doing something right!!
I'm working at a franchise English school called "Avalon English." My cousin who is currently living here in Korea recommended her recruiting company, so I worked with OK Recruiting. My recruiterwas a fantastic help through the whole process. She found multiple jobs which fit my specifications and walked me through the visa application process; she also acted as an intermediary between myself and the school. I received job offers from all the jobs; I picked my favorite and here I am.
My TESOL qualification was definitely a big help in getting a job..... I always use the lesson plan template that I learned from Global English..
Travel and Teach
South Korea is TEFL hotspot at the moment. It offers great opportunities for the newly qualified EFL teacher and if this is your destination then you’ll find that work opportunities abound. Providing you have a degree, that is and are a native English speaker.
In these uncertain economic times, Korea offers a good salary and package often including a fixed contract, return airfares and accommodation, enabling you to live and save.
Legally, a Visa ought to be arranged from your own country before travel. As a result, most prospective teachers opt to go through an agency who will help arrange the placement and legal necessities. Global English TESOL can link you to specifc agencies that recruit for Korea. See TEFL jobs in Korea here.
We also have links to trusted organisations that can hand-hold you through the government EPIK scheme for coveted public school jobs. The government scheme takes some of the guesswork out of being hired by a commercial school since with EPIK your contract is effectively honoured by the Korean government. Plus you can expect more holidays and not to have to work weekends and evenings.
We would recommend at the very least you take a Global English Level 1 TESOL before you go to familiarise yourself with the kinds of teaching you’ll be undertaking. For EPIK, we recommend our 100 hour TESOL with YL plus 20 hour practicum since EPIK'S TEFL course criteria is tightening up from autumn 2013.
Smart dress is important and when applying for TESOL positions, it is generally advisable to send a passport-sized photograph along with a CV, covering letter and possibly copies of degree/TESOL certificates. You can also find information on how to succeed at your TESOL interview in the ‘Interview techniques’ page on our website.
Interested in teaching English in Korea? Contact us for more information, advice on which TESOL course to take or for agencies that can help you through the process to get you there.