I have been teaching in South Korea for almost two years now, and I get asked many questions about how to get started, what’s it like living here and teaching. Requirements are very much the same as I have stated in an earlier post How to get Started in China there are a few differences, but I have listed everything you need to know about how to get started in Korea below.
I would recommend doing this especially if you are a first-time teacher it helped me a lot especially with younger children, classroom management, and lesson planning. For some jobs, this is not a very big requirement, but it is an added benefit.
I did my 120-hour certification with a company called I -to- I TEFL.
I completed the 120-hour course 100 hours online test style and 20 hours of class training over a weekend. You can check them out on the website I placed above.
The cost was R3000/$300 if memory serves correctly. Also, check out Groupon or other deal sites they always have great deals on TEFL courses.
Where I live
I currently reside in a city called Daegu the third largest city in Korea it’s in the center of Korea. It’s big but still smaller than megacity Seoul. I have warmed up to it and do enjoy living here. The nickname of this city is called death Africa Daefrica by the Koreans because in the summer it’s the hottest city in Korea the humidity is what gets you, and it can be tough to get used too even for me someone who loves the warmer temperatures.
Korea in size is small, so this makes getting from one side of the country to the other very easy buses and trains going everywhere. I go on weekend trips often and its so easy to get around with very little English.
How the school terms work.
They use the same system as the Americans, so the new school term starts in September after the summer break in July and August.
Hagwon (English Academies)
I work at an English academy called a hagwon in Korean, these operate all year round and do not work on the school system.
These are private businesses giving extra English classes after school. These kids are not all born smart they trained and will often have 12 hour school days filled with extra lessons in everything. Poor kids cannot be kids here, and you can see the sad faces of the older kids who spend their lives doing school, homework and extra lessons.
At my school Changdum April( a franchise business you can find branches throughout Korea) I teach age group 8 to 13(elementary students) their English level is pretty good, and I can communicate with them reasonably well but the younger they are, the more challenging it becomes. I also teach in a very affluent part of the city where the parents are wealthy and are willing to invest in their children’s English for the future.
I have taught 3 to 6-year-olds in China, and I really enjoyed it, its a different challenge but at that age, they learn very fast, so it is equally rewarding.
My working times are 1 pm – 9 pm Monday -Friday teaching from 230pm to 7 pm the rest of the time before and after classes are used to prepare for lessons and admin.( as in grading assignments but all schools are different.) Some schools will require you to lesson plan as I did in my old job in China this you will learn when doing the TEFL course.
This school also requires you to do a week training in Seoul. I did my training week when I arrived. It’s quite daunting as you have to do mock teaching and a test at the end of the week. They often say if you fail you will have to go home but in most cases, they state this, so you take the training very seriously. I met some cool people during training some I am still friends with today.
Then you get Kindergarten schools generally from ages 3 to 6 here you will be teaching very basic English along with general life skills and sports. Parents like having a foreign teacher, so their kids get used to seeing an unfamiliar face as they get older and just being exposed to English in a general sense.
These schools working hours usually start at 9 am – 6 pm The mornings dedicated to kindergarten and the afternoon’s elementary kids.
Public schools will work according to the school you are at, and the levels you will teach some places will have materials for you some places not, and you will have to come up with things on your own, but the internet has loads of resources covering everything regarding ESL teaching. The beautiful thing about public schools you get all the vacation days the same as the school kids.
In Hagwons and kindergarten you generally get a week off in summer and a week in winter and all the Korean public holidays but all schools are different, and they must tell you upfront how there leave days work. Public Schools you get three weeks in winter and summer depending on your school.
Epic is a program that recruits specifically for public schools. They will help you come to Korea. You, unfortunately, don’t get much say in where you will get placed and can be in the countryside in small cities wherever teachers are needed.
The best way to secure a job in Korea is through a recruiter if you don’t go through the Epic program.
There are also many job boards that advertise, a popular one to have a look at is Dave’s ESL Cafe there are hundreds of listings every day.
I know a few people who teach adults some adults would like to learn conversational English and others, may want to learn business English to help them internationally.
First I would recommend doing your TEFL as discussed in detail above.
Police clearance this takes a long time depending on your country of origin. You can do this at a police station.
For South Africans once you have the form you need to mail it to Pretoria there are a few companies that do this if you are not in Pretoria.
You will need a copy of all tertiary education diplomas and degrees.
Immigration requirement is that you have your police clearance, and degree certificates apostilled.
If you need things apostilled in Cape Town I visited Tinus van der Berg his a lawyer in Town had my documents back in 7 days it is a little pricey think I paid R1500
Accompanying these documents, you will need an updated CV, certified copies of your passport and once you have secured a job the necessary visa forms but your recruiter or school HR will guide you through every step it is a long process.
I have a detailed checklist of the two-part visa process if anyone would like the documents, please let me know. I will be happy to send it to you; It explains everything you need in great detail.
Another great option if you plan to return to Korea but would like to take an extended break maybe between contracts, you can apply for the D10 Visa. This Visa is a job seeking visa that will allow you to be in Korea for up to 6 months and look for work, also allowing you to leave the country for a maximum of 3 months. I highly recommend this it will save you so much time and money not having to go through the visa process and documentation again.
Most schools will provide accommodation for you I live in a lovely one bedroom apartment with minimal furniture luckily I have a good bed some people are not that lucky and have tiny and hard beds, but there are plenty of places to buy furniture and anything you need.
You will not need to pay rent, but you will pay for electricity and gas.
There are also lots of Facebook groups you can join for your city where people who are leaving sell almost everything you will need to live comfortably.
Some schools will also provide a living allowance where you can find your place to live.
The school should also offer health insurance Encase you get sick or need to visit the doctor for anything. Hospitals here are great, and they can all speak English or provide you with an interpreter to help you, well most of the places I have visited smaller towns can be different.
You should discuss all of these things during your interview with your school, so you know what they will provide.
Another good tip during interview process ask as many questions as you can. One good one is if there are other Native speaking teachers at this school ask how long they have been there. No person will stay at a place longer than a year if they are not happy where they are.
I have been fortunate with my placement and my city and made it home for two years. Looking forward to what the future will hold.
If you have any other specific question that i could assist with I am happy to help please leave me a comment or contact me on my socials.