South Korea, Experience the culture, and the kimchi!

Why teach English in South Korea?  Free housing, free airfare, in addition to a great salary means money in the bank.  But more than the money, the country that gave us kimchi, Gangnam Style, and K-pop, offers a cultural experience like no other.

South Korea, has been a favorite destination for TESOL teachers for several decades now and shows no sign of stopping!  They just make it so enticing.  For the experience, the money, and the students, South Korea is a once-in-a-lifetime, change-your-life experience.  It’s been said, admittedly a stereotype, that the Japanese are the stiff-upper-lip English of the Far East, and Koreans are the Irish.  They like to sing, scratch that, they love to sing!   They enjoy drinking, and will include you in a heartbeat.  They’ve been described as hot-headed, certainly passionate. When it comes to sport, Koreans demonstrate their national pride in force.  There is an assertive aspect to the Korean culture that has earned them the nickname, the “can-do” country.  Like a sibling rivalry, or perhaps more accurately, a cousins’ rivalry, Koreans hate to be outdone by Japan, or China, and that includes English proficiency at a national level.


The South Korean national English program in public schools is called EPIK (English Program in Korea).  EPIK is to Korea what the JET program is to Japan.  The salaries start at around 2 million Won, depending on your experience, and qualifications, and location.

Private academies, or Hagwon, are found in almost every neighbourhood, and are a large employer of foreign TESOL teachers.  These can be franchises or privately owned academies.  Typically they teach a range of students starting from primary, up through to university and adult learners in the evenings.

It is not unusual for experienced TESOL teachers of a few years to get university teaching positions.  These are some of the more sought after positions going.

South Korea is a healthy export based economy with expats from around the world stationed in the main centres to watch the shop.  Their children are usually enrolled into an international school that is English only, and offers a US, or British compatible education.  For those students who are not of an English speaking background, an English program is provided.  These jobs are the envy of a lot of expat teachers in Korea, as they often enjoy a healthy expat culture.   

  • The average teacher salary at a Korean Hagwon, or private academy, ranges from 1.9 to 2.3 million Won, or AU$2,200 – $2,700, per month.
  • At a public school, teacher salaries range from 1.5 – 3 million Won, or AU$1,760 to $3,500, per month.
  • Universities in South Korea pay English teachers 2.3 – 3.5 million Won, or AU$2,700 – $4,100, per month.
  • At an international school you can make between 1.8 – 2.8 million Won, or AU$2,100 – $3,300, as an English teacher.


Hagwon, or private English language schools run year round, and have monthly intakes.  This creates an ongoing need for new TESOL teachers throughout the year.   Applicants for these jobs can find themselves applying and flying within a month.

In South Korea, the public and private international school systems follow the northern hemisphere seasons, and begin in autumn, or, “the fall”.   Typically, the school season starts in August, with a job application process that opens in March.  Applicants need to be prepared for a lengthy process, with a Skype interview.  There are plenty of Youtube videos outlining the interview process and what to expect.

University jobs are coveted positions, so it’s a good idea to get in early.  The main hiring season starts October 1st for a March 1st job. The academic year begins on March 1st in Korea. The other hiring season is in the first quarter of the year, or their spring, for a September 1st start. Right before the semester starts is another good time to look for jobs because some teachers decide to accept jobs elsewhere at the last minute.  The preference is to interview in country applicants first and then Skype interview.


Finding jobs in South Korea, typically starts with an online search.   Look out for recruitment campaigns in a capital city near you, or just apply online for jobs that suit you.  If you decide to go to Korea with a TESOL qualification and copy of your degree in hand, expect to find work very quickly.   Word of mouth, in the relatively close expat community is very handy, with many westerners finding work this way.   Securing work before you go is certainly the way to go, and for first time teachers advisable.  For finding work online check out the following sites:

Jobs in South Korea

ESL Cafe

Footsprint Recruiting




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