Home / 10 Things You Need to Know Before Teaching English in South Korea

So, you’ve decided teaching English in South Korea is for you. Great choice!

With its rich culture, buzzing city life and generous teaching packages, it’s no wonder South Korea is a top TEFL destination. But, there are a few things to be aware of before you set off to the Land of Morning Calm.

Here’s 10 things you need to know before teaching English in South Korea.

1. Make sure you meet the teaching requirements

From small towns to bustling cities, South Korea offers a wealth of opportunities for TEFL teachers who want to work abroad. However, to secure a teaching job and an E-2 visa you must meet these requirements:

  • BA Degree or above from an accredited college or university (you must have a hard copy of this)
  • TEFL/TESOL/CELTA Certificate. Check out our 120 Hour TEFL course to become a qualified TEFL teacher
  • Be a Native English speaker from Ireland, UK, South Africa, USA, Australia, New Zealand or Canada
  • Have a Garda vetting form/ clean criminal background check
  • Be in good health as you will have to undergo a medical exam once you arrive.

If you’re unsure about how to start teaching English in South Korea, The TEFL Institute of Ireland offers a year-long paid teaching internship in South Korea. We will make sure you’re qualified to teach and that you have a job and accommodation before you arrive.

2. There are two main teaching options for TEFL teachers: Work within the EPIK program or in a Hagwon

English Programs in Korea (EPIK) is a teaching program sponsored by the Korean Ministry of Education. If you’re an EPIK teacher you will be working in the public school system during the day, Monday- Friday.

On the other hand, a Hagwon is a private language centre or academy. This is where the bulk of English teaching positions can be found. Students go to these schools for extra English lessons, so you will be working in the evenings.

For more information on the differences between the public and private school systems and to discover which type of school will suit you, contact us today.

3. Your accommodation will be provided by your school

Luckily for you, if you’re coming to South Korea with a job, it’s likely you will already have your accommodation sorted. This is because it is customary for schools to provide rent-free accommodation for their workers. Wohoo!

Apartments are often furnished and located within walking distance or a bus ride away from your school. Along with accommodation, your job will likely connect you with a bank, pharmacy, and grocery store in your neighbourhood.

 4. South Korea has a great transport system

South Korea is famous for its modern transport systems. In fact, its metro system is one of the busiest in the world and, thankfully, it operates during late-night hours – perfect for people who enjoy a night out here and there. However, if the metro is not located in your area, South Korea offers an extensive bus system and affordable taxis.

Make sure to get your T-money card as soon as you arrive. This rechargeable transport card can be used on the subway and buses in South Korea’s major cities.

5. Learn some basic Korean

Although there are 25,000 teaching jobs available in South Korea each year, English is not widely spoken there, especially once you leave big cities like Seoul. It’s important to know the basics before you move to South Korea.

Not only will it get you brownie points with your colleagues and students, but it will help you get around your area. Traffic signs and metro stops are all written in Hangul, the Korean writing system, so if you want to successfully commute around your city, familiarising yourself with Hangul is a must. Plus, most restaurant menus are only written in Hangul.

6. Sharing is caring when it comes to food in South Korea

South Korea is famous for its food. Koreans love eating so much that eating out is seen as a social affair. It is customary for dishes to be priced in units of four because people tend to share their food between large groups of people.

Most of your money will go towards food but if you choose to eat the local food rather than from Western restaurants, it can help cut down on your spending. Expect to have a lot of seafood, Korean BBQs and snacks with unexpected sprinklings of sugar. Be sure to wash these down with Soju, South Korea’s rice vodka. A word of warning, it’s not for the faint-hearted.

If you’re a picky eater or tend to suffer from homesickness, bringing some snacks from home is a great way to help combat these issues. But, remember, you’ve moved abroad to try new things, so take the plunge and try the local delicacies. It might be the tastiest decision you ever make!

7. You must dress to impress

South Korea is a fashion-conscious country, and they pay attention to details. You must remember to dress appropriately for work. You can’t show up with a torn sleeve or shirt with a missing button as it will be considered unprofessional. Although Koreans are becoming more and more open-minded to Western clothing and the exposure of skin, leaving your shoulders bare and wearing low necklines will garner a lot of unwanted stares from the older generation. It’s best to avoid this.

It’s also important to keep in mind that Korean women and men can be smaller than Westerners. Be sure to bring a few pairs of work shoes and outfits with you as they may not have your size in the local shops.

8. Get ready to be asked personal questions

Although English teaching is a popular profession in South Korea, as a foreigner you will still be a minority there. People will be eager to learn about your life, so expect to be asked some pretty personal questions by your students. You may be asked about your relationship status, your age if you have children, etc.

Although this may seem very direct and nosey, don’t take offence to these questions. Your students and colleagues are just genuinely interested in your life. Plus, you must be aware of the different cultural norms and the language barrier that may play into their bluntness.

9. Go over with savings

Living and teaching English in South Korea offers most TEFL teachers a great opportunity to save money. Depending on your school placement and experience, you can expect to earn between KRM 2.0 million to KRM 2.3 million per month. However, you will not receive your first paycheck until after your first month of working, so make sure you bring enough money with you to survive the first month and a half.

10. Be open-minded to the wonders of South Korea

This is the most important piece of advice you need to know before you start teaching English in South Korea. The Land of Morning Calm is famous for its food, culture and K-pop stars. Throw yourself into this new and wonderful experience. Remember, you must adapt to South Korea, it will not adapt to you. When you get the opportunity to go sing karaoke with your colleagues or to visit an ancient temple, do it!

To learn more about the visa process and the perks of our South Korean Internship – including flight reimbursement, medical insurance, and a week-long orientation in Seoul – contact us today. Read more about what South Korea has to offer in this blog.

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