Why You Should Teach English in South Korea
Teaching English overseas is something that I had always wanted to do since finishing university. I viewed it as an opportunity to live in a foreign country while fully immersing myself in the culture of the country and the people who lived there. In addition to this, working meant that I would be earning money and thus be able to support myself without the need to save up vast sums of money before undertaking such an adventure.
My first taste of teaching came during a hot and unorganised morning in Uganda while volunteering on a school building project, and this only laid the seed of desire to teach further. After extensive research, I decided that Korea would be my country of choice to teach in full time. After teaching in Korea for a year (and living there for a further six months), I can happily say that South Korea is a brilliant country to teach English in. Now let me tell you why…
No Teaching Qualifications or Experience Required
In order to be granted a visa so that you can teach in South Korea, you need to be a native speaker of English (which Korea define as holding a passport from UK, USA, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, or South Africa) and hold a full time Bachelor degree in any subject. Having teaching experience or qualifications is entirely unnecessary unless you wish to work for the government who now request that all teachers hold a minimum of a TEFL. [Note: If you have experience or qualifications, you may be able to negotiate yourself a better job or better salary]
Everything is Done for You
When teaching in South Korea, you pre arrange a job from your home country, meaning that you set off with everything in place. Most employers will do all of the legal paperwork in order to ensure that you obtain your E2 work visa – all you have to do is give them the correct documentation. When you get to Korea, they will provide you with a fully furnished apartment, meaning no house hunting headaches or having to live out of hotels for weeks. They will also make a contribution to your medical insurance, directly from your pay, meaning that you are covered for medical needs during your time in Korea.
The pay in Korea is relatively high for first time teachers (2.2 million won per month when I taught and still at around 2 million won for first time teachers). While this may not seem like a vast sum of money, when you consider that your employer pays for your apartment, a flight from your home country (or return flights if you are lucky), and tax is little over 3%, it means that most of the money you earn will either be for you to have a good time or to save. Upon completion of a twelve month contract, most employers pay a one month bonus for satisfactory completion of a contract. This is a nice little pocket full of cash to leave the country with.
Big Foreign Communities
Everywhere that you go in Korea, you will always find communities of foreigners teaching English. This is great for when you are feeling far from home and when you need to connect with someone who grew up in a similar culture to you. Equally, if you wish to distance yourself from these communities, Koreans are very friendly people and willing to help out anyone who wishes to immerse themselves in the culture and language.
Unless you get unlucky, your working hours are not long and as Korea is a cheap country, your purchasing power is very strong. It is possible to go out for dinner multiple times a week, go on trips at the weekend, and still save a little bit of money. During my time in Korea, I tried to explore the country as much as possible and found hiking in the many mountains to be a wonderful experience.
Korean people are (generally) very humble. This means that they will be polite and welcoming towards you, and in my experience, the kids were great to teach. You will be an object of observation as a foreigner, but most of the interest is through fascination or intrigue and I have rarely seen negative behaviour towards foreigners.
There are good and bad things about every place in the world. When I was in Korea, I found it difficult to immerse myself with the elder locals because I did not take the time to learn the language and food was a constant struggle for me as I am a vegetarian. I struggled with the vastness of the cities at times (I am a country person) and thought the country’s drinking to be excessive (locals and foreigners), but all in all, I am happy that I went to Korea and for all the reasons listed above, I highly recommend it as a place to teach (especially for first time teachers).
About the Author
Jamie Bowlby-Whiting has taught English in South Korea, Uganda, and Poland, and may well return to it in the future. He is currently aiming to undertake many low budget, high sweat adventures and posts about them on his blog, www.greatbigscaryworld.com.