Finding Your Perfect Job in South Korea

by Suzanne Bhagan

Today, South Korea is a major destination for anyone interested in working in one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world that is also steeped in a unique traditional culture. Although teaching English is a very popular job for foreigners, working abroad in South Korea can also mean fulfilling a variety of non-teaching jobs too.

Bridge in Incheon, South Korea
Incheon, South Korea

If you’re thinking of making a move to this Asian Tiger to find that perfect job abroad, here are some things you need to consider:

Teaching Jobs in South Korea

Apart from a few pitfalls of teaching in South Korea, teaching English as a foreign language remains one of the easiest ways for foreigners to work in Korea. Teaching abroad in South Korea is great because it offers some of the highest salaries and best perks in Asia. Some of the better teaching jobs offer free flights to Korea from your home country (and a return flight when you complete your contract), free accommodation, medical insurance, and a bonus at the end of your tenure. Dae-bak! Jackpot!

With a constant demand for English teachers, South Korea is perfect for anyone who wants to ramp up their classroom experience. Many teachers choose to teach in public schools or in private, after-school cram schools, known as hagwons. If you choose to teach at a public school in South Korea, you may have to plan your own lessons, but there are no classes during the winter and summer breaks! If you prefer to deviate from the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and you love to teach the textbook, the hagwon is ideal. Although, it may mean working on weekends and during official school holidays. If you have a master’s degree in English or TESOL, then you may be able to snag a job teaching English at a local university in South Korea. These teaching jobs usually are better paid, with longer vacation time and more sociable hours.

Bridge in Yeosu-si, South Korea at night
Yeosu-si, South Korea

Most teachers head to Seoul for their pick of the best teaching jobs in South Korea. Some of the better paying jobs can be found at hagwons located in affluent areas in the city, like Daechi-dong in Gangnam. However, if you’re up for the challenge, teaching English in rural South Korea can be just as rewarding. Although the countryside will be less crowded, it can also be more difficult in terms of the language barrier, so brush up on your Korean before you go.

One of the best ways to snag great teaching jobs abroad is to get TEFL certified and to research schools carefully by reading program reviews and talking to past and present teachers at schools you want to work for.

Spoiler Alert: the majority of schools and recruitment agencies in South Korea tend to hire native English-speaking teachers from the U.S., Canada, the UK, South Africa, Ireland, New Zealand, and Australia who also have an accredited university degree.

Non-Teaching Jobs in South Korea

If you love to geek out with English grammar, but hate the idea of teaching a bunch of kids or adults, you can always apply for curriculum officer, content development, teacher trainer, or editor positions at companies that produce English language textbooks and other English language resources. If you have a smooth voice and the right accent, you can even try voice acting. Jjang! Awesome!

If your Korean is up to scratch, South Korea offers a host of corporate jobs, particularly in marketing. If you’re passionate about automotive marketing and research, head to Busan in the southeast. South Korea is also home to technological giants like Samsung and LG so if you’re really good at electronics or IT, you may be able to get your foot in the door in these growing sectors.

High-rises in Seoul, South Korea
Seoul, South Korea

Best Places to Live in South Korea

Although South Korea is mainly mountainous, it’s packed with a good mix of high-tech cities and quiet villages and towns. Consequently, there are a lot of interesting things to see and do throughout the country. Home to almost half of the local population, Seoul is a metropolis that never sleeps. If the crowds, flowing soju, and noraebang (karaoke bars) blasting K-Pop don’t quite do it for you, the mountains are always close at hand. While you’re there, try some dong dong ju (rice wine) at a mountain hut to power up for the rest of the trek.

From Seoul, you can also make a trip to the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), which marks the border between North and South Korea. Although it sounds like something straight out of a fairytale, imagine standing in a blue room in the Joint Security Area (JSA) where one door leads to one country and another door to another! However, be warned that it’s not easy to just cross over, so don’t piss off the guards by trying to get into North Korea from South Korea!

Since Seoul is the capital city and the economic powerhouse of the nation, the cost of living is much higher than other parts of South Korea so you should take that into consideration and look for more jobs with more bang for your won.

Another popular city to work abroad in South Korea is Busan, also known as Pusan. As South Korea’s second largest city, Busan is known for one of the world’s largest harbors, beaches, mountains, and a much more laid-back vibe. Busan is the perfect mix of city and nature; you can catch a sunset at Noran Mahura Park or hike Geumjeong Fortress. 

Haedong Yonggung Temple in Busan, South Korea
Busan, South Korea

Daegu is the country’s third largest city and a fashion mecca in South Korea. It’s also the home of Korean baseball. Daejeon is another popular city for foreigners. It’s centrally located, making it easy to access other parts of the country. Suwon is also popular among the expat crowd because of its proximity to historical locations and its reputation for academia, with over ten universities. It’s also the home of Samsung and quite close to Seoul.

Things to Know Before Finding a Job in South Korea

Looking for a job overseas is never easy, but the best thing to do is research, research, research. If you’d like to get a job in South Korea through a placement agency or organized job provider, read program reviews and talk to recent alumni. Also, check out relevant expat forums for the city you’d like to work in for a more honest opinion about what it’s really like to live there.

If you plan to stay or work in South Korea for more than ninety days, you need to get a work visa, and it will need to be done in your home country. Usually, your employer will sponsor you, because your work visa will differ according to the job you’re hired to do. For example, if you want to teach, you need to apply for a Foreign Language Instructor or E-2 visa. Always check with the Korean embassy or consulate in your home country to find out the latest immigration requirements before you go.

Tip: Find your local Korean Embassy here! 

When you do get to South Korea, you will also have to sign up for alien registration at your closest immigration office. Once you get your Alien Registration Card (ARC), you need to have it all times while working in South Korea. Your ARC will be your lifeline in South Korea; you’ll need it to do anything, from opening a bank account to accessing health insurance to even getting a mobile phone. So, don’t ever forget it at home!

Blossoms in Daejeon-Uam Historical Park in South Korea
Daejeon, South Korea

At first, getting a job in South Korea may take some leg work, but it does pay off in the end. Whether it’s teaching English or learning how Koreans do business, your time working in South Korea will not only look amazing on your resume, but will also help you build a network that you can tap into if you’d like to stay in Korea for the long term. Haenguneul dama! All the best!