The Land of the Morning Calm

by Justin Browne

The land of morning calm provides some of ESL’s greatest opportunities and a high quality of life for English teachers. The demand for English in Asia isn’t a secret, but there isn’t a country more committed to improving English proficiency than South Korea. There are an abundance of teaching jobs in South Korea for both experienced teachers and inexperienced recent college graduates alike.

Cityscape of Seoul, South Korea
Cityscape of Seoul, South Korea. Photo by Justin Browne

Opportunities 

Private English Academies, called hagwons, provide the majority of ESL positions in South Korea and are the path of least resistance. They do not require their teachers to have TEFL Certificates or previous teaching experience before being hired. However, it is best to work for reputable hagwons, such as Avalon Academy, Chungdahm Institutes, SLP, and the list goes on. Teachers can expect to work about 35 hours a week, which consists of 25 to 30 teaching hours. Other than the ease of finding hagwon jobs through ESL recruiters, they also offer amazing benefits including: free airfare to and from home country, free housing, health care, and a contract completion bonus. These benefits allow teachers to make the move from their home country to South Korea easier than one would expect. Other teaching opportunities include: public after-school programs, teaching adults (adult hagwons), public schools, and universities. With so many opportunities available throughout South Korea, many teachers are unsure of which city they would like to work in.

Cities 

Seoul is Korea’s capital and by far the most cosmopolitan city in South Korea. It’s home to 10 million people and provides all the amenities and nightlife one would expect from a mega city. Teaching in Seoul is exciting and social. Most teachers flock to Korean BBQ restaurants after work where they eat and drink Soju (Korean alcohol) to early morning. On the weekends, teachers hike Seoul’s biggest mountains and party at some of Asia’s hottest clubs at night. It’s no wonder so many teachers stay in Seoul for several years at a time. In addition to Seoul, there are great places to live in Seoul’s surrounding cities, such as Ilsan, Bundang, and Bucheon. These cities provide a slightly slower pace of life but are only a short subway ride from Seoul.

Gyeongbokgung Palace

Culture 

South Korea is home to its own unique Confucianist based culture. Family is the most important aspect of Korean society and respecting those older than you. Work relationships are important to consider if you want to teach English in South Korea. Koreans like to have dinner and drinks to build closer relationships with co-workers. Koreans think that being part of a group is more important than being an individual, so dinner with co-workers starts and ends with everyone together. Furthermore, not joining co-workers for dinner when invited is considered rude unless you have a valid excuse. Koreans will never say “no” to an invite without reason, they always provide a reason for not accepting your invite whether it is genuine or not. This is not viewed as lying but a respectful way of saying “no.” However, too many excuses and your co-workers will be offended. So go with the flow, go to dinner often and have a great time. 

Travel

South Korea is in an ideal location for teaching abroad, because traveling to cities like Shanghai or Tokyo can be done in a weekend. Incheon Airport located near Seoul is among the world’s most elite airports, with daily flights to most countries. However, you don’t have to leave Korea to experience beautiful beaches, mountains, and historic landmarks.

For those who love beaches, east coast beaches, Busan beaches, and Jeju Island beaches will provide a memorable vacation as well as some relaxation. Not to mention, most beaches in Korea are in close proximity to mountains where you can hike and enjoy nature. Lastly, if you are a history buff be sure to visit Gyeongju, Korea’s former capital. It is filled with historic monuments and sites that mark thousands of years of history.

South Korea Subway

Transportation

Traveling throughout Korea is a breeze due to Korea’s amazing transportation system. For starters, if you would like to travel by high speed rail (KTX) can get you from Seoul to Busan in less than three hours. Driving the same distance could take as long as six hours. In addition, buses are a convenient and cheap way to get to travel destinations. Lastly, domestic flights are reasonably priced but rarely used because high speed rail is often a faster more convenient option. But if you are traveling to Jeju Island than catching a flight is the best option. In the end, most of your travels will consist of hopping in a taxi or taking the subway to a popular area where you can eat the best Korean BBQ, drink soju, and enjoy Korea with friends.

What are you waiting for? Start building your teaching career in South Korea now!