If you’re looking for a dynamic internship abroad, that blends the tradition of the ancient world with the high-tech bustle of modern society, South Korea is the place for you. During an internship in South Korea, you can spend your days in the vibrant cities where you can have almost anything delivered whether you’re at work, home, or even in the park. If nature is more your style, you can escape the city life and take a trek out to Seoraksan National Park or soak up some rays at one of the country’s many beaches. South Korea has the best of all worlds and no matter where you choose to spend your time, interning abroad in South Korea will be an experience you’ll never forget.
You will certainly find a multitude of internships in South Korea’s capital and largest city, Seoul. The capital will be your best bet if you’re looking to get into the computer and tech industries. These sectors are growing fast and start-ups in Seoul are always looking for interns to help them as they expand. Many of the big players in the latter fields are located in Seoul too, including Google. If you’re looking into graphic design, business, marketing, or programming, Seoul is where you want to be.
For beach lovers, the city of Busan is a great choice as it is located near Haeundae Beach, which is one of the most well-known beaches in the country. In Busan, you can typically find internships in hospitality, banking, and tourism.
In the center of Korea is Daejoen, the fifth largest city, which always has demand for English-speaking interns interested in education-focused placements. From Daejoen, interns can relax in the Yuseong Hot Springs, raise their adrenaline at the O-World theme park, or visit the picturesque Donghak-sa Temple in Gongju-shi. The city also hosts an annual Cherry Blossom Festival as well as the Daejoen Balloon Festival.
If you’re hoping to go rural, most of your options for internships in Korea will be limited to teaching, but living in a rural area will be a once in a lifetime opportunity to truly live in a different world. Out in the countryside, you’ll live where the fields are covered in cabbage, the locals quickly become your friends, and you might find a mountain becomes your daily backdrop.
Internships in South Korea
There are numerous internships in South Korea offered in the form of teaching gigs and working with afterschool programs. In fact, these are the most common areas for internships throughout the country, especially outside of the major cities. There are also many internship opportunities in South Korea in engineering, business, government, and politics in most of the more populated areas. The duration of internships in Korea can be as short as a few months, but most typically last one year with options to renew at the close of the initial agreement.
The work environment varies from job to job in South Korea, but in most cases it is expected that you will put in a lot of hours over the course of the week, including some overtime. It may seem daunting at first to keep up with the pace, however, once you get used to the expected work ethic, you will find your productivity to be rewarding and will gain the respect of colleagues and superiors. The harder you work, the more likely your chances are of being taken on full time with your host company.
One of the benefits of internships in South Korea is the strong sense of culture within the company. They value the people they work with and a team attitude goes a long way. Trust, respect and strong personal relationships is a key component of the Korean work environment.
Salary & Costs
While many internships in South Korea are unpaid, some interns do receive monetary compensation. Occasionally, your airfare, accommodation, and health insurance will also be covered. This happens more often in the education sector, which can sometimes pay a monthly stipend of KRW 1.5 million (roughly $1,400) and a settling-in allowance of KRW 300,000 ($285). Luckily, interning in South Korea will be easy on your bank account; so even if you are an unpaid intern in South Korea, you should be able to scrape together most monthly costs if you plan ahead accordingly.
Going out to eat with friends won’t set you back too much; the average restaurant bill is over 20 percent lower than in the United States. Transportation is also relatively cheap and taking a ride for 12 kilometers on the subway should cost you less than one dollar, which is less than half what it would cost on the New York metro! Your biggest expenses will likely be made while strolling through South Korea’s labyrinth-esque markets—groceries will make up around 30 percent of your monthly spending.
Accommodation & Visas
If you do choose to complete education internships in South Korea, these will likely provide housing. While some interns opt to live with host families, others prefer to live alone—both of these living arrangements can vary, albeit not too drastically. In most cases within the cities, you will likely end up in a some form of high rise apartment complex. These spaces are relatively small compared to Western standards and the lack of privacy will take some getting used to, but you may find living with less as an intern in South Korea to be a relief. These units are often furnished with the basics and some are equipped with heated flooring.
Another option is a villa, which is a building with up to five stories with roughly ten units. The least common living arrangement is in a house as they are expensive and hard to find. If your accommodation isn’t covered through your internship, you should expect to spend around $715 per month for a one-bedroom in city centers, this will be slightly higher in the capital, and roughly $450 in less populated areas.
If you plan to intern in South Korea for longer than 90 days, you will need to obtain a visa. This can be done through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and will set you back about $40 for the standard single entry visa. However, you will also need a work permit, of which there are several different options depending on the type and length of employment you are seeking. Be sure to get all of the appropriate information from your employer. Finally, if you have any connecting flights on your way to South Korea, be sure to double check the visa requirements of those specific stops—you may need a transit visa.
Benefits & Challenges
While it can often be challenging to adapt to life in another culture, the warmth of the locals will make it an easy transition. South Korea also boasts super fast internet speeds and a connection can be found almost everywhere in the cities (even on busses!). So feel free to Skype away with friends and family back home anytime. Additionally, while it’s a good idea to always be aware of your surroundings, South Korea is a safe destination for foreigners.
You should also be aware that finding an internship in South Korea outside of the education sector can sometimes be a challenge itself. Many internship opportunities don’t show up when looking online. This is due to the fact that a lot of South Korean websites are not indexed by search engines and when they are, they are often in Korean. A basic understanding of the language is not necessary but would be beneficial to finding and keeping a job in Korea. Some in-depth research and networking is important, as well. Once you land an internship in South Korea, however, both the cultural and work experience will be something you can take with you long after you leave.