Hidden under the shadows of South Korea’s magnificent mountainous landscape is Daegu, the nation’s fourth most populous city — an increasingly popular destination for English teaching jobs in Korea. Stemming from its long history of producing textiles, Daegu has labeled itself as a fashion capital. The city is also well known for its harvest of high quality apples. Teachers in Daegu will find much to do outside the classroom, where countless Buddhist temples, parks, markets, and a bustling nightlife await. Koreans place great value on education, and with such a small foreign population in Daegu, native English speakers are in high demand to fill teaching jobs in South Korea.
Teaching Jobs in Daegu
With a strong economy and demand for English education, teaching English in Daegu is an attractive location. With just a bachelor’s degree in hand, you’re a qualified candidate for most programs, including the EPIK English program in Korea. The application process typically includes an application, up-to-date resume, and an interview to screen candidates.
In Daegu, you will most likely have the opportunity to teach at either a public school or a private academy, known as a hagwon. Students at public schools range from kindergarten to high school in age, and it’s not uncommon to be the only foreigner employed at a public school. A hagwon is essentially additional schooling or tutoring after normal school hours at which a typical student may spend several hours a week. Unlike tutoring programs in the United States and the West, hagwons are interestingly not intended for struggling students needing to improve their grades. Rather, students attend these private cram schools to prepare as much as possible for the grueling college entrance exams.
The Korean college entrance exams have a well-earned reputation for being incredibly difficult. Not even the brightest student can expect to exceed without a great deal of additional study, creating the need for ESL teachers like you to teach English in Daegu. A college education is viewed as the path to a respectable, secure future in Korean culture. This heavy emphasis on education created intense competition in which students are expected to go above and beyond. As a result, teachers are highly valued assets in the lives of Korean students. Every hour you invest in instruction can bring a student closer to his or her academic and career aspirations.
Most teaching positions require a 30-hour work week, and offer an average of 12 paid vacation days in addition to more than three weeks of public holidays. The school year at public schools starts in March and ends in February with a summer and winter break between. Schools also close in observance of the Lunar New Year and Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving). For hagwons, the school year differs by school, but you can typically expect to work evenings, since this is when students will be able to attend after their normal school hours.
Life in Daegu as an ESL Teacher
Daegu played an integral role in South Korea’s economic development in the 1960s-1980s through its manufacturing industry and electronics production. Daegu is now a well-developed metropolis catering to a wide variety of special interests. When you’re finished grading assignments, you can meet up with friends at any one of the hundreds of cafes or karaoke rooms sprinkled throughout the city. Karaoke, or noraebang, is a beloved national pastime that everyone from teenagers to businessmen (and those with English teaching jobs in Korea!) enjoy late into the night. Travel back in time while wandering through Yangnyeonsi, Korea’s oldest herb market, or mingle with the energetic, younger crowd in the hip university Buk district north of the city.
A number of quirky annual festivals, such as the Daegu Chicken & Beer Festival and the Dalseong Tomato Festival, draw thousands of visitors from around the country and abroad. With a diverse mix of celebrations happening year round, there’s always something to look forward to in Daegu. If you’re looking to avoid having a chicken eating competition with your own students or getting slugged by tomatoes, the populous beach City of Busan is also only 45 minutes away by train for a quick weekend escape.
Apart from the American military bases in the area and a growing expat English teacher community, Daegu is much more homogenous than the larger Korean cities of Busan or Seoul. This can motivate you to immerse yourself in the local crowd, although you should keep in mind that many Daegu residents may have not had much exposure to foreigners before. The city is known to be conservative, even by Korean standards. Teachers should be prepared to face a rigid hierarchy of power in the workplace with many rules and traditions.
Salaries & Cost
Regardless of the type of school who employs you while teaching English in Daegu, recruitment agencies and programs provide comprehensive support packages from beginning to end that reflect the growing demand for English teachers. Benefits include international airfare, medical insurance, accommodations, and paid vacation days. There are no application or placement fees to boot. Most programs do not require you to have a TEFL certificate or other English teaching accreditation. However, some program providers may offer a teaching crash course at the onset of a program to familiarize you with useful teaching methods and the Korean education system.
Although dependent on employer, area, and previous experience, the average monthly wage for an English teacher in South Korea hovers around US$2000. In addition to allowing for a comfortable lifestyle, your wage may make it possible to wrap up your teaching contract with a nice bundle of savings.
Accommodation & Visas
Most employers for English teaching jobs in Daegu, like public schools and hagwons, will provide free accommodations as a part of a work contract—a perk that saves the hassle of house hunting in a foreign country and language. Accommodations are typically single apartments that come partially or fully furnished and are just a short commute to school. If housing is not included, you may be compensated with a higher wage. Some institutions have a special apartment set aside for their annual English teachers, so don’t be surprised if you inherit someone else’s left behind possessions!
Due to the popularity of foreigners finding English teaching jobs in Korea, program providers, employers, and the government seem to have the entire visa system down pat. You will receive guidance through the visa process, although the exact requirements will depend on your country of nationality. To obtain a working permit, you will need to begin by gathering the necessary documents in your home country before departure. A signed one year teaching contract is also a requirement. As it can take over a month to receive a visa, it’s recommended to be informed about the necessary steps early. Visit our Embassy Directory for more country-specific information on visas.
Benefits & Challenges
Thanks to an up-to-date transportation system, central location, and moderate cost of living, you can lead a comfortable lifestyle in Daegu. South Korea is renowned for its savory, cheap street food, and Daegu is no exception with its large population and pedestrian areas. While Korean foods like gimbap and ddeokbokki are affordable, you will find that fruits and foreign foods are a luxury and more expensive.
Although adapting to a largely homogenous and traditional society may be initially difficult, a welcoming people and a host of exciting new experiences for the adventurous await. As an English teacher, your colleagues and workplace will be an invaluable resource to help you integrate into your new community. Whether it’s giving you the insider information on Daegu’s best eateries or helping you ship a package home, a coworker can always help you overcome the initial challenges of settling in.
With a host of programs eager to welcome candidates (like the EPIK English program in Korea!), all you need to do is choose one to bibambap to the start of your adventure teaching English in Korea.