English Teachers to Korea
Frequently asked questions and answers
What's South Korea like?
South Korea is a beautiful country with mountains, valleys and beaches. It is about half the size of California and located at a similar latitude. Like Japan, South Korea is fairly westernised. Planes, trains, buses, cars, apartments, fashions, and products are all similar to what Americans and Canadians are accustomed to, though they tend to be more indigenous to the country. Korea maintains strong industries in the auto, electronics and shipbuilding sectors. The food is delicious, healthy and often spicy! Korea has a long history and tradition; its culture is unique and interesting. In terms of religion, Korea is roughly split between Buddhism and Christianity. Other religions exist in smaller percentages, and Confucianism maintains a significant cultural influence.
  College
Seniors graduating within
3 months are encouraged
to apply
Do I need teaching credentials or experience?
  Experience and credentials are welcome, but not necessary as long as you are a native English speaker and have a 4-year college degree in any major. The English schools usually provide training and show you what to do.
What about teaching materials?
  No teaching materials are required. Most Korean English schools have all the necessary texts, syllabus, games and other materials needed.
What about transportation to and from work?
  Often the apartment owned by the school will be located within walking distance of the school. Sometimes not. City buses are extremely cheap and taxis are affordable with the salaries teachers make.
Do I need to know Korean language?
  Korean language skills are not needed. All but the youngest students have taken English grammar in public school. Your teaching will be geared toward improving student's English conversation skills. Most Korean language skills for children employ both Korean and foreign English language teachers. Students are taught by both, with the Korean teachers focusing more on written and grammar skills, and the foreign teachers focusing more on reading and conversation skills. The Korean teachers, who speak English, are usually available to help with translation if the need arises.
How much does it cost to live in Korea?
  Korean income taxes are low for foreign English teachers (usually 4% - 7%). That, coupled with rent-free housing and a lower cost of living, provides a chance to save, travel or pay bills back home. Your only expenses are basically food, monthly utilities and transportation. Most teachers are currently on US$5, 000 - US$7, 000 per annum for all their Menses.
What's the weather like?
  The weather in Korea is similar to the weather in central California, except for higher humidity in the summer. They have 4 distinct seasons, and you'll need sweaters and a coat for winter.
How do people dress?
  Koreans are very trendy and the fashions are similar to those found in North America or Europe. Khakis and slacks are often worn to work, and jeans are the norm after hours. Some schools require male teachers to ear ties especially those with adult students, some not - like schools for children. Korean sizes tend to be smaller, so larger shoes or longer pants can be difficult or impossible to find. For example, shoe stores do not carry men's shoes above size 10. Taller men are advised to bring what you expect to wear for the entire year.
What's the food like?
  North Americans, who generally consider Chinese food to be healthy mix of meats and vegetables, will find it odd to hear Koreans talk of Chinese food as greasy! The Koreans generally use less oil in their cooking and more spices. Korean barbecue is a favourite restaurant dinner meal. Participants sit on floor cushions around a table barbecuing and eating marinated meats from coals or a burner located in the centere of the table. Chop sticks are used to grab pieces of meat a swell as an assortment of marinated vegetables, salad fixings, and rice brought to the table. Kinichi, which is a spicy/garlicky marinated cabbage, is served as a side dish with virtually every meal. Soju, beer, cola or water are the preferred beverages. Lunch might consist of a tasty soup, accompanied by a variety of vegetable side dishes and rice. Everything Korean is quiet tasty and can be eaten out, or ordered for delivery to your apartment. Most restaurants will bring you cutlery if requested, and it's not too difficult to find a McDonald's KFC, or Pizza Hut if you're craving fast food from home. Also, don't worry about tipping at restaurants. It's not the custom.
Are Koreans friendly?
  You might not consider Koreans friendly if you only visit for a two-week vacation. They don't greet and wave like North Americans. Waving to a Korean stranger passing by on the sidewalk will only return a curious stare. People generally give only a slight nod of the head acknowledging one another in passing. It's a completely different story, however, once you've been introduced. Korean's are a good natured and friendly people. Over the course of a year, shop owners, colleagues, students and their families become close friends. You'll dine with them, travel, visit their homes, celebrate holidays and festivals. Many will become life-long friends. Don't be surprised if you're asked out drinking - it's a favourite, or to a noribong (Korean's equivalent of Karaoke). Remember, the person inviting is also the person paying. Going "Dutch" or splitting the bill is not the custom in Korea.
Is it safe?
  South Korea is extremely safe by North American standards. Crime is less and drugs virtually non-existent the penalty can be severe. You'll see young kids playing in the street at night. The only scary part is your first month when you're afraid you'll get lost and not be able to find your way back to your apartment. We advise asking one of your fellow Korean teachers the first day on the job to write essential addresses (in Korean) on the back of a few small cards to be kept in your wallet or purse like your school address, apartment address, etc. That way, you can always hail a cab, hand him the appropriate card, and you will be taken home.
What about medical care?
  Pharmacies are available for most prescriptions or ailments. You don't need to see a doctor in Korea to obtain an antibiotic. Your school director will take you to a doctor if you need one. Most schools provide health insurance and pay half the monthly premium if you request it. Your half of the premium is only 1% - 2% of your salary.
 
   
What about housing?
  Korean language schools provide rent-FREE housing accommodations. You don't have to find your own place or pay for it. You are only responsible for paying the monthly utilities and/or association fees. Accommodations usually consist of a studio apartment, 2-bedroom apartment shared with another teacher, or an officetel. A private bedroom is always provided. Schools in many of the other Asian countries leave the teacher with responsibility for finding his/her apartment and paying for it. This is a valuable consideration in favour of teaching English in Korea.
What about airfare?
  All language schools provide FREE airfare to Korea. Some provide round-trip airfare. All schools offer a bonus of one-month's salary for contract completion, which can be used to purchase return airfare. Some teachers purchase airline tickets to visit other surrounding countries in Asia before returning home. It should be noted that language schools among some of the other Asian countries do not provide any airfare and often put the entire burden on the teacher, which is one of the advantages of teaching in Korea.
What about transportation to and from work?
  Often the apartment owned by the school will be located within walking distance of the school. Sometimes not. City buses are extremely cheap and taxis are affordable with the salaries teachers make.
What products are available?
What do I need to bring?
  Many of the basic food groups found in North American markets are also found in Korean markets. Some of the more difficult items to find include butter, salad dressings, and western spices. Most of the same personal hygiene products can also be found in Korean markets, with one exception -deodorant. You might want to bring a year's supply. Everything is generally cheaper, except for drip coffee. Instant coffee is readily available and affordable, but not coffee beans or grinds. They are very expensive for some reason.
   
  Furnished apartments are provided. All you need to bring are 2 suitcases of clothes, a year's supply of deodorant, a voltage converter and plug adapters if you're bringing electrical items, and 1 towel for your first day or two. You can ask one of your fellow teachers where to buy inexpensive sheets and towels after your arrival Before departing, you can purchase a voltage converter (US$15.00US25. 00) and plug adapters (US$2. 00 - US$3. 00) for 220 volts (Korea) at most domestic hardware stores.
   
What are the work hours?
  It depends on the school and their contract offer to you. The number of teaching hours is typically 120130 hours per month (30-36 hours per week). Schools for children outnumber those for adults, and most operate six days per week. Saturdays are usually a half day. Preparation time is usually minimal and can be done at the school prior to class. So your free time is yours to enjoy. A typical day at a children's school (ages 6-14) might start out with two classes from 10:00 AM to 12:OONN, followed by a three-hour break, and then four more classes from 3:00 PM - 7:30 PM. Again, it varies between schools, and Saturdays are usually half days. Schools for adults tend to have hours scheduled more in the mornings and evenings.
What salaries do teachers make?
  Most offers are coming in between 1,500,000 to 1,800,000 Korean won per month, depending on degree and/or experience. That's roughly US$16,000.00 - US$20,000.00 per annum, including contract completion bonus (1 month salary). Salary payments are usually made on a monthly basis, so we suggest with you the equivalent cash of US$400.00 for living expenses incurred before your first pay cheque arrives.
What about US income tax responsibility?
  You are not obligated to pay US income taxes on any of the money you earn in Korea as long as you live outside the United States for at least 330 days of the year. We recommend you check with your accountant on this.
How long does it take to get hired?
  It can take as little as 30 days to have you in Korea teaching your own classes if you have your passport and a 4-year degree. Access Staff International does not make the hiring decisions. We work with English Language Institutes all over Korea, and they decide who they want to hire from our applicants. However, we successfully placed 90% of all qualified North Americans who submitted complete application packages to us in 1999.
How long do I have to stay? Can I stay longer?
  All contracts offered by Korean English Institutes are for one year. Most are happy to extend your contract for another year, if you request, rather than incurring the cost of flying over another teacher and training them.
What if I don't like it?
  Most contracts have a provision for giving notice if any of the contract clauses have been breached in any way. You can depart after pay day, using the money to purchase an airline ticket rather than spending it on another months' worth of living expenses in Korea. If you want to leave early because you're homesick, there may be a provision in the contract requiring reimbursement for airfare expenses incurred by the school in flying you to Korea. We don't encourage it, but you can always leave.
What about passport and visa requirements?
  You will need a valid US, Canadian or Australian passport In the US and Australia, you may apply for these at any local post office. Teaching English in Korea also requires a one-year E-2 work visa, and a bachelor's degree is needed to obtain one. If offered a job by one of the Korean language schools, Access Staff International will provide instructions and take you through the visa process. This is usually done by mail through the Korean Consulate nearest you, so that you have your visa before you depart for Korea. It usually takes 3 weeks. Occasionally, a school is in a hurry to fill a position, in which case they will fly you to Korea and then fly you over to Japan for 1 day to obtain it.
Do I need vaccinations?
  We recommend always checking with your physician before travelling internationally. Vaccination requirements can fluctuate depending on the country being visited and the duration of the visit.
What do teachers do in their free time?
  You'll find other English teachers in most of the cities of Korea and they generally pursue the same activities in their free time as they would at home. Often, there is a pub in town where they tend to congregate on Friday and Saturday evenings for happy hour. Korean theaters show American movies in English with Korean subtitles. Video stores abound.and music stores as well. A couple of English language TV channels are available, like CNN news, BBC or the movie channel. Shopping, riding bikes, taking walks or hikes in the mountains, going to the beach. Most everything is avialable. Playing a round of golf is expensive, but driving ranges are affordable if you want to maintain your swing. some teachers exchange free english lessons for Korean language lessons or marshall arts lessons. It only takes 50 minutes and US$50.00 to fly from one end of Korea to the other for a two-day holiday. Five hours by train or bus. Cheju-do Island is beautiful and a favorite vacation spot.