Please follow these instructions to get your teaching visa for South Korea. This information is for teachers going to private language schools only (Hagwons). The process for public schools is different.
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Teach English Abroad in South Korea
About South Korea
Teaching English in Korea
South Korea is dynamic peninsula where traditional Asian culture and frenetic international modernity intersect. Famous for K-pop, Kimchi, and English teaching jobs, South Korea (the Republic of Korea) is well known among recent English speaking university graduates as a destination for ESL teaching. With a large number of English teaching jobs in public schools and private schools (hagwons) Korea offer native English speakers a plethora of opportunities to teach English abroad.
Public school teaching opportunities are through government run programs including the EPIK Program (English Program in Korea) and GEPIK (Gyeonggi English Program in Korea), while ESL teaching jobs in private schools are with ESL schools ranging from small family run entities to large chains of schools including Chungdahm and Avalon. With over 20,000 native English speakers, Korea is a great destination for first time educators who want to gain experience teaching English abroad.
Salary / Living
South Korea is a modern and developed nation with one of the highest standards of living in Asia. In addition to free flights, housing and medical insurance, teachers receive a generous salary. It is easy to save money, pay student loans, travel, or further your education while teaching in South Korea.
South Korea, traditionally known as The Land of the Morning Calm, is steeped in culture and contrasts. English teachers in Korea can partake in a tranquil weekend retreat at a Buddhist temple nestled in the mountains while teaching English and living in Seoul – the third largest city in the world.
Korea is largely urban and mountainous. By bullet train connecting Seoul and Busan, Korea’s two major cities are only 3 hour apart. Korea has well developed public transportation. All corners of the mainland from the spectacular national parks including Soraksan and Jirisan as well as all major cities, including Daegu, Daejeon, Ulsan and Gwangju, are less than a day’s journey away. Korea’ largest island – Jeju, is a short flight away. Korea’s award winning international airport in Incheon is a hub for travel to other destinations. Teachers often take advantage of their holidays to fly to Tokyo, Hong Kong, Beijing, Thailand and the Philippines. A dynamic blend of old and new, Korea offers remarkable opportunities to teach abroad and experience a culture built on 10,000 years of history.
If you're thinking about the journey, key items to read through are:
This section contains a brief comparison of the private language schools (known as hagwon in Korean) and public schools in Korea.
*Please note that this is a rough guideline of some of the general differences between private and public schools in Korea. Some schools may differ from these for any number of reasons. This chart is for general reference only and not indicative of any particular contract nor a guarantee of any particular benefit.
2013 Teacher Salaries - When considering teaching in a public school in South Korea it should be noted that salaries are not negotiable. Your salary is determined on a set of pre-determined criteria and there are no exceptions. The following information shows you the breakdown of this criteria for the 2011 Ministry of Education Teacher Placements in South Korea.
EPIK - English Program in Korea - Salary Scale
Something that many of us don’t think about before we leave our home countries to teach abroad is - different countries have very different laws.
Things that we take for granted as being “not really a big deal” can carry steep penalties when we are outside of our home countries.
A big one – marijuana use. For many in North America it just makes the list of controlled substances with the use of medicinal marijuana being somewhat commonplace and mostly accepted – in Canada at least.
When I was asked to create a blog for the Footprints website, I wasn’t sure what to write about. Unlike most of the staff at Footprints, I don’t have any teaching experience, and, even though I work in the Asia Department, I haven’t had the chance yet to travel to South Korea, China, or any of the other countries where we place teachers. So, what do I have in common with the Footprints applicants? I have worked and am currently working abroad!
As of April 1, 2011 Korean immigration is going to be enforcing stricter medical exams for any foreigner applying for an Alien Registration Card (ARC). Currently Korean immigration requires foreigners to go through a number of medical exams that include, but are not limited to screening for TB, HIV/AIDS and other contagious diseases as well various narcotics. Starting April 1, the drug screening will be stricter and there will be specific tests for marijuana use now.
Emergency Rescue (Fire & Ambulance) 119
Medical Emergency 129
Local income taxes will be deducted from your paycheck on a monthly basis. In many cases employers will only deduct around 4-7% from your total salary and will exclude deductions for the national pension plan. Find out what is happening and how the tax breakdown unfolds for you. This helps ensure you have medical coverage in Korea.
The Consulate is a great source of information and it is where you will go to apply for your Korean Visa. Different consulates have different policies so contact your local consulate for the most accurate information.
This is a great visa. It allows the holder to work anywhere. On an E2 visa you specifically have to work for the company that sponsors you for the visa. With the F4 visa you can work anywhere!
This visa is only provided to Korean descendants (people with Korean heritage or lineage). You can get the F4 visa before or after you arrive. This often presents placement problems for recruiting agencies because on this visa you don't need a release paper when you move to another school. For this reason, schools do not want to pay recruiting fees for teachers that wish to use this visa.
Visas for Spouses and Dependents - F3 Visas in Korea
If you will be accompanied by a spouse who will not be teaching English, or by your children, they will need to get an F-3 visa in order to accompany you to Korea. When you apply for your E-2 visa, you can apply for your spouse's or child’s F-3 visa at the same time. You will need to provide the Korean embassy or consulate with your dependent’s passport and official documentation certifying your relationship, such as a Birth Certificate or Marriage Certificate.
Canada is one of a few countries that does not recognize Apostille. Document authentication is done by the embassy or consulate of the country for which you wish to get the visa. Please contact that embassy or consulate directly to find out their requirements.
Three Footprints Teachers in South Korea have some fun in their free time and they put together an incredible song called "Kickin' it in Geumchon".
Because geography affects climate it's important to understand where Korea is and what the lay of the land is. South Korea borders North Korea to the North, faces China west across the Yellow Sea (which the Koreans call the West Sea), Japan to the east and south across the East Sea.
South Korea is temperate with rainfall heavier in summer than in winter. There is a wet monsoon season in the middle of the year and a dry, cold winter from November to March. During the winter, winds pick up speed and are carried from the northwest. The coldest month is January. The average winter temperature is around -5C, and begins to warm up in March.
Spring is one of the most beautiful seasons in Korea and several cities, including Masan, near Pusan, hold annual Cherry Blossom Festivals.
In March and April Korea experiences the ‘Yellow Dust’ phenomenon. Deforestation in central China and Mongolia causes massive amounts of particulate matter to be swept up during windstorms.
Despite the relatively small geographic footprint of Korea, they do have diverse weather around the peninsula and even on Jeju Island - the island off the southern tip of Korea.
In winter, in Seoul, the temperature hovers around freezing, and although snow occasionally falls it rarely accumulates- winter weather in Korea is similar to weather in the mid-Atlantic United States - think Washington D.C., or the Pacific Northwest minus the rain.
Autumn is generally considered to be the most pleasant season in Korea - the leaves turn color and the weather is usually cool and sunny which makes for absolutely lovely days to check out a temple or to go for a stroll in the local park.
The fall is beautiful t-shirt weather. The huge colourful leaves falling on the sidewalk add lots of colour to the city. Fall is also the perfect time to go hiking. The temperature is just right, not too hot but still warm and the scenery is amazing.
Summers in Korea tend to be hot and humid. The monsoon season usually starts in July and runs through August- expect brief, driving rains on an almost daily basis during these months. Cheju (Jeju) Island, off the South Coast of Korea, is the warmest and also the wettest area in South Korea.
August is the hottest month in South Korea, with average temperatures ranging from 20 to 26 degrees Celsius (68 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit). On average Pusan (Busan), the southern most major city in Korea, tends to be five degrees warmer Celsius than Seoul.
Korea is one of the easiest countries to get around in, yes, even as a foreigner.
Despite English not being widely spoken, you can always find someone to help you get on the right bus or train. These buses, trains, planes and taxis will take you anywhere in South Korea - and - this is the kicker - they will do it very cheap.
Here are a list of the various modes of transport in South Korea:
You are probably aware that there was a recent military confrontation between North and South Korea, during which a South Korean Island was shelled and several civilians were killed. This is an unfortunate incident, and is one example among many that have taken place between North and South Korea since the end of the Korean War in 1953. Over the past 50 years these incidences have ranged from a few shots fired into the DMZ to an attempted assassination of the South Korean president in 1968 and the grounding of a North Korean submarine on the South Korean coast in 1996.
Teachers heading to South Korea are often unaware that North and South Korea are technically at war.
In many cases it is friends or family that start quizzing them and asking about safety and security in Korea that this "scary situation" becomes apparent... But is it scary?... In a recent poll run on the Footprints Recruiting website, roughly 27% of people said the political situation in North Korea did negatively impact their decision to teach in South Korea.
Ever wondered what it was like in a country that has been closed to the world for 50 years?
A country that received a donation of 50 bicycles in 2001 from the Red Cross so that doctors could make house calls to patients and get to hospitals? A country where foreign movies have been banned for 50 years but the leader of the country has his own book written about his favorite blockbusters. I think Batman tops his list.
Can you guess what country I’m talking about?
Anti-Americanism, or the American perception of anti-Americanism, is a topic many American teachers consider before heading overseas to go anywhere. Over the past decade they have been some candid shots of Koreans in protest of American influence and "occupation" (there are over 30,000 American troops in Korea at any given time).
Interestingly, any reports that manage to make it to mainstream media in the US or other country abroad is a short clip of something frantic - standard for most news coverage as there has to be something dramatic to report.
Korea is an amazing country to live and work in but having said that, there are a lot of people who dwell on the negatives... don't be one of those people... Be patient and accepting.
Accept that you don't understand the many facets of the culture and that you may never completely understand and you are well on your way to making the most of your experience.
There are many ways to be a successful ESL teacher abroad and Footprints Recruiting can help you become one. Once you are abroad, we will provide you with ongoing support, but you will be faced with many challenges on your own.
There seems to be a paucity of information available about the Korean arts scene in English, but if you poke around there are some rewarding gems hidden both in the cities and the countryside.
In Seoul, many galleries and antique stores are located in Insadong, a street near the downtown core of Seoul, adjacent to the Chongno neighborhood. This is a great place to have a cup of tea and do your Christmas shopping.
While missing home and complaining about where you are is a normal part of the ex-pat lifestyle, you will often find that those who complain the most are those that exert the least effort getting the most out of their time abroad.
Korean history spans over 5000 years.
The maintenance of their culture and language throughout this span of time is remarkable considering the many hostile occupations and invasions they have experienced over time which could account for the incredible sense of patriotism and nationalism that is plainly evident all over Korea.
Sure, we’ve all been down to our last 5,000 Won - and with a hankering for a bite to eat.
Take heart - there are places where you can grab a hearty meal to tide you over for that amount. Short of splitting the cost with friends, ordering a satisfying meal alone can often be costly.
There are big and small street vendors in Korea.
I believe the actual name for them is pojangmacha but there could be several different words for them depending on what they serve, how big they are, where they are at and a host of other sub-culture taxonomy conventions.
My breakfast is eaten at home, though I always get a vending machine instant coffee with the bits of change in my pocket.
For those more in tune with breakfast, there are loads of breakfast cereals and toast and spread and fruit selections available. Traditional Korean breakfast is seaweed soup with turnip and often fish, served with rice and kimchi.
What better way to immerse yourself in Korean culture than learning how to cook Korean food?
Korea has a culinary tradition distinct from Japanese and Chinese cuisine - traditional Korean cuisine is heavily influenced by Mongol culture. Koreans are the only Asian culture that eats rice with a spoon. Interestingly, the pepper, a mainstay of all Asian cuisine, was introduced to Asia by the Dutch in the 17th century - the pepper plant comes from the Americas. It is hard to imagine any Asian cuisine without this mainstay.
Drinking is virtually a national sport in Korea, and there seems to be virtually no stigma attached to getting stinking drunk in public, particularly for men.
There are no shortage of drinking establishments, from sidewalk tents to trendy nightclubs, and this seems to be the recreational activity of choice for many English teachers in Korea.
Chinese and Japanese are the foreign cuisines most common in Korea.
Most Chinese restaurants in Korea are modest affairs that serve jajangmyung (noodles with black sauce) and tang su yuk (sweet and sour pork). Japanese restaurants are generally more expensive and dishes usually include twigim (tempura) and sashimi (raw fish).
Korea has all kinds of eating establishments, ranging from street vendors (pojangmachas) and hole-in-the-wall shikdangs (small restaurants) to high-priced, formal restaurants will full-course meals. In between you can find many types of medium-sized places offering a wide range of food types, including traditional Korean food, fast food, Western and other non-Korean dishes.
Happily, tipping is not customary in Korea.