working in korea

Seoul Tower

For most foreigners working in Korea, teaching is the best job. The pay is high and the hours are reasonable. There is a constant demand for native English language teachers in Korea and anyone with a degree can start teaching. I will explain more about this below.

If you don’t have a degree, are fed up with teaching or looking for something new, your job options will be few and far between. Some foreign students get jobs at a restaurant or bar but the pay can be as low as 4,000 won an hour. Some people try to get some modelling gigs, TV appearances, staff at a promotional event or even voice overs for games and shows. These pay quite well however it is forbidden under most visas including the E2 and H1 (Working Holiday Visa) visa. Other possible lines of work would be in import / export.  South Korea produces many high end electronic items and cars. If you could find small shops or businesses outside Korea who are looking to import items from Korea you could help source and ship the items and get paid quite well.

Some websites for looking for a job in Korea:
http://seoul.craigslist.co.kr/
http://www.eslcafe.com/jobs/korea/
http://www.worknplay.co.kr/
Here are some common questions that users of ExploringKorea.com have asked:

Do you need to know how to talk Korean to be a English teacher in Korea?

No. When teaching English in Korea you don’t need to use Korean. You teach in English and the other teachers or the principal will use English.

Do I need to be certified or have some English teaching experience?
No. All you need is a degree in ANYTHING and be a native speaker of English.

Where can I teach English?
Nearly all teaching jobs in Korea are at a hagwon, primary / secondary school or a university. A hagwon is usually a small language school that is open early in the morning till late in the evening. The age of the students can range from just 3 or 4 up to people in their 80′s.
Primary or Secondary school is a good job to have as it has reasonable hours usually 9 – 4, decent pay and regular holidays. The best job to land for any English teacher in Korea is at a university. The pay is excellent, the working hours are low and there are plenty of holidays and days off including a long paid summer and winter vacation.
Some teachers teach private lessons in their free time and can earn up 50,000 won an hour. The pay is great and you can set your own hours however this is illegal and anyone who is caught teaching private lessons will be deported for visa violations.

Where are the jobs?
Seoul and Busan have a huge population and a high demand for teachers. Other areas in Korea also have demands for teachers but on a smaller level. You can teach anywhere you want in Korea. Nearly every town and city is looking for an English teacher. You have to decide which lifestyle would be better for you.

Is it hard to learn Korean?
Honestly this depends on the person. I have met people who lived in Korea for 1 year and could speak great Korean and others who have lived here for years and can speak none. The Korean alphabet (Hangul) is quite easy to learn. Don’t listen to what others say. If you spend one day concentrating and writing down the characters you could easily learn it in a day. The major problem that English speakers have with Korean is the grammar. It is very different from English and will take months to get a grip of it and to use it naturally.

What is the pay like in Korea?
For English teachers pay is from 1,800,000 won up to 3,000,000 won. Most schools rent an apartment for you or if you wish to find your own they give you rent allowance, usually about 400,000 won.

Can I save money in Korea?
Again this depends on the person. It is easy to party and drink away your monthly salary in a couple of nights. If you are smart with your money you could easily save 1,000,000 won plus a month. By smart I mean making your breakfast, luch and dinner on weekdays which will cost about 200,000 won a month. By only heading out at the weekends and staying clear of foreigner hangouts and bars can you save money. Stick to the street vendors or small local restaurants. Start drinking Soju. A bottle in a super market is only 1,000 won and two of these will keep you happy all night long. Don’t buy the most expensive smart phone you can buy. Use the subway / buses and use taxis sparingly.
If you follow these basic ideas you will be able to save 1,000,000 won and have money left over to do some sightseeing or enjoy a hobby.

Are there many foreigners in Korea?
Yes, there are over 1,000,000 foreigners in Korea which accounts for 2% of the total population. The majority of foreginers are from China (480,000) and Korean- Chinese people (380,000). There are 118,000 Americans in Korea most of whom are English teachers or work for the U.S army. Other big groups in Korea are the Vietnamese, Filipinos, Thai, Japanese and many other Asian countries.

What are Korean people like?
Having worked and travelled in Korea I have found the Korean people to be very friendly and helpful. Whenever I was lost or confused in a restaurant they were happy to help. Koreans are very proud of their culture and history and will jump at any chance to tell you facts or stories about Korea. When you meet Koreans for the first time they will ask you how old you are. Do not be offended. In Korea age and seniority play a very important role in how people interact with each other. There is a formal language and customs used when communicating with elders and juniors are expected to follow and obey their elders.

If you have any more questions leave a comment below.

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