Teaching ESL in Korea

Teaching ESL in Korea

There is a very strong demand for ESL teachers in Korea with positions to teach in public or private schools. The Oxford Seminars Graduate Placement Service has access to many positions with reputable schools and agencies.

Living and Teaching in Korea
Korea: At a Glance
Korea: Living in Korea
Korea: Teaching ESL in Korea
Korea: Financial Snapshot


Peak ESL Hiring Season in Korea
Types of ESL Jobs in Korea
How to Find Jobs Teaching English in Korea
Largest Chain Schools in Korea
Tips for ESL Teachers in Korea
Teaching Requirements for ESL Teachers in Korea
Embassy and Consulate Information in Korea

Peak ESL Hiring Season in Korea 

The demand for ESL teachers in Korea is constant, which means the peak hiring season lasts 365 days a year. For Korean public schools, the main start dates are in February/March and August/September with applications being processed in the four months preceding. There are new job postings on the Internet every day, and Korean streets and newspapers are always filled with job notices regardless of the season. ESL teachers about to move to Korea have the unique advantage of deciding what time to begin teaching English in the country.


Types of ESL Teaching Jobs in Korea

Public School System

Teaching in a Korean public school has its advantages for ESL teachers. Factors which attract many teachers to the public school system include job stability and the lower number of teaching hours. English teaching positions in a public school typically pay a standard rate depending on qualifications, while payment from academies or hagwans (private education companies) varies depending on many factors. Many ESL teachers also feel more secure working at a public school because they are mandated and run by the Korean education system. Teachers looking for employment in a Korean public school should be aware that these positions offer more vacation time but they may only work with one to three other foreigners, as other subjects are taught in Korean by Korean teachers. The advantage is that foreign teachers are accompanied by Korean teachers in the classroom to assist with lesson planning and behavior management.

In addition to hiring for private language schools, a number of partners to the Oxford Seminars Graduate Placement Service recruit for highly sought-after public school positions through various provincial offices of education.

Private Language Schools

The easiest place for ESL teachers to find employment in Korea is in hagwans. A hagwan is a privately-run school which offers classes in English. Hagwans vary in size and amount of staff; they also vary in the courses offered to their students. When doing an Internet search, it is easy to spot both stories of positive and negative experiences teaching in hagwans. Remember that these are businesses, and while some might seem to place a higher importance on generating profit than the education of their students, don’t let horror stories scare away a great opportunity. Asking questions when being interviewed for a teaching job and spending some time researching any school that may be interested in hiring is great advice no matter where an ESL teacher is applying. Pay is typically equal to or higher than in public schools and working with several other foreigners is more common.

Universities and Colleges

Universities and technical colleges in Korea almost exclusively hire from the large pool of ESL teachers already in the country and these positions are highly sought-after. Applicants should have at least three years of experience working in the overseas ESL market to be considered and master's degree holders are strongly preferred. However, because there are a significant number of colleges and universities operating in the country, the potential for a serious ESL teacher’s career growth is almost limitless. Many of these jobs pay similar wages to teaching in the public school system, and compensate this discrepancy by offering more benefits, including more vacation time.

Private Tutoring

It is possible to make some extra money working as an English teacher offering private tutoring to Korean students. Teachers thinking about offering private English lessons should consult the contract they originally signed with the school. Most schools in Korea stipulate that teachers may not teach English anywhere other than in the school that hired them. Violating this agreement will risk many elements of an ESL career in Korea and could result in the loss of a job, monetary fines, or deportation. Be sure to discuss the possibility of teaching private English lessons with any employer before signing a contract. If an English teacher is able to work delivering private lessons, they will be able to charge around 20,000 - 70,000 Won hourly.


EPIK [English Program in Korea]

EPIK was established by the National Institute for International Education in 1995 to improve the English-speaking abilities of students and teachers in public schools throughout Korea. Guidelines for qualifications can be found at the EPIK Website. Placements are made in September and March, but applications are accepted year-round. Interested individuals should note that contracts with EPIK are for a minimum of one year, renewable each year following, and that preference is given to those having previous teaching experience with children.

GEPIK [Gyeonggi English Program in Korea]

Much like EPIK, GEPIK is a government-run group that manages schools in Gyeonggi province (which surrounds the metropolis of Seoul) and recruits instructors to teach in public schools throughout the province. Many of these schools are located in the suburbs of Seoul and are accessible to downtown by subway.

Other Jobs Teaching English in Korea

With English being the international language of business, many Korean companies are incorporating English lessons into their employees' work day. Korean businesses find it easier to hire in-house English teachers rather than send employees to a hagwan. These jobs typically have longer hours than a public school or hagwan, and usually do not include accommodations. ESL teachers choosing this career path may have the option of negotiating salary; these types of positions are best secured in person by teachers with experience in Korea.


How to Find Jobs Teaching English in Korea 

Graduates of Oxford Seminars receive our Graduate Placement Service with exclusive access to established schools and recruiters around the world, including Korea.

There are many websites which feature lists of schools looking for TESOL/TESL certified teachers to teach English in Korea. Decide which elements of teaching English in Korea are important before applying for any teaching jobs.

Individual answers to the following questions should provide some insight:

  • Does working in a large urban area such as Seoul appeal more than working in a smaller rural region?
  • How much of a factor is salary and quality of accommodations when considering applications to teaching jobs?
  • What level of English would students need to communicate?
  • What age range would comprise the ideal classroom?
  • Are there any concerns about taking public transit?
  • Is travel important? How much off-time would the ideal teaching position offer?

Additional ESL Resources to Help Teach English in Korea

The following links are recommended resources for individuals interested in ESL teaching in Korea:

Resources that may include ESL teaching jobs are:

Korean Newspapers


Largest Chain Schools in Korea 

Korean parents consider knowledge of the English language to be a very high priority for their children, often spending large portions of their income on additional private education. With such a large ESL market, there are many chain schools and academies specifically for teaching English in all regions of Korea, 12 months a year.

  • Berlitz - One of the largest international chain schools in the world, Berlitz is a great place for any English teacher looking to find a job in Korea. The chain school has locations in Seosomun-dong, Kwanghwamun, Yeouido, Kangnam, and Samseong.
  • ECC - ECC has locations throughout Korea; over 70 offices within Seoul alone. Being a large company, they are able to offer very competitive salaries and opportunities for their teachers. There are ECC schools in Seoul, Incheon, Ilsan, Bundang, Daejeon, Daegu, Changwon, and Busan.


Tips for ESL Teachers in Korea 

There are a lot of opportunities for ESL teachers in Korea, so decide what type of English teaching job is the best fit. Elementary school positions are the most common.

  • Learning the Korean language overnight is impossible, but it is highly recommended to spend some time learning as many common phrases as you can. In many urban areas, it is possible to find free Korean language lessons. Hangul, the modern Korean alphabet, was created by academics some 600 years ago so that even a "commoner" could learn to read and write. It is an extremely phonetic alphabet that can be learned in just days.
  • For the most part, Korean apartments are smaller than those in North America. Do not expect to have a lot of space for items that can easily stay at home.
  • The majority of schools will pay for, or reimburse, air transportation costs. Typically the cost of a one-way ticket to Korea will be reimbursed within one month of arriving and the ticket home will be provided at the end of the contract. One can bring this initial cost down by spending some time researching various options on the Internet.
  • Practice using chopsticks. Do not come to Korea expecting to use a fork and knife in public.
  • Moving to the other side of the world usually means that ESL teachers must find someone they trust to manage their finances while they are gone. Some choose friends or family while others choose to speak to a professional financial advisor. Many services can be suspended until a teacher returns from overseas. In Canada, claiming non-residency can prevent high taxes upon return. For more information about non-residency, visit: Canada Revenue Agency.


Teaching Requirements for ESL Teachers in Korea 

The requirements and guidelines below are listed for ESL teacher applicants to Korea who are citizens of Canada, USA, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa.

The most common visa for which ESL teachers apply is the E2 (Long Term Visa to Teach a Foreign Language).

Minimum Requirements to Apply for Teaching Positions in Korea

  • BA (3 or 4 year) degree from an English-speaking university/college. A temporary degree or graduation letter from university is not acceptable.
  • Native English speaker (English spoken since birth), or have resided and been formally educated for at least 10 years (from at least 7th grade) in an English-speaking country (Canada, USA, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa). 
  • Citizenship in a country where English is the primary language (Canada, USA, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa).

Types of Applicable Visas

  • E2 (Long-term Visa to Teach a Foreign Language).
  • E1 (Professor Visa): designed for those who wish to teach in a university setting (not confined to teaching foreign languages) and who are qualified according to the 'Higher Education Act' standards. 
  • C4 (Short-term Employment Visa): designed for those who plan to stay for 90 days or less with the intention of profiting from lectures, research, the instruction of new technology, commercials, fashion modeling, etc. 
  • Spousal Visa: designed for those married to a Korean and living in Korea. ESL teachers are eligible to use this visa to teach English, providing the necessary requirements are met.
  • F4 (Visa for People of Korean Heritage): This visa can be secured for a stay of up to two years and can be extended. This visa can be used for employment in almost all sectors, excluding unskilled manual labor and speculation activities.

Important Visa Information

  • E2 visa applicants should apply for a visa at a Korean embassy or consulate in one’s own country.
  • Visas will only be granted if there is sufficient time remaining on the applicant’s passport after end of stay in Korea (six months). 
  • One should apply for a visa in person.


Standard Process for Obtaining Documentation to Work Legally in Korea

  1. Applicant secures a contract with a legitimate school.
  2. The school applies to the Korean Immigration Office on applicant’s behalf, and if approved, receives a Visa Issuance Confirmation Number (VICN). 
  3. VICN number is given to the teacher to be used in applying for the visa. 
  4. Teacher takes VICN to closest embassy/consulate, along with documents listed below.

Standard Required Documents for Visas

It is important to check with the Korean embassy/consulate as variations in requirements sometimes occur.

  • A valid passport with at least six months remaining after travel dates (this should be confirmed with local embassy/consulate)
  • Completed visa application 
  • Passport photos  
  • Original degree and a notarized copy
  • Sealed university transcripts 
  • Employment contract 
  • Letter of personal reference 
  • Federal Certified Criminal Record Check from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Those with minor offences will be taken into consideration on a case-by-case basis, but typically any criminal record check that does not come back clean will disqualify the applicant for a Korean E2 work visa.
  • Applicant's Health Statement (form available through Korean embassy/consulate). The applicant is not required to obtain a physician’s medical assessment, but rather must complete a self-health statement to be submitted along with the visa application. Within 90 days of arrival in Korea, he/she would be required to go through medical testing at a designated hospital in order to maintain a valid visa. 
  • All official documents notarized 
  • For Canadian Citizens: All notarized documents must be confirmed at the Korean embassy/consulate


Embassy and Consulate Information in Korea

Canadian Embassy and Consular Offices in Korea

Canadian Embassy, Seoul
21, Jeongdong-gil (Jeong-dong), Jung-gu
Seoul, 04518
South Korea
Phone: 82 2 3783 6000
Fax: 82 2 3783 6239
Email: seoul@international.gc.ca
Website: http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/korea-coree/offices-bureaux/embassy_canada_ambassade.aspx?lang=eng
Hours of Operation: Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 11:45 am; 12:45 pm to 5:00 pm

Canadian Consulate, Busan
c/o Dongsung Chemical Co., Ltd.99 Sinsan-ro, Saha-gu
Busan 49421, Republic of Korea
Phone: 82 5 1204 5581
Fax: 82 5 1204 5580
Email: seoul@international.gc.ca
Website: http://www.canadainternational.gc.ca/korea-coree/offices-bureaux/consulate_busan_consulat.aspx?lang=eng
Hours of Operation: Monday to Friday : 09:00 am to 11:30 am and 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm

The United States of America Embassy and Consular Offices in Korea

Embassy of the United States, Seoul
Seoul, Korea
188 Sejong-daero, Jongno-gu,
Seoul, Republic of Korea
Phone: 82 2 397 4114
Fax: 82 2 7397-4080
Email: seoulinfoACS@state.gov
Website: https://kr.usembassy.gov/
Hours of Operation: Monday to Friday, 8:45 am to 11:15 am; 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm

U.S. Consulate General, Busan
Room #612, Lotte Gold Rose Building
#150-3 Yangjung-dong, Busan jin-gu
Busan, Republic of Korea
Phone: 82 5 1863 0731
Email: seoulinfoACS@state.gov
Website: https://kr.usembassy.gov/embassy-consulate/busan/
Hours of Operation:
Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 12:30 am; 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm


Australian Embassy and Consular Offices in Korea

Australian Embassy, Seoul
19th Floor Kyobo Building
1 Jong-Ro,
Seoul 03154, Republic of Korea
Phone: +822 2003 0100
Fax: +822 2003 0196
Email: seoul-visa@dfat.gov.au
Website: http://www.southkorea.embassy.gov.au
Hours of Operation: Monday to Friday, 9:00 am to noon; 1:30 pm to 4:30 pm

Australian Consulate-General, Busan
Room 802 Samwhan Officetel
830-295 Bumil 2-dong, Dong-Ku
Busan 601-709, Republic of Korea
Phone: 82 51 647 1762
Fax: 82 51 647 1764
Email: seoul-visa@dfat.gov.au
Website: http://www.dfat.gov.au/missions/countries/krpu.html
Hours of Operation: Monday to Friday, 9:00 am to noon; 2:00 pm to 4:30 pm


British Embassy in Korea

British Embassy, Seoul
Sejong-daero 19-gil 24
Jung-gu Seoul
04519, Republic of Korea
Phone: 82 2 3210 5500
Fax: 82 2 725 1738
Email: Enquiry.seoul@fco.gov.uk
Hours of Operation: Monday to Friday, 9:00 am to 12:30pm then 1:30pm to 5:15 pm (closes at 5:00 pm on Fridays)

Irish Embassy in Korea

Irish Embassy, Seoul
Leema Bldg. 13F.,
42, Jongro 1-gil,
Seoul, Korea 03152, Republic of Korea
Phone: 82 2 721 7200
Fax: 82 2 774 6458
Email: seoulembassy@dfa.ie
Website: https://www.dfa.ie/irish-embassy/republic-of-korea/
Hours of Operation: Monday to Friday, 9:00 am to 12:30 pm; 1:30 pm to 5:00 pm

New Zealand's Embassy in Korea

New Zealand Embassy, Seoul
8th Floor, Jeong Dong Building , 21-15, Jeongdong-gil, Jung-gu
04518 Seoul, Republic of Korea
Phone: 82 2 3701 7700
Fax: 82 2 3701 7701
Email: nzembsel@mfat.net
Website: http://www.nzembassy.com/korea
Hours of Operation: Monday to Friday, 9:00 am to 12:30pm and 1:30pm to 5:30 pm


Embassy Offices Outside Korea

Korean Embassy in Canada

Embassy of the Republic of Korea, Ottawa
150 Boteler Street
Ottawa, Ontario, K1N 5A6
Phone: 1 613 244 5010
Fax: 1 613 244 5034
Email: canada@mofa.go.kr
Website: http://can-ottawa.mofat.go.kr/eng/
Hours of Operation: Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to noon; 1:30pm to 5:00 pm

Korean Embassy in the US

Embassy of the Republic of Korea, Washington 
2450 Massachusetts Ave. NW.
Washington, DC 20008
Phone: 1 202-939-5600
Fax: 1 202-797-0595
Email: consular_usa@mofat.go.kr
Website: http://usa.mofa.go.kr/english/am/usa/main/
Hours of Operation: Monday to Friday, 9:00 am to noon; 1:30 pm to 5:30 pm


Other East Asia / Southeast Asia Countries:

Cambodia ~ China ~ Hong Kong ~ India ~ Indonesia ~ Japan ~ Korea ~ Kyrgyzstan ~ Laos ~ Malaysia ~ Nepal ~ Taiwan ~ Thailand ~ Vietnam