Thursday, April 21, 2011

Teaching English in Korea - Job application


First thing to consider when applying for work in Korea is that the whole process can be a costly. Courier services are expensive, and unless you live close to Pretoria, you will have to use them several times, or drive up and down when needed. Depending on the type of school you want to work in, and your preferred location, you may get a offer  very quickly after you send out your first CV.  More about this later.  A more practical question worth answer straight away is whether you are ready to pack up and leave everything behind tomorrow if you get an job offer? Maybe you are in a serous relationship, have a car-loan, a lease for another 6 months, can you in all seriousness leave your family and friends for perhaps a year?     Do you have enough money to pay for all the visa fees, postal charges, and flight tickets, and will you have enough left after all that to survive for at least a month in a foreign country?  And yes, some job advertisements might tell you that they pay for your flight to Korea, but did they tell you WHEN they will pay it? Often it is a month or two AFTER you've arrived in Korea (this is to stop those who want to come over on a free ticket, have a holiday, and then go back home). Do you have the right qualifications? How good is your English (a very strong accent will not count in your favour, no matter how good you are).    These are all things to consider before you start the process.

Where to look for work?

There are several options available to you in terms of looking for work in South Korea. The two obvious, and most well known websites with many job post on a daily basis is: Daves ESL (, and Craigs List (  Personally I had a hard time finding work on the popular Daves ESL, since many companies on there prefer teachers with an American accent. Perhaps I should rephrase that, the agencies on there had work for me, but in less popular areas in the country side. The popular destinations they seem to keep for the North Americans (Koreans prefer the American accents, and they understand them better as well). On the other hand, the agencies on Craigs List were much more open to employing people from South Africa in places like Seoul and Busan, and I for example had a work offer for a winter camp a day after I send out my first CV on their website. Again, I am mindful of saying that this is the norm, but this was my experience with these two websites. There are other websites as well, but some just ended up spamming up my mailbox.

Public or Private?

In terms of work types, you have two main choices: Public or private schools. Public schools are like you would expect in South Africa, however, the private schools here are comparable to day-care centres in SA almost, in other words, it is school, after school (so to speak).  These private institutions are called Hagwons.  There are many websites and blogs that will try to convince you as to the pro's and cons of working in Hagwons, as supposed to private schools, but as far as I can tell, it all depends where you end up at. There are good and bad public school and Hagwons. The good thing about public schools is that you are a little more safe and secure in terms of your salary and benefits, whereas with the Hagwons you sometimes hear horror stories (at least online) about people not being paid on time, or at all, etc.  Keep in mind that a Hagwon is a business, and if the students are not happy with you, or if the parents feel you are not giving their children their money's worth (they pay quite a lot every month for classes), then obviously the hagwon will lose money, since the students might go one of the other million hagwons in Korea.  In public schools you do not have that stress so much about that, on the other hand, you are not as free in terms of what you can teach necessarily (and may or may not teach from a set textbook), and I am sure it can be much more "fun" to teach in the more relaxed setting of a Hagwon. In public schools you also have to co-teach with a Korean teacher (it is illegal for you to teach alone in public schools since you technically aren't a real teacher), and as with any relationship, you may love or hate (or both) the people you have to teach with. This means that if you do not get along with your co-teacher, your life at the school can become a little miserable. On the plus side, good co-teachers can make life easier for you, and can help you with adapting to life in Korea.


There is actually also a third option available to you if you hold a Masters degree or higher. Probably the most sought after positions are at universities.  They pay well, often provide long holidays, and are more prestigious. Often job applications will say that the applicant MUST have a Masters, but you might be lucky to get a position anyway. It all depends on your qualifications, and how much you can impress with your CV and photo.


On the subject of photos. Photos usually do not form part of your job application in South Africa. However, in Korea, your CV/job application must almost always have a photo attached to it.  Yes, and you will be judged in all probability based on how you look, so it might be with your while to get professional looking pictures taken, and a little bit of touching up with photoshop might not altogether be a bad idea. You will need quite a lot photos, several for job applications, and a few more for visa's and work permits.  Get at least 6 - 8  passport photos.

Postal Matters:

Sending documents to Korea can be rather expensive process. There are rather interesting postal charges when it comes to sending various types of documents to Korea. For example, one postnet branch tried to charge me in the region of R900 to send my work application forms to Korea. It was supposed to be (about R450)(i cant remember the exact amounts now), but the person behind the counter saw that there was a passport photo attached to the application form, and decided that I was trying to send photos to Korea,  and according to the little book that he pulled out, photos are supposed to be charged at a higher courier rate to Korea.  A trip to another postnet office saved me R450.  Make use of one of the internationally recognised courier services, since not all courier companies necessarily have branches in Korea, which means that your letter to Korea might take longer than with other courier companies, and tracking might also only be possible up to a point.

 Your choices:

So what are your options in terms of public schools? You have three main options: Seoul (SMOE), Gyeonggido province (GEPIK) and everything outside of Gyeonggido province (EPIK).  The only difference between SMOE and EPIK is that if you are chosen for SMOE, you will work in Seoul, whereas with EPIK you could end up anywhere in Korea that doesnt include the GEPIK area. So if you want to go to Busanor Jeju island, you apply to EPIK for example.  EPIK and SMOE work closely together, and you will find that the application form for both are the same, but there are a set of additional forms that you need to complete if you want to teach in Seoul. There is much more competition for Seoul, and the requirements are therefore a bit higher than with any of the other two options. If you struggle to find work, apply to GEPIK.  You will not end up in any of the popular distinations in Korea, but the chances of finding work is very good.

It is also worth looking into the JET program offered by Japan. It is similar to EPIK, and it might be a good idea to apply to both EPIK and JET if you are looking for work in Asia.

Required Document for EPIK application


1. Application form

Applicant must fill in EPIK application including personal essay and self medical check form. Personal Essay must be more than 300 words and TEIK recommends that you to write this essay briefly about why you would be an outstanding teacher in the EPIK program.

2. Formal Resume (cover letter)

Resume must be formal and appropriate for applying at a public school teaching job. Highlight one's education background and full time/part-time/volunteer teaching experience must be clearly stated on your resume and a cover letter must be included as well.

3. BA and MA Diploma (notarized copy only)

EPIK applicant must have a 3~4 years BA qualification or above and applicants must provide a notarized (Apostilled) copy of their BA and MA diploma(s). Do not send the original.

4. Official Sealed Transcripts (BA and MA)

Officially Sealed Academic Transcripts must be provided and the applicant must provide MA or Doctorate transcripts as well (if it is applicable).

*Note: Statewide CBC (Criminal Background Check) clearance is only acceptable.

5. A clear copy of Passport (Photo page only)

Photocopy of one's passport needs to be submitted and notarization is not necessary.

6. Criminal Record Check(Photo page only)

Notarized (Apostilled) CBC (CRC same as CBC) criminal background check. Criminal record check is only valid up to 6 months after it is issued.

l CBC/CRC Web Search Results by a private company are not acceptable and the CRC must clearly state that "No criminal record" or "No criminal record found" on the statement.

7. Two sealed reference (recommendation) letters

Recommendation letters must be sealed and the EPIK office will open these documents when they screen applicant's documents. A friend or close relative can't issue this reference letter. An academic professor or former/current employer should issue this letter and the letters must have a letter head and contact information with a signature on it.

8. Teaching Certification or Language Certificate (TEFL, TESOL or CELTA)

Certified teachers must provide notarized copies of teaching certifications and or Language certificates such as CELTA, TESOL or TEFL and these courses must be more than 100 hrs to receive credit otherwise it won't positively affect your salary level (certificate holders can have a higher salary).

9. Three passport size photos

You need to prepare several passport photos because you will need one also after you arrive in South Korea for your alien registration card. You need to paste one of your passport size photos onto your application and send two to Korea with your documents.

10. Letter of full-time teaching experience.

Applicants must provide an official letter from their previous employers in order to prove an applicant's full-time teaching experience. A copy of your previous E2 visa or a copy of your previous contract(s) will not be acceptable and the period of employment and "full-time employee" should be stated in your letter.

l Only one full year of experience will be considered as a full time teaching experience, so less than that will not be considered for higher pay (for better salary criteria).

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