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Working and volunteering

Volunteering

Volunteers are always needed to teach English and entertain children who live in orphanages. Koreans are very reluctant to adopt children, partly because of the huge educational costs and partly because of the traditional emphasis on blood lines. Charities working in this area include US-based Korean Kids & Orphanage Outreach Mission and HOPE, a Korean-based non-profit run by foreign English teachers that helps out at orphanages, assists low-income and disadvantaged children with free English lessons and serves food to the homeless.

In Seoul, the Seoul Global Center is a good place to start looking for other volunteer possibilities. More charities and organisations with volunteer opportunities include the following:

Work

Although a few other opportunities are available for work (particularly for those with Korean language skills), the biggest demand is for English teachers. Koreans have an insatiable appetite for studying English and the country is a deservedly popular place for English-language teachers to find work.

Native English teachers on a one-year contract can expect to earn around ₩2.5 million or more a month, with a furnished apartment, return flights, 50% of medical insurance, 10 days paid holiday and a one-month completion bonus all included in the package. Income tax is very low (around 4%), although a 4.5% pension contribution (reclaimable by some nationalities) is compulsory.

Most English teachers work in a hagwon (private language school) but some are employed by universities or government schools. Company classes, English camps and teaching via the telephone are also possible, as is private tutoring, although this is technically illegal. Teaching hours in a hagwon are usually around 30 hours a week and are likely to involve split shifts, and evening and Saturday classes.

A degree in any subject is sufficient as long as English is your native language. However, it’s a good idea to obtain some kind of English-teaching qualification before you arrive, as this increases your options and you should be able to find (and do) a better job.

Some hagwon owners are less than ideal employers and don’t pay all that they promise, so check out the warnings on the ATEK website at the end of this section before committing yourself. Ask any prospective employer for the email addresses of foreign English teachers working at the hagwon, and contact them for their opinion and advice. One important point to keep in mind is that if you change employers, you will usually need to obtain a new work visa, which requires you to leave the country to pick up your new visa. Your new employer may pick up all or at least part of the tab for this.

The best starting point for finding out more about the English-teaching scene is the Association for Teachers of English in Korea.

Doing Business

Investor Korea can help with visas, legal formalities, customs and tax. Seoul Global Centre has brochures and advice about doing business in Seoul, including taxation. Immigration staff are on hand and can help with some issues and paperwork.

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