Seoul is a popular place for English teachers to work, and since Koreans have an insatiable appetite for studying English finding a teaching job shouldn’t be too hard. A university 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 certificate before you arrive as this increases your options if not your salary. Some foreigners who go to Seoul to teach bitch about everything and probably should have stayed at home. Take an honest look at yourself before cutting loose and don’t go if you struggle to maintain a positive attitude or are unwilling to adapt to a different culture.
Teachers can expect to teach 30 hours per week and earn around W1.9 million a month (income tax is around 5%), with a furnished apartment, medical insurance, return flights, paid holiday (10 days) and completion bonus all part of a one-year package.
Most English teachers work in a hagwon (private language school) but others work in government schools or universities. Private tutoring, company classes and even teaching via the telephone are also possible. Teaching in a hagwon usually involves evening and weekend work.
Some hagwon owners don’t keep the promises made in the employment contract, so check out your embassy in Seoul’s website and the websites below before committing yourself. Ask for the email address of a teacher who works for your prospective employer if you have any concerns. Remember that if you change employers, you will need to go through the hassle of obtaining a new work visa, which requires you to leave the country. Most make the visa run to Fukuoka or Osaka in Japan, but take sufficient funds as Japan is mega expensive and you cannot always rely on picking up a visa the next day.
The Korea Times website (times.hankooki.com) has job vacancies, but most English teaching jobs are on specialist websites:
www.englishspectrum.com Stacks of stuff for expats in Seoul including job vacancies, classifieds, discussion forums and links to blogs.
www.eslcafé.com A wonderful site run by the one and only Dave Sperling has new English teaching vacancies posted daily, lively discussion forums about life in Seoul and masses of help to make you a better teacher.
www.eslhub.com This Seoul site has job and accommodation classifieds and great links.
www.koreajoblink.com Registration is necessary but it’s free.
www.kotesol.org Run by a group of English teachers who organise conferences, it has useful links for teachers.
www.worknplay.co.kr Jobs and other stuff.
For most government and private offices, business hours are from 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday. Government offices usually close an hour earlier from November to February.
Banking hours are from 9.30am to 4pm Monday to Friday.
Post offices are open from 9am to 6pm Monday to Friday from March to October, and 9am to 5pm November to February.
Department stores traditionally open from 10.30am to 7.30pm daily with one day off a week. Nowadays some open every day and a few open until late evening. New high-rise shopping malls tend to stay open until 10pm and a few, for example in Dongdaemun, are open all night.
Small shops open from 10am to around 9pm but some stay open until midnight, and many convenience stores are open 24 hours.
Restaurants usually open from 11am or noon until 9pm or 10pm seven days a week.
Cinemas are traditionally open from 11am with the last show ending at 11pm, but nowadays some continue later and even all night, like at COEX.
As business hours vary, they are listed in the review.
Seoul offers plenty for night owls as some saunas, markets, malls, convenience stores, cinemas, Internet cafés and restaurants open all night, while many bars and nightclubs stay open until dawn, particularly on Friday or Saturday night. Clubbing, watching movies, napping in a sauna or shopping until 5.30am means you can catch an early subway train home and save on the taxi fare.
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