Monday, July 19, 2010

Working in Korea

I realized today that there will only be about three more posts on Everybody Jecheon Tonight.  There might be the odd photo post from our travels, but it's more likely we'll use Facebook to keep the family updated.

It'll be sad to let go of this project, but Ian and I will be starting a green lifestyle blog once we're settled in Portland.  It'll be a challenging undertaking and I'm excited to get it started.  I'll link it through this blog when we've begun.

I figure that the last few posts should be dedicated to helping people find good work in Korea.  Obviously, the first step is not to work for Yoon's English in Jecheon. But, as they're not hiring anymore foreigners, it's unlikely for someone else to get duped by them.

Tips for Finding a Good Job in Korea
  • Go through a major recruiting service.  People have complaints about all of them, but, the bigger the company, the more of a support base you'll have (other recruits, different recruitment agents) if something does go wrong.
  • Know what you want (do lots of research) and stand your ground.  Recruiters work for you and you can fire them if they don't make you happy.  You don't have to take the first offer that comes and take your time before saying yes to any offer.  Research the company.
  • Spend time on job forums and get to know the lingo.  If you know what's normal, legal and acceptable it's less likely that you'll get worked over.  Dave's ESL Cafe is a good start, though it's tough to navigate.  One of the forums is for people to post their contracts and have them reviewed by teaching veterans.
Questions to Ask any Potential Company 
  • How many foreign teachers are currently working at your institution? Generally, it's better to work for a hagwon that has more than 1 or 2 on staff.  There is strength in numbers.
  • How many teachers have renewed their contracts and stayed for more than one year? You can take renewals as a vote of confidence in the hagwon.
  • What is an average day like for a foreign teacher at your at your hagwon?  How many classes will I teach?  How long are they?  How much time will I have between classes?  What other duties will be expected of me? This is where it's important to know the game.  Research what's acceptable and normal and then go for exactly what you want.
  • Will I be covered under the National Pension Scheme? Hagwons are legally required to provide pension, but many still try to wiggle out of it.
  • Will I have a co-teacher or Korean helper? From what I can tell, it's mostly public schools that have co-teachers, but some hagwons do too.  It's not a necessity, but they can be very helpful and take some of the pressure off you.
  • What will my actual take home salary be? It's important to iron out all these details.  Is the company providing housing or will you have an allowance?  What are your overtime options?
  • When are my vacation days and how many do I get? Public schools get a lot more vacation days than hagwons and their schedules are more concrete.  If you're looking at a hagwon, try to figure out whether their vacation dates are already set or whether you'll decide them later as a company.  Now is also the time to make sure that Saturdays and Sundays are always free days.
  • Where is the school located and where will I be living? Is it within walking distance?  If not, is there a transportation allowance or a school bus that I can take advantage of?  Will I be working at one campus or several?
  • Is this hagwon really a part of the "___" franchise? Just because they're under the umbrella and carry the name doesn't mean they are operated in the same way or with the same curriculum.  Many "franchise" schools are actually run independently.
  • What age group will I be teaching?  What are this school's students like?  Are they advanced, beginners?  Kindy classes are tough and they take a lot of energy, but they can be the most rewarding.  Older elementary students tend to have a lot of behavioral issues.  Middle school students are quieter and reserved, but they usually show you more respect than their younger counterparts.
  • How long has the school been in business? In my opinion, if it's less than two years, walk away.
  • Can I have some contact information for other foreign teachers who currently work for your school? Any school should readily provide this.

Always remember that everything is negotiable.  Don't be afraid to push, but do show your employer the proper level of respect (they're taking a gamble on you, too).  But, if you feel like a potential school is hiding something from you or giving you wishy-washy answers, simply decline and wait for the next offer.  There are plenty of good opportunities here.

Good night!


  1. Great advise. Anyone reading this will be very prepared if they follow your advise. Good job.

    I think your last blog should be a compilation of some great moments , memorable,funny,etc. past postings on your wonderful blog. And don't forget the photos. Just a thought.

    I am going to miss Everybody Jecheon tonight. It was how I stayed connected to your lives in Korea, and it is like a good book you can't put down. It was my morning ritual with my tea. Thanks for doing such a awesome job!

  2. I agree, you should do a best of Korea post as your last. It hasn't all been horrible and stressful. It would probably feel good to be able to pick out the good times. Be part of the letting go.