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One of the questions I get asked often regarding me moving to South Korea is, “Why don’t you try to get a teaching job over there?”  To many people, this would seem like a slam dunk.  They have heard stories of your flight being paid for, living rent free and being well taken care of when you teach English in South Korea.  While this would be a dream job for many, there are reasons why I don’t want to teach English in South Korea.  Before going into why I don’t want to teach English, here are a few basic requirements to teach in South Korea.

Teaching Requirements

To teach in Korea, you need to have a few things before you can apply.  You need at least a bachelors degree and a certificate for teaching English to people who have a first language other than English.  You need to submit to a background check from your government, as well some screening test.  If this is a problem for you, you need not apply.  While I cannot get confirmation about this, it may be possible to get your degree and certificate for around $5,000.00 US.  If you are looking to do this, check with the school that will issue your certificate and see if they have a degree program.  Many of these schools are online, so you can do everything at your own pace.  If that will work, you may be able to get a school grant to pay for your schooling.  But for me, I’d rather not teach in Korea.  Here are a few reasons why.

High Number of Applicants

Because of the stories of paying for most of your major expenses, a large number of people who have student debt seek to go to Korea to teach.  The money they save on rent can go towards their student loan payments back home.  When you have a high number of people looking for a job, over time you can pay them less money.  That, according to some of the things I’ve seen, is what is happening in Korea.  Salaries are down in a number of schools for teachers who teach English, but are not Korean.  As a result, while the money is good, it’s not as good as it used to be.

Lower Demand for English Teachers

When talking to a number of my Korean friends, most of them tell me that Chinese is the language people are pushing their children to learn.  While English is important to most people, Korean language is derived from Chinese.  Many Koreans have Chinese ancestors, and it used to be a source of pride for people that their children could write their name in Chinese.  As China opens it’s doors to the world, a lot of money will be made doing business in Chinese.  This would explain why there are some ads where Chinese teachers are sometimes paid millions of Won more than English teachers.

Uncertain Future

While it is rare, there are stories of people who teach at private schools in Korea that go out of business overnight.  While you do have a teaching contract, and are expected to fulfill your part of the deal, there are no promises that can be made to you.  This becomes even worse if you deal with a recruiter who is dishonest, or a school that tries to cheat foreigners working for them.  There are no certainties with any job, but it can be sticky when teaching in another country.

Housing

Why would housing be a concern if your housing is being paid for?  Because your housing is being paid for.  If you knew that your job was in trouble, for whatever reason, you would probably cut back on things and try to get ahead on your rent so you have a cushion in case you couldn’t find a job right away.  But with teaching jobs, you will have to leave your apartment soon after leaving your job.  This can add extra stress to an already stressful time.

Non Transferable Visa

When you enter Korea on a teaching visa, you usually can only get teaching jobs to be able to work legally.  So how do people transition from doing teaching to doing YouTube in Korea?  They have to apply for and get a new visa in order to stay in Korea.  This may mean starting a new company in order to get their visa.  Even if you find a company that is willing to hire you for a job that is non teaching, and sponsor a work visa for you, you may have to return to your home country and deal with the Korean consulate there before you can return to Korea for work.

There will always be a need for native speakers of English to teach people in Korea.  And even with the schools educating students in English, there will be a need to more native speakers to teach proper English for Koreans looking to do international business.  This kind of career is perfect for many people.  But for me, it’s just not my cup of tea at this time.  If you would like to teach English in Korea, be sure to do as much research as possible on the different programs, and what to look for in a recruiter. Always remember, the best way to get rid of your nightmares is to live your dreams.

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