Teaching in Korea

I completed a 130 hour TEFL course in 2012 which combined 30 hours classroom with 100 hours online learning. Since then I have also done a 30 hour online Young Learners course.

You can work at a public school (EPIK) or academy (aka hagwon) in Korea. Hagwons have a bad rep for screwing foreigners over (i.t.o payment, working hours and conditions), but I have plenty of friends who have had no issues whatsoever.  Do your homework and if you don’t like the contract, don’t sign it. EPIK is shrinking at a rapid pace with high and middle school positions being phased out in most provinces. The thing to remember with EPIK is that you might be earning the same as your friends but everything else is flexible (class size, how many schools you teach at, apartment size and location, school benefits, involvement and English levels… The list is endless). If you’re not flexible, you’re gonna have a bad time.

Pay: The current entry level salary for EPIK is 2,2 million won- this increases to 2,3 million after your first year. You will be expected to teach 22 hours per 40 hour week and if you work outside of contract hours you get paid overtime. It is very easy to live on the salary- I took a GBP 10,000 pay cut and managed to pay off GBP 4,000 debt in a year. All this while partying like a uni student and travelling as I wanted.

Benefits:Your accommodation is included and if you’re lucky you get 2 bedrooms, a bathroom, living room and kitchen or if you are less lucky, you get an open plan  kitchen/bedroom with an ensuite. There is no cookie cutter apartment here but they should all be furnished with a bed, TV and fridge as a minimum. Whatever you end up with, it beats the hell out of paying rent in London to share with people who don’t clean up after themselves! ;)

You are also entitled to a “settlement allowance”  which helps you buy stuff for your apartment like crockery, cutlery and bedding. Before I came out I read that Koreans don’t “do” duvets but I refused to believe it. It’s true though. They do quilts. You CAN find duvets but they’ll be pricey. Quilts are fine so you don’t need to cart your double duvet over to Korea.

Generally, you will be liable for your electricity and gas bills but not your water bill. You can pay your bills using online banking (I’m with KEB), ATM or some convenience stores (like CU). Sometimes your school pays your bills for you and deducts the money from your salary.

You get your flight re-imbursed within the first month (and if you booked your ticket using your noggin, you can actually make a profit :-0 ).

You will also get money for re-signing your contract and an end of contract completion bonus. If you do not finish your contract, your return flight will not be covered and you may have to pay money back to your school. BAILING IS FAILING. DON’T DO IT.

Deductions: Remember that your school will deduct money from your pay check for:

– canteen bill (this works out really cheaply and is essential to eat at the canteen if you want to bond with your Korean colleagues. DO NOT skip lunch/ do your own thing).

– pension contribution (Americans get their contributions refunded as a lump sum when they leave Korea. Great for touring South East Asia for 3 months or so… Jammy.)

– medical insurance contribution. You will still pay when you visit the doctor, dentist, dermatologist etc. BUT it’s much cheaper than it would be in the States. Can’t beat the NHS though, right?! Viva free healthcare! (boo for waiting lists)

– tax. Some countries have a reciprocal tax agreement with Korea. This means that you won’t pay tax here for your first two years, as long as you hand in a Certificate of Residence from your home country. Apply for this baby well in advance if you’re UK based, since His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs take their bloody time responding to your request.

After two years you’ll have to fork out and sometimes the school doesn’t deduct this monthly, which apparently leads to a nasty surprise around this time of the year. DON’T USE CASH, USE CARDS so that you can get tax rebates!!!

Here are a few links that will help you:

National Tax Service – The official low down on paying tax in Korea. Makes my head hurt just looking at it but it probably contains everything you need to know.

Yesone – helps you calculate how much tax you should be paying.

Tax Save Card – For cash records you can keep all your receipts, but this is tedious and now rather silly. Korea has a nice toy for us called the Tax Save Card(현금영수증카드). Whenever you buy something with cash, just give the card with your payment and they will swipe it, creating a record of what you bought.

You can phone the National Tax Service English Helpline at 1588-0560
This helpline is open from Monday to Friday 9:30am to 11:30am, 1:00pm to 6:30pm

Final note on deductions: if your medical insurance contribution increases but your school admin dept. isn’t on the ball and only asks you for the outstanding amount at the end of your year, c’est la vie. You still have to pay it, there’s no way around it. Always have some extra money available to cover your ass when Korea springs one of her surprises ;)

If you approach Korea with a positive attitude you will have an unforgettable experience that will enrich your life.

Good luck! x


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