Korea / Teaching Abroad / Travel

6 Key Things to Look for in a Korean Teaching Contract

If you teach English in South Korea, then you too could get funny notes like this one. I received this from a student shortly before leaving Seoul.

I’ve gotten enough emails regarding what to look for in a Korean teaching contract that I’ve decided it’s time to write a post about it. I’ve previously written posts about how to find and get a job teaching English abroad, but none were specific to Korea. Here are six things to look for in your contract:

Salary 

This will vary depending on your experience and education background. I would search the forums to see what somebody with your history might get paid. Obviously you will get more if you are certified, although this is certainly not a requirement. I have an Environmental Studies degree and was able to work two different teaching jobs without any teaching certifications. Although, it’s becoming harder and harder to get a good job in Seoul without  some sort of teaching certificate.

Pension 

This is a must. Everybody outside of the school I taught at in Korea had a pension. I did not. I was bummed. Don’t get bummed out, get a job with a pension.

Severance 

Another must. I’ve never met anybody who didn’t have this in their contract.

Housing 

Typically schools set you up with housing and pay for it. Your school should offer this to you. I will warn you ahead of time though, that your apartment might not be to your liking. There will most likely be some sort of problem with it or it will just be super small. Don’t be tricked by those fools on Youtube that got hooked up with crazy big apartments. I was one of those folks, but I was very lucky. Expect to be surprised by how incredibly tiny your apartment is.

Medical Insurance

Look for a school that provides you with National Health Insurance. I think our school ran some sort of scam on us. We were told the school would pay for half of all medical expenses, but that wasn’t the case. The school paid for half of the 200,000 Won payment of the plan (not a National Health Insurance plan) and then the insurance company gave us very small sums of money back after doctor visits. It was a waste of 100,000 Won. The national plan is way better. We had a friend under the national plan who paid under 100USD for a dental cleaning, a repaired filling, a new filling, and 3 wisdom teeth extractions. Can’t really beat that!

Off Periods

This isn’t entirely necessary if you are easy going and filled with energy. If you aren’t, then I recommend finding a school that gives you prep periods. We worked 9:30 to 6:20 without any off periods, just short breaks between 40 minute classes. I spent my breaks prepping for classes and grading so I wouldn’t have to stay late after school. I survived and I have to say it made the day go by very quickly, but it was incredibly hard work.

Other Things to Keep in Mind

Why this irrelevant flower picture? Because if you're reading this, then you've probably got a headache from the whole Korean teaching application process. I assure you it will be worth it in the end. For now, enjoy the beauty of these pretty purple flowers. Can you feel yourself relaxing? Good! Now go call you're recruiter and make them get you your dream job!

As far as things that you won’t find in a contract go, make sure you get the email of a foreigner working at the school and find out how many other foreigners work there. Typically a private school with many foreigners ensures better job security and less sketchiness. Smaller schools are more likely to go under while you’re there, which means you might not end up with your final paycheck, your severance, or your flight home! This is no bueno my friend.

Asking for the email of a foreigner teaching at the school allows you to attempt to figure out what you’re getting yourself into. You might be able to gauge whether or not the school is impossibly frustrating or a joyful experience. Let me emphasize the word might. Somebody might not feel comfortable divulging unhappiness, but there might be subtle clues, like not answering certain questions you ask.

Please visit my Teaching English Abroad page for more posts on the job hunt, contracts, and preparing for the big move. For stories about my time in Seoul, visit my Korea page.

If you’ve taught English in Korea, please leave some comments if you have anything to add. Contemplating a move to Korea and still have more questions? Ask away below!

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