Can I teach English in Korea with a DUI charge? (13 Answers)

Criminal background check with DUI for teaching in SOuth Korea

Question asked –

I really want to teach English in Korea, but I got a DUI 4 years go. I’m a college graduate and Canadian citizen, 23 years old, and have a TEFL certificate. Should I bother even applying to recruiters?

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I assume you’re applying for an E2 visa?


No. I am Korean Canadian. I’d be applying for an F-4 visa.


If you apply for an F4 visa, you aren’t required to do a criminal background check. No criminal background check, so then your DUI would be buried. If a hagwon offers you a teaching contract, then they’ll never know. And don’t mention your DUI to anyone, not even your Korean friends, co-teachers or students. ” It’s just bad for your reputation. It’s okay to be an alcoholic in Korea but NOT a criminal.


I agree. Don’t bring it up under any circumstances. Not even while you’re out drinking with anyone. It may come back to haunt you.


If you were applying for an E2 visa, then a CBC would be required. For some reason, F4 visa applicants don’t need to do a criminal background check. You’re clear.


Wrong, wrong, wrong…. If you are applying for a hagwon job or teaching job with a public school like EPIK, then you need to take all the tests just like an E2 visa applicant. These would include the CBC, health and drug tests.


That’s correct. Some F4 visa holders just use agencies to teach inside corporations or private lessons. They aren’t employed full-time by a school, so they don’t need the CBC done. ” This is where the confusion about having CBC done is… Some F4 visa holders I’ve met aren’t teaching at hagwons so they never did the 3 tests mentioned above.


What about other work opportunities besides teaching? Since you have an F4 visa you can get a company job. How’s your Korean?


I’m fluent.  I grew up in a Korean household and my grandmother lived with us, who didn’t speak English, so I have no problem reading, writing or speaking Korean.


You’ll be competing with Korean nationals for any type of company job. But, the fact that you speak English fluently makes you valuable. They can hire you to work in their overseas marketing team and teach English to their employees in the mornings and during lunch. Unless you really want to teach at a private language school teaching rug rats all day, I’d get a professional job in a company. It will look good on your resume if and when you return to Canada.


Immigration is looking for druggies and people with sex offences. Especially with children. Drinking and driving is not a big deal to Koreans. In fact, the first thing they’ll ask you is “do you like soju? No problem with saying “yes” to that question, but if you’re a recovering alcoholic, then Korea might not be a good choice. It’s a drinking culture, especially if you’re working with adults in companies.


I don’t have an alcohol problem. I was required to do some substance abuse counselling after my DUI charge, but I was just over the legal limit and wast returning from a party that night. Anyway, enough about the details. I’m a moderate, social drinker. Thanks.

Can I teach English in Korea with 3 years of college?

Question asked 

I’ve visited Korea a couple of times now. I’m in love with the food, the culture, K-Pop and so much more. I’ve got friends there whom I met at my college in the US. They were foreign exchange students at my university learning English. So, my Korean friends have invited me back to Korea again… and said  this time I can live with them at no charge if I help tutor them part-time in English. I can stay as long as I want….

Now, from what I’ve been reading online about ESL teaching… it says I must have a bachelor’s degree to teach in Korea. I’m in year 3 of my degree.

Would any hagwons still hire me if I have 3 years of university and completed an online TEFL course? I’m looking at a going over there to teach 6 months if I can get a teaching job. Any advice?

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Sorry to burst your bubble, but there is no loophole for teaching English in Korea WITHOUT a degree.

You need a 4 year degree to teach English legally in Korea at a hagwon, or in the public school system. There is no way around this. It’s the law! Your TEFL certificate certainly complements your degree status. It’s won’t supersede a university degree. My advice would be to stay in university for 1 more year and complete your 4 year degree. It’s not even one full year. It’s only 8 months of courses + whatever you’ve got left for this year. You could apply 3 months before you complete your degree and be in Korea for a spring start of 2018.

Are you familiar with the TALK program? My cousin applied for it. He completed two years of college and wanted a break from academics to earn some money and travel, so it was a perfect fit for him. If you apply for the TALK program take 3-4 weeks during your Christmas break and do an online TEFL course with an offline component (classroom studies). It will give you a good introduction to teaching English overseas, make you a more attractive applicant, and prepare you for Korea as well.

As far as I know, the TALK program is for at least a year. If you’re considering that option. I’m not sure if you can do 6 months in that program though. Check into the TALK program benefits on their website.

Just looked at the TALK website. It says this:

Year Contracts (6-Month Contracts are available, but are delayed consideration and processing.)

Not sure exactly what this means:

… delayed consideration and processing…

I guess that’s why they need English teachers….

The TALK programs offers all the benefits of a regular English teaching job in Korea. You’ll get a single studio apartment, medical insurance, flight allowance (return), vacation, orientation, settlement allowance, monthly stipend. The only thing you won’t get is a contract completion bonus. Other than that, it looks good. Kind of like a working holiday program. Once you complete a TALK contract, you’ll get a government scholarship certificate of completion. Not sure what exactly that means….

The only draw back of the TALK program is that you’ll be teaching in rural Korea. Don’t expect to work in Korea’s cities. The program was set up to give kids who live in the smaller communities a chance to learn English.

I’d rather do the TALK program for a year and save up a bunch of cash rather than working at McDonald’s while in College. As for completing my degree, yes, that’s the plan, but taking a year off to teach in Korea during college is a REAL education in MHO…..


Law about maximum number of kids per hagwon class?

Question asked 

I teach elementary school kids at a hagwon in Seoul. There are currently 12 students in all my classes.

I’m wondering…. Is it a coincidence that all my classes have 12 students each, or is that the max number of students per classes by education law in Korea?

And what If the hagwon tries to add more students to my classes? Should I push back and tell the school that the students won’t learn as much because it’s too hard to manage that many students?

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When hagwons pitch their English programs to Korean parents, they often talk up the whole small, personal classes with a real natives speaker thing….I have no idea if it’s a Korean education law or not, but it’s something worth exploring. There could be some unenforced laws about it when hagwons apply for their education license, but then probably soon after forgotten and never enforced.

If your hagwon keeps adding more students to your classes, then that’s a concern and as a teacher you should voice it. Moving from 12 to 13 students is not a big deal but when they keep adding beyond that, that could impact the flow of the class. You’re an employee, not a manager, so don’t expect them to agree with you, but let them know regardless.


It’s a hagwon. They’ll add a student, then one quits, then they add another. This is the business of English education in Korea. Learn to deal with it and adapt your teaching style and learning materials accordingly. Being a successful teacher in Korea is about being flexible. It’s the only way you’ll stay sane.

I’ve taught in hagwons with 20 students. So consider yourself lucky at 12-13. Hagwons are like airlines, unfortunately…. They’ll cram as many seats if it means making more money. Business first, education second.

If Korean parents are sold on the promise of 12 students max, than that’s what they expect. Maybe bring this to the attention of your hagwon manager. Speak to the contract conditions between the parents and the school and how this will impact the reputation of the school if too many kids are pushed into your classes.

Public schools can have up to 40 students per class, so consider yourself lucky.

There is no law (to my knowledge). Although I’ve never seen what hagwon license rules are specific to facility size, location of hagwon, etc. Hagwons can’t be opened by just an old Korean. There are strict rules around certain things since it falls under education laws. Whether those laws are enforced, is another discussion entirely.

I teach adults and the range of students I teach varies from day-to-day and hour to hour. In my early morning classes at 6:50 I have one, maybe two students. The early birds! As the day progresses, more students trickle in and in the evenings I can have up to 20 students for a conversation class. If I have a group speaking activity lined up for 10 students but only two show up, I have to adapt the lesson.


How to get a head start on learning Korean?

Celebrity learning Korean language

Question asked

I’ve signed a contract to teach in Korea starting in one month. I’d like to get a jump on learning Korea, so I’ll be familiar with some common expressions when I arrive. I’ve read that Hangul can be learned quickly. Any advice as to what online/off line programs are available so I can learn basic Korean quickly.

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Korean is a challenge. The grammar is backwards compared to English and the pronunciation is tricky. The language ranks right up there with Russian in terms of difficulty, but there are many foreigners who’ve had tremendous success with it, but they did put in a lot of hours.

The problem with coming to Korea as an English teacher is that your Korean students will always want to speak English with you, in and out of the classroom. Especially the adults. It’s tough to squeeze in Korean language classes or personal study time when you’re teaching at a hagwon full time. Unless you attend a university program for a year or two full time don’t expect to become fluent, unless you immerse yourself in the language.

Start by learning Hangul. It’s quick and easy  and can be learned in a few weeks to a month. I didn’t start learning Hangul until I got to Korea. As I rode on the bus or subway I looked out at all the Korean signs and match the characters with the ones I learned with the textbook and sounded them out. Everything clicked quickly. But actually holding conversations with Koreans. That’s another level entirely.

Forget the university courses. They aren’t focused as much on real conversation but more reading and writing. Besides you won’t have time for them if you’re working. I suppose some do offer weekend or evening Korean classes, but you’ll be teaching then or exhausted, so don’t waste your time. You’ll end up quitting unless you’ve got a burning desire to learn Korean. Most teachers don’t if they’re only going to be here for a year or two.

The other option is to practice your Korean with Korean friends or do a language exchange with your students. Very often they end up using English to explain Korean expressions to you or it becomes an English lesson. You need immersion, where only Korean is spoken. Right side of the brain language acquisition, not left brain (which is memorizing and translation). Koreans try to learn English by memorizing and translation which makes it very difficult to speak English, naturally.

Learn the number system too. Especially money. You can start by learning to say how much and use this expression often in stores when you’re shopping for groceries. I learned Korean money quickly this way.

You can watch YouTube videos with Korean language instructors, do a language exchange or try Rosetta stone (for visual learners) or Babble application. There are so many ways to learn Korean online and through apps, but it comes down to desire and discipline.

Get a Korean girlfriend or boyfriend (who doesn’t speak English). Pillow talk!

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