I’m a Gyopo and can’t get hired (7 Answers)

gyopo teaching job in Korea

Question asked –

I’m a Gyopo with no English teaching experience. I’m also NOT fluent in Korean. Since this is my first attempt to go to Korea to teach, will I be a lot less desirable applicant for recruiters? Would it be better for me to try another country like China or Vietnam instead of Korea, which is a bit more saturated with English teachers right now?

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“I’d say 80% of the teachers who come to Korea have zero English teaching experience. Unlike Japan, where most of the teachers they hire are already in-country teaching.”

Many teaching jobs in China require a TEFL or TESOL certificate, but it’s not even required in Korea nor do you need ESL experience. The fact that you don’t have teaching experience really doesn’t go against you. If you were applying to a university or foreign high school, for example, they obviously don’t hire newbies. As for being a Gyopo, many children’s’ hagwons prefer Gyopos, because students feel more comfortable with them than caucasian teachers. I guess it’s a cultural thing.”

“I’m Chinese American and I landed a job just fine. Don’t give up! Plenty of jobs to go around in Korea.”

“If you have an F-4 visa, this should greatly increase your chances of getting a hagwon job.The school doesn’t have to jump through hoops to get you the standard E-2 visa. You’re probably a lot more nimble than foreign caucasian teachers since you know some Korean and probably have friends and relatives to stay with so you might not need housing. Just making a couple of assumptions here but I’d say you are a much easier hagwon hire.”

“It depends on which hagwon you are applying for. Some hagwons have the “shiny white teacher” syndrome. Check to see if there are any gyopos teaching at the school already. If they only hire caucasian teachers, then you probably wouldn’t want to work there.The hagwon probably doesn’t put much emphasis on education and diversity if they only hire white teachers. Look outside of Seoul. There are plenty of schools in Busan, Daegu, Daejeon or Incheon.”

“As ridiculous as this sounds, some hagwon directors think a “real native English speaker” is someone who is white and grew up in a traditional American family, NOT a 2nd generation Gyopo. It’s totally absurd, but that’s the reality of getting hired as an English teacher in Korea. These changes in perception will change over time, I’m sure though. Best of luck!”

“Believe it or not, Gyopos are sometimes offered lower salaries than caucasian native speakers. I’ve heard of one teacher who was offered 2.2 when her caucasian counterpart got 2.4 a month. If you don’t think that’s fair, don’t play the game. It’s discrimination. Hard to fight in Korea, so send out 100 more applications and soon enough you’ll get hired. As Steve Jobs once said, “never settle”….”


Possible to teach in Korea part-time and still qualify for an E-2 visa?

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“Anything is possible, but hagwons won’t invest in you unless they get a financial return. This means you become their worker bee teaching at least 5-8 hours a day. Some schools will want you to teach Saturdays too. Hagwons are a private business, and they are in it for the cash. It wouldn’t make sense for them to fly you to Korea, give you an apartment and then you only work a few hours a day. They’d be losing money. Of course there are some shady schools who will hire illegal teachers (no working visa), but those are few and far between and absolutely not worth the risk of jail or deportation from Korea.”

“Just apply for a full-time job and go for the job with the minimum number of teaching hours per week. Don’t take a job that forces you or bribes you into working Saturdays.That is unless you’re all about the money, which obviously you’re not. As mentioned above, be legal.”

“I’ve heard some hagwons will offer you an E2 visa and you only work part-time. I’d suspect they have you sign a full-time contract for say 30 hours per week just to show immigration that you are a full-time employee, but then you and the hagwon agree (on the side) you’ll work for them a lot less. Not 100% above-board, but schools do it. Especially those that send teachers out to teach in corporations. But that’s a whole other kettle of fish for another discussion.”

“Check out the TALK Program if you only want part-time teaching work. I believe it’s 15 working hours per week, and you only have to go to the school when you’re actually teaching. No office or make work hours spent sitting around the school. The drawback for the TALK program is you won’t find it in Seoul or Busan. It’s geared towards the rural smaller locations, where they have a hard time recruiting foreign teachers. They are basically dipping into the college student teacher pool, but inviting them to Korea to teach part-time while they still have 2 years left before they graduate university. It’s a decent option, but you won’t make a lot of money and you may feel isolated living in the countryside.”

“There will always be hagwons and recruiters searching for part-time teachers. You need to be in country and have your own housing though. They won’t offer that. They’ll give you a flat hourly rate only for the classes you teach. There are other things to consider like taxes, medical insurance and pension though. Also, how will they pay you? You’ll need to set up a Korean bank account, and I believe you need an actual work visa for that. My advice, get a legal full-time teaching job and use your time wisely to learn Korean and enjoy yourself in Korea with friends and see the country. You won’t regret it.”


Work life balance for an English teacher in Korea?

Question asked 

“I’m in my early 20s and I’m looking at jobs teaching in Korea. Is 40 hours a week way to much? It seems to me that is its. I’ve never worked in any job that much so I’m concerned about taking on too heavy of a workload. What if the hagwon that hires me pressures me into teaching overtime? I don’t want to burn out in Korea, because frankly, I’m not into working that much, but I want the teaching experience in Korea. It sounds amazing! Thoughts?”

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“You might want to consider teaching at a public school in Korea as opposed to a private one (hagwon). The jobs are less interesting because you’re teaching regular school kids and work with a Korean teacher. It can get old really fast.”

“Whatever you choose, public or private, teaching isn’t your entire existence in Korea. Think about it. You’re in a totally new country, culture, language and people. Every day is an adventure. You’ve spent your whole life in the US or Canada, wherever you’re from. Time for a change! As for the hours, you just need to do your research and find a school that doesn’t work you to death. There are many hagwons that treat their employees fairly.”

“I don’t have the qualifications to work in a public school. No teaching or English degree, so that one is out. I’m up for hagwon teaching, given the right schedule and sufficient vacation time.”

“Don’t expect more than 10 vacation days per year and check to see if you can take them all at once. When I told my hagwon director I was taking my ten days vacay and going to Thailand, he told me I could only do 5 at a time. I had paid for my plane ticket and everything. It turned into a big fight, I left, and he wasn’t happy. I came back to my job (lucky I still had one), and he forgot about it. I wouldn’t advise it, but worth checking your hagwons vacation policy first.”

“Even with only 10 days vacation, there are still Korean holidays like Chuseok and Lunar New Year where you might be able to squeeze in 4-5 days. Not a long time, but you might sneak in a long weekend in the Philippines or Thailand if you plan ahead, and get a cheap airfare, and organize it right.”

“Public schools give 5-6 weeks vacation, but you’ll need a TEFL Certificate and a teaching degree or English degree. Not sure exactly. Check the EPIK Korea site for qualifications.”

“Just remember if you’re at a hagwon you’ll be teaching kids, mostly. There are schools like Pagoda, Berlitz, Sisa, Wall Street English that work with adults only, but the teaching schedules are brutal. Split shifts, Saturday work. It depends on how badly you want to teach adults versus kids, I guess.”

“Yes, if you don’t have a TEFL you can still find hagwon work, but the better hagwons will choose a teacher who has some form of TEFL certification over one who doesn’t. TEFL isn’t required legally to teach English in Korea, but most college grads are getting TEFL certified nowadays.”

“Do you want to teach? Can you see yourself 6-8 hours a day in class with kids who can barely speak English and most don’t want to be there? It’s not easy and you need to motivate yourself to create interesting and fun lessons to keep your students amused. If you don’t motivate them, the hagwon director will soon want to move you out, perhaps even before you finish your contract.”

“If you’re teaching 30 hours a week and don’t enjoy it, you won’t last long in Korea. In addition to teaching hours you’ve got prep time and whatever else the hagwon throws at you.”

“Don’t misinterpret teaching in Korea for being a paid vacation. It’s work, and it’s a business, but I know teachers who’ve worked in this the hagwon system for years, and would never go back home. They love the lifestyle. Most move on to better jobs such as smaller colleges, corporations or public schools once they get the experience and additional education. Can you make a career out of it? Some do… But I’d say 10 years is the absolute max for most teachers.”


Teaching in Korea. Salary versus Living costs…?

Question asked 

I’m researching Korean and Japan right now. What’s the job market like in both countries? Can I make a career out of teaching overseas? Is it a transferable skill if I wanted to come home eventually?

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“Most teachers come to Korea for a year to pay their college loans, travel and get some international experience. I haven’t met too many career ESL teachers, but they do exist. TEFL is a profession. There are associations, graduate degrees, certifications some pretty big companies will hire you to teach their top brass English. Don’t think long-term yet. Get a TEFL certificate and find a good hagwon job in the city where you want to be. The two most popular choices are Seoul and Busan. Busan, is near the beach and you’re close to Jeju island and a quick flight or ferry ride to Japan. While Seoul holds the majority of foreign teachers and there are restaurants, nightlife and clubs for foreigners everywhere. You won’t feel isolated. If you spend a year teaching in Korea and enjoy it, stay another year. Your first year will fly by very quickly. I think a second year will give you a real perspective if you want to invest in furthering your TEFL education or moving into a higher paying job at a college, university or public or international school. But it will take an investment in your education. The last thing you want to do is shell out a lot of money on a TESOL graduate degree and then head home and take a job in a completely different field, because you burned out on Korea.”

“If you’re motivated to make a lot of money a TEFL career isn’t the way to go. Sure, the salary might sound good now while you’re single, get a free apartment and a year-end contract bonus plus a flight, but the longer you stay in Korea, you’ll find yourself spending more money since you can’t live on cheap noodles every day and you’ll want to find a better apartment, maybe even a cheap car, and take more vacations around Asia. More comforts and perks will make your teaching salary look pretty small. Not to mention if you have a Korean girlfriend whom you spend money on or if you get married and have kids over here. Then a teacher’s salary just doesn’t cut it.”

“If you’re leaning towards teaching in Japan, you’ll be competing with a teacher already there. Japan prefers to hire inside the country, because they are getting experienced teachers rather than newbies who can be unreliable and not motivated teachers. However, your cost of living in Japan will be much higher than Korea. When I was there on vacation I couldn’t even afford a taxi back to my hotel, while I take taxis a couple of times a week in Korea on the way home from a late night at the club.”

“You’ll also need to cover your own key money and rent in Japan. That will really put a dent in your savings. You’ll get your key deposit back when you move to a new apartment in Japan but if you don’t have the cash then you won’t get an apartment.  But, you can’t live in a cardboard box there either.”

“Korea is a good starting point if you want to try other countries like Vietnam or Thailand. Although you won’t make much money in these countries. You can save up to $10,000 USD a year teaching in Korea, but as you get older, you’ll want more savings, and you’ll find yourself hitting a ceiling. You’ll also be competing with the pretty white girl or younger version of yourself. Schools want youthful teachers. None of us are getting any younger. Just something to consider if you’re serious about making a career out of teaching in Asia, especially.”

“If you can learn some conversational Japanese or Korean, it won’t help you much in the English teaching profession. Schools don’t care. Speaking the native tongue will certainly help you in daily life and expand your social opportunities but don’t expect to get paid more because you’re fluent in Korean, for example.”


I graduated as an Education major. Do I still have to get TEFL/TESOL certified?

Question asked

I’d like to apply for the EPIK or GEPIK public school programs in Korea. I graduate in 2017. To get my teaching degree I also have to complete some ESL teaching courses. If I graduate with a teaching degree and have taken some TESL courses in college, wouldn’t getting a TEFL certificate be redundant?

Read 6 Answers

“I’m sure EPIK and GEPIK will want to see an actually TEFL or TESL certificate. Sure, you may be a certified teacher and took some esl teaching courses, but they’ll want that piece of paper as will immigration.”

“Since you’re a certified teacher you should look into teaching at an International school in Korea or Thailand or anywhere. It’s a much better job and will look better on your resume if you do return home and want to teach in the public school system.”

“Without actually teaching experience in US public schools, you can’t get a job teaching at in international school in Korea, despite the fact you have a teaching certificate. The question is, would 1-2 years of EPIK experience + a teaching certificate qualify you for an international school? Jury is out on that one…..”

“Before you embark on a TEFL course, you should just contact EPIK and ask them if your teaching certificate would be the equivalent of a TEFL certificate. It’ll save you a bunch of time and money if it does…”

“Okay, I found it. On the EPIK website, if you have a B.Ed, then you don’t need a TEFL certificate. You’re monthly salary will also be a smidge higher if you have a B.ED than someone with a BA. What this means is that when you go out for drinks with your colleagues (who have B.A’s) you’ll be expected to buy for them… hahah…”

“You can pick up a TEFL certificate for probably less than $1,000 and it’ll be a good preview of what you can expect teaching English overseas. I doubt your university TESL classes will cover some of the situations you’ll experience in a korean hagwon. You’re also teaching Koreans English in their home country, NOT teaching immigrants or refugees in America, at a private school. It’s different in terms of the classroom strategies and curriculum you’ll be using. Getting a TEFL may not be a bad idea, if you’ve got the time and money…”

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