Should I Teach English In Korea or China? (or neither)

Should I Teach English In Korea or China? (or neither))

Anybody taught English in both countries? Are teaching contracts (pay, hours, working conditions) honoured
equally/more often in China than Korea?

I wonder about private school versus public schools in both countries. How do they compare?

Also, what perks do the Chinese schools offer that Korean ones don’t to entice foreign teachers?

Here’s what I’ve heard, as well as my unanswered questions and random thoughts.

Teachers have told me that the amount of paperwork required in China is much more than Korea. Probably because Korea has streamlined the visa process as they’ve been doing it much longer than China.

As far as problems at schools, the Chinese are often more willing to hear out your grievances while in Korea less so. Whether anything actually gets done, is another story.

And what about university teaching jobs? In both countries do some colleges expect you to teach kids during the university breaks?  I’ve heard the hiring season in China is in September. Is it the same in Korea?

As for airfares, China typically offers a lump sum payment upon completion of a 1 year contract, while Korea pays half up front and the remaining balance once you’r honoured your contract.

China is an up and coming ESL market, while Korea has matured and their rules have gotten stricter about private tutoring, labour laws and school requirements.

Some experienced teachers say they would only teach at international schools in China and wouldn’t think about working anywhere else. The only challenge with that is you’d require an actual teaching degree, or MA in TESOL… Two academic requirements which may NOT be worth the investment if you’re only planning to teach 1-2 years there.

Switching jobs in Korea has never been that easy. You need a letter of release and must leave the country. Does the same go for China?

Is it fair to say the teaching market in China is what Korea was 10 years ago or does the ROC still have a long way to go?

And then there’s the pollution in China compared to Korea… Is China the epicentre and does it all get blown over to Korea on bad air days in cities like Beijing or Shanghai? So, in either country you’re being slowly poisoned?

Let’s not forget the China’s crackdown on Facebook. I often hear teachers complain about having to login to a VPN or proxy server to look at their accounts. Is that easy enough? Does gmail work?

What about the cost of living. I’d assume it’s much cheaper than Korea…But wouldn’t Beijing or Shanghai be just expensive for rent and food as Seoul?

And what about all the ESL scams I hear about on the Internet about China? How much of it is really true? Is there more to it than meets the eye? Disgruntled teachers, shady school owners, or just bad blood between the two that require proper arbitration? There are two sides to every story, no?

There also must be some differences between Chinese and Korean students? Are the students more motivated to learn English in one country versus the other? Are they spoiled and apathetic?

Do students have higher expectations of their teachers, do they treat teachers with greater respect, do they have a preferred learning method. What about the parents? How demanding are they or do they even care about the quality of their kids English education or just having them registered for a class is “good enough”… how do the two countries compare?

Most of the teaching jobs in Korea are with kids, How about China? Are there more opportunities to teach adults/business people? Is there an equal split of women versus men in company classes when comparing both countries?

And what about university jobs? Is it easier to get one in China versus Korea. If one taught at a university in China would Korean unis look at this as transferable academic experience or is it no better than hagwon experience in their eyes?

And then there’s private teaching. Something completely illegal in Korea. I would assume the same so in China… 

But then why do Chinese recruiters try to bring you over on a business visa and some never end up getting you a Z visa which makes you legal to teach… I’ve heard if you get caught by Chinese immigration on anything but a Z visa, you’ll be jailed first and then deported. Sounds like human trafficking.

As for public holidays in China, aren’t there more days off for teachers there versus Korea? This could be a perk!

As far as recruiters are concerned? Who are the top 10 most reputable ones in Korea and China. Teachers often say 80% of recruiters are dishonest. Is that really the case?

What about salaries and savings I’ve heard the pay is half in China compared to Korea, but the expenses in China are about half of Korea, so that has to be considered.

Can qualifications in China get you a much higher rate of pay versus Korea, where they don’t take much consideration into paying you more at a private school whether you have a TEFL certificate or not?

If your new to teaching ESL in Asia, it might be better to go to China first, and experience everything it has to offer before going to Korea. They say once you go to Korea, you aren’t likely to go to China because you’ll make less money, be less comfortable and just won’t want to give this up. Is this a fair assumption?

Then again…if teaching ESL isn’t a career profession for you and you want to maximize your savings before you return home, just skip China and go straight to Korea… However, it could also be argued that certain jobs in China may pay just as much in China (corporations, universities or international schools)…

Obviously a lot of things to consider with some half answered and unanswered questions. Just laying it out all there…

Has anybody out there done tours of duty in both countries or able to shed some light on any of the above… Or maybe even a better teaching destination?


  1. Paul Reply
  2. Paul Reply

Leave a Reply