Married, with a family and teaching in Korea (11 Answers)

Teacher brings family to South Korea

Question asked –

I’ve been offered an English teaching job at a hagwon in rural Korea. I’ll be bringing my wife and son with me (who’s 4 years old).

My concern is housing. Will I get a large enough apartment to have a separate room for my son and a master bedroom for my wife and I as well as some type of living room + kitchen space?

Our apartment in the US is 800 square feet with 2 bedrooms and a living room and separate kitchen.

My question is:

How should I negotiate  a larger apartment knowing the majority of hagwons hire single teachers and put them in shoebox style villas or officetels?

Read 11 Answers

“Since you are not going to be living in one of the bigger cities like Seoul or Busan, then your accommodation will be significantly cheaper.  Having said that, hagwons only provide the bare minimum for housing and if you’re not in a modern city like Seoul, there won’t be many housing options for the school to choose from. So fancy officetels with space efficient layouts and modern appliances are probably out of the question. Your hagwon will probably want you living near the school so you don’t have a long commute and you can work more hours for them. I’d ask for details about the apartment size, number of rooms, and get a few pictures of the place before you can take the job. Living with a family in Korea is no picnic, especially if you’re crammed in like sardines.”

“There are ‘couple teachers who sometimes get slightly larger apartment when they come to Korea to teach. For instance they’ll get two bedrooms instead of one. Of course they’ll sleep in one room together but use the extra room as a living room. Realistically, I can’t see you getting more than a 2 bedroom apartment. If this is the reality, there won’t be much room for your son to play when the July and August months are sweltering and he doesn’t even want to venture outside.”

“Does your hagwon offer a housing allowance instead of school assigned accommodation? It might be better for you to look for a place more suitable for your family. Don’t rely on the hagwon for your housing. If they offer an allowance, find out how much. The standard stipend is 400,000 won per month and 5-10 M key money in teaching contracts. The key money is given to the teacher who then gives to the apartment landlord, who holds it as a kind of security deposit, collects a small bit of interest on it and holds it against the rental and gives it back it after the tenant leaves. Perhaps you could ask your school for a larger housing stipend and double the key money? The school will get the key money back anyway. So, it’s just a little bit of working capital they’d be giving up and losing with a bit of interest. I don’t think asking for more larger key deposit is a big deal, but getting more monthly rental added to your salary may be an issue.” Again, it really depends on the financial health of your hagwon and how bad they want you to teach for them. I expect they’ll be flexible if you’re teaching in a rural area.

“Perhaps you could ask for a salary reduction in exchange for more money to pay your rent, if you could find a bigger place. Depends on if you’re willing to sacrifice pay for space though. I would, because you can always get some extra hours at your hagwon or private lessons to easily make up for the pay you might relinquish.”

“I’m being offered a base salary of 2.3 M won per month. I might opt for 2.1 if I could get a bigger apartment. My family’s comfort is a priority for me.”

“I think you’ll get more than 5 M key money from the school. If you’re living in the countryside (anything outside of Seoul, Busan, Daejeon, Daegu) in MHO… then your school will probably try to chunsey an apartment for you. This means very minimal monthly rent and a much higher housing deposit like 25-50 M won for a 12 month lease. I don’t think they could reduce your pay check to get you larger chunsey. I mean, if they took an additional 200,000 won x 12 months,  this is only an additional 2.4 M won more per year they’d have for chunsey. This small increase in chunsey funds won’t help you scale up to a bigger apartment.”

“Don’t forget to ask about appliances. Will you get a stove, fridge, washer, and dryer? Will you have to buy a microwave and television? And don’t forget an air conditioner. You’re wife and son will swelter in Korea without an air conditioner in the summer months while you’re away in your air-conditioned hagwon teaching all day. The only downside of them being at home most of the day with an air conditioner running is that you’ll have a huge electricity bill. Running an AC is expensive in Korea, but obviously a necessity. Even having a few fans in each room running all day won’t cool you down.”

“Will the school put you up in an apartment or villa? There is a difference. Villas are residences that don’t have elevators and are up to 4 floors with fewer tenants than an apartment. You’ll only get one parking spot. Anything above 4 floors is “technically” an apartment. With apartments, you’ll have an older Korean man (ajashi) in a uniform acting as the building security guard. Although I tend to see a lot of them napping in front of their little Korean TV in their outposts when I return to my apartment in the late evenings. Understandable, because they work 12 hours a day 6-7 days a week.” Not much difference between apartments and villas other that apartments cost more.

“Assuming you get a full salary of 2.3 M won and a livable space for your family, then that’s still not a big salary to live on in my opinion if you’re supporting two other people. Unless your wife is going to teach a few private lessons (illegal) or your going to work 50 hours a week at your hagwon, you won’t have a lot of money left at the end of the month, unless you’re used to living super frugally. If you’re goal is to save money in Korea, I can’t see you saving much for your family on that salary.”

I realize, we’ll need to watch our cash, and my school said I can get lots of overtime, so I’m hoping to bring in 2.7 or more per month working  more hours and pulling a full day on Saturday. My son will attend a regular Korean school. My wife is a Korean national, and her English enough is good enough to teach kids a few hours per week.

Sounds like you know what you’re doing. Hope you can get some respectable housing then. Enjoy Korea!”


Teach at a Korean university (or die trying)…

Question asked

How on earth do I break into teaching English at a Korean University?

So far, I’ve got two years of hagwon experience teaching adults and I’m working on an M.A in TESOL online. Will that qualify me, or do I need a connection, or some special fairy dust to get a uni job?

My only condition is to get a university job in Seoul. I’ve lived here for 2 years, have my own apartment (not hagwon sponsored) and a Korean girlfriend with a job here. Any suggestions  as to what else I can do to get an interview for one of these “elusive” university ESL jobs I see advertised starting in March, 2017?

Read 16 Answers

“You’re right. It’s not easy to get hired at a university in Korea. The majority of the teaching ads you see on job sites, are most likely filled by the time you apply. Universities are required to submit these jobs externally by their departments in accordance with University hiring best practices. In other words, yes, they have a job opening, but they’ve already got someone hired for it internally, such as a friend of a current teacher. Just imagine if you were teaching at a university and a job opening came up. Wouldn’t you recommend your friend to work there?”

“Getting an M.A in TESOL is a start, but you don’t have two years of college or university teaching experience. Most universities in Seoul want professors who have already taught at that level. Sorry, but hagwon experience (even with adults) isn’t counted. Although, I’ve seen uni ads that will count 4 years of teaching experience as equivalent to two years of college level ESL teaching experience. Given the fact that you’ve taught adults might be worth highlighting in your resume, though.”

“For the university ads that do hire teachers with just B.A’s a teacher will need 4 years of public school teaching experience NOT hagwon experience, regardless of whether you teach kids or adults.”

“I teach at a university in Seoul and our department head said she got over 100 applications for a recent job she posted online. She made two separate piles for MA and BA degree holders first. Then she took the MA holders and ranked them first by the number of years of teaching experience at the university level… and lastly by their major. If the applicant had a major in Psychology, Music, or Science for example, you were not as qualified as someone with a BA in Education, TESOL, or English. If you didn’t fall into one of these buckets, (which you don’t appear to), then you weren’t even shortlisted for an interview. Not trying to discourage you from applying, but everyone wants Seoul, and you aren’t qualified to teach at most universities here.”

“Do you have any friends working at Seoul universities who can help you get in? An inside referral might be all you need.”

I have friends who teach at universities in Seoul, but their qualifications are better than mine (including their colleagues), so I don’t think it’s worth applying there and neither do they.

“The experience bar of two years college level teaching or 4 years public is set fairly high even with an M.A in TESOL. Who is going to come to Korea and teach in the EPIK, GEPIK or SMOE program for 4 years and get a Master’s degree in between? And if you can’t get a uni job then how can you get 2 years of college teaching experience. You can’t get experience if you don’t have experience!”

“You’re better off applying to small colleges outside of Seoul. You can see your girlfriend on weekends and during your winter and summer breaks. If you’re thinking about spending the next 5-10 years teaching in Korea, then get into a university and out of the hagwon racket, no matter where you have to teach. There are some nice schools outside of Seoul and you’ll get plenty of vacation time and work on very nice campuses. Korea is small with good transportation. You can come up to Seoul on your days off an on weekends because you probably won’t even teach 5 days a week at most universities.”

“Have you just started your MA online?”

Yes, I’m only a couple of months in. It will take me a couple of years.

“If you’re serious about teaching at a Korean university (even if you have to move out of Seoul).. then make a list of all the colleges hiring outside of Seoul and try to connect with teachers already working there. Ask for their advice and befriend them if you can. It’s not easy since you’re living in Seoul, but you have to network to get uni jobs, even if these universities are out-of-town…”

“You can expect to take a bit of a pay cut if you get a job teaching English at a university. If you teach a lot of hours at a hagwon, you’ll probably earn more. Sure, you’ll get 6-8 weeks of vacation time at a uni, but you might not get sponsored housing, nor a housing allowance. Some smaller schools may offer a dormitory style accommodation or a housing stipend, but some won’t. This means you’ll need to have some key money saved up to get yourself an apartment if you can land a uni job outside of Seoul.”

“What good is teaching English at a university and getting 6-8 weeks vacation time, if you get less money and end up teaching kids English camps during your time off?”

“Well, I guess during the remaining 8 months of the year you’ll get to teach college students, have far fewer teaching hours, and feel better about your job. You’ll enjoy the prestige of teaching at an institute of higher learning. Looks much better on your resume having the job title English Professor than Kiddie Teacher, no?

“Teaching at a university is not for everyone, especially if you want to maximize your income. I have friends who teach at big companies in Korea and earn up to 5 million won per month on good months. They get breaks between corporate programs and buzz off to Thailand or back home for a few weeks.”

“Apply outside of Seoul and you’ll increase your chances of getting hired 5x. In the next two years you could finish your M.A in TESOL online and have two years teaching experience at a small college in Korea under your belt. And, then re-apply for uni jobs in Seoul.”

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