Start up costs for your first month in Korea?

start up costs teaching in korea

Start up costs for your first month in Korea?

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“It depends on when your hagwon is paying you. Don’t expect them to pay you every two weeks like most jobs in Canada or the US. You may have to wait 4-6 weeks before you see your first pay-check. And if you don’t get a back account set up in time and miss payroll, you might have to wait an additional month beyond that. I know teachers who have gotten pay advances from their hagwons, because they blew their budgets (some came with only a few hundreds dollars in their pockets) and it was a very stressful time for them. They had to ask fellow teachers for loans. Embarrassing, they ate Ramen every day and couldn’t go out with students or friends, until pay-day. You don’t want to end up in that situation. At minimum I’d bring $500 to Korea for your first month.”

“I’d bring $1,000. There are so many things to get set up. Buy a transportation pass (T-Money), Internet connection, Cell phone, all the groceries, which include your basics like butter, spices, ketchup, paper towels, toilet paper, toothpaste, all the things that will last several months, but you’ll need to equip yourself with them. I had to buy all kinds of house stuff like a broom that wasn’t two feet long, cleaning supplies, because the previous teacher who lived there was a slob and some new dishes. It all adds up fast.”

“It really depends on your habits. Are you a home body or do you like to go out every night for dinner and drinks? If you teach adult Korean students they’ll take you our for food and beer after classes, so that’s definitely a perk, but if you’ve got kids and your friends want to go out on a Friday or Saturday night expect to pay more for some things like movie tickets, drinks and if you come home late from the bar on the weekends taxis are your only transportation. If you’re a fashionista, you might find yourself wanting to buy lots of clothes when you get here. Or you may even have to modify your wardrobe if you’re coming in the late spring or summer because it’s so humid. Lighter shirts, inside shirts for your dress shirts if you’re a man cause you’ll sweat like a pig in the summer months etc. You may go through double the deodorant too in July and August. Deodorants costs more in Korea, because Koreans don’t really use it. Bring it with you.”

“If you have it, bring $1,500. Sure $1,000 might cover you, but if you have an emergency, the extra cash will come in handy. Will you have to pay for your medical exam in Korea? Food in Korea, especially qualify food like fresh vegetables and fruit will cost you! So will meat. Buy chicken breasts. They are super cheap because Koreans don’t like them. Not juicy enough for them. You’ll also be buying bottled water all the time, which you may not do at home. A few bottles at day at $1,000 won per bottle will put a small dent in your budget. I fill up at school and wherever I can get “free water”.”

“Don’t shop at the department stores like Lotte, Hyundaie, Shinsaegae. Buy your groceries from the smaller mom and pop shops in your neighbourhood. Significantly cheaper. Most teachers like to get a Costco membership so they can load up on groceries (provided they live near one). Not sure how much a membership is in Korea, but you can actually use your US Costco membership in Korea so DON”T forget to bring it.”


I’m applying for EPIK in the spring of 2017. I’m going through the recruiter, Korvia. Anybody else use them? Just want to see if anyone else is applying and share notes.

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“I’m also applying direct to the EPIK program. Not sure why you need a recruiter. Although I can’t seem to connect to the EPIK webpage on my browser now. I’m using Chrome, and it shows up as an “unsafe page”.”

“Have you prepared a lesson plan yet? I’m thinking about elementary beginner. I’ve got an online TEFL certificate. Should be enough with my degree to apply.”

“As I understand, EPIK is a one year contract but teachers can renew for another year with a pay increase. Not sure how much. What other recruiters recruit for EPIK besides Korvia?”

EPKIK refers Korvia on their website, so why bother with another recruiter?

“If you’re open to Japan, they have the JET program there. Basically EPIK is a knock off of JET which started in Japan probably 30 years ago. Not sure of exact differences between the two though. Good luck!”

“I’m applying for the EPIK program but I’m over 30 years old. Do you think that’s too old to get in? I have an MA in TESOL and 4 years teaching experience in Korea. What are my odds?”

Why not just apply? You have the experience and education. I don’t think 30 is old. If you were in your 40’s your age would certainly go against you.

“Did you see an age limit for the EPIK program in the application? Obviously, most teachers in Korea are in their 20’s and fresh out of college, but when you look at the universities, there are older instructors there. Why wouldn’t you just apply for a university job since you are a perfect candidate for post secondary teaching?”

“I don’t think it’s your age, it’s that you are over qualified. EPIK wants younger, ESL teachers whom they can mould and have them follow a Korean teacher’s lead.If you know more about English language education (MA in TESOL), then you might upstage the Korean teacher.That could create some jealousy. Just a possibility. The bottom line is that the EPIK hiring committee might think “why is someone with an MA in TESOL apply for EPIK? That might disqualify you. Not your age. Just a thought.”

“If you’re bent on the public school teaching program, then there’s also the GEPIK and SMOE programs. These are in other cities down south in Korea, but essentially the same program. Less competitive than EPIK and willing to turn an eye to your age (although 30 isn’t old IMHO).

“You wouldn’t think that the public school system in Korea would discriminate age, but they probably do. Many English teachers will say they have a friend or they themselves are in their 30’s and 40s teaching at this school or that school, but they have been grandfathered in. Meaning… they were probably hired at their school when they were in their twenties. If you’re on the outside trying to get into the EPIK program or a hagwon or wherever and you’re older it certainly is a ranking factor. All you can do is try and try again.”

“I wish I had an MA in TESOL. You should be applying for university gigs. Or even consider international schools in Korea or other countries. By far better in terms of benefits, vacation time and prestige than EPIK or it’s sister programs.”

 “I was hired through EPIK and there were several English teachers who were over 30, but if I had your credentials, I’d be going university all the way!”


Applying for a hagwon job. Am I missing anything?

Question asked 

“I’ve got a copy of my degree apostilled as well as my Criminal background check, passport copy page, transcripts and passport photos. What else do I need?” Read 8 things to remember for your Korean resume photo…

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An open mind and love for kimchi!”

“Teachers often ask if they need a degree in English or Education to teach in Korea. Any degree will do just fine. As long as it’s from an English-speaking country and it’s a 3 or 4 year degree.”

“Bring a bunch of passport photos. When you get your alien registration card, you’ll need more pictures and they should match what you already have. You don’t want to hassle with running around looking for a passport photo shop. And selfies with your iPhone won’t cut it!”

“There are many photoshops in Korea that will do passport photos if you need more. Just a heads up that Korean passport photos are a different size than ones back home. If you get shots done before you come to Korea, show the photographer, these passport specs. http://visa-passport-photos.com/Passport-Korea.html

Good point. I’ll get the exact size photos Korean style done here before I leave. Better to get it done now than when I’m jet lagged and disoriented in a foreign land trying to find and then communicate with an Korean photographer.

You’ll need 1 photo for your ARC card and maybe a couple more for your medical check up in Korea. They may ask for more. I think 5 additional photos would be good. Who knows what else you’ll need mug shots for in Korea. You can get them done at the subway station in a photo booth for 10,000 won.”

I’d get 10 Korean passport sized photos and get them done before you leave for Korea. They’ll need to be decent quality so those subway photo booths may not cut it. You’ll have plenty of running around to do in Korea, once you get here. Do as much as you can now.

Some schools will ask you to make an introductory video which you can upload to YouTube. Better check on that one.”

“Make sure your photos don’t include nose or lip piercings. These things may prevent you from getting hired. Tattoos are slowly becoming accepted in Korea, but piercings, well… that may take years. You can probably pop them back in once you get hired. Surprise!”


Can I tutor English for extra cash in Korea?

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“Ask your hagwon boss, and he may fire you. Absolutely it’s illegal. Saying that, many teachers do it and they fly under the radar. Tutoring a friend or friend of a friend in Korea at your apartment on a Saturday or Sunday or meeting them in a coffee shop for a conversation and getting paid for it, won’t get you nabbed. It’s when you pull out textbooks in a Starbucks and exchange cash, where you run the risk. Also, if you’re advertising for students on job sites, or posting ads up in your apartment building (stupid) is where you get caught. Don’t turn it into a business!”

Once you get your E2 visa, your are strictly prohibited from private tutoring. Think about it, your hagwon paid for your visa and jump through all the hoops to hire you, and then you’re working part-time for someone else. This kind of disloyalty (as Koreans would call it) will rub them the wrong way.”

“Your boss may not care what you do in your free time, and may even tell you so, but immigration will care. How will you pay taxes, or will you?”

If your school approves a second workplace on your E-2 visa you can teach at another place of business like another school, company or English camp at a university, for instance. But no private lessons.

“I believe if you are studying at a Korean university and have a student visa you can teach so many hours per week to make extra money. Not sure of the ins and outs though. It probably has to be a reputable place of business that pays taxes. Do any Korean business pay taxes for that matter?”

“If you’ve got an F-2 or F4 visa, you should be fine, but I’d check. If you are married to a Korean on an F2,5, or 6 visa and get busted tutoring privately they may kick you out of the country or put you in jail just like an E2 visa holder. Due your due diligence. It really comes down to taxes. Anybody teaching privately is assumed to NOT be paying their fair share of tax. This is looked down upon in any country NOT just Korea.”

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