Further information on South Korea

Further information on South Korea

Banking and money matters

Banking in a new country might seem overwhelming, but in South Korea it is a relatively short and stress free process. Some of South Korea’s larger banks have a lot of experience dealing with foreigners, and they may have an English translator on-site, making the process so much easier. When applying for a bank account at a local South Korean bank you will need to take along the following documents:

  • Your passport
  • Certificate of Alien registration (document allowing you to stay in South Korea. You will get this from your school)
  • Visa

The Korea Pass Travel Card
The Korea Pass Travel Card is a multi-purpose, pre-paid travel card, which allows you to pay for travel-related expenses such as transportation, accommodation and shopping. The card comes with a free tourist guide to Korea and a variety of discount coupons it also allows the card holder to enjoy special discounts at more than 60 tourist attractions, shopping areas and entertainment venues

List of banks in South Korea

Cost of living

Accommodation
Accommodation in South Korea may be a major expense; however if you are planning on teaching in South Korea, you might get away with cheaper accommodation options. Most schools provide free accommodation to all their foreign teachers; however if the school does not provide accommodation it will be your responsibility to organize accommodation. For more information on what to budget for in South Korea, click here. For an average apartment you can expect to pay between 300,000 and 400,000 Won, depending on the location and style of apartment. Most apartments in South Korea include a kitchen allowing you to prepare your own meals. The total cost of your accommodation depends highly on the location.

Please Note: You might be required to pay a security deposit and your water, electricity, and other utilities might not be included in the rent. Extra utilities might set you back about 70,000 Won or more.

Food and Drinks
Your food and drinks budget will depend heavily on your personal preferences and habits. If you are determined to prepare you own food you can expect to pay about 25,000 Won per month; however if you prefer to eat at local Korean restaurants you can expect to pay between 5,000 and 10,000 Won per person per meal.

As the water in South Korea is not suitable for human consumption, we would recommend you either boil your tap water or buy purified bottle water. A 2 liter bottle of purified water could cost anything from 600 to 800 Won.

Clothing
South Korea has a wide range of clothing, both local and imported and the prices may vary depending on the quality and/or brand name.

Local Goods South Korea Won $ US
Work Shirt 10,000 – 50,000 $9.75 – $48.50
Skirts 10,000 – 70,000 $9.75 – $68
Soap 1,000 $0.97
Toothpaste 2,000 $1.95
Local Goods South Korea Won $ US
Toilet Paper (10) 2,500 $2.45
TV 200,000 $194
DVD Rentals 1,000 – 2,000 $0.97 – $1.95
CD 15,000 $14.60

Pay scale

Level +1

2,500,000 - 2,700,000 South Korean Won per month (depending on location).

  • 2 consecutive years as Level 1 within the same Provincial Office of Education (POE).

Level 1

2,300,000 - 2,500,000 South Korean Won per month (depending on location).

  • 2 years of teaching experience with one of the following:
    • Masters degree - Teacher's TEFL / TESOL / CELTA (100+hours) Certificate
    • Bachelor's degree in Education, English / Literature or Linguistics
    • Contract renewal as Level 2+ within the same POE

Level 2+

2,100,000 - 2,300,000 South Korean Won per month (depending on location).

  • Master’s degree in any discipline, with Bachelor’s in Education, English / Literature or Linguistics
  • Master’s degree in Education, English / Literature or Linguistics with Bachelor’s in any discipline
  • 1 year of teaching experience with one of the following:
    • Masters degree
    • Teacher’s TEFL / TESOL / CELTA (100+hours) Certificate
    • Bachelor’s Degree in Education
    • English Language/Literature or Linguistics
    • Contract renewal as Level 2 within the same POE

Level 2

2,000,000 - 2,200,000 South Korean Won per month (depending on location)

  • Teacher’s TEFL / TESOL / CELTA (100+hours) Certificate
  • Bachelor’s Degree in Education, English / Literature or Linguistics
  • One year full time teaching experience with Bachelor’s degree in any discipline
  • Master’s degree in any discipline

Level 3

1,800,000 - 2,100,000 South Korean Won per month (depending on location)

  • Bachelor’s degree in any discipline

Culture

South Korean culture is vastly different from Western cultures. Koreans have their own culture, language, fashion and cuisine. They are very hard working, modest people who are proud of their traditional cultures and their modern economic success. As practical people Koreans have tried different ways to reach a fundamental Korean idea; a sense of harmony and balance in everything.

Buddhism
Buddhism is not a centralized system and so there are many sects in the world today. In Korea, some monks are married and do business. Buddhism that developed in Korea called Son was transmitted to Japan and then around the world where it is known as Zen. Today about 45% of Koreans follow Buddhism.

Christianity
About 51% of Koreans are Christians and today, almost 40% of Koreans are Protestant.

Confucianism
Confucius (originated from the Chinese) has had the greatest influence on Korean ideas. Confucianism is not exactly a religion, but it is a political/social system based on subordination. It emphasizes proper rituals, ceremonies, and conformity to decorum, or standards of correct conduct. The rules of decorum demand formality, if for no other reason than to show respect for other people and thus makes for better social relations.

Below are a couple of taboo’s to avoid while teaching in South Korea:

  • Do not show public affection. Public display of romantic affection is frowned upon by Koreans
  • The positioning of your chopsticks could mean more than you realize. i.e.: If you stick your chopsticks in your rice and leave it standing in an upright position it means that the rice is about to be served to a family’s dead ancestors
  • Always remove your shoes when entering a Koreans house
  • Do not point your chopsticks at someone or something
  • You should try to return your chopsticks to the table every few bites
  • Do not cross your chopsticks when putting them on your chopstick rest
  • Do not pick food up with your hands; fruit should be speared with a toothpick
  • Indicate you are finished eating by placing your chopsticks on the chopstick rest or on the table
  • Never place them parallel across your rice bowl
  • You should never pour your own drinks, but you can offer to pour others’. It is common to trade and fill each others glasses. To refuse is an insult. Woman pours men's drinks, but never another woman's drink. A woman may pour her own drink. Leave something in your glass if you don’t want a refill

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Housing

Most South Korean schools will provide their TESOL teachers with accommodation; however, if the schools do not provide accommodation, it is generally easy to find. In some cases shared accommodation may be available on request.

Studio Type A: Officetel
An officetel is a furnished apartment, usually in a office/multi-use building. It is generally a new/modern building and the apartments may include:

  • A refrigerator
  • Freezer
  • Gas stove
  • Western-style bathroom (with a shower)
  • Designated parking space
  • Security guard

There are often convenience stores and/or restaurant located on the main floors along with other businesses dispersed throughout the building.

Studio Type B: Joo-Taek
A Joo-Taek is also known as a villa or yeon-lip. These un-furnished apartments are usually found in smaller building. These villas range from a typical one room, studio apartment to two or three rooms. There are usually no maintenance fees and some villas have underground/designated parking areas.

High-Rise Apartments
Koreans typically live in apartment complexes with their families; these building have centralized management offices – controlling the maintenance and security. The apartments are not furnished, but usually contain:

  • A kitchen
  • Living room
  • Multiple bedrooms

These apartments are perfect for those who wish to share accommodation. Please refer to our accommodation samples page to view images of what you can expect.

Serviced Apartments
Serviced apartments are very similar to hotels; they are fully furnished and include a cleaning service; however it might be quite pricey. The building that houses the apartments will also have convenience stores, gyms, and/or restaurants.

Home Stays
It is very possible for TESOL teachers to live in the home of a Korean family, the teacher will have his/her own bedroom; however they have to share other facilities of the home with the family members. Most host families would open their doors to you, but they may also expect that you teach English to their children.

Medical facilities

The majority of the schools in South Korea will provide their teachers with a medical insurance option; however not all schools are required to do this. All teachers will arrive on an E-2 visa. If your school provides medical insurance, you school might help you with the process, but if not you have to make your way to the nearest immigration office to register for a Foreign Registration Certificate. To obtain this certificate, you have to register for it in person providing your finger prints, passport and other important documents.

Since the medical insurance will only be effective once the teacher received his/her Foreign Registration Certificate, which may take up to 4 weeks to complete, we strongly suggest that you buy travel insurance with medical coverage for 30 – 45 days following their arrival in South Korea.

It is important to remember that your medical insurance will not cover the following:

  • Cosmetic Surgery
  • Dental work
  • Optical care
  • Pre-existing conditions i.e. depression or MS

Public holidays

South Korea public holidays

  • 1 & 2 January: New Year's
  • 1 March: Independence Movement Day
  • 5 April: Arbor Day
  • 5 May: Children's Day
  • 6 June: Memorial Day
  • 17 July: Constitution Day
  • 15 August: Liberation Day
  • 3 October: National Foundation Day
  • 25 December: Christmas Day

Other holidays observed in South Korea

  • First Full Moon, 15 January: Daeboreum
  • Spring Festival, 5 May: Dano
  • Winter Solstice, around December 22: Dongii

Transport

The public transport system in South Korea is well established and easy to use – it offers many choices for getting around at a reasonable price from intercity buses to long-distance trains.

Buses
There are various buses running throughout South Korea at scheduled times which is usually every 15min to an hour; however there is no set departure times, this may vary throughout the day. You can reach most places in South Korea on a bus, and the late-night buses travel after 10:00pm.

Trains
Unfortunately the train system in South Korea does not travel everywhere; however they still travel to many major towns and cities. The trains in South Korea are clean, comfortable and punctual and almost every train station has signs in Korean and English, making it so much easier for foreigners to travel.

The trains in South Korea have various classes, below are three available options:

  • High-speed KTX Train: Travels approximately 300km/h from Seoul to Daejeon also extending to Busan on the east coast
  • Saemaul Trains: They are also fast and luxurious, and stop in the major cities. They offer the passengers all kinds of comfort
  • Mugunghwa Trains: This train offers the same comfort as the Saemaul train, but stops more often, increasing your traveling time

It is pretty obvious that the High-speed KTX train is the most expensive train in South Korea, followed by the Saemaul and then the Mugunghwa train. The train fares in South Korea are made up of complicated and confusing range of discounts, generally tickets are cheaper for travel between Tuesday and Thursday and if bought in advance.

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What to pack

Moving to South Korea might feel overwhelming, even if it is just for a year. You have to compress your entire life into two checked bags and a carry-on. Packing for South Korea does not have to be as challenging as it seems. Below is a list of things you should keep in mind when packing for the year.

  • Pack for all 4 seasons, but do not bring too much, because wardrobe space is generally very limited
  • Deodorant is available in South Korea, but it is a bit more difficult to find, and might be a bit more expensive
  • South Korea is well known for their unique fashion sense, and getting clothing is quite easy; however if you are picky or a bit larger than the average Korean, it might be a bit challenging
  • Bring along comfortable shoes, because you are going to walk a lot

Important Documents
When leaving make sure you have the following documents:

  • Passport
  • Plane ticket
  • Proof of insurance
  • Major credit card
  • List of emergency phone numbers
  • Notice of any critical medical information (conditions, drug allergies, etc.)

It is also good practice to keep a photocopy of your passport, plane ticket and insurance information in another place or with a family member.

Frequently asked questions

Can I choose my own location?
Yes, although limited spots are available so it is best to choose 3 or 4 different locations that you are most interested in.

Will there be other native English teachers nearby?
South Korea is a very popular location for teaching English abroad. Therefore, there are lots of native English teachers from the UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa living and teaching in South Korea. So, it is always possible to meet other native English teachers even in the more rural destinations.

What is an average weekly teaching schedule?
You would be teaching at a private language school, which students attend after their regular school day has finished for extra English practice. Schedules are determined on a need basis but the school will try to be as accommodating as possible when assigning classes.

  • 25 hour per week teachers would typically have two non-consecutive days off throughout the week.
  • 20 hour per week teachers might work Friday, Saturday and Sunday and then be off from Monday through Thursday.
  • 15 hour per week teachers would teach for 2 or 3 days per week.

Is overtime available?
Overtime is optional but not compulsory.

How many students per class would there be?
Classes are small with a maximum of 18 students per class. Students are grouped according to ability, ranging from elementary through to advanced.

How long are the classes?
The classes run from 30 minutes to two hours including a break.

Do I always teach the same students?
Children usually attend the school once per week so you’d teach each class of children one time each week. There are some adult classes and the adults would generally attend the school two or three times per week.

What do I need to wear to work?
Casual dress is fine so jeans, t-shirts and sweaters are all perfectly acceptable.

Will there be other native English teachers at my school?
In most cases there will be anything from 3 to 5 foreign teachers teaching at the same school.

Is housing provided?
Accommodation is provided free of charge with each teacher having his or her own private bedroom. Apartments are fully furnished, and include kitchen, bathroom and living room.

When is the salary paid?
Salaries are paid at the end of each month.

Do I need to pay telephone and utilities?
These charges are administered by the school but the teacher is responsible for the paying the costs. The telephone and utility charges are deducted from the monthly salary.

What is the holiday allowance?
It is normally 10 days a year plus national holidays.

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