The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Teaching in Korea

Teaching English in South Korea is a popular choice for many educators seeking adventure, financial stability, and cultural immersion. However, like any job, it comes with its own set of positives and negatives.

Here’s a comprehensive look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of teaching in Korea.

The Good

1. Competitive Salary and Benefits

South Korea offers competitive salaries for English teachers, ranging from 2.1 to 3.5 million KRW per month, depending on experience, qualifications, and the type of institution. In addition to salary, many positions provide free housing, flight reimbursements, and health insurance.

According to the Korean Ministry of Education, the average salary for native English teachers in public schools is around 2.3 million KRW per month, while private academies (hagwons) offer slightly higher salaries, averaging 2.6 million KRW.

Negotiate your contract carefully to ensure you receive all the benefits you are entitled to, and understand what is included in your compensation package.

2. Low Cost of Living

While Seoul can be expensive, other cities like Busan, Daegu, and smaller towns have a much lower cost of living. Groceries, transportation, and dining out are generally affordable.

Numbeo reports that the cost of living in South Korea is 19% lower than in the United States, with rent being 60% lower on average.

Take advantage of local markets and public transportation to save money. Free housing provided by employers can significantly reduce living expenses.

3. Cultural Immersion and Travel Opportunities

Teaching in Korea offers the chance to immerse yourself in a rich and unique culture. From traditional festivals to modern K-pop concerts, there’s always something exciting to experience. Moreover, Korea’s location makes it a great hub for traveling to other Asian.

According to the Korea Tourism Organization, over 17.5 million tourists visited Korea in 2019, highlighting its appeal as a travel destination.

Use your vacation time and weekends to explore Korea and nearby countries. Engage with the local community to fully experience Korean culture.

4. Professional Development

Many teachers find that their time in Korea helps them develop valuable skills, such as cross-cultural communication, adaptability, and language proficiency. This experience can be a significant boost to your resume.

A survey by the Korean Education Development Institute found that 85% of foreign teachers felt their professional skills improved during their time in Korea.

Take advantage of professional development opportunities offered by your employer, and consider enrolling in an English conversation academy (영어 회화 학원) like AmazingTalker to further enhance your skills.

The Bad

1. Long Working Hours

While public school teachers often have a more structured schedule, hagwon teachers may face long hours, including evening and weekend work. This can lead to burnout if not managed properly.

According to a 2021 survey by the Korean Federation of Teachers’ Associations, 80% of hagwon teachers reported working over 40 hours a week, compared to 60% in public schools.

Clarify your working hours and responsibilities before signing a contract. Ensure you have time for rest and personal activities to maintain a healthy work-life balance.

2. Cultural and Language Barriers

Adapting to Korean culture and navigating daily life can be challenging, especially if you don’t speak the language. Misunderstandings and miscommunications are common.

The Korea Research Institute for Vocational Education & Training reported that 65% of foreign teachers cited cultural differences as a significant challenge in their first six months.

Learning basic Korean can significantly enhance your experience. Consider taking online classes through platforms like AmazingTalker to improve your language skills (화상 영어).

3. Isolation and Homesickness

Living in a foreign country far from friends and family can lead to feelings of isolation and homesickness, especially during holidays and special occasions.

According to InterNations, 50% of expats in South Korea reported feeling homesick at some point during their stay.

Stay connected with loved ones through regular video calls, and engage with the local expat community for support and companionship.

The Ugly

1. Contract Issues and Job Security

Unfortunately, not all employers are reliable. Some teachers face issues with contract breaches, unpaid wages, or sudden job termination.

The Ministry of Employment and Labor in South Korea found that 30% of disputes between foreign teachers and employers stemmed from misunderstandings or breaches of contract.

Have your contract reviewed by someone familiar with Korean labor laws before signing. Keep thorough records of all communications and agreements with your employer.

2. Mental Health Challenges

The combination of cultural adjustment, long working hours, and potential isolation can take a toll on mental health. Accessing mental health services can be difficult due to language barriers and cultural stigma.

A study by the Seoul National University Hospital found that 35% of foreign teachers reported experiencing significant stress or anxiety during their stay in Korea.

Prioritize self-care and seek support when needed. Many online platforms offer mental health services in English, and connecting with fellow expats can provide a support network.

3. Legal and Visa Complications

Visa issues can arise, particularly if you change jobs or if your employer fails to comply with immigration regulations. These complications can lead to legal issues and even deportation in severe cases.

The Korea Immigration Service reported over 5,000 cases of visa violations involving foreign teachers in 2020.

Ensure your visa status is always up to date and understand the legal requirements for your stay. Consult with immigration experts if you encounter any issues.


Teaching English in South Korea offers an array of experiences, both positive and challenging. The competitive salary, cultural immersion, and professional growth opportunities are significant benefits, while long working hours, cultural barriers, and potential contract issues present real challenges. Being well-informed and prepared can make a significant difference in your teaching journey.

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