Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Reader Question: Is Korea Worth the Risk?

"Just a bit about myself. I have been trawling blogs trying to get a sense of South Korea. I have a Master's degree but am in a career rut at the moment working in a call centre at the age of thirty five. I have decided to do a TEFL in May and then go abroad to teach.

I have seen mixed reports about South Korea. There are possibilities to save money to nightmare stories about teachers not getting paid etc. What advice would you give to someone in my position?"

There are lots of mixed reviews about Korea because it really is a bit of a crapshoot as to what you're going to get your first year.  Most hagwons are kind of sketchy at the very least and not a few are completely sketchy.  You will get ripped off in your first year at a hagwon, almost without fail.  It's just a matter of degrees.  If you escape just a bit ripped off, count your lucky stars. 

Public schools are another matter.  Most of them are not so sketchy but you will have lots of cultural issues and misunderstandings.  Your year could be amazing or a nightmare, depending on your co-teachers.  And there are plenty of stories of teachers working camps, but not getting paid for them, or being stuck in terrible housing.  And these jobs are getting harder to come by.

My advice is that Korea is not really the place for someone looking to just do a year abroad.  It's just not worth it, because most people have some sort of bad experience.  However, there are plenty of good jobs in Korea that require some connections and experience to get.  If you're willing to put up with a bad first year, then you will be able to find a better job in your subsequent years, which is when Korea can really pay off.  You'll be able to get more vacation, better pay, or both.

6 comments:

aisforanxiety said...

Thanks for putting the time in to answer my question. Your answer seems balanced and honest and you've given me plenty to think about. If I do decided to go I will let you know.

Thanks again.

LovinLife1902 said...

Korea is totally worth it. The key is to do your homework. Ask to speak to the teacher you are replacing. Ask that teacher about the working conditions, getting paid on time, curriculum, living arrangement, etc. I turned down a school that offered more money in a larger city because when I asked about curriculum, I was told, "oh, you just do whatever you want." Red Flag. I invite you to check out my blog as a first year teacher in Korea. Best of luck to you!

Xavier said...

Korea is worth it...depending upon the time of the year i.e. vacation and weekends. Your supervisor and school will make you or break you. I have enjoyed my teaching in Korea over the last two years, and I am finally at a university. However, it's not an easy road. There are opportunities and challenges at every corner. Indeed, do your homework as LovinLife1902 recommended, but I see writing your own curriculum as a benefit. I became a curriculum developer and writer for my first two years, and I loved it. Now, I follow a curriculum, and it's okay, too. Overall, Korea is a good place, but don't believe everything you hear in the news. It's peaceful here.

Xavier said...

Korea is worth it...depending upon the time of the year i.e. vacation and weekends. Your supervisor and school will make you or break you. I have enjoyed my teaching in Korea over the last two years, and I am finally at a university. However, it's not an easy road. There are opportunities and challenges at every corner. Indeed, do your homework as LovinLife1902 recommended, but I see writing your own curriculum as a benefit. I became a curriculum developer and writer for my first two years, and I loved it. Now, I follow a curriculum, and it's okay, too. Overall, Korea is a good place, but don't believe everything you hear in the news. It's peaceful here.

wetcasements said...

I love Korea, but the best advice I ever got was to talk to somebody at your future school (a foreigner like yourself) before signing a contract.

Getting your foot in the door with a college or university is probably going to require an MA for starters. After that, if you're actually in the country you are a cheaper hire (no plane ticket) and this makes you desirable compared to somebody with comparable qualifications who is still in Canada, America, or wherever.

A hagwon can be a stepping stone to a much better job, but you'll have to hustle, network, and please your first boss as well.

Jackie Bolen said...

Yes, absolutely do your homework and talk to the previous teacher. But, be aware that the previous teacher may lie to you because they're pressured to by their boss. The boss may be holding severance pay/airplane ticket over their heads.