"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.