Monday, March 16, 2015

How Old is too Old to Teach at a Korean University?

A reader question:

"I am 54 going on 55 in June. Is it still possible to teach at the University level in South Korea given my age? Based on what you've written the answer is: No."

She has read my book, How to Get a University Job in South Korea: The English Teaching Job of Your Dreamsand that is what she is referring to.  While I do talk about the ideal age to teach English at a Korean university in my book (between 30 and 50), I'll expand a bit upon it here.

In Korea, ageism is alive and well. It is not that uncommon to hear of people being forced out of their jobs as early as 50 and certainly by 60, which is generally considered the mandatory retirement age. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that after the Korean war, life expectancies were very low and it was uncommon for people to live into their 70's or 80's. These days, Koreans are living longer and longer but the retirement age has not risen along with it, unlike in most Western countries.

For foreigners teaching at Korean universities, it is a similar situation and it would be quite difficult for someone to hang on past the age of 60. You might not officially be let go but at some point you'll contract just won't be renewed. That is if you could even get a job.  If you had started somewhere in your late 40's or early 50's, shown yourself to be a well-liked and reliable teacher, and established a solid relationship, you'd probably be fine. But, I'm not sure a lot of places would be willing to give someone your age a chance who is not in Korea and has no experience teaching here. The job market is extremely competitive these days and that is a big strike against you.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Our friend MAd Elaine was hired by a Korean uni at age 60 something. Doubtless her PhD (ABD) helped, but while it is difficult to get hired in your fifties, it's not impossible.

Difficult, but not impossible is probably not the best way to spend your career time - so yes, look elsewhere!