|Teaching English in South Korea|
I had a question from a reader about whether or not I'd recommend teaching English in Korea. Obviously, I've been living here for 10 years and have been happy enough to stay, but I'm not sure I'd necessarily recommend it as heartily today as I would have back when I first got there.
Here's Why Korea Doesn't Get my Hearty Recommendation
1. Salaries to teach English in Korea have gone down significantly, in terms of real dollars because while inflation has increased significantly, salaries have remained stagnant. 10 years ago, 2.2 was a normal starting hagwon wage. Today, it's basically the same. For some solid advice on finances for ESL teachers, check out my book: The Wealthy English Teacher: Teach, Travel, and Secure Your Financial Future.
2. There are fewer good TEFL jobs in Korea these days. Even 5 years ago, public school jobs were plentiful but after government cutbacks, these jobs are few and far between and competition to get them is fierce. While there are some annoying things about working in a public school (co-teachers!), they are traditionally quite good jobs due to the low working hours, decent vacation time and the paid in full every month guarantee.
Qualifications and competition has increased for university jobs in Korea, such that it's difficult for someone without a master's degree and a couple years experience teaching adults or high school students to get the job. These are by far the best teaching jobs in Korea, with the exception of corporate jobs, of which there are very few. For advice on getting a uni job in South Korea, check out my other book, How to Get a University Job in South Korea: The English Teaching Job of Your Dreams.
Korea isn't a Bad Choice Though
That said, if you want to teach English overseas, then Korea is not a bad choice. The money-saving potential is still there, especially if you do private teaching (but it's illegal, so of course I'd never recommend it or do it myself). Most teachers can expect to save around $1000 US/ month if their lifestyle isn't too extravagant.
And, it certainly is a lot easier to live in Korea than it was 10 years ago in terms of social attitudes since Koreans are getting a lot more used to foreigners, although racism does still exist (as it does in any country).
In terms of availability of all things Western, you can pretty much get anything you want just by going to the local supermarket or clicking the mouse button a few times. Gone are the days of trekking to Itaewon in Seoul with an empty backpack to go to the English bookstore and foreign food mart.
In terms of English, Korea is getting better and better as the years go by such that it is normal that at least one person speaks passable English at any place you might want to go.