Sunday, May 31, 2015

Tenure Track Positions in Korean Universities

An interesting question from one of the people who attended my recent KOTESOL presentation on How to Get a University Job in South Korea. She asked about the possibility of tenure track positions for foreigners in Korean universities.

My short answer was that while it's not impossible, it's quite unlikely. For example, during my 8 years working at unis I've only met 2 foreigners who were in these kind of positions. The vast majority are on 1-2 year contracts and there are also a few visiting professors who plan to return to positions in their home countries.

Part of it is that there are so many Koreans who are qualified for these jobs and the other thing is the language barrier. Any university who hires you will want you to be an active member of that department-attending MT, counseling students, going to meetings, working on committees, etc. Nobody will want to translate for you during all of these things and so you will basically be side-lined unless you are fluent in Korea. In addition, if you teach anything other than English, it will be really difficult for you to effectively teach your students who likely don't have the English ability to be able to understand lectures on anything besides the most basic of topics.

So, is Korea the answer for someone with a PhD unable to find work in their home country? Probably not and I wouldn't count on being able to get anything besides short-term, 1-2 year contracts.

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