Job Facts

ESL Job Market Realities


Using Multiple Recruiters
Korean public school programs have a one application per applicant policy; meaning, if a recruiting company has already submitted your application to the program (EPIK or SMOE) then you can’t submit your application again through another recruiting company – applicants who get submitted twice will be listed as a ‘double booking’. Private school placements are handled separately (applications are submitted individually); therefore, it’s ok to work with multiple recruiting companies is this sector. Just don’t over represent yourself because recruiters won’t make an effort on your behalf if they know you’re speaking with lots of their competitors. Schools will sometimes refrain from making job offers as well if they’ve received the same person’s application from different companies.

Reviewing Your Documents

There’s only a few things that Korean schools can take into consideration when they’re reviewing someone’s application: resume, photo and the recruiters input. Sending a good resume, nice photo and conducting yourself with sincerity on the phone WILL increase your chances of getting the job you want. Please refer to our Application Tips page for more details.


Although Gone2Korea and other recruiting agencies don’t care about the age of an applicant, Korean directors and program managers usually do. Generally speaking applicants over the age of 35 are harder to place in the private sector. Note: There are still good opportunities available for applicants who are 35 years of age and older; they just aren’t as abundant. The public school sector currently has a 60 year age limit although teachers over 50 need to have formal teaching experience in order to be accepted into the program. Note: Age restrictions have nothing to do with Gone2Korea policies.

Visa Processing in Japan

Korean Immigration policies changes in 2009. All first time ESL teachers applying for opportunities in the public school programs are still eligible for using third party countries for visa processing; however, teachers in the private market segment are now required to secure their visa from the designated Korean Consulate in their country of citizenship (i.e. an American applicant must secure their visa from a Korean consulate in the USA). Note: The KCUE can still process documents on behalf of the Immigration Office which allows first time teachers to use third party countries for processing. The only problem with this scenario is that there’s additional paper work and expenses involved for the schools so they rarely offer this processing method as an option.

Negative Aspects of Teaching in Asia

The majority of horror stories that one would hear about or read on various ESL websites are brought to light by a small percentage of people who have had a bad experience. The truth is, most Westerners have a great experience and leave Korea with lifelong friends and memories.

Adult Classes

If you want to teach adults then you will have to work a split shift 85% of the time. Adult schools have operating hours which cater to the schedules of working adults; therefore, you may have to teach early in the morning and then again later in the day.

School Hours
Schools have the right to change their operating hours. Even though it may say in your contract that you will work from 9:00am to 5:00pm, it also states that they have the right to change these hours as seen fit to accommodate the students attending. After all, schools are not going to lose money, lose business and lose students because a western teacher is upset about an altered schedule. Schedules change to fit the age groups of the student body of the school.

Weekend Work

Schools do not have the right to make their teachers work on weekends if it was not stipulated in the signed contract.

Additional Work

Schools do have the right to make teachers, who did not work a full contracted number of hours in a given work week, do additional teacher related duties. Phone teaching, curriculum development, grading, etc., are acceptable things for a Korean school to request.

Seoul and Busan Teacher to Job Ratios

The job markets in the cities of Seoul and Busan are becoming increasing competitive. There are currently more people applying for opportunities in these locations then the total number of jobs available so it’s important for teachers to make an effort to accommodate the hiring schools requests during the different stages of the process. Ultimately, schools in these cities can afford to be selective with the people they choose to accept so it’s important to remain as professional and flexible as possible. Example: When a recruiter is pushing you for an answer, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are pushing you into a position, it’s often because they know how things work and they’re trying to help you obtain a job in your desired location before the school retracts the offer and moves on to another applicant.

Seoul and Busan Contracts

The good jobs in Seoul and Busan are typically not available for more than a few days. There are too many teachers competing for these positions and the schools usually make their decision rather quick. If you haven’t heard from your recruiter in 5 days and then all of a sudden he/she calls and encourages you to take an interview in the next 24 hours it’s usually in your best interest to do so. These jobs come and go……FAST.


The easiest way to ‘spice up’ your resume and credentials is by enrolling in a 100hr certification course. TEFL Online is Gone2Korea’s recommended accredited program which allows you to get TEFL certified in the comfort of your own home. Note: If you have no experience and an unrelated major then the public school programs will offer a higher monthly salary if the TEFL diploma consists of 100 hours or more.

Interviews With Schools

It’s not considered polite, in Korean culture, for applicant’s to ask questions about salary, apartments, airfare, benefits, etc., during their first interview with the school hiring manager. Obviously these matters are important and need to be addressed; however, it’s best to direct these types of questions to your recruiter and/or one of the other ESL teachers currently working at the school.

Talking to an ESL Teacher Currently Working

If your recruiter doesn’t offer to put you in contact with a native English ESL teacher currently working at the school, a red flag should go up! Gone2Korea encourages all teachers to correspond with one of the teachers at the school before you agree to sign the contract. Please be advised: Contact with current western staff only applies to opportunities in the private school sector.

Teaching Privately / Private Tutoring in Korea

Teaching private classes (tutoring Korean’s on the side) is technically illegal. Your E2 visa is directly associated with your contracted school which essentially acts as your sponsor during your employment period. To this day many ESL teachers still teach privately and risk getting caught; just be advised that the consequences can be severe. If you are caught teaching illegally then your contract will likely be cancelled and you can potentially get fined, deported and blacklisted with immigration making it almost impossible to work in Korea again.

ASAP Positions

When a recruiter presents you with an opportunity that requires an ASAP start date it does not imply that the school has bad management or undesirable working conditions. Teachers accept jobs all the time only to find out shortly after that they’re not ready to go over, get nervous, find a good job in their own country, etc. When teachers back out 2 or 3 weeks prior to their scheduled departure date, schools automatically reopen the position and begin requesting teachers who are able to begin as soon as possible.

Accented English

Most private schools in Korea prefer Canadian or American teachers because of their accent. Why? South Korea has strong ties to North America and many Korean parents prefer it if their children are able to learn and understand the North American accent. Although many schools prefer applicants from these 2 countries, there are still lots of schools that are willing to hire people from any of the 7 native English speaking countries. Note: Public school programs do not have preferences for specific nationalities and accents.

Recruiters and Your Working Visa

Your recruiter and hiring school can only do so much when it comes to obtaining a work visa. Your E2 working visa is granted from the Korean Department of Immigration and in order to secure the visa they will require specific documentation. As your recruiting agent we are here to help, guide and assist you throughout the process; however, it’s your responsibility to secure all of the required documents and notarizations.

Changing Jobs

It’s illegal to leave your place of employment and locate another job without being released from your current employer. Your E2 visa is directly linked to your contracted employer who acts as your sponsor; therefore, if you quit without authorization from your employer he/she will call the Department of Immigration and have your visa cancelled. In order to switch schools you will need an official ‘letter of release’ from your contracted school – securing legal employment at another is not possible without this letter. Note: If you work illegally or you stay longer than your visa expiry date then you may be stopped at the airport and forced to pay a fine. Korean Immigration has the authority to detain foreigners (although they rarely do) who break visa regulations so it’s always wise to do things legitimately.

Getting the Job

Recruiters do not have the final say with your acceptance at a school. Recruiters provide you with different schools to choose from but it’s the school directors and program representatives who are responsible for making formal job offers.

Personal Opinions and Preferences

Some teachers really enjoy their school, director and apartment, whereas others in the same position are dissatisfied. Obviously this is an individual preference and every person has their own idea of what is acceptable. Good recruiters do their best to satisfy the needs and requests of each applicant.