Teaching in Korea

Teaching in Korea Statistics, Expectations & Options

Teaching in Korea should be an enjoyable experience. The location and credibility of the school obviously plays an important role, although, the age of the students you teach, type of school you work at, and job responsibilities are also key factors that determine whether or not you have a positive encounter with Korea.

The lion’s share of teaching opportunities in South Korea involve working with children between the K1 (kindergarten) and high school levels. There are two teaching sectors that teachers can usually choose from: public schools in Korea and private schools in Korea. There are other teaching options in Korea (College Instructors, University Professors, Business English Instructors, Factory and Corporate English Programs, TOEFL Instructors, etc.) but these positions are VERY limited and generally require applicants to have specific qualifications such as education majors and teaching licenses, TOEFL testing certifications, etc. In short, these types of jobs are limited, highly competitive and hard to secure.

The fact is, the very large majority of westerners teaching in Korea work with children between the ages of 5-18. This is where the high demand for English instructors resides and where the bulk of credible opportunities are found. Why? Because most Korean children study English on a daily basis while only a small fraction of adults do. As a result, there are literally 20 jobs available at the children & teen level for every adult teaching opportunity available.

To make yourself more competitive to hiring schools and public school programs, Gone2Korea recommends enrolling in a TEFL Certification Course. Make sure to choose a 100 plus hour program because anything less will not be accepted as a credential. Successfully completing one of these courses does not guarantee you employment; however it could help you secure an interview.


What to expect from a typical day of teaching in South Korea

  • Head to the school (usually within walking distance)
  • Arrive at school and spend some time talking with your co-teachers
  • Review the syllabus you’ve been assigned to determine what curriculum you’ll be introducing to the different classes that day
  • Start preparing your lesson plans for the classes you’ll be teaching
  • Talk to some of the kids that come running through the teachers office while you’re trying to prepare
  • Make photocopies, prepare your flash cards, organize your books, etc.
  • Head to your first class of the day
  • Say hello to your students and ask them to settle down and take their seats
  • Check off the student attendance form
  • Crack a few jokes or do something funny to get the students ready to begin
  • Ask the students to take out their textbooks and turn to the appropriate page
  • Begin teaching the pages and topic that is outlined in your syllabus
  • Do your best to keep all of the students interested in the lesson you’re delivering (an outgoing personality is the best weapon for a Korean classroom)
  • If you finish implementing the lesson before the class ends then it’s time to use your arsenal of English games and activities!
  • Assign homework if needed (homework can be anything related to the lesson/topic you completed)
  • Ask your students to pack up their books, pens, pencils and erasers
  • Once the bell goes you’re free to let your students leave for the day
  • Head back to the teachers office
  • Return the books and materials you used to the appropriate places in the office
  • Take a short 5 – 15 minute break
  • Make sure you have everything needed for your second class of the day
  • Head to your second class and start all over again!


Once you’ve completed the last class of the day you’ll likely be expected to stay at the school for a brief period to clean and organize the teacher’s office.  During this time you will help the other teachers clean the desks, organize the teacher work space, etc.  Once this is done you’re free to head home and begin doing whatever it is you do during your free time. Note: Some private schools require their western staff to conduct student phone calls at the end of the day (i.e. phone teaching).


Teaching in Korea Statistics?

An article in The Korea Times newspaper (April 7th, 2012 issue) estimated that as of 2012 there were 22,600 E-2 visa holders teaching in Korea. Of those 22,600 western teachers roughly 15,000 of them were employed at hagwon’s (private schools) with the remaining 7,600 working in other areas such as public schools. It was speculated that thousands of westerners were also teaching in Korea illegally, possibly placing the total number of western teachers close to 30,000.

In 2007 the Korean Ministry of Justice had the number of E-2 visa holders at 17,273; meaning, there was a 30% increase in the number of westerners teaching legally in Korea during that 5 year period. These statistics make South Korea one of the world’s largest employers of native English Language teachers. However, it’s worth noting that the total number of native English speakers working in South Korea peaked in 2011.

Number of westerners teaching in South Korea based on nationality.
2013 figures have been estimated based on older statistics from 2007, 2008 and 2012.
Numbers assume all nationalities increased by 30%
Nationality 2007 2013
Americans teaching in Korea6, 7248741
Canadians teaching in Korea5, 0056506
British teaching in Korea1, 6152099
New Zealanders teaching in Korea749973
Australians teaching in Korea674876
South Africans teaching in Korea685890
Irish teaching in Korea352457
Others teaching in Korea 14691910

What Korean employers expect from their teaching staff

As an English teacher in Korea your primary objective will be to stimulate English conversation with your students. Believe it not but the Korean teachers at your school are usually responsible for teaching grammar and reading. Your job (for the most part) will revolve around pronunciation and conversation. Many of the textbooks you’ll be using are comprised of pictures and limited text designed to encourage students to participate in discussion and exercises. You will also spend a lot of time getting your students to engage in group activities.

As easy as this may sound, it is important to remember that most students speak very limited English; therefore, communicating with them is more challenging than most people assume.  In the end, the more creative you are with your lessons the more English your students will learn…you’ll probably have more fun in the process as well!

Please be advised: All school directors and principals will require their western staff to complete no less than 45-60 minutes of class preparation time each day (45-60 minutes being the minimum). Just like schools and teaching jobs in the West, class prep in Korea is required to ensure that teachers are implementing the proper curriculum and maximizing their time spent in the classroom. In the end if you’re not prepared for your classes, and you’re wasting valuable scrambling for topics and materials to teach then you’re not doing your job! More importantly, unprepared teachers means the students won’t be reaching their full potential. Note: Time spent preparing for your ESL classes does not warrant ‘overtime pay’. All teachers, in both sectors, are required to develop lesson plans on a daily basis.

Teaching resources that you can expect from your school

All schools will have textbooks and basic teaching materials and most will have a structured curriculum to follow. Most schools will also provide their teaching staff with English games, books, flashcards, crayons, coloring sheets, etc. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the available resources during your first week of work, it will definitely help ease the transition into your new role as a teacher.