Teaching English in Korea prepared by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Government Canada.

This section contains direct quotations from the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade issued by the Government of Canada to help you learn more about teaching English in Korea. Since it has been difficult for us to update the links, the information has been posted as follows. Even if we do not agree with all of the information from the publication, we believe it is useful information for job seekers nonetheless. If you are interested in any updated versions of the "Teaching English in Korea" publication by the Canadian Government, please click on the following link: Teaching English in Korea by Department of Foreign Affairs, Government of Canada or copy the address below to your web browser.

Main Topics
Types of Foreign-Language Institutes and Programs
Visa Matters
Working Hours
Severance Pay
Income Tax
Medical Insurance
Ticket Home
Cultural Differences
Adapting to Korean Society
How Canadian Government Offices Can Help
Sources of Information in Korea
Consular Services
Publication Info
For More Information

The key to happy and fruitful employment as a language instructor in Korea is to be employed by a reputable school and to obtain a fair and clear contract. Many Canadian citizens have come to Korea under contract with promises of generous salaries, bonuses and other amenities. The majority of them have had an enjoyable and rewarding experience. A minority, however, have found themselves in positions far different from those originally promised.

Canadian government offices are not permitted to become involved in any case, conduct an investigation, or act as lawyers or mediators in any personal, legal or contractual conflicts experienced by Canadian citizens. They cannot investigate, certify or vouch for prospective employers. It is up to each individual to evaluate any employment offer before signing a contract.

However, if you encounter employment difficulties, the Seoul Metropolitan government has recently established the Seoul Help Center for Foreigners, which provides many forms of assistance, including a Job Help System for Expats in Seoul, community services, information on Korea and contacts regarding specific issues. The address is:

2nd Floor, Main Building
Seoul City Hall
31 Taepyeongno 1-ga, Jung-gu
Seoul 100-744
Tel: 82-2-731-6800
Fax: 82-2-731-6803

Residents of Seoul are encouraged to forward suggestions and/or ideas on how the city can better serve the foreign community to hotline@seoul.go.kr.

The City of Busan has established a similar office (the Foreigners Assistance Center) in its city hall building. The address is:

1st Floor, City Hall Building
1000 Yeonsan 5 dong
Yeonje-gu, Busan 611-735
Tel: 82-51-865-0133
Fax: 82-51-888-6659

More information is available on the website of the Busan Foundation for International Activities.

The Embassy of Canada in Seoul does not maintain a list of teaching institutes. If you are thinking of accepting a job as a teacher of English in Korea, you are advised to ask the institute concerned for the names and telephone numbers of current and former teachers so that you can contact them directly.

If you encounter difficulties while teaching in Korea, contact the Consular Section at the Embassy of Canada in Seoul:

16-1 Jeong-dong, Jung-gu
Seoul (100-120), Republic of Korea
Tel.: 82 (2) 3783-6000
Fax: 82 (2) 3783-6112
E-Mail: seoul@international.gc.ca
Internet: http://www.korea.gc.ca

Postal address:
P.O. Box 6299
Seoul 100-662, Korea

or the Canadian Consulate in Busan:

c/o Dongsung Chemical Corporation
472 Shin Pyung-dong, Saha-gu
Busan 604-721, Republic of Korea
Tel.: 82 (51) 204-5581
Fax: 82 (51) 204-5580

For emergency assistance after hours, telephone the Canadian Embassy in Seoul and follow the recorded instructions. You may also make a collect call to the Consular Affairs Bureau, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, in Ottawa at (613) 996-8885.

Calling Korea
To telephone to Korea from other countries, dial:

international long distance code + country code + area/city code + telephone number

For example, if you are in Canada and you want to speak to the
Canadian Embassy in Seoul, you must dial:

If you are in Korea and want to make a long distance call within the country, you must dial: domestic long distance code + city/area code + telephone number

For example, if you are in Busan and you want to speak to the Canadian Embassy in Seoul, you must dial:

Recommended for your general information are the publications Bon Voyage, But ... Essential Information for Canadian Travellers and Working Abroad: Unravelling the Maze. Both are produced by Consular Affairs and are available on the Internet or by calling 1-800-267-8376 (in Canada) or (613) 944-4000.


Most English instructors teach in private foreign-language institutes (hakwons in Korean). There are, however, positions available in several other types of organizations:

corporate in-house language programs;
university foreign-language institutes;
university departments;
public schools;
government/private research institutes; and
public relations and advertising companies.


Private language institutes are found all over Korea but the majority are located in Seoul. Some are well known and have many branches, while others are small-scale operations and are short-lived. The ESL (English as a Second Language) market in Korea is extremely competitive and it is common for institutes to fail. Many of the more marginal businesses open their doors, hire the first foreigner they can find, advertise for students, offer classes for a month or so, and then close.

Most hakwons employ expatriate (American, British, Canadian, New Zealander and Australian) instructors for conversation classes. Some of the better institutes will provide housing for instructors. The typical full- time employee can be expected to work 20 to 30 hours a week. The majority of classes are conducted in the early morning and the evening. Therefore, many instructors have free time in the afternoon. Most classes have from 10 to 15 students ? usually university students, or businesspeople who are contemplating overseas assignments or trying to improve their English skills. Many hakwons also have after-school classes for children as young as five years old.

All institutes are required by law to provide health insurance during the period of employment and severance pay on completion of a one-year contract, but some institutes fail to honour these provisions. (For more information, see "Severance Pay") The average monthly salary is currently about 1.8 to 2 million a month (in major cities) or about 1.5 to 1.6 million won a month (in a small franchise).

Corporate In-House Language Programs

Most of the large corporate conglomerates (chaebols in Korean) have their own in-house language programs. An instructor can typically be expected to teach more than 30 hours a week, working irregular hours all day from early in the morning to late at night. Most of these programs are intensive residential programs that require the students to study for three to six months. Some of the programs provide instructors with full benefits, including housing, but instructors may be required either to live on-site or to commute long distances from Seoul. The average monthly salary in such programs is currently about 2 to 2.5 million won. Recently many chaebols have reduced or cancelled their in-house programs due to financial restraints.

University Foreign-Language Institutes

The major universities in Seoul, as well as some provincial universities, operate language institutes. Many of the students are enrolled in university but the majority are businesspeople. The hiring standards of these institutes tend to be the highest in Korea: most instructors have master's degrees in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and years of teaching experience. The pay, status and benefits offered by these institutes also are among the best in Korea. As a result, there is a very low staff turnover.

Provincial universities tend to provide better housing, working conditions and salaries, and to treat foreign instructors as part of the faculty. These advantages, however, should be balanced against the cultural isolation a foreigner may encounter living in the Korean countryside.

University Departments

Most universities in Korea employ full-time English conversation instructors. University classes tend to be larger and feature less personal contact with the students. Most instructors teach between 10 and 15 hours a week. Leftist, nationalist and sometimes anti-American attitudes may be prevalent among some students. As most Koreans have difficulty in differentiating between Canadians and Americans, this could be problematic for Canadian teachers. Many universities in Seoul do not provide housing, and some do not provide the benefits required under Korean law. Monthly salaries currently average about 2 to 2.3 million won, with three to four months of paid vacation a year.

Public Schools

Recently the federal, municipal and some provincial governments have begun hiring more and more expatriate teachers to teach English in the public school system. The Korean government sponsors the English Program in Korea (EPIK), similar to the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program in Japan. An equivalent program, known as English Teachers in Seoul (ETIS), operates exclusively in the Korean capital. The conditions and hours of work are comparable in many ways to teaching in the public systems in Canada. Housing and basic furnishings are usually provided, and salary ranges from below 2 million to 2.5 million won per month. A candidate having a master's degree with experience in teaching or a TESOL certificate would be on the high end of the pay scale, while one with a non-education-based bachelor's degree would be on the lower end. Insurance is half paid by the employer and half by the employee. The different levels of government in Korea have stated that they will engage more foreign teachers for the public schools. To date, however, this approach is relatively new, and few Canadians have experience in this area.

Government/Private Research Institutes

Many government agencies and some private companies operate research institutes. Most of the institutes hire foreigners with degrees in the humanities, economics or business administration to work as full-time editors. The editors proofread correspondence and research publications, write speeches, and occasionally teach as well. Most of the institutes pay quite well and some provide housing. Because the research institutes are usually government-run or closely associated with powerful corporate groups, instructors who work in them seldom experience problems in obtaining employment visas.

Public Relations and Advertising Companies

here are several public relations and advertising companies in Korea that hire foreigners to work as copy editors and occasionally as teachers as well. These positions are very difficult to obtain as they are quite popular with the resident English-teaching community. There are also opportunities to appear on television and radio programs, and in movies. Most of these companies pay quite well and some provide housing assistance.

Teaching English Part-Time

Many full-time instructors also teach part-time, either privately or at a second institution. Private instruction is illegal. Part-time employment at a second institution is illegal as well, unless permission is granted by the sponsoring institution and Korean immigration authorities. You are obliged by law to pay taxes on all income earned. If you fail to do so and get caught and fined, you will not be able to leave Korea until you have paid the required amount. If you do not have sufficient funds, immigration authorities will insist that you arrange for money to be sent from Canada. When considering part-time employment, make sure you know the law and understand that you are taking a serious risk if you teach private lessons.


Employment Visas

To work legally in Korea, you must obtain the appropriate employment visa. The Korean government tightly controls the issuance of visas for employment. In some instances, teachers have been unable to obtain the appropriate visa.

You must obtain the work visa outside Korea. If you enter Korea as a tourist and are offered employment, you can then apply for a work visa at a Korean diplomatic or consular mission in a nearby country, such as Hong Kong or Japan, provided that a Confirmation of Visa Issuance number has been provided in advance by the prospective employer. Before travelling to the nearby country, be sure to confirm with the Korean mission there that they will process visa applications from Canadian citizens.

Depending on the job and other factors, it can take between one week and two months to obtain the appropriate visa. However, visa applications submitted to Korean missions in Japan (Tokyo, Osaka, and Fukuoka) are usually processed within two working days. Be prepared to stay as long as required to obtain the visa.

As visa regulations and the documents required change quite frequently, you should contact the nearest Korean diplomatic or consular mission if you are outside Korea, or a Korean immigration office within Korea, for confirmation of regulations and fees.

On arrival in Korea, you must register at a Korean immigration office and obtain a residence permit and a re-entry permit within 90 days of entry. All foreigners are required to possess a valid re-entry permit in order to re-enter Korea. Korean immigration offices require the same documentation as is needed for obtaining the visa, so you should make a number of copies.

Most English instructors are granted an E-1 visa (professor at an educational institution higher than a junior college), an E-2 visa (conversation instructor) or an E-5 visa (professional employee with a public relations firm or corporation). An individual who is married to a Korean citizen can also acquire permanent residency rights as a spouse.

Despite what some employers may tell you, you are not required to hand over your Canadian passport to your employer for the duration of your stay. It is your passport and you should keep it in your possession.

Required Forms

To obtain a visa (before entering), you must submit the following items to the relevant Korean government office with your passport and a completed visa application form:

an employment contract (ko yong kyeyakso);
a sponsorship guarantee form (shin won pojungso) notarized by a notary public;
a copy of the employer's business registration certificate;
the original diploma of your four-year university degree, plus copies;
sealed university transcripts;
two photos (3.5 x 4.5cm) with a light background, taken within six months; and
a visa fee (30$ for single entry, 50$ for multiple entry).

To obtain a residence permit (within 90 days of entry), you must provide the following items to the relevant Korean goverment office:

your passport;
an application form;
two photos (3 x 4 cm);
a fee of KRW10,000; and
a copy of the employer's business registration certificate.

The Korean government is investigating more thoroughly the use of fraudulent documents, university degrees and ESL certificates. Penalties for using fraudulent documents include deportation and restrictions on re-entry for five years or more.

Changing Your Employer

To change employers, you require permission from the Korean immigration authorities and, in principle, must leave Korea and return under a new visa with a new sponsor. Changing employers is quite difficult and requires release consent from your original employer for the remaining contract period. You should direct any questions on this procedure to the nearest immigration office.

If you resign to take up new employment without a letter of release from your previous employer, you must leave the country within 14 days of your resignation. A new work permit will not be issued until the expiration of your previous contract. However, after leaving the country, you can return to Korea as a tourist while awaiting the expiry of your old contract, although you are not allowed to work in the interim.

Legal Problems

Some expatriates have encountered serious legal problems with the Korean immigration authorities because either they have accepted employment as English teachers while in Korea on a tourist visa or they have agreed to take part-time employment or teach private classes without obtaining the proper permission. Violation of Korean immigration laws can result in severe penalties, including imprisonment, fines of up to 50,000 won for each day of overstay, or deportation with a ban on re-entry, usually for up to two years. It is your responsibility to understand local laws and obey them. Canadian government offices cannot assist you in any way if you violate Korean laws, other than to provide you with a list of attorneys.


Nature of Contracts in Korea

Many foreign-language institutions view a contract as just part of the process of beginning a relationship with an instructor. The contract is only as binding as the personal connection. Therefore, foreign instructors sometimes have contract disputes with their employers. The employer may consider the contract a simple working agreement, infinitely flexible and subject to change (usually after the foreign teacher has arrived in Korea). The real contract is not a written one, but an unwritten, oral agreement. Most Koreans do not view deviations from a contract as a "breach," and few would consider taking an employer to court over a contract dispute. You should bear these factors in mind when signing a contract.

Negotiating a Teaching Contract

A basic contract for a teaching position should include provisions for the following: salary; housing; working hours; severance pay; income tax; medical insurance; and ticket home. If these items are not covered, you should negotiate until they are specifically included in the contract. Note that class size is not usually specified in a contract, although you may want to clarify this point. Private institutions generally have classes of from 10 to 15 students, while universities may have as many as 100 students in a class.

Most contracts provide for either a set monthly salary or a salary based on the number of hours taught. In any event, a guaranteed monthly remuneration should be specified. More detailed information on these contract items is given below. Remember: When in doubt, ask.


The currency in Korea is the won. For the current exchange rate, visit the Bank of Canada's Currency Converter. Traveller's cheques are accepted at all chartered banks ("Eunhaeng" in Korean). U.S. dollar traveller's cheques are recommended for the best exchange rate. Foreign debit cards are not accepted. Some major banks have ATMs that accept international client or credit cards. The amount allowed per withdrawal may be quite low, rendering the service charge disproportionately high. Most ATMs that can be used to draw money from Canadian banks offer English instructions. Major foreign credit cards (VISA, MasterCard, American Express) are widely accepted by hotels and other tourist facilities and are generally regarded as safe to use. Travellers may wish to check with their card issuer prior to travel for the latest reports of credit card fraud. Leave copies of your card numbers with a family member in case of emergency.

In keeping with Korea's Foreign Currency Control Act, when transferring funds from Korea to Canada, you need to report and register your intention to transfer regular funds, within your salary limit, with a local bank, providing your employment certificate and proof of income (such as an income tax payment certificate). A local bank will place a stamp in your passport stating how much was transferred. If you are working in Korea and paying Korean income tax, you can transfer your entire income, based on your tax payment certificate. As a tourist, you are required to declare at customs if you are bringing into, or carrying out of, the country more than the equivalent of US$10,000, including local currency.


Few contracts provide for housing in Seoul. This can be a serious problem, as housing in Seoul is among the most expensive in the world. If your institute does not provide housing, it should at least be able to help you find accommodation and negotiate the appropriate rent and utility payments. Housing options include: the key money system (yearly deposit); monthly rent; shared housing; and dormitories, lodging houses and inns.

The Key Money System

Under the key money (chunsee) system, when you move into a house you give the owner of the property the equivalent of a year's rent in advance and pay no monthly rent. At the end of the contract period, you receive the chunsee back. In return for the use of your money to earn interest during the contract period, the owner gives you back the principal.

This system is well established in Korea, but it does involve risks. For example, an owner may simply decide that a foreigner is in no position to fight for the chunsee, and there have been cases where ownership of a property changed during the contract period. You can reduce the risk by having your employer agree to pay the chunsee. Chunsee payments run from a minimum of 5 million won for a small studio in a less desirable part of town to 60~100 million won for a better apartment in one of the more prestigious neighbourhoods.

Monthly Rent

Walsee is a variation of chunsee. You pay a certain amount per month, plus a deposit, which you get back when you move out. The risks are the same as with chunsee. Monthly rents can run as high as 1.1 to 2.8 million won for a modest apartment.

Shared Housing

This is a popular option but you should of course be careful in choosing room-mates, and each person's financial responsibilities should be spelled out in advance.

Dormitories, Lodging Houses and Inns

Yonsei, Ewha, Seoul, Hanyang and Konkuk universities and Hankook University of Foreign Studies all have dormitory accommodation available. In addition, the Korean Research Foundation runs an International House for foreign students. Sometimes these dormitories can accommodate foreign instructors, although usually they accommodate only their own faculty.

Lodging houses (hasuk) are popular with young Koreans in college or those just starting their professional career. Single rooms can cost over 500,000 won a month and include Korean-style breakfast and dinner, and sometimes laundry service. The disadvantage is the lack of privacy. Another option is to stay with a local family. This can be an excellent opportunity to experience Korean life and culture directly, but again the lack of privacy can be a disadvantage. Most instructors who live in such homestays eventually move into more private accommodation.

Finally, some people rent rooms in an inn (yokwan) on a monthly basis. This is similar to staying in a lodging house and costs about the same with no food provided, but it offers far less security and less privacy as well. Some yokwans cater to dubious short-term (hourly) clients, so staying in a yokwan could put your personal safety and reputation at risk.

When Housing is Provided by the Employer

Real-estate agents worldwide are experts in writing enticing descriptions of their properties. There are instances where the quality of accommodations falls far below the expectations of foreign language teachers.

Given that employment contracts are often viewed as intent to enter into a long-term relationship, in accordance with Korean culture, it is not always wise to insist on western-style accommodations upon arrival. It is also important to remember that real-estate prices are generally higher in Korea than in Canada. Your modest accommodations may be very expensive.


Most institutes require foreign instructors to teach 5 to 6 hours a day, Monday through Friday, not necessarily consecutively. Some institutes ask instructors to teach on Saturday mornings as well. University departments usually require instructors to teach 10 to 15 hours a week, and to participate in student activities and in the editing of school newspapers. Research institutes usually require instructors to work 40 hours a week and do occasional overtime without compensation.


Canadian government offices in Korea receive many questions and complaints about severance pay (taechikum) issues. It is important to make sure that your contract contains a clear statement about severance pay, even if your employer is reluctant. By Korean law, discussed below, all full-time instructors (if you have an employment visa, you are considered full-time), whether Korean or foreign, are entitled to receive severance pay of one month's salary for each year of employment. Employers cannot ask you to waive this right, nor can they evade it by employing you on an 11-month contract.

The Ministry of Labor has jurisdiction over matters of severance pay. You can reach the Severance Pay Division at 82 (2) 507-1701. The general number for the Ministry of Labor is 82 (2) 502-9457/8 or 82(2) 2110-7080/81. The Ministry of Labor or the Ministry of Education may, at your request, call employers to remind them of their legal obligations. If you have exhausted all other avenues in trying to obtain severance pay and feel that you need to take legal action, the Embassy of Canada in Seoul can provide you with a list of attorneys.

Severance pay rights are covered by the Labour Standards Act of the Korean Legal Code. English-language translations of the Code are available at the Kyobo Bookstore, located near the U.S. Embassy. The key provisions of the Labour Standards Act relating to severance pay include:

Article 28(1) (Retirement Allowance System): An employer shall establish a system by which an average wage of not less than 30 days per year for each consecutive year employed shall be paid as retirement allowance to a retired employee. Provided, however, that this shall not apply in cases where the period of employment is less than one year.
Article 5 (Equal Treatment): No employer may include any discrimination in the terms of labour conditions because of nationality, religion or social status.

Article 10 (Scope of Application): The Act applies to all enterprises except small family businesses, domestic servants, and those exempted by Presidential decree.
When there is a dispute with your employer on your salary or severance payment, you should contact the local labour office in the area. The list of regional labour offices is available on the Ministry of Labor website.

Or you may wish to contact the following offices for legal advice:

Seoul Bar Association
Legal Center for Foreign Workers
Lawyers Association Building, 1st floor, 1718-1 Seocho-dong
Seocho-gu Seoul
Tel: 02-3476-8080 (ext. 1)
Fax: 02-3476-8094

Website: www.koreanbar.or.kr

English speaking consultants are available on Mondays from 14:00 to 17:00.

Foreign Workers' Council
14 Bomun-dong 5-ga Sungbuk-gu Seoul
Tel: 02-928-2049 or 02-924-2706

Korea Legal Aid Corp.
1703-10 Seocho-dong Seocho-gu, Seoul
Tel: 132 (ext. 9)
Website: www.klac.or.kr

You can get information on small claims action on the website of the Supreme Court of Korea.


Income tax is another common cause of complaint. Most foreign employees are required to pay Korean income tax, which is generally withheld from an employee's salary and paid by the employer. The Korean income-tax rate is 5 to 10 percent. It is your employer's responsibility to do a year-end tax settlement every January. For detailed information, you may wish to refer to the National Tax Service website.

Article 20 of the Korean Tax Code states: "An individual who is a resident of a contracting State and who, at the invitation of any university, college, or other recognized educational institution, visits the other contracting State for a period not exceeding two years solely for the purpose of teaching, or research or both at such educational institution shall be taxable only in the first mentioned State on his remuneration for such teaching or research."

The Korean Tax Office in Seoul maintains a list of institutes where foreign teachers are tax-exempt. In principle, Article 20 applies only to teachers employed at universities, research centres or university-operated institutes. Teachers at hakwons and at private companies may have to pay tax. The general affairs section of the university or research centre can apply for the exemption. If the institute withholds income tax without reason, it is required to pay a refund.

For guidance on taxation matters contact the Korean Tax Office in Seoul, which has been helpful in arranging compliance with Article 20. The Office also publishes an English-language income tax guide for foreigners in April of each year; this is available free at any tax office.

The Korean tax year runs from June 1 to May 31. Usually employers file the appropriate tax forms but if they do not do so, individual employees may be penalized for failing to file. If you believe that your employer is not complying with national tax laws and is illegally withholding income tax from your salary, your first step should be to discuss the matter with your employer. If that does not settle the matter, you should contact the International Taxation Division of the Korean Tax Office in Seoul at 82 (2) 397-1114 or 82 (2) 397-1446, or the nearest tax office. If the problem is still unresolved, you may wish to consider contacting an attorney.

Depending on the length of your stay in Korea, you may or may not be liable for payment of Canadian income tax on your income earned in Korea. Before your departure from Canada, it is advisable to contact the nearest Canada Revenue Agency office in order to determine your residency status with regard to Canadian income tax.


In principle, foreign instructors are entitled to Korean medical insurance through their employer. You should clarify this when you accept an offer of employment. It is important that you know and understand the nature and scope of coverage. While medical care in Korea is generally good and not as expensive as in Canada, it can still be quite costly. If you cannot/do not get insurance through your employer, you can get public health insurance on an individual basis, but only with a resident ID card.

If you purchase private health insurance, it is important to note that most medical practitioners and hospitals do not accept the premise of directly billing private health insurance, whether it is from an overseas or domestic firm. They usually demand payment before treatment and clients have to settle with their company for a re-imbursement after the fact.

It is therefore very important for you to make sure that insurance and/or funds are available in case you need medical attention. The Embassy of Canada in Seoul maintains a list of English-speaking medical and dental care providers in Korea.

For further information, see the website of the National Health Insurance Corporation.


When you leave Korea, you may be entitled to receive both your and your employer's contributions to Korea's National Pension Scheme if you :

are a Canadian or Korean citizen; and
have contributed to the Korean National Pension Scheme for less than 10 years.

The documentation required for a refund application is as follows:

your passport;
your alien registration;
a copy of your bank book (Korean or Canadian); and
an airline ticket showing your departure date.

Your employer will also have to report the termination of the contract to the National Pension Service (NPS) of Korea upon your departure from the country. The NPS will deposit the refund in your bank account after it confirms your departure.

If you are a Canadian citizen and are eligible for a lump sum refund, you will only be refunded contributions made on or after May 1, 1999, when the Agreement on Social Security between Canada and Korea entered into force. This lump sum benefit must be claimed within five years of the date you become eligible. It is important to note that you will no longer be entitled to receive a pension from Korea if your contributions are refunded.

If you do not apply for a refund of your pension contributions, the provisions of the social security agreement can help you to receive a Korean retirement pension if you :

contributed to the Korean National Pension Scheme for more than one year;
contributed to the Canada Pension Plan after 1988; and
contributed to both the Canada Pension Plan and the Korean National Pension Scheme for a total of at least 10 years.

The period of time in which you participated in the Canada Pension Plan will be counted towards the Korean eligibility requirement of 10 years.

More information on the Social Security Agreement is available on Korea's National Pension Service website. For additional information, see the website of Service Canada .


Some institutes will provide you with a ticket home on completion of your contract and will also promise to reimburse your costs for the trip to Korea. You should be aware that sometimes this commitment is not honoured.


There are many different types of people teaching English in Korea. Some are professionally trained with degrees in TESOL; some hold postgraduate degrees in other disciplines and are teaching in Korea because they want to experience another culture; some are teaching English while doing other work, such as research; some are teaching English while looking for other jobs; and some are merely passing through.

Most of these people bring their own unique expectations to their jobs, as well as their own individual reactions to the circumstances in which they find themselves. Some expect to be treated professionally and are shocked when they are not. Some expect to make a lot of money but later realize that they are actually earning about the same as a unionized bus driver in Seoul. Some expect to receive a large Western-style house and are disappointed to find themselves living in very modest accommodation. Being aware of cultural differences before you start employment as a teacher in Korea will help you prepare for any disappointments you may encounter.

The Status of Foreigners in Korea

Being accepted into an individual's inner circle of family, friends and colleagues can be challenging in Korea. It may take some patience and effort to overcome cultural barriers and form close relationships. Nevertheless, most foreigners have found that Koreans can be quite warm and friendly.

The Status of Teachers in Korea

Most teachers in Korea, including TESOL teachers, are treated with great respect by their students. However, it is important for teachers to exhibit the personal qualities and behaviour that help to maintain that respect. A foreign teacher who acted disrespectfully would be regarded with great disdain by most Koreans, and would run the risk of getting into serious trouble with both his/her employer and the Korean immigration authorities. In other words, you should always act in a respectful manner and with discretion.

As a foreigner in Korea, you will be very visible: you may find everyone around you watching what you do with great interest. Always remember that Korean society is much more conservative in many ways than North American society; you should try to be sensitive to cultural norms and expectations.

Female Teachers in Korea

Korea is culturally very different from Canada. Some female Canadian teachers have commented that their working conditions are not as good as those of male counterparts. Sexual harassment is not the norm, but it does happen, and women should be aware of the situation when making a decision about working in Korea.

There have been cases of sexual assault against Canadians and other foreigners. Victims have reported being robbed and sexually assaulted. Canadian teachers should remain cautious and whenever possible should try to share accommodation. For more information and advice, refer to our publication Her Own Way.

If you are the victim of a sexual assault, you should immediately seek the assistance of the nearest medical and police authorities. Canadian consular officials can:

assist in reporting the crime to the police;
provide support and assistance in relation to the emotional, social, medical and legal consequences of the assault;
assist in contacting relatives or friends;
contact counselling services locally, if available, or in Canada;
provide emergency financial assistance; and
seek to ensure that a proper investigation is carried out and charges laid if the person responsible has been identified.

Korean Employers

Korea is a more hierarchical society than Canada. Employees are not expected to question decisions made by their employers or to challenge their authority, especially in the presence of others. When discussing issues that might become difficult, do so in private and make sure that you do not lose your temper, raise your voice or use disrespectful language.

Communications Problems

Both the language and social customs of Korea are subtle and indirect. Many things are understood rather than stated. Of course, foreigners are often at a loss. It is important that you understand what is expected and required, and that any misunderstanding be resolved immediately. Otherwise, problems may develop.


The following advice on culture shock was supplied by KOTESOL. You can find more information on culture shock and how to cope with living in a foreign country in the Consular Affairs publication Working Abroad: Unravelling the Maze.

When first arriving in a country, one is usually excited and eager for new experiences. After a while, the newness wears off and homesickness begins. Do not be too hard on yourself; it happens to everyone ?"I will never understand this place." "I want some real food . . . some real friends . . . a real apartment." "Why do Koreans do this or that?"

It is usually just a matter of time. As you continue to cope with the realities of living in Korea, you will begin to take for granted things that used to annoy you. Life will become enjoyable enough that you will no longer care about the inconveniences. You will suddenly find that you like kimchi; you will realize that your students are interesting people and that helping them to improve their English just adds to that interest; you will begin to understand your friends who want to show you the Korea beyond the expatriate community; you will begin to try to learn some Korean and use it.

There are many foreigners in Korea who came and stayed; they have carved out their own niche in Korea and want to remain for a long time. Many others, however, eventually reach the point where they feel it is time to leave. With luck, you will realize this before it affects your life too profoundly. It is time to leave when you begin to be negative about the country and its people. When you no longer want to go to work, dislike your students, become irritated with everything and everyone and have angry discussions with others of like mind, it is time to go.


Canadian government offices are not permitted to become involved in any case, conduct an investigation, or act as lawyers or mediators in any personal, legal or contractual conflicts experienced by Canadian citizens. They cannot investigate, certify or vouch for prospective employers. It is up to each individual to evaluate any employment offer before signing a contract.

The Canadian Embassy in Seoul can, however, assist Canadians in a variety of ways. It offers notarial services, and also provides passport and consular services. It can assist in providing the telephone numbers of various Korean government agencies that you may have to contact. If you do find yourself in need of legal advice, the Embassy can give you a list of attorneys; however, it is unable to recommend any specific lawyer from this list, and the choice of legal representation must be your own decision. Embassy personnel will attempt to respond to all your questions or complaints. Finally, it is advisable for all Canadian citizens in Korea to register with the Embassy. Registration allows Embassy staff to contact you if an emergency or crisis situation arises, or if your family or friends urgently need to get in touch with you. Registration is voluntary, and the information you provide is protected and used in accordance with the provisions of the Privacy Act. Canadians can also register online.

If you have any further questions about teaching English in Korea, please contact the Consular Affairs Bureau at 1-800-267-6788 (in Canada) or (613) 944-6788.


The Embassy of Canada in Seoul does not maintain a comprehensive list of language institutes. Most positions are filled through either word of mouth or advertisements in the local English newspapers. Occasionally, the better institutes will hire instructors by advertising in the TESOL newsletter or by operating employment booths at TESOL conferences. They also sometimes advertise through university/college placement offices in the United States and Canada. The Internet is also being used to advertise jobs.


Once you have arrived in Korea, it is a good idea to subscribe to one of the local English newspapers, such as the Korea Herald, Korea Times or JoongAng Daily (distributed with the International Herald Tribune). They are published six times a week and cost from 16,000 to 20,000 won a month. They are also available in Seoul at most street newsstands. Outside Seoul, they are generally available only by subscription. You can contact the Korea Herald at 1588-0533, Korea Times at (2) 724-2342 or JoongAng Daily/International Herald Tribune at 1577-0510. Overseas subscriptions are also available.

The Korean Yellow Pages and Other Directories

A very useful English-language telephone directory, the Korean Yellow Pages is available for sale at most of the larger bookstores, as are other business directories. The U.S. Embassy Foreign Commercial Service and the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea jointly publish a Korean business directory. All these directories contain a wealth of information, including the addresses and telephone numbers of universities and Korean government offices. The Korean Research Foundation produces a pamphlet on studying in Korea; it contains information on all the universities in the country.


KOTESOL is a non-profit organization established to promote scholarship, distribute information and facilitate cross-cultural understanding among English teachers in Korea. It is a good source of up-to-date information on teaching in Korea. KOTESOL's national executive supports teacher training and development through special interest groups, academic publications and research grants. The annual international conference each October, attended by over 800 people, is a chance to meet some of the best authors, teachers and researchers from around the world.

KOTESOL has active chapters in Seoul, Suwon, Cheongju, Gangneung, Daejeon, Jeonju, Gwangju, Daegu and Busan. Chapters hold monthly workshops and sponsor educational activities in their area. Dates, times and locations can be found on the chapter pages of the national Web site. For further information, contact:

E-mail: KOTESOL@asia.com
Web site: www.kotesol.org

Consular Services
Consular Affairs Bureau

Tel.: 1-800-267-6788 (in Canada and the U.S.) or 613-944-6788
TTY: 1-800-394-3472 (in Canada and the U.S.) or 613-944-1310

E-mail: travel@international.gc.ca

Tel.: 613-996-8885
(call collect from abroad where available)
E-mail: sos@international.gc.ca

The Consular Affairs Bureau publishes, in both official languages, a series of safe travel brochures.

Country Travel Reports provide information on safety and security conditions, health issues and entry requirements for approximately 200 travel destinations. This information is also available by telephone: 1-800-267-6788 (in Canada and the U.S.) or 613-944-6788.

Canadian government offices abroad
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