[Korvia Guide] Working In Korea

[Korvia Guide] Working In Korea

Your Journey has begun!

We appreciate your hard work to make it till here. We would like to try our best Not only for the process for you to get here but also support your successful settlement in Korea as well. I understand this is not only for the first job in Korea but for the first job in your life. There are lots of things you need to learn and expect as a professional individual. Especially in Korea, Being a teacher takes a lot more responsibilities and professionalism than other jobs. We have an old saying "Do not even step on teachers' shadow". It simply tells how much we respect teachers in this culture. 

I am sure it will be similar in your culture as well, but we definitely give higher respect as well as a higher expectation for the teachers. SO PLEASE TAKE YOUR JOB SERIOUSLY!

You have to be a good role model as a teacher as well as a person who represents your own country. It is easier to have certain prejudice toward a specific nationality due to individuals' misbehave. Hope you can give a good impression of yourself as well as your home country while you are staying in Korea. These are things that we think it is important for you to know to work in Korea! 


[Korean School System]

Early Childhood Education (Kindergarten)

Age: 4 ~ 7

Korean students go to their preschool called Kindergarten at their age 4 to 7. There are lots of different types of Kindergarten. Most of the students go to regular Kindergarten called "유치원" but the place where you are working is not a regular Kindergarten. Kindergarten includes English Education which is called "English Kindergarten (영어유치원)".

There are famous "English Kindergarten" franchises called Poly, ECC, SLP, Rise Korea and Maple bear. Those are very fancy and expensive schools which have well-established curriculums to follow and has lots of other foreign teachers to work with. The students are learning extracurricular in English as well as they supposed to learn from the regular kindergarten curriculum. Usually, their learning ability is very high and the level of understanding is also very high as well.

Elementary School

Grade: 1~6

Age: 8~13

If you working at a public school means, you teach elementary school students during their school period. Usually, you go to a school by 8:30 AM in the morning and teach the first class at 9:00 AM. Mainly you teach 3rd ~ 6th-grade students. At a public school system, the students at a class will be about 25 or more. The students level is very different as some students graduate the "English Kindergarten" who is capable to read and write in English pretty fluently, but there are students who never learn alphabets before as well. So it is very important to find out the balance on how to teach those different level of the students. Even though you are teaching with a Korean co-teacher, you have to lead the class and need to know how to manage the class successfully. 

After School, students still go to hagwon to learn more advanced English. If you are working at a hagwon, the students usually come around 2:00 PM and the class goes till 8:00 PM. Classes are usually about 40 minutes long or longer. The maximum number of students do not exceed 10 or 15. You teach by yourself at a class and the students level is even. There are curriculums and ESL textbooks are given to you that you can simply follow the "teacher's guide" usually. 

Middle School

Grade: 1~3

Age: 14 ~ 16

Due to the Government policy changed, there are not many secondary schools available in the public school system. If you really wish to teach Secondary school students, a hagwon might be a better chance; however, usually at a hagwon system, the secondary school students learn test based English not a conversation. There are some famous secondary branches like CDI, Avalon, JLS schools offer a pretty higher level of students SAT and TOFEL test classes. Most of the students learn their English since they were very young, so the students level is advanced. As the class starts after their School hours, the class starts after 3:00 PM and it goes till 10:00 PM at night.

High School 

Grade: 1~3

Age: 17 ~19


[Organization Chart]

At a public school system, you need to understand it's Hierarchy system. There is a principal, Vice Principal, Department of Headteacher and your co-teachers. Your co-teacher is your Supervisor and is a person who has to go through every hierarchy on behalf of you. So if you are asking her a question, usually she has to ask up to her superiors to be able to find out the answer. In the western culture, it is more independent but at the Korean school atmosphere, it is a lot more familiar. In order to promote comradery, your staff will most likely have many outings and get-togethers. This is why it is highly advisable to try and attend as many school activities as possible. EAt lunches together, get involved with staff outings, be outgoing. 

On the other side, hagwon's organization is more similar to Western-style. There is a director, Academic Supervisor, Korean English teachers and foreign English teachers. You do not co-teach with Korean English teachers at one class but you usually teach the same students with other Korean English teachers. It is very important for you to openly communicate about students who you teach together. Not like Korean teachers at a public school, those Korean teachers at a hagwon can speak fluent English. These people can be your good friend that you are learning about Korean culture and language. 

Academic Supervisor is the person who gives you a guide on "how to teach", "what to teach", "how to manage the classroom" and etc. Usually, they are in charge of discipline the students, solve the conflict between teachers, consult parents and recruit new teachers. So they are the busiest people at a hagwon and they are the main key to the school management system. 



Even though you have started this process signing on the contract, sometimes you have to sign for another contract after your arrival. You need to check out a few things before you sign for the contract. 

1. If the contracts obtain the same benefits and statement with the previously given one.

2. The start date and the end date.

You may not able to make the start date of the previously given contract. At that time, you have to sign up for another contract which corrects the start date.

The contracts usually offer a year-long contract. Due to the Korean labour law, you can receive the Year-end Bonus (severance pay and exit allowance) after you completed a year-long contract. Therefore if the contract does not state an exact a year, any kind of agreement has to be made to make sure getting those benefits by completing a contract. 

3. The working hour and the teaching hour. 

Usually, a hagwon offers 130 hours of teaching hour per month which is about 30 hours per week. You need to find out what time you start work as your working hour is longer than your teaching hour. Find out what time you have to be at work and how to check out the record of attendance. Each school has a different system, but being not late at work is very important in work culture. At a hagwon system, they change the working hour in the morning time and offer a "special class" during students school vacation as they do not go to school. These are things you better expect in advance. 

4. Emergency Contact 

You need to find out "who" you have to contact for your emergency. As you do not have your mobile phone first week or a month, you need to know "how" to contact for your emergency as well. At a public school system, you have a main co-teacher to contact. At a hagwon, it can be a supervisor or a foreign head teacher. Hagwons usually do not have a backup teacher, the supervisor has to manage to fill out the classes as well. Kakao talk is a good communication app to use which is well known for Korean. 

5. pension, insurance, and a tax 

  • pension

Not every school offer this, but most of the schools offer a Korean national pension plan and National Health insurance for their employer. Both parties are required to contribute an amount equal to 9% of employee salaries to the national pension fund. The funs id comprised of 4.5% borne by the employer, and another 4.5% payment borne by the employee. If you are a North American citizen (Canada, USA), then you will be able to collect all 9% of the contributed pension at the end of your contract. This pension plan is not eligible for South African candidates. 

  • Insurance

Teachers are entitled to Korean national medical insurance through their employer. The employer agrees to provide medical insurance for the employee and further agrees to cover 50% of the cost. The employee is responsible for the remaining 50% (as required by Korean law). The insurance coverage is comprised of 4.48% borne by the employer and another 4.48% payment borne by the employee. In the event you need to go to the doctor or hospital, you can simply bring your ARC card as all insurance information should be linked to your card. 

  • Tax

All employees are required by law 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 percentage, depending on the earned income. There are 2 ways to pay taxes 

Every month your school will retain a portion of your salary
At the end of the tax year, taxes will be taken out as a lump sum 

Regardless of which method, you will still be paying the same amount of taxes, the only difference being, if your school opts for the yearly route, rather than small incremental monthly payments. It may be jarring to see a huge lump sum tax at the end of the year. 
  • Income Tax Exemption (only for public school teachers)

There are five countries that have negotiated tax treaties with the Korean government to allow their citizens to become tax exempt (no taxes from either country) for a maximum of 2 years. If you are a citizen of Australia, the UK, New Zealand, South Africa, or the USA, then you are eligible for tax exemption.

In order to claim tax exemption, within a month of your arrival, you are required to submit a "Residence Certificate" (a government certified document that confirms your legal residency status in your country. This can be obtained from the tax revenue authority in your country). If you arrived in Korea without this document, you may be able to request it through mail or online after your arrival.

6. Dress Code

Most schools will allow you to wear very casual attire while you teach, however, please understand that the teaching profession in Korea, unlike most other countries, is still a position held in high regard. As such, it is advised to dress the part. You must also consider that as a teacher, you will be standing and moving around for a large part of the day, interacting with kids. So although the professional dress is preferred, we also want you to be comfortable. Therefore, the advisable style is business casual.

As a side note, Korea is a very fashion-conscious country and so the better dressed you are, the more respect you will receive. The classroom is no exception, the more you look the part of a teacher, the more your students will respect you as a teacher.

7. Classes & School Event

May some of you do not have any previous teaching experience. At least you never had a hagwon system in your country, so it is not something you are familiar with. It would be great if you can have enough time to get adjust the system (as well as the jet lags), observe how to teach, or have some practical classes. but unfortunately, the times are never going to be enough for you to prepare your first class. 

There are books and teachers guides, and many of you already had TESOL / TEFL courses to know how to make a lesson plan and how to structure the class. The class has to be very organized and well planned and you need to know what to teach and how to teach. Here are basic structures that you can follow. 

Warmup: Come up with a unique warm-up activity at the beginning of your lesson to get students ready to learn. You can do a simple go around the room and ask random students, “How are you today? What is the weather like today?”. Or you can make it more interactive and throw around a ball and whoever catches has to answer. There are many great ideas online for fun warmup activities.

Listen and repeat: Listen and Repeat doesn’t have to be boring. There are many ideas floating around on the web so do your research and experiment with what works for your kids.

Chant/song: A fun little chant which includes dance moves. Time to get silly. Remember, the energy that you show will be reciprocated by your students.

Writing: There are many ideas floating around on the web to make writing fun, so do your research and experiment with what works for your kids.

Phonics: There are many ideas floating around on the web to make phonics fun, so do your research and experiment with what works for your kids.

Role Play: This is always a highlight, especially for younger grades as you get to read a story and have students act out different parts. Bring in props to make the experience more interactive and enjoyable.

Check-up (Review): There are many different ways to make reviews fun such as a jeopardy style game. Experiment around with ideas, maybe instead of using the computer for a jeopardy board, you can make it yourself, along with a spinner. That way your students will get the added enjoyment of coming to the front and spinning rather than just clicking a button.

Multicultural section: A section introducing a different culture.

Game: Most classes you will end your lesson with a fun activity/game. You can use the game in the book or supplement with your own. Be creative! PLEASE DO NOT JUST DOWNLOAD A GAME ONLINE. If you do that, look at it first and improve upon it. Having the mentality that there is always room for improvement will do wonders for your abilities as a teacher.


We hope this basic Information of Working in Korea helps you start your professional career as a teacher in Korea! wish you all the very best!! 







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