Free flights, Free housing and Easy work conditions?
Sounds like an advertisement from a con artist, doesn’t it? However, most of it’s true and tens of thousands of Americans, Canadians, Australians and other native English speaking citizens can give you living proof that it’s a fact. Not only are many doing it every day, but many are also saving, paying off student loans and literally building more financial wealth than they could back home. Moreover, the friendships made, the contacts added to one’s rolodex and the overall experience has given many justification in coming back (and in many cases making a career of it).
Teaching English in South Korea has been a critical facet to the country for many years. In fact, it started as early as 1883 when messages delivered via horseback was the Internet of their times. Currently, Koreans spend approximately close to $16 billion annually to learn the language that close to 1/3 of the world uses as their first or second language`. As a result, thousands of Native English speakers are recruited to come to South Korea with incentives such as free airfare, furnished housing, bonuses and more. Rumors have exposed that some teachers have made as much as six figures annually in US Dollars taking advantage of this need.
While the rumors may be true, instructors can normally expect to make from about 2 million won to 2.5 million won for a typical position and more as the Instructor gains more experience, obtains additional applicable education and gains a better understanding of the “workings” of how to negotiate better contracts which include developing strong relationships with Academy managers. Typically, housing is included which could save teachers up to a thousand dollars or more a month and the cost of flying into Korea is reimbursed as well. Comparing other occupations in the West where a third of one’s income is spent on housing, the teaching salaries could easily be compared to the normal high paying $40-50,000 a lucky graduate might land with an engineering or high demand degree or University. The Western standard may have to increase as much as $50-60,000 plus to equate with the teaching salary in Korea when you also take into account the minimal 3.3% deducted from an English teaching position versus the 20-35% plus deducted from salaries in the West.
Additionally, many other financial benefits have landed in teacher’s laps by simply living in South Korea instead of the expensive West. Eating out can be expensive and drain a person’s budget, but in Korea, it can be more cost effective at times in spending 5,000 won (approximately $4-5 USD) for a meal at a restaurant (and more convenient & sometimes tastier) instead of shopping and cooking to save money. Many end up using cheap public transportation where thousands, if not tens of thousands are saved annually in maintenance, gas and other automobile expenses. Taxi cabs run $2 (USD) to $10-15 which explains why people constantly use this convenient and quick mode of transportation. Utilities are comparable to Western standards, but clothing can be very cheap. Without housing costs, many teachers save thousands to tens of thousands annually. Many have paid off their entire student loan debt in as little as a year.
Not a morning person? Fear not. The majority of the positions to teach English are in Academies that operate after public school hours and require instructors to start their day later in the afternoon. In teaching positions in the United States, teachers are used to working a bit more beyond the 6-7 writing up many reports, meeting parents, managing extra-curricular activities, attending numerous meetings and many other teaching responsibilities. While the trend is becoming to match some of these standards in Korea, many instructors only prepare minimally beyond their 6 hours or so teaching and less requirements are placed on the instructors.
There are also many perks that sometimes even trump the benefits that most people gain from the experience in general. The special privileges include being treated like a higher class citizen along with being invited to rare opportunities due to being unique. With China expanding rapidly, the chance to witness and possibly take part in the Asian explosion for the next 20-50 years could be quite special. Business opportunities such as import/export and internationally focused industries are definitely possible. Lastly, for people who consider themselves “night people,” but love to trade stocks, the market can open at 10:30p making it possibly easier to trade or other fields which require you normally to work odd or uncomfortable hours are overcome by the incredible broadband connections in the land of the morning calm which ranks #1 in the world.
As with most things that sound too ideal, Korea has it’s negatives as well. The rapidly growing economies of the East have produced some of the higher pollution output rates. For people who like to live in solitude, teachers may have a harder time to live without noise or meeting people constantly. Naturally, people miss home and their friends as well. Being abroad does make it more difficult to stay in touch.
At the same time, if one considers living in a country like Korea for only a few years, the impact is limited. Also, many parts of the country also are incredibly beautiful and do not have these aforementioned concerns like coastal cities or Kangwon Province for example. And with the incredible Internet access, people have less problems speaking to their family and friends daily with Voice over Internet Services that are cheap and free along with the incredible mobile phone technology making it more convenient than ever.
In addition to teaching, one can learn so much as well by living in Korea. The Koreans are the hardest working people in the world according to the OECD. Their Scientific and Mathematic Literacy ranks #1 and #2 respectively. Koreans are the 3rd most competitive in the IT industry, they have the 2nd highest number of International Patents granted and rank 5th out of 32 countries in terms of generating Electricity. Despite being the 108th largest country and the 24th most populous, Koreans have found a way to generate over $1.2 trillion dollars a year and rank as the 13th largest economy. Aside from economic accolades, Korea is known to be one of the most popular producers of Dramas and their entertainment businesses thrive in the Asian continent.
 Additional taxes may be subjected, but a majority of foreigners are charged the 3.3% as a requirement of companies. In some cases, some of the 3.3% is even returned in a tax rebate.