Learn More about Teaching and Living in South Korea
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Advice For Applicants
Thank you for taking the time to read through this information about Aclipse and our partner schools. We are excited that you have decided to begin the process of pursuing a teaching position in Asia. We at Aclipse have all taught abroad and know the rewards and challenges that come with the experience. We are also well aware of the often lengthy and sometimes confusing process of securing a teaching position and a visa. In order for you to be as informed as possible about working with Aclipse and schools, we have provided some advice on the process.
This really means creating a relationship in which both parties feel their time and effort are valued. Candidates who appear professional take the time to win the job. They communicate in a way that shows they are enthusiastic and that they understand that securing a position in any field means proving themselves to the people in charge of hiring decisions. They seek to put their best foot forward and to make themselves seem easy to work with from the beginning of the hiring process. The bottom line is that while each candidate brings strengths to the table, candidates for almost any job these days are competing against a large pool of qualified people. Those who really shine get the jobs.
Communication, for good or ill, gives an impression of someone’s overall competence. Presenting oneself well includes crafting clearly written emails without errors. Regular and consistent communication is also key. Keeping your recruiter informed about your progress in various stages of the process helps ensure you are considered a reliable and committed candidate. This can lead directly to positions offered more quickly and recruiters being more willing to put you forward for contracts.
Diligence and Reliability
Obtaining a position overseas is a multi-step process that requires a lot of paperwork and follow-up. Meeting deadlines is very important to making a teaching position overseas happen. We have also found that it is a clear reflection of how someone will do once placed overseas. In our experience, candidates who do not meet deadlines tend to perform at a lower level once on the job. When there are hiccups or delays in the process, keeping recruiters informed will help a candidate appear more organized and improve his or her chances of obtaining a contract.
Above all, the strongest candidates keep in mind that they are applying for a position working with students and dealing with differing cultural norms. This means instructors should come across as approachable, adaptable, and able to create a rapport with others. This is especially important in the interview but also is a skill needed throughout the hiring process. This skill area as exhibited in the hiring process is directly related to how someone performs as a teacher.
Overseas Employers often ask applicants to submit videos and photographs. Check out these instructions and advice on creating your Introduction Video!
Packing Tips For Korea
Although most of you will be moving to the other side of the world, it doesn’t mean you need to pack everything you own. A lot of the essentials, such as electronics, bedding, home furnishings and appliances can all be bought in Korea.
One thing you should keep in mind however is that Koreans tend to have much smaller body types than Westerners. As a result, a lot of clothes and shoes that are sold in Korea run small, and if a place does sell larger clothing items they are usually pretty expensive.
Top Packing Tips:
- Two Suitcases: Try to only bring two suitcases. The last thing you want to do after a long flight is to lug numerous bags around.
- Seasonal Clothes: Pack only for the first two seasons you will be there for. For example if you are arriving in May, only pack your Spring and Summer clothes. You can have your Fall and Winter clothes shipped later. This is a great way to cut down on the amount of items you bring with you.
- Business Casual Clothes: You will need to have this attire for both training week and teaching at the schools.
- Formal Outfits: Try to pack one or two formal outfits. This is good to have for a formal event you may attend or something nice to wear if your school has a parent-teacher night. While this isn’t essential to pack, it is something to consider.
- Athletic Gear: If you are an active person you will probably already pack this, but one thing to keep in mind is some of the most popular activities amongst teachers are in the outdoors. Hiking is very popular in Korea, along with running and biking. Also, one of the best ways to get to know fellow expats during your time in Korea is by joining social groups that partake in these activities.
- Shoes: As mentioned above, sizes in Korea tend to run small and because of this we encourage people to bring a pair of shoes and sneakers from home.
- Photocopies of Important Documents: Keep copies of your passport and photo ID in a safe place, and leave a copy of them at home.
- Converter: Korea uses a different type of power (Korea is on the 220 volt system), so you will need to purchase a converter prior to departing.
- Medication: If you are taking any prescription medication, including birth control, it is best to bring it with you. Doctors abroad are able to speak English, but finding your specific brand may be difficult.
- Deodorant: Deodorant can be hard to find in Korea, especially if you like a specific brand. It is for this reason we recommend bringing a few sticks of your favorite deodorant.
- Toothpaste: Toothpaste in Korea tends to be different from many of the Western countries. Like deodorant, if you are loyal to a specific brand or flavor we recommend bringing a couple of tubes of your favorite toothpaste with you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are the candidate requirements to teach English in South Korea?
- Be a citizen from the US, the UK, Canada, Ireland, Australia, South Africa, or New Zealand
- Must have completed education in one of the countries listed above starting from at least grade 7 and for at least 10 years
- Hold a degree from an accredited school with at least a BA in one of the countries above (and must have access to your physical diploma)
- Provide a national background check with no charges from your country of citizenship
Q: What are the visa requirements to teach English in South Korea?
You will need the following if you are a US citizen* (Canadian, UK, and citizens of other E-2 countries can perform a background check that is not FBI, but at the national level; the process is usually a bit quicker):
- 1 apostilled photocopy of Bachelor's degree
- 1 apostilled criminal background check (federally issued)
- 2 passport photos
- Health statement (provided by employer)
Due to the length of time of receiveing an FBI Crimianal Background Check, we highly reccomend our applicants to use one of the FBI Approved Channelers. By using an FBI Approved Channeler it will speed up your application process and allow you to teach in Korea sooner. You can utilize this document for any teaching position in Korea.
Please note: You are responsible for covering all costs related to obtaining your visa.
About Aclipse and Employers
Q: What kind of support can I expect from Aclipse and the Korean employer?
Even after you're matched with a teaching position, Aclipse will continue to support you through the E2 visa process, departure, and arrival into Korea, as well as throughout your stay. We send individual arrival plans and newsletters regarding Life in Korea tips, and so on. Teachers will also have assistance in getting to their apartments, completing the medical check, opening a bank account, and registering as a resident of Korea.
Q: Are the employers that Aclipse works with stable?
ChungDahm Learning is our parent company and one of the most prestigious schools in Korea. EPIK/SMOE/GEPIK are government programs, and teachers are employed by the respective board of education of the city where they work.
Q: I do not have any teaching experience. Will that put me at a disadvantage?
No prior teaching experience is necessary to teach English in most cases. Employers will provide training programs, which are completed in Korea. You will receive additional teaching support from other teachers in your school or from your Korean co-teacher (in the case of public school programs).
Q: I'm thinking of enrolling in a TESL/CELTA course. Will that help?
Only certain programs (100+ hours of study) will qualify teachers to receive extra salary. It is not a requirement of the job to have a TESL/CELTA certificate, but it is definitely excellent preparation for an ESL teaching position. Special rates are available when you sign up through aclipse.net.
Q: I don't speak Korean. Will I be able to communicate with the students in the classroom when I teach in Korea?
Yes. Students are studying in an English-only environment, so when you are teaching English in Korea, you will only use English during lessons. Students are not allowed to speak Korean in the classroom.
Q: Do employers offer free language classes?
It depends on the employer. Public-school board positions and government schools do not provide language classes, but some ChungDahm schools offer free Korean classes. If you want to pick up Korean language classes, it is best to ask your fellow teachers for advice or go to your local community center/city office where you can sometimes sign up for free language exchange classes.
Q: Can I experience this opportunity with a friend or partner?
Yes. Your friend or partner should apply separately and will need to gain acceptance to our job placement program. Employers will attempt to place friends as close as possible. It is not normally possible for friends to live together, but schools are generally able to place friends within an hour of each other. For partners, we will request that you are placed in the same apartment, and this is usually possible.
Q: Can I take dependents?
We will accept applications and interview candidates with dependents, but these candidates should know that we cannot offer additional assistance with their dependents, and the employers will not assist in any way. Unfortunately, benefits are for employees only. Therefore, people bringing dependents like children, spouses, or partners will need to find their own accommodations, secure the visa for these dependents, pay for their flight, and secure schooling for any children. International schools can be very expensive. If you are bringing dependents, you will need to be placed in a city like Seoul, where it is easier to find apartments, schools, and support networks. Some employers do not accept applications from people with dependents so we will advise you on which employers do and do not.
Q: Can I state a preference for a particular city location?
Yes, we record peoples' preferences. However, most of our employers have locations throughout the country and are therefore seeking candidates who can potentially work wherever they are needed most. Flexibility is key. Placements are ultimately determined by the employer, and that employer's needs will be weighed more heavily than the teacher's preference. One should bear in mind that Korea is a small country with excellent public transportation. It is very easy to get from one place to another. It is also important to realize that every location has an upside and a downside. Teachers who are most successful and get the most out of the experience are those that make the best of whatever location they find themselves in.
Q: Do employers have a dress code?
In general, the rule is business casual. You will need to cover up any visible tattoos and remove any piercings (other than ears). Most employers in Korea also discourage unusual hairstyles or hair colors.
Q: What does the National Health Insurance plan cover?
You are required to be enrolled in the National Health Insurance plan while you are teaching in Korea. Your employer will assist you getting enrolled and it is a 50/50 contribution. Here is a guide to the insurance you will receive in Korea.
Q: What is National Pension?
The Korean pension plan is a retirement scheme and is calculated as 9% of the gross income. Half is paid by the location and half is paid by the instructor; 4.5% each. Therefore, 4.5% of an instructor's gross income will be deducted monthly for pension. The United States, Canada, and Australia have a reciprocal treaty with South Korea with regards to pension. Therefore, citizens of these countries can receive a refund on the total amount of pension contributions (9%) upon return to their respective countries. They can receive this in a lump sum payment before they leave or have it sent to their home bank account. Please note that they can only get the immediate refund if they contributed less than 10 years. Anything beyond that, they cannot get an immediate refund but can receive a Korean retirement pension from retirement age (this increases every 5 years) of 65 OR get refund at the age of 60. South Africa does not have a treaty with South Korea, however, they can opt out of the pension scheme and will therefore will not have anything deducted from their income. New Zealand, the UK, and Ireland do not have a treaty with South Korea. They cannot opt out of the pension plan and must pay their share of 4.5% of their monthly gross income accordingly. More information here
Q: What resources are provided for teachers who teach English with ChungDahm Learning in Korea?
It always depends on the individual school, but all offer some, and most offer all of the following:
- Professional environment with superior facilities: teacher lounge, complimentary tea, coffee, snacks, and lockers.
- Teaching resources and tools: curriculum and assessment resources, computer and Internet in every classroom, whiteboard, and 42-inch TV.
- Online administrative system for tracking student progress (posting grades, concerns, and attendance; parents can also access this information online).
- Teaching resources and curriculum.
Q: What are we expected to teach?
Lesson plans are based on the curriculum. During training, teachers will learn how to teach the material. Teachers are encouraged to use their own creativity and individual teaching styles to engage students in the lesson material/content.
Q: Are there any after-school activities that teachers need to participate in?
Yes, for public-school positions, teachers will occasionally be asked to participate in mandatory activities outside of regular school hours. This is included in the teaching contract, and anything in excess of the required 22 teaching hours, or outside regular school hours, will be paid at designated overtime rates.
Q: How many other western teachers will I be working with?
ChungDahm schools generally employ around 8-10 teachers, with some large schools employing as many as 30-35 teachers. You will also meet a number of new teachers during the training period with whom you can keep in contact. You will also meet other westerners teaching in other schools. There is definitely quite a large community of teachers. Public school teachers will generally be the only westerner working in the schools where they teach. However, there will be other teachers in the surrounding area.
Q: How much does a work visa cost?
For United States citizens, the cost is $45. In Canada, the cost is $55.
Q: How often am I paid, and how is my salary deposited?
Salary is paid once a month and will be directly deposited into your Korean bank account.
Q: Are tax rates very high in Korea?
Income tax rates are relatively low (between 2-15%, depending on income). For government programs, all public school teachers (except Canadians) are exempt from paying income tax for the first two years in Korea (after completing appropriate paperwork). For Canadian teachers, income tax is 2-4%.
Q: What are some monthly expenses that I will have to budget for?
Utilities, transportation to and from work, and daily living expenses.
Q: What is the cost of living in Korea?
Currency converter: www.xe.com/ucc/
Q: How much can I expect to save?
Depending on your personal financial habits, you can expect to save anywhere from 10% to 50% of your salary (or more). In general, if you live in a major city like Seoul, your cost of living will be higher. Smaller cities and rural areas tend to have a lower cost of living, so it is easier to save money. On average, teachers save about $1,000/month.
Q: Is it possible to send money home?
Several options are available: bank-to-bank transfers, through the post office, and third-party agencies (e.g., Western Union).
Q: Can I use my debit card overseas?
Check the back of your debit card for Plus or Cirrus symbols. International ATMs overseas will accept cards with these symbols. You will want to check the symbols above the ATM machine before using!
Q: Can I take my Visa/Mastercard/AMEX card with me?
Yes. Please remember to contact your bank prior to your departure to inform them you will be traveling overseas. If you do not inform your bank, then it is possible they will freeze your card to protect you from fraudulent charges.
Q: What are my start-up costs?
You will need to pay for your plane ticket to Korea, which averages about $1,000. You will be reimbursed by your employer. You'll also need to bring living expenses for your first month (around $800 to $1,000). If you are on the ChungDahm hourly contract, you should bring additional funds to pay the realtor agent's fee and enough to pay first month's rent (if required), which is usually around $1,500.
Q: When is my airfare reimbursed?
Within the first month of arrival. Documentation employers require may include: passengers' copy of the original flight ticket, original purchase receipt, and original boarding pass(es).
Q: I can't afford to purchase my ticket upfront, is it possible to ask the school for a loan?
Unfortunately, airfare tickets are reimbursed by employers, and they cannot front you money for your plane ticket.
Q: Does my apartment have Internet access?
No, but it is possible to set up Internet access in your apartment. Korea is one of the most wired nations in the world. Once you have registered as a resident, you are able to sign up for a service of your choice.
Q: Are any furnishings provided in my apartment?
Typically, you will get a semi-furnished apartment with a bed, stove, fridge, washing machine, TV, table, and chair, plus a western-style bathroom. Western-style bathrooms generally have a shower but not a full bathtub.
Q: How far is my apartment from the school?
Apartments are generally within 10-15 minutes traveling distance from the school (either by bus, subway, or walking). However, a commute of up to one hour is possible.
Q: Does the school pay for my commuting costs to work?
Transportation costs are paid by the teacher.
Q: I am not interested in leaving to teach English abroad right away. When should I begin the hiring process?
In general, we should receive applications about three months prior to when applicants are interested in leaving for Korea. For recent graduates who are awaiting conferral of their diplomas, it is possible to go through the hiring process and receive an offer from the employer (offer contingent on receiving the diploma) for positions available up to six months into the future.
Q: Can I take my pet with me?
It is often difficult to find pet-friendly apartments, and schools will not assist in making special arrangements for a pet. Therefore it is not possible to take a pet with you.
Q: Can I speak to teachers who are currently teaching English in Korea or who have recently come back?
Due to privacy issues, we cannot disclose information regarding our teachers. However, Aclipse does have a Connect with a Teacher Program, where if you simply fill out the form on our website we will notify a current teacher abroad who will then reach out to you. All Aclipse recruiters have also lived and worked overseas before and can address most of candidates' concerns/questions related to the experience. Another great way to connect with current Aclipse teachers is to check out the Aclipse teacher blog where you can read about our teachers' adventures teaching English in Korea!
Q: Can I have friends/relatives visit me and stay at my apartment?
Yes. Short-term guests are allowed. Please remember that apartment walls are not as thick as in western countries, and teachers and their guests need to be respectful of their Korean neighbors.
Q: I will be traveling overseas alone. Is it possible to connect with other teachers before going overseas?
Yes. One of the benefits of working with Aclipse is the support we offer our candidates throughout the process. Teachers have the opportunity to purchase tickets through our travel agent, who tries to coordinate departures and arrivals with other teachers. We also arrange and send out an email list of all teachers who are departing at the same time. In addition, you will meet people in training, as all teachers beginning their teach English abroad experience at the same time will have training together in a centralized location.
Tips While Living In Korea
Getting set up in Korea requires some time and planning, but we’ve compiled a checklist so that you’ll know what to expect and how to prepare to teach in Korea. Though Korea exhibits an eagerness to learn about Western culture, its people are still firmly rooted in Asian tradition. The country also has one of the most ethnically homogeneous populations in the world. More than three quarters of the people have the surname Kim, Lee, or Park. Korean culture centers on the family, and Koreans write their surname before their given (first) name. Until recently, it was very common to see several generations of one family living under the same roof.
This strong sense of family dates back to Confucianism and continues to this day. In addition to obedience to one’s parents, Confucian principles encourage loyalty to the government and country and to one’s spouse. Because Confucian ideals also require people to keep emotions and appearances under control, drinking with friends or coworkers is one of the few times when Koreans really let loose and enjoy themselves. Most Korean companies host mandatory hwe-shik (company meal and drink) at least once or twice each month, so you’re likely to see drunken revelers on the streets any night of the week.
- Do wrap fish bones or other uneatable portions of your meal in paper before throwing them away. Don't leave these items in plain sight on your plate or pick out pieces of food and seasonings that you don't want to eat.
- Do bring a small gift when you visit someone. If someone offers you a gift, you're expected to refuse a few times before accepting the gift. But you must accept the gift so you don't appear rude.
- Do use two hands when accepting a gift or presenting your business card to an elder.
- Do avoid direct eye contact with someone who is your senior in a business setting.
- Do remove your shoes when entering a Korean home.
- Don't tip at a restaurant or bar that displays a "no tipping" sign. Some places automatically add a 10% service charge, and they consider it rude to tip beyond that.
- Don't write a Korean person's name in red ink, because that implies that the person has died (!).
- Don't put your business cards or someone else's in your back pocket, because Koreans view this as disrespectful.
- Don't squeeze hard when shaking someone's hand.
Applying for your Alien Registration Card
- Two passport-sized photos (3 to 4 cm)
- A valid passport
- A letter or certificate proving employment
- 10,000 KRW for the processing fee
- A completed Alien Registration Card application form
Banking & Sending Money Home
Most employers can help you open a Korean bank account. The banks require you to have your Alien Registration Card (see above) before you open your account, so do that first. Many ATMs display instructions in Korean, but you will find that some have English menus, especially in large public locations. Banks in more urban areas will also have at least one teller who speaks English, but it's best to bring a Korean friend.
In general, banking hours in Korea are Monday to Friday, 9:30 am to 4:30 pm. However, you can access most ATMs until 10 pm, and some are accessible 24 hours a day. Citibank has over 240 locations in Korea, so if you have a Citibank account back home, you can access your account without paying a fee. However, there are restrictions on depositing money, so you will still want to open a Korean bank account for depositing paychecks.
You have several options for sending money home, all with varying fees. These include direct bank-to-bank transfers and transfers through third-party agencies (like Western Union). Some banks have restrictions on the amount of money residents on a one-year visa are allowed to transfer (for example: up to $10,000 in a year). Other banks will allow 60% or 80% of your salary to be sent home.
Money / Cost of Living
Korea’s currency is the Korean Won (KRW), and the current exchange rate is around 1,000 KRW to 1 USD We suggest you bring between $800 and $1,000 USD to last until you can open a Korean bank account. Please also exchange at least a couple hundred dollars to Korean Won prior to your departure to avoid any currency issues later on.
Compared to other Asian countries like Japan, Korea has a very reasonable cost of living, especially if you do not own property. By managing your expenses, you will be able to save money working as an English teacher in Korea.
In Korea, the local cuisine costs much less than American food, making it easier to eat out at a reasonable price. Western brands are often marked at higher price than local goods. The table below is a sample of prices in Korea:
Starbucks coffee (Tall Americano)
Dunkin Donuts coffee (regular)
Milk (1 liter)
Domino's pizza (large)
Big Mac combo at McDonald's
Bread (1 loaf)
As a resident, you will have a monthly television subscription fee (2,500 KRW) automatically added to your electricity bill. Korea has five TV stations that broadcast from 6:00 am to 1:00 am. Most foreign movie and shows get dubbed into Korean when they are shown on TV. However, a simulcast of the original language usually accompanies the dubbed signal and is available with locally made TV sets. The U.S. Armed Forces also operates its own television station in English, offering mostly U.S. shows. However, with a weak signal, many residences in Gangnam-gu have difficulty getting a clear view of the channel without cable.
Korean cable TV offers specialty channels such as home shopping, movies, sports, and music. Different cable companies offer different selections of channels (most have several different packages available), including some foreign channels (primarily news and sports). Local Arirang TV also broadcasts shows in English or Korean shows with English subtitles.
You can also watch American or Canadian cable TV remotely using a device called a slingbox (slingmedia.com). You'll need a friend or relative back home who is willing to hook up your slingbox to their cable line and broadband Internet connection. This should not slow down your friend's Internet connection, but of course, primetime TV in the U.S. or Canada coincides with Korea's morning hours because of the time difference.
Most Koreans prefer to communicate on a mobile phone, so getting one with local service is a must. An average monthly bill ranges between $30 to $70, and brand new mobile phones cost between $100 to $500 depending on the features. However, about $200 will get you a brand new color phone with a digital camera and MP3 player. If you're looking for an inexpensive used phone, check with your employer to see if any teachers are returning from their teach English abroad experience and are willing to resell their phone to you.
All Guest English Teachers (GETS) except Canadians are exempt from paying Korean income tax for the first two years of employment. In order to be tax exempt, the following documents must be submitted to the supervisor in charge of the program within the first month of employment: an application form (provided by your supervisor) and a copy of a Residence Certificate (issued by the relevant authority: the Revenue Office of your resident country). If you have already worked more than two years in Korea, you will not be eligible for the tax exemption. Because there is no tax treaty between Canada and Korea, Canadian instructors will be responsible for paying approximately 2–4% of their income as Korean income tax, depending on the level of employment.
Under certain conditions, American residents working abroad are entitled to exclusions on foreign-earned income. If you are a U.S. citizen, then the U.S. Embassy can provide you with copies of the "Tax Guide for U.S. Citizens Abroad" and "Overseas Filers of Form 1040,” or you can download these documents from www.irs.gov. Canadian citizens should refer to cra-arc.gc.ca/menu-e.html.
Korea has a fast, efficient, and inexpensive transportation system including subways, buses, and trains.
Subway lines cover most of the popular areas, with stops near the major train stations and bus terminals. Station signs are written in English and Korean. Announcements about the upcoming stop are made in Korean, but some lines also have English announcements.
Korea has three major types of bus service: intra-city, long distance, and charter. We recommend that you use a seat belt whenever one is available, because Korean bus drivers tend to drive fast and sometimes ignore traffic laws. Still, Korea's buses offer a fast and relatively safe way to get around.
Korea has high-speed trains (KTX) as well as regular local trains that go to areas outside of Seoul. Direction signs are written in Korean as well as English. On the platform, station signs include the name of the station, as well as the previous and next stations (in English, Korean, and sometimes Chinese characters). The Korea National Railroad site lists timetables and fares in English. With a passport, foreigners are able to get discounted prices for some services like the KTX.
Embassies And Consulates In Korea
We encourage you to register at your country’s Embassy when you teach English abroad. The Embassy can help you register for an absentee ballet, replace a lost passport, and stay up-to-date on news from your home country. They will also provide assistance in the unlikely event an emergency happens while you are teaching English in Korea.