Teaching & Living in Korea: 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 receiving an FBI Criminal Background Check, we highly recommend 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.