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Travel Expert: Short Term English Teaching Work in South Korea

Fiona Davidson works as a Natural Disaster Response Officer for humanitarian agencies. She left her most recent employer, the British Red Cross in October last year and set off on a round the world backpacking trip. So far, she has travelled to the Middle-East, along the Trans-Mongolian Railway and in to Asia. She also works as a freelance travel consultant, helping others to design and realise their dream trips.

Short term work in South Korea: is it worth considering as part of a backpacking trip or a short adventure overseas?

In short, yes. You can earn up to £1700 cash in hand for one month’s short term teaching work in South Korea. The real answer gets a little more complicated. Let me take you through some basic information about finding reliable work in South Korea, getting the right wage, timing it right and outlining what to expect from the work.

Finding English teaching work in South Korea is relatively easy, but only if you meet the following two criterion: 1) you are a native English speaker and 2) you have graduated from university with a Bachelors degree. Without either of these two assets it is likely that the Korean embassy will say no to your visa application.

In South Korea, China and Thailand many school children enrol in educational camps during their school holidays. Many of these camps are focussed on building students’ confidence in speaking English, and in particular speaking English to native speakers. This provides a unique opportunity for native English speakers to work short term in these countries, to earn generous salaries and to experience living in these countries. South Korea offers the best salaries for teachers overall.

Remember to design your trip around making it to South Korea at the right time. In South Korea the school holidays and the English camps fall in January and at the end of July. In January there is one month of English camps, whereas in the summer you can work two months back to back. However, if you are a first-time English teacher winter camps are less competitive as they fall over the New Year holiday and as such it can be easier to secure a well paid position.

So, how do you go about being hired for a job? Most English camps are run by Foreign Language (ESL) agencies which hire Korean recruitment agencies to recruit for all their camps. Adverts get posted up to three months before the camps start, so the key times to be looking on websites is October for the winter camps and May for the summer camps. All agencies will require a CV, a copy of your passport (to prove your “native speaker” status) and a copy of your degree. It really is that simple. Agencies will then get back in touch around four to six weeks later. Short, simple interviews are conducted but these are really just a formality. You will be asked simple questions about your attitude towards children and how you would discipline students, but nothing too technical.

The reality of teaching can be a mixed experience in South Korea. There are lots of negative reports from people working longer term in private schools. However, I have had a really positive experience working in Winter Camp. I recently worked in Busan, South Korea, on a four week Winter Camp contract. I taught a class of thirteen children with an age range of between 6 and 14 years old, six days a week for four weeks. The syllabus was fully designed for me when I arrived, the camp director handed me all the textbooks and skeleton lesson plans I needed for the four weeks. All of this material was a little dry, so the real work came trying to make the materials exciting for such a wide age range of children, designing tests for the students and filling in their final evaluations.

Overall, I found the month to involve a lot of hard work but it was a nice break from backpacking. The additional money will also make my future travels a little more feasible. I would highly recommend this as a short term employment option.

About Fiona Davidson

Fiona Davidson
Fiona Davidson is a Natural Disaster Response Officer for humanitarian agencies, with a post-graduate (MSc) qualification in post-conflict reconstruction. She is currently Senior Manager for CORD and has worked for the British Red Cross. She has travelled to the Middle-East, along the Trans-Mongolian Railway and in to Asia.

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