Teaching ESL Korea vs Japan: A Reader Question
“I wanted to ask if there were any job possibilities in South Korea as things in Japan are drying up and work at better Unis is hard to come by. We have 30 weeks a year for teaching, 15 per semester but the Ministry of Education and the Work Laws have changed and forced those of us who depend on part-time positions to run like crazy from uni to uni to make ends meet.
My guess is the work year is longer there but the pay and housing is better according to what I’ve seen on your page. Is there a common board where jobs are posted by Korean unis or is it word of mouth? I’ve heard that teachers working 3 days a week can actually save a load of money and live quite well. I’m working 6 days a week at the moment and teaching 20 classes at the moment.”
My Answer: It’s not so Rosy in Korea!
You paint a very rosy picture of Korea most certainly. Lessen what you said about Korea by about 50% and it will much more accurate. Competition is fierce these days and gone are the days when anyone with a BA, pulse and a year or two of experience at a hagwon could get a job. Get a leg up on your competition with this book: How to Get a University Job in South Korea: The English Teaching Job of Your Dreams
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Korean Demographics are not Promising
There are university jobs in Korea to be found, but simple demographics (one of the lowest birthrates in the world) shows that the jobs will be drying up here as well in the next few years, similar to Japan. Also, Chinese is becoming the language to learn these days and I wonder how long it will be before students have the choice whether to study Chinese or English as their mandatory language class in universities in Korea.
Mandatory Vacation Work
While most unis in Korea have 15-16 week semesters, there are plenty of places that have mandatory camps or other work during the summer, sometimes paid, sometimes not. A realistic vacation is 4-6 weeks in summer and the same in winter. A standard work-week is about 15 hours.
Of course, once you move your way up in the world to the most prime of jobs (like mine!), you’ll get a high salary, 20 weeks vacation, 9 hour work weeks, and live in the best city in Korea. But, you’d be very lucky to get this as your first university job here.
ESL Cafe and Profs Abroad
4-5 Days/Week = Normal for a Korean University
3 days/week jobs at Korean unis are very rare and 4-5 days per week is pretty standard. I generally work 3 days a week, but can be scheduled for up to 5, so it just depends on the semester. There isn’t really a hard and fast rule at most universities in Korea and it’s just luck of the draw.
A university job in Korea will, however, certainly be better than hustling around to different unis working 6 days a week trying to make enough to live on.
ESL Korea vs Japan: The Takeaway
I think both places have their benefits, but as far as I can tell, it seems like the ESL industry in Japan is basically dead, and while Korea is heading that way, it still has a few years before it’ll be in dire straights. There are still plenty of great university jobs in Korea, and if you can get one, it may be worth a move from Japan.
If I had a second life to live and was just getting started with the ESL teaching gig, I’d head somewhere like Vietnam that has plenty of good years ahead.