Is my Korean Uni Job too Good to be True?

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Korean University Jobs-The Golden Handcuffs

Do you Know, “Golden Handcuffs?”

A couple days ago, I published this post: Korean University Jobs-The Golden Handcuffs in order to explain why I’m leaving my most sweet of Korean university gigs to return home to the great white north that is Canada. It kind of blew up and even inspired some kind of ridiculous response posts from people who have way too much time on their hands. I guess it hit people at some pretty deep level if it inspired that much anger. As for me, I’m just happy it inspired some interesting discussion.

Is your Korean Uni Job Really That Prime?

Anyhoo, one of the biggest issues people seemed to have with the post was the description of my job and how it’s really not a reflection of the average job in Korean. Here’s the description I gave in that post.

Let me tell you about the Korean university job awesome:

  1. 5 months PAID vacation
  2. $3000 USD per month salary
  3. Lucrative overtime opportunities-many months, my salary is closer to $5000
  4. 9 contact hours per week-usually 3-4 days
  5. Minimal prep and administration
  6. Nobody actually cares what I do in the classroom
  7. No staff meetings
  8. A boss that I quite literally NEVER see or interact with
  9. Great students who actually speak English quite well
  10. I get to live in one of the best cities in Asia (Busan) and go surfing all the time.
  11. Staff parties that involve all you can eat and drink blow-outs.

No Lie, My Korean Uni Job Really is that Good

Now, let me explain about my job and how it actually is that good as well as what a more average university job in Korea is like but first of all let me address though who called me “lucky” or “fortunate,” etc. because I had this job. I prefer to use the words “smart,” “hardworking,” “well-networked,” “engaged in professional development,” etc. You know, just a little different point of view that actually makes all the difference in the world. This most sweet of jobs did not fall out of the sky into my lap-I worked for it and am actually an excellent teacher who is perhaps more well-qualified and experienced than the large majority of foreign teachers in Korea.

Okay, onwards to the facts:

Vacation Time

I really do get 5 months paid vacation. Some people working at lesser jobs will have to do camps or other classes during the breaks. The better jobs pay extra for this while the terrible places don’t.


I just checked my last pay statement. It was 3.1 million including my salary and housing allowance, plus another 200,000 or so in pension contributions from my school, which I’ll get back when I leave Korea. A more average job would pay something like 2.4 + housing.

Overtime Opportunities

Yes, sometimes I do make more than $5000 in a single month. Even 10 hours of OT a week at 50,000 Won an hour would put me at 5 million. A lot of uni teachers make this much money, but it’s not those who are waiting around for the OT to fall into their laps.

It’s those, like me, who are hustling for it, rustling it up, building up a reputation as a stellar teacher who can teach just about anything. These days, most of the OT comes to me because of said reputation and I don’t really seek it out.

Teaching Hours per Week

Yes, my contract really is only for 9 hours per week. I’ve always taught 12 hours, unfortunately, because the OT pay for the credit classes is only 14,000 an hour at my uni. Anyway, not a big deal and I don’t actually care about this one way or the other.

Minimal Prep and Admin

No, I’m not a terrible teacher. It’s just that I often teach 2 or 3 sections of the same class in a single semester and I’ve actually taught the exact same class with the exact same book in previous semesters. Since I’m organized, I have everything (PPTs, homework assignment, syllabus, etc.) in Google Drive, so I just do a few tweaks if something didn’t work great last time and away I go. For admin, I’m just a really organized person so it’s not such a burden. I keep up with the grading, attendance, etc. as the semester goes on.

The Great Students who Speak English

My situation is certainly a lot different from the majority of English instructors in Korea who mostly teach freshman English. This job is actually pretty demoralizing and is characterized by apathetic students who sometimes can’t even put together a coherent sentence. If I were still teaching freshman English after 8 years, my last post would have perhaps been far more scathing.

I work in the English department and so only teach English majors who are for the most part, excellent students. Like in a class of 24, I’d say that 12 of them are “fluent,” 10 of them are “proficient” and then I wonder why the other 2 chose English as their major. They all do their homework, study for tests, talk to their partner in English, etc. It’s kind of like a dream come true actually.

Yes, it’s Maybe Crazy I’m Leaving

So, my Korean uni job really is that good, believe it or not which perhaps makes it all the more crazy that I’m giving it up. But, like Seth Godin, my #1 Internet guru says, “All good stuff comes from leaping. From doing the things that might now work.”

Korea is good, but I think Canada will be better for a whole lot of reasons and I think I’m at the point in my life where it might work. The timing is just right and I’d far rather leave Korea at the top before the whole industry goes the way of Japan-down the toilet, which is kind of where it seems to be headed these days.

Time to go surfing!



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  1. eRiC


    I LIKE this post. You sum up life, as a Foreign Faculty member, at Korean universities quite well. It is too good to be true. —and I gave up this lifestyle for similar reasons. I could actually feel myself moving into a mental and emotional space that seemed to worry me. A lack of challenge and purpose can be detrimental…in the long run. I felt that I need to change my environment so that I wouldn’t waste away.

    I don’t want to get too dramatic, though. I feel that many Americans, Westerners in general, could really benefit from this type of work. —just as we have. I feel that this type of schedule, and subsequent lifestyle, is actually healthy…for a time being. To be honest, if managed correctly, it can be healthy for quite a while. I know a guy who I worked with who has been at his Korean university gig for 20 years now. —with the money he’s making and the time he spends, I can’t blame him. He found something good 20 years ago…and he hung on to it.

    Good reading your work, Jackie.



    1. admin

      Hey Eric…are you also on the ESL 101 forums? I remember your unusual name spelling.

      But, happy that you enjoyed my post and that it resonated with you. Korean universities really work for some people for a lot of years but it’s not for me for the long-term! I will miss the vacations and great pay for the number of hours worked but I certainly won’t miss all the crap that goes along with the job too.

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