The Korean ESL Industry is Not What it Once Was: Learn More Here

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The Korean ESL industry is dying

Ahhh…teaching English in Korea. Doesn’t everyone know someone who knows someone who made money hand over fist there with precisely no qualifications. Are those days done? Let’s find out!

Remember when Uni Jobs were Handed out like Candy?

Anyone who has been in a Korea for at least a few years (or 10 in my case) has seen the decline of the Korean ESL industry as a whole, from hagwons to public schools to universities. 10 years ago, anyone with a pulse could get a hagwon (private institute job). Public school jobs were plentiful.

And finally, Korean uni jobs were being handed out like candy to those with just a Bachelor’s degree and perhaps a year or two of experience at a public school or hagwon. It really was that easy. Yes, believe it or not.

It’s a Race for the Bottom These Days

These days, even hagwon jobs seem to be pretty scarce. Mostly, it seems to be a race to the bottom for the lowest salary and weakest job benefits. The main reason is that there are just too many decently-qualified people looking for work and everyone and their dog knows about teaching in Korea these days.

Seriously, everyone knows someone who’s done it, right?

Public School Cuts

In addition, there are also fewer teaching positions available as public schools have been bleeding jobs for the past 3 or 4 years. These days, almost all middle and high-schools cutting their native English speaker positions. It’s all about preparing for the big test, and not actual English conversation.

Even elementary schools are cutting, with teachers having to work at 2 or 3 different schools instead of a single one like in the past.

The Korean ESL Industry is Dying

Korean Demographics = Disaster for Uni Positions in 5 Years

Universities don’t seem to be cutting too many positions for native English speakers but that will change within the next few years due to Korean demographics. It’ll simply have to, unless international enrolment becomes way more of a thing.

Korea has had one of the lowest birth rates in the world for the past 10 or 15 years. Children born during this era will be reaching university age in the next few years. The government is at the beginning of a process that will force the lowest ranking universities to close. Expect to see more of this as the years go on.

The Glory Days are Done

What am I saying? The happy days of Korea as a prime ESL teaching destination are indeed over, much the way things went with Japan, just a few years later in the case of Korea. Only the most qualified will get those prime uni jobs with low teaching hours, motivated students, high pay and full vacations while everyone else will be left fighting for the okay or crappy stuff. Salaries and benefits like free plane tickets and housing will keep decreasing.

Public school jobs will start to go to those with serious qualifications like a teaching certificate from their home country and pay will remain around 2 million Won.

The writing is on the wall. The old-timers are starting to leave, which should say a lot.

My Plan

I, myself have planned my exit strategy that involves going back to Canada and changing careers because I’d rather leave at the top than stick with the sinking ship. I would suggest that those who are making longer-term plans, thinking that Korea is going to be a winner for English teachers should perhaps reconsider another country like Vietnam or China? Upgrading qualifications and getting into teacher training? Changing careers?

There are plenty of fish in the sea so why place your bets on the one flopping around on the dry-land? 

My thoughts on the up and coming ESL teaching destinations found here:

Do you want to know my predications for where the next big English teaching destinations around the world are? Then you’ll need to check this out:

The Wealthy English Teacher: Teach, Travel, and Secure Your Financial Future

Have your Say about the Korean ESL Industry

What are your thoughts about teaching English in South Korea? Is there still lots of great jobs available, or are they few and far between? Leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

Also be sure to give this article a share on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. It’ll help other teachers, like yourself find this useful resource.


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  1. I will agree with you on this…but then i thought to think outside of the box. one can get a F2 visa do a korean language program open a buisness on the side…or even just do private tutoring.Iv seen people hustle in Korea 10 months of the year and travel 2 or 3 months to diff parts of the world and i came to Korea in 2010…..invested in myself ……hustled …..and all is good…..gonna push another ten in this country

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