New Zealand Embassy Seoul, South Korea

Types of foreign language institutes and programmes

Most English teachers teach in language institutes (hakwon in Korean). There are, however, positions available in several types of institutions listed below:

  • private foreign language institutions (hakwons)
  • corporate in-house language programmes
  • university language institutes
  • university departments
  • government/private research centres
  • public relations & advertising companies
  • private teaching/informal classes


Private language institutions are found all over Korea but the majority are located in Seoul. Some institutes are well known with many branches while others are smaller and short-lived. The ESL market in Korea is extremely competitive and many institutes fail. Most hakwons employ a certain number of expatriate (American, British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealand) instructors for conversation classes. The typical full-time employee can be expected to work 20 to 30 hours per week. The majority of classes are conducted early in the morning and in the evening, so many instructors have free time in the afternoons. Most classes have between 10 and 15 students. Students will probably be university students or businessmen who are contemplating overseas assignments or trying to improve their English conversation skill. Many Hakwons also have after school classes for children as young as 5 years old. Some of the better institutes will provide housing for instructors.

All institutes are required by law to provide health insurance during the period of employment and severance pay upon completion of a contract but some institutes fail to honour these provisions. (For more information on severance pay, see Contracts. The average monthly salary is currently about 1.4 to 1.5 million won.

Corporate in-house Language Programme

Most of the big corporate groups (chaebol in Korean) have their own in-house programmes. The typical instructor can be expected to teach more than 30 hours per week, teaching irregular hours all day from early in the morning to late at night. Most of these programmes are intensive residential programmes where the students study for three to six months. Some of these programmes provide full benefits including housing, but the instructor may be required to either live on-site or commute long distances from Seoul. The average salary for these institutes is currently between 1.5 to 2 million won per month. As a result of current economic conditions many Chaebols are reducing or cancelling their in-house programmes.

University Language Institutes

The major universities in Seoul, and some provincial universities as well, operate foreign language institutes. Many of the students are university students, but the majority of the students are business people. The hiring standards of these institutes tend to be the highest in Korea; most instructors have MA degrees in TESOL and years of teaching experience. The pay, status, and benefits offered by these institutes also tend to be among the best in Korea. As a result, there is very low staff turnover.

Provincial universities tend to provide better housing, working conditions, and salaries, and tend to treat foreign instructors as part of the faculty. The better working conditions, however, should be balanced against the cultural isolation a foreigner may encounter living in the Korean countryside.

University Departments

Most universities in Korea employ full-time English conversation instructors. University classes tend to be larger, with less personal contact with the students. Most instructors teach between 10 and 15 hours a week. Academic standards in Korean universities, however, tend to be somewhat lax. Many universities in Seoul do not provide housing, and some do not provide the benefits required by law. Monthly salaries currently tend to run about 1.5 million won, with three to four months of paid vacation per year.

Government/Private Research Centres

Many government agencies and some private companies operate research institutes. Most of these institutes hire foreigners who have degrees in the humanities, economics, or business administration as full-time editors. Editors proof-read correspondence and research publications, write speeches, and occasionally teach as well. Primarily, institutes pay quite well, and some provide housing. Because these institutes tend to be government-run or closely associated with powerful corporate groups, instructors who work there seldom experience problems in obtaining employment visas.

Public Relations & Advertising Companies

There are several public relations and advertising companies in Korea that hire foreigners to work as copy editors, and occasionally as teachers as well. These positions are very hard to obtain as they are quite popular with the resident English-teaching community. There are also opportunities to appear on television programmes, movies, and radio. Most of these positions pay quite well, and some provide housing assistance.

Private Teaching/Informal Classes

Many full-time English teachers teach part-time as well, either at another institute or with privately-arranged classes. In principle, private instruction is illegal, however many English teachers do engage private students. Part-time instruction at a second institute is possible with permission from the sponsoring institute and the Korean immigration authorities. Private students tend to pay quite a bit more per hour, but some instructors have found that it is hard to have a long-term private class. If you are going to hold private lessons, you should arrange for lession fees to be paid prior to each class. Keep in mind that over the past few years, Korean Immigration has tightened its control over such work permits. If fined you cannot leave Korea until the fine has been paid. Immigration will insist that you get money sent from New Zealand if you do not have sufficient funds. When considering private teaching, know the law and understand that you may be taking a serious risk if you teach without permission.

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