Types of jobs in Korea: Hogwons

Hogwon Jobs  

A typical English Hogwon sign

There are many different types of teaching jobs in Korea. These range from teaching children in private language institutes to adult teaching in a variety of setting and all sorts of stuff in between. The first one I tackle is perhaps the most controversial jobs in Korea. While hogwons have by far the most number of jobs available. This post is just intended to give you a brief overview of the job. In later posts, you become more familiar with the visa process and what how to deal with potential problems, and what your rights are under Korean law.

 What are they

These are privately run language institutes and are the most numerous of the teaching jobs in Korea. You can find them in almost every neighborhood in Korea teaching almost every subject from math to music to Tae Kwon Do. Korean elementary and middle school children will spend most of their after school hours going to several in the course of a day. While primarily focused on teaching children, there are hogwons that teach adults primarily English.  For our purposes we will be dealing with the hogwons that only teach English. 

 The number of jobs available:

Numerous. Due to the sheer number of hogwons out there and the turnover of teachers, there are always plenty of jobs out there. Just take a look at the major job listing sites and the number of recruiters out there you will see what’s available. 

 Working Hours:

 For the hogwons focused on children you will be working one of two shifts depending on the ages you teach. If you will be teaching kindergarten, expect an M-F 9-6 shift with kindergarten classes until around 1 PM followed by school-age kids. If you are teaching just school-aged kids, expect an M-F 1:30-2:00P – 9:00-10:00 shift. Adults tend to have split shifts built around job requirements. A typical adult teaching day might look like an M-F 7:00A-10:00A block followed by a long break and coming back to teach a 6:30-9:30P block. In any case, you should be teaching around 30 hours a week with the number of classes you actually teach depending on the length of the classes. For younger kids, expect anywhere between a 25 minute to 40-minute class. Older kids and adult classes usually run 50-90 minutes in length with a short break after 45-50 minutes.  

Curriculum:  

Textbooks are normally provided by the school for all classes (Interchange and Parade are an example of titles) though you will be expected to supplement your lessons with games, songs, and chants for kids. Besides a textbook, I would recommend adding a discussion topics book. It will be up to you to design lessons. Hopefully the school will have bought a teachers edition. If not they aren’t expensive and you can find them quite easily. 

 Class size:

 Usually quite small with under 10 being average. With younger kids, your school should provide a Korean speaking assistant for translation and classroom management issues. Older kids you will be on your own. Adult classes tend to be very small with some classes being one-on-one classes. With adult classes, you can also arrange to meet them at coffee shops etc. 

 Housing:

 Hogwons should provide a basic one-bedroom partially furnished apartment. More than likely this will be the apartment of the teacher who you will be replacing. If that teacher is still there, expect to be sharing the apartment until they leave but I would insist on being put up at a nearby hotel. Very few schools will give you a housing allowance and let you find your own place. Most apartments will be within walking distance of your school. The rent will be paid for by the school, but you will be expected to pay for gas, electric, water, building fees, cable, and internet.  

Salaries

Between 2.1 to maybe 2.5 million won a month. This is enough to live somewhat decently on. If you teach over 120 hours/month you should be paid overtime at a rate of around 30,000 won/hours 

Benefits:  

Your employer is required to enroll you in the  National Health Insurance plan. This provides basic accident and illness coverage. Premiums are around 6% of your salary/month with you paying 50% and your employer paying 50%. Most nationalities will also be enrolled in the National Pension System. You pay around 4.5% of your salary and your employer matches. When you leave Korea, in most cases you can get this money back. Finally, your employer is required at the end of your contract to pay you one month’s salary for every year you worked there. This is in addition to the pension plan you are enrolled in. Vacations tend to be only 2 weeks if that. You will likely get a week in July or August and a week between Christmas and New Year’s. You should get Korean holidays (Red days on Korean calendars). Sick time tends to be little if any with maybe 3 days a year if you can get it despite Korean law guaranteeing it. 

Taxes: 

 Korean income and citizen taxes are also deducted. Figure around 2% for taxes. Your employer will file a tax return with the Korean government for you.  

 Airfare:

 Most schools will provide you with only a one-way ticket from your home to Korea. Gone are the days where the school will pay for your return ticket, though it may be negotiated. Some will buy the ticket for you. Most will expect you to buy a one-way ticket and then reimburse you when you get to Korea.  

 Visa type:

 You will be on what is called an E2 or a conversation instructor visa. For details on this, see the visa section. 

Where to find jobs: 

 Jobs can be found on a number of ESL websites. A few include Dave’s ESL Café (www.eslcafe.com), worknplay (www.worknplay.com), Craigslist Seoul and others. Most jobs are advertised by recruiters who can either be great or awful. Some of the major chains recruit from their own websites. 

 Problems:

 Hogwons tend to have the most complaints about working conditions, not getting paid, not honoring contracts to name just a few. See the in-depth section for more on typical scams 

Big Name Schools: 

 YBM, Pagoda, Wall Street, Chungdam and EF tend to be the big adult chains. Kid chains include these but some other big names are, SLP(Sogang Language Program, a part of Seoul’s Sogang University), Readingtown, Ding Dang, Doing and Wonderland, G”nB, Avalon and POLY. 

 Can an older teacher get a job at one of these schools?

 For the kid schools, the answer is usually ”no”. These schools tend to want young female teachers though it’s not unheard of for an older woman to land a job at one. Guys tend not to get hired by them. The best bet is going to the adult programs. Yeah, the hours may be harder but they tend to like older teachers given the age of your students. 

Would I recommend teaching at a hogwon? 

No. Why? Simply there are too many problem schools out there that don’t follow the contract. The housing can also be substandard. Finally, schools just don’t tend to want to hire older teachers. Given your life and teaching experience, there are far better options out there. If you do decide to go this route, do your homework, research the school and ask to talk to the teachers there.  

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