EFL in Korea

The blog’s main area has a lot on teaching in Korea and other Asian countries. As I review my writings about Korea, I have to say I really pushed my luck to return in 2010 and feel it was an immense waste of time and a terrible decision financially.

There are just too many bad jobs there. It’s hard to find the good ones since many times the interviewer will lie to impress the applicant.

In the past, one could make ok money in Korea, but now the cost of living has risen and the exchange rate of the won is terrible.

Too often the apartments foreigners are expected to live in are an insult. My apartment at KNUE didn’t have one comfortable chair. The apartment was terribly dirty and the phone line had been cut, the washing machine didn’t work and to get a decent hot shower, I had to go to the dorms across the courtyard. Not much fun in winter.

On the other hand, my apartments in China and Japan were spacious, clean, well furnished and comfortable. There was enough kitchenware and appliances so that I didn’t have to sink a lot of money into making these apartments livable. The nice apartment made me think that I was a respected human, not a slave.

Here’s a few incidents that exemplify the incompetence and poor quality of my job at KNUE:

Today’s payday.

Guess what didn’t happen. Right, there was no deposit to my account.

Okay, I get the message. KNUE is not the place for me.

Supposedly, payroll got confused. Again, I get so angry when people can’t do the jobs they’re paid for.

As bad as Makassar and at times Sogang were I always got paid on time. Mind you because I’m new I had to wait a couple weeks for this paycheck anyway.

They did get it together and deposit the money. Unlike in the US, one thing they can’t/won’t manage is getting you your last paycheck on your last day on a job. You have to wait around, sometimes months for that.


So I’ve gotten sick of Dr. Lee’s remarks in meetings about my appearance. At first it didn’t seem like a big deal. “We’re so glad to have a beautiful woman on our staff now” was easy to brush off and just attribute it to ignorance, but the remarks have continued. He makes a lot of inappropriate remarks to the trainees and many may think it’s funny.

However, this is a country where sexual harassment is rampant and I think part of that is because women brush off the casual remark, which could be complimentary. But that’s how they get painted into a corner. I thought it was particularly weird, when our director at KNUE urged some younger trainees to try to be more attractive for one of the trainers. This trainer caused a scandal some time ago when he started a romance with one of his students and then dumped her. She was devastated and there was a big brouhaha when her brother came to school to call the trainer out.

With that in mind, I wrote and sent the following:

Dear Dr. L,

Although you may think you’re just being grandfatherly when you comment on my appearance or that of the trainees, in most professional organizations, remarks on women’s appearance or any jokes like “This is my love letter to you,” are considered extremely unprofessional.

This may just be your humor and style. I do want you to know that remarks of this nature should stop as far as I’m concerned. They’re just unprofessional.

I hope that’s all I need to say.



Next I have to see if he’s going to sit in on class today. That’s got to stop too. He can come back when he’s seen 5 hours of all the other teacher’s classes.

From the archive, October 2010.

N.B. He stopped for about 2 days and started up again.
A good article for Expats who want a Korean credit card.

More information about non-Koreans getting credit cards in Korea.

Now this really irks me. I’ve just learned that the banks that tell expat customers that foreigners can’t get International ATM cards are lying. There is no such law! Read this website for more information.


8 thoughts on “EFL in Korea

  1. Ah wow! You were an EFL teacher in Korea, Japan and China? It’s an avenue I’ve always considered pursuing (although I had an experience with a prospective employer in Korea which quite upset me, though maybe it shouldn’t have).

    It’s interesting you say that Korea isn’t that great a place for EFL teachers though; it seems like such a big market for English language skills that most people gravitate there more than anywhere else.


    • Yes, people do gravitate there because there’s a lot of job, but most are bad jobs. Foreigners aren’t treated very well. My first job was okay, but sometimes rocky. The only reason I took it was because I had friends who had worked at Sogang Univ. (Now the school has a headstrong, inexperienced head of EFL though.)

      I’d say Japan is the best place to go and the JET Program is the way to do it. Otherwise it’s hard to get in. It’s far more competitive than Korea for jobs. One reason Korea has jobs is because of turnover. People tend to stay in Japan; they flee Korea often.

      China too is tricky. There are a lot of horrible jobs where you’re treated like a non-person and there are a few like my first job where you’re treated very well. It’s so hard to know what you’re getting into.

      On the whole, the money is good for entry level jobs, but never or rarely climbs the way most other professions do. In Korea a French or German teacher teaches 2 classes with say a maximum of 15 students and earns 4 million won/month while an English teacher teaches 5 classes with 30 students and earns 2.5 million a month.


  2. Hey! I googled Cheongju and came across your blog … I’m teaching there and living there now, if you’re still around, want to chat? My name is Lily.


  3. Hey, I got a job offer—without even an interview–for the IETTP at KNUE. I did the exact same kind of program for Jeonam province for 3 years, a great job. Is KNUE that bad? could you give me the scoop? I have to give them an answer soon…



  4. I have to show this to my granddaughter and her mother who lives with us. She is 12 and wants to move to Korea in the worst way. She has a mental love relationship with a Korean pop singer and his band (I don’t know what else to call it) and she is learning as many Korean words as she can. I told her that “he” looks like a “girl” to me but she says that he is a real “guy” and very popular.


    • Korean pop singers do tend to look very feminine to us. Actually, they tend to be more feminine than the average Korean man I’d either work with or teach. So even given a cultural difference regarding what’s masculine, the singers are rather slight of build and they have these high maintenance hair styles that give them a girlish look.


      • Well, all the time I was in Japan, I never saw a man there that looked like this pictures she has. However, back then, men held their trousers up with a rope as belts were hard to come by. The Occupation was hard times. I am reading Embracing Defeat and that is in depth and very interesting to me after having been there.


  5. What a shame. My daughter was teaching English there abut 5 years ago, and had a fantastic experience. Well treated, appreciated and supported, a nice, small flat. She’s remained a huge fan of her experience in South Korea.


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