The QiRanger Adventures

Teaching in Korea: Contracts

with 15 comments

Recently a subscriber from YouTube contacted me and asked me to take a look at the ESL contract offered from a school. Normally, I wouldn’t take a second look at such a personal matter, but seeing as how this has been a long-time subscriber and commenter, I thought I’d offer up some help… and I’m glad I did, since the contract raised many red flags.

Please let me be clear that the following are my own personal opinions and reflect the way I do business and your situation and beliefs may be different. With that in mind, let’s take a look at four (4) key areas of the contract.

First, the contract wanted this person to come to Korea one week prior to starting the position so that they could process the E-2 work visa. This was a massive red flag because it indicates the school is either shady or doesn’t know how the visa process works. At this time, all new E-2 Visa applicants must be interviewed by the Korean Consulate in their home country before a visa is granted. Asking someone to come to Korea without a visa, is simply illegal. In the old days, one could simply go to Japan and get the visa there, but that’s no longer the case for new teachers. Furthermore, if one comes to Korea without a teaching visa, then the school can drop you at any time, for any reason, and you have no legal recourse. In fact, they could fire you, boot you out of your apartment, and then you’d be stuck with not only trying to find a new job, but also trying to get home all on your own.

Second, the terms of the airfare in the contract was bogus. Most schools in Korea will either front the month for round-trip airfare or reimburse you immediately after you get to Korea and pay for your ride home. This contract offered only a W500,000 allotment for travel. Seeing as how an average ticket from the US is over W700,000, it’s a bad deal. Furthermore, there was nothing in the contract about the return trip home. In my opinion, unless a school is willing to front the airfare or provide at least a W1,000,000 travel allotment, then it’s time to pass on the job. 95%+ of the jobs here in Korea will do that and one will be better off in those circumstances.

Third, take a careful look at your accommodations. In standard contracts, the school will provide not only a studio apartment, but also a bed, chair, table, TV, washer, and basic cooking/eating utensils (not to mention aircon/heater). Now some contracts will offer a housing allotment, and in that case, make sure it is enough to pay for an officetel/villa in your school’s area (within walking distance). However, if they are going to provide housing, make sure they give you all the basics for free. If not, pass on the contract. There is no need to have to furnish your own apartment here.

Finally, we come to an area where many underhanded schools sock it to teachers: the pension. Schools usually tell rookie teachers that they don’t need to pay into the Korean National Pension Fund. Schools tell teachers this will get them more money- this is a lie. Most contracts are stipulated that the employee and the employer pay into the fund at equal rates (e.g. 50%). If your school isn’t participating in the fund, then, sure, you get more money each month, but you also lose out in the end. You see, if you’re from the US, they you can withdraw your Pension fund and send the money home. By not participating in the program, you’re losing out on an additional W1.5M each year (the exact amount is based on your salary). This is a tremendous savings for the school at the expense of the teacher.

If you’re coming to Korea to teach, take some time out and look over the contract carefully. Compare it with other offers you’ve received, and ask around. You’ll benefit from it. Trust me.



Written by Steve Miller

March 8, 2010 at 8:14 am

15 Responses

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  1. This is a great post. Very instructive.

    I think that whenever work involves living in another country, precautions should be taken so you don’t get screwed up upon arrival.

    I hope people looking to work in Korea stumbles across your blog entry 😉


    March 8, 2010 at 8:52 am

    • Thanks Mel. There are a lot of good schools in Korea to work for… but many, many bad ones. There are some horror stories out there and the best way to avoid getting into a bad situation is to do a lot of homework!


      March 8, 2010 at 8:54 am

  2. Great advice, thanks! I’m gonna start applying for jobs next month I think, so I will be sure to keep your tips in mind.


    March 8, 2010 at 2:12 pm

    • I hope it all goes well. If you need help, I can refer you to a great recruiter.


      March 8, 2010 at 2:33 pm

      • Thanks. I’ve got a recruiter in mind, hopefully things work out with them.


        March 8, 2010 at 3:13 pm

  3. How often do you write your blogs? I enjoy them a lot 5 7 9

    Martin Groome

    March 8, 2010 at 3:18 pm

    • I write them as often as I have a topic that comes to mind. I usually try to update the site a few times each week and roughly 15-20 times a month.


      March 8, 2010 at 6:22 pm

  4. Great advice. I had a friend who got screwed over by a school in Korea and ended up doing just that… Flying himself home!!!! This is a great post foe future overseas teachers, wherever the country.


    March 8, 2010 at 9:30 pm

    • It’s unfortunate that there are so many school out there looking to take advantage of teachers. Thanks for the comment! I really appreciate it!


      March 9, 2010 at 8:42 am

  5. Wow, that was one bad contact, and a bad school! There should be a website or forum where people can post about their experiences, and make a “ban” list of schools that do these things, so that one can stay away.

    Great advice! I am sure they will be helpful to someone out there! 🙂 Let’s just hope they see your advice before signing a contract! 😀


    March 9, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    • There are actually a few places where you can research schools. One of the problems though, is that you have to sift through all the negative comments from teachers (in name only) that leave negative comments because of their personal experiences… not because the actual school was bad.


      March 9, 2010 at 4:07 pm

  6. Thanks! Jacob7207
    Jacob’s Grandfather was a rapist commander.

    Jeff K.

    March 9, 2010 at 7:23 pm

  7. Thanks the author for article. The main thing do not forget about users, and continue in the same spirit.


    March 19, 2010 at 10:42 pm

  8. I remember getting my pension cash out when I left Korea. It really helped out quite a bit when I was returning to the States.


    March 23, 2010 at 10:09 am

  9. I absolutely agree with every word the author has written in this article!

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    March 26, 2010 at 7:54 am

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