Teaching English in Korea
- Types of foreign-language institutes and programs
- Visa matters
- Working hours
- Severance pay
- Income tax
- Medical insurance
- Ticket home
- Cultural differences
- Adapting to Korean society
- How Canadian government offices can help
- Sources of information in Korea
- Publication Information
The key to happy and fruitful employment as a language instructor in Korea is to work for a reputable school and to obtain a fair and clear contract. Many Canadian citizens come to Korea under contract with promises of generous salaries, bonuses and other amenities. The majority of them have an enjoyable and rewarding experience. A minority, however, find themselves in positions far different from those originally promised.
In case you require information or advice related to employment and other issues, note that the Seoul Metropolitan Government has established the Seoul Global Center, which provides a Job Search page for expats, general information on Korea and a directory for foreigners in Seoul, including tips on daily living and community services. The address is:4~6 Fl. Seoul Global Center
38 Jongro, Jongro-gu
Seoul 03188 Korea
Tel.: +82 02 2075-4180
Fax: +82 02 722-2108
Foreign residents of Seoul are encouraged to forward suggestions on how the city can better serve the foreign community to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The City of Busan has established a similar office, the Busan Foundation for International Activities. The address is:
Busan Foundation for International Activities
National Pension Service Building, 13th Floor
Jungangdae-ro 1000 Yeonje-gu, Busan 47606
Tel.: +82 51 711-6878
Fax: +82 51 711-6826
Busan Global Center Call Center: 1577-7716
For inquiries related to passports, citizenship or notary services, contact the Consular Section at the Embassy of Canada to Korea:
21 Jeongdong-gil (Jeong-dong), Jung-gu
Seoul (04518), Republic of Korea
Tel.: +82 02 3783-6000
Fax: +82 02 3783-6112
P.O. Box 6299
Seoul 04535, Korea
or the Canadian Consulate in Busan:
c/o Dongsung Corporation
99 Sinsan-ro, Saha-gu
Busan 49421, Republic of Korea
Tel.: +82 51 204-5581
Fax: +82 51 204-5580
For emergency assistance after hours, call the Canadian embassy to Korea and follow the recorded instructions. You may also reach the Emergency Watch and Response Centre in Ottawa by placing a collect call to 613-996-8885.
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The Embassy of Canada to Korea does not maintain a list of teaching institutes. If you are thinking of accepting a job as an English teacher in Korea, you are advised to ask the institute concerned for the names and telephone numbers of current and former teachers so that you can contact them directly.
Most positions are filled through either word of mouth or advertisements in the local English newspapers. Occasionally, good institutes will hire instructors by advertising in the TESOL newsletter or by operating employment booths at TESOL conferences. They also sometimes advertise through university and college placement offices in the United States and Canada, or on the Internet.
Most English instructors teach in private foreign-language institutes (hakwons in Korean). There are also positions available in several other types of organizations:
- corporate in-house language programs;
- university foreign-language institutes;
- university departments;
- public schools;
- government or private research institutes; and
- public relations and advertising companies.
The majority of private language institutes are located in Seoul, but they can be found all over Korea. Some are well known and have many branches, while others are small-scale operations and are short-lived. The ESL (English as a Second Language) market in Korea is extremely competitive and it is common for institutes to fail. Many of the more marginal businesses open their doors, hire the first foreigner they can find, advertise for students, offer classes for a month or so, and then close.
Most hakwons employ expatriate (American, British, Canadian, New Zealander and Australian) instructors for conversation classes. Some of the better institutes will provide housing for instructors. The typical full-time employee can expect to teach 20 to 30 hours a week. The majority of classes are conducted in the early morning and the evening, so many instructors have free time in the afternoon. Most classes have 10 to 15 students – usually university students or businesspeople who are contemplating overseas assignments or want to improve their English skills. Many hakwons also have after-school classes for children as young as five years old.
All institutes are required by law to provide health insurance during the period of employment and severance pay on completion of a one-year contract, but some institutes fail to honour these provisions. (For more information, see the section on severance pay.)
Corporate in-house language programs
Most of the large corporate conglomerates (chaebols in Korean) have their own in-house language programs. Most of these are intensive residential programs that require students to study for three to six months. An instructor can typically expect to teach more than 30 hours a week, working irregular hours all day from early in the morning to late at night. Some of the programs provide instructors with full benefits, including housing, but instructors may be required either to live on-site or to commute long distances from Seoul.
University foreign-language institutes
The major universities in Seoul, as well as some provincial universities, operate language institutes. Some of the students are enrolled in university, but the majority are businesspeople. The hiring standards of these institutes tend to be the highest in Korea: most instructors have master’s degrees in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) and years of teaching experience. The pay, status and benefits offered by these institutes are also among the best in Korea.
Provincial universities tend to provide better housing, working conditions and salaries. These advantages, however, should be balanced against the cultural isolation a foreigner may experience while living in the Korean countryside.
Most universities in Korea employ full-time English conversation instructors. University classes tend to be large and feature less personal contact with the students. Most instructors teach between 10 and 15 hours a week.
Recently the federal, municipal and some provincial governments have begun hiring more expatriates to teach English in the public school system. The Korean government sponsors the English Program in Korea (EPIK), similar to the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) program in Japan. An equivalent program, known as English Teachers in Seoul (ETIS), operates exclusively in the Korean capital. The conditions and hours of work are comparable to those in the public systems in Canada. Housing and basic furnishings are usually provided. Salaries will depend on the candidate’s qualifications and teaching experience, Insurance fees are paid in equal parts by the employer and the employee.
Government/private research institutes
Many government agencies and some private companies operate research institutes. Most of the institutes hire foreigners with degrees in the humanities, economics or business administration to work as full-time editors. Editors proofread correspondence and research publications, write speeches, and occasionally teach as well. Most of the institutes pay quite well and some provide housing. Because the research institutes are usually government-run or closely associated with powerful corporate groups, instructors who work for them seldom experience problems in obtaining employment visas.
Public relations and advertising companies
Several public relations and advertising companies in Korea hire foreigners to work as copy editors and occasionally as teachers. These positions are very difficult to obtain as they are quite popular with the resident English-teaching community. Most of the companies pay quite well and some provide housing assistance.
Teaching English part-time
Many full-time instructors also teach part-time. However, private instruction is illegal in Korea. Part-time employment at a second institution is illegal as well, unless permission is granted by the sponsoring institution and Korean immigration authorities. When considering part-time employment, make sure you know the law and understand that you are taking a serious risk if you teach private lessons.
You must obtain the appropriate employment visa to work legally in Korea. The Korean government tightly controls the issuance of visas for employment.
You must obtain your employment visa from a Korean embassy or consulate in Canada. The process may take up to two months to complete.
As visa regulations and document requirements change quite frequently, you should contact the nearest Korean diplomatic or consular mission if you are outside Korea, or a Korean immigration office within Korea, to confirm current regulations and fees.
The Korean government thoroughly investigates the use of fraudulent documents, university degrees and ESL certificates. Penalties for using fraudulent documents include deportation and restrictions on re-entry for five years or more.
Alien registration with the Korea Immigration Service
When arriving in Korea, you must register at a Korean immigration office and obtain a residence permit within 90 days of entry. Foreigners are no longer required to possess a valid re-entry permit in order to re-enter Korea.
Reporting changes to Alien Registration Information
Under Articles 35 and 36 of the Korean Immigration Act, registered Canadians are required to report any changes to their Alien Registration information, such as name, gender, date of birth, nationality, passport information and address, to the regional immigration office serving their area within 14 days.
If you have been issued a new passport, the mandatory reporting period is 30 days after the issue date of the passport, so any change to your passport information should be reported within 44 days.
More information is available at the Korea Immigration Service website.
Most English instructors are granted an E-1 visa (professor at an educational institution higher than a junior college), an E-2 visa (conversation instructor) or an E-5 visa (professional employee with a public relations firm or corporation). An individual who is married to a Korean citizen can also acquire permanent residency rights as a spouse.
Despite what some employers may tell you, you are not required to hand over your Canadian passport to your employer for the duration of your stay. Your passport should always remain in your possession.
Changing your employer
To change employers, you require permission from the Korean immigration authorities and, in principle, must leave Korea and return under a new visa with a new sponsor. Changing employers is quite difficult and requires release consent from your original employer for the remaining contract period. You should direct any questions on this procedure to the nearest immigration office. You can reach the immigration call centre by dialing 1345 within Korea.
If you resign to take up a new job without a letter of release from your previous employer, you must leave the country within 14 days of your resignation. A new work permit will not be issued until the expiration of your previous contract. However, after leaving the country, you can return to Korea as a tourist while awaiting the expiry of your old contract, but you are not allowed to work in the interim.
Once you have approval from both your current and future employers, you may transfer to the new employer. You will need to inform the local immigration office within 15 days of the change.
If you terminate your contract with the approval of your current employer, you do not need to leave the country. You will be given one month to find another job. Once you find a new job, you will have to report this to the local immigration office to regularize your teaching visa within 15 days from the contract starting date.
If you don’t find a job within a month, you can apply for another type of visa (D-10), which allows you to stay for a maximum of six months to find a new job. Once you find a job, you will have to change your visa status within 15 working days from the contract starting date.
Some expatriates have encountered serious legal problems with the Korean immigration authorities, either because they have accepted employment as English teachers while in Korea on a tourist visa or because they have agreed to take part-time employment or teach private classes without obtaining the proper permission. Violation of Korean immigration laws can result in severe penalties, including:
- a fine of 100,000 won for up to 30 days of overstay (approximately C$90);
- a fine of 200,000 won for up to three months of overstay (approximately C$180);
- a fine of 500,000 won for up to six months of overstay (approximately C$450); or
- deportation with a ban on re-entry for a period of two to five years.
It is your responsibility to understand local laws and obey them. Canadian government offices cannot assist you in any way if you violate Korean laws, other than to provide you with a list of lawyers.
Nature of contracts in Korea
Many foreign-language institutions view a contract as just a first step in establishing a relationship with an instructor. The personal connection is more important than the written contract. Therefore, foreign instructors sometimes have contract disputes with their employers. The employer may consider the contract a simple working agreement, infinitely flexible and subject to change (usually after the foreign teacher has arrived in Korea). The real contract is not a written one, but an unwritten, oral agreement. Most Koreans do not view deviations from a contract as a breach, and few would consider taking an employer to court over a contract dispute. You should bear these factors in mind when signing a contract.
The Ministry of Employment and Labor has jurisdiction over contract dispute matters. You can contact the ministry’s Foreign Workforce Policy Division at +82 52 702-5089. The Ministry of Employment and Labor or the Ministry of Education may, at your request, call employers to remind them of their legal obligations. If you have exhausted all other avenues in trying to resolve a labour dispute and feel that you need to take legal action, the Embassy of Canada to Korea can provide you with a list of lawyers.
Negotiating a teaching contract
A basic contract for a teaching position should include provisions for:
- working hours;
- severance pay;
- income tax;
- medical insurance; and
- an airline ticket home.
If these items are not covered, you should negotiate until they are specifically included in the contract. Note that class sizes are not usually specified in a contract, although you may want to clarify this point. Private institutions generally have classes of 10 to 15 students, while universities may have as many as 100 students per class.
Most contracts provide for either a fixed monthly salary or a salary based on the number of hours taught. In any event, a guaranteed monthly remuneration should be specified.
The currency in Korea is the won. For the current exchange rate, visit the Bank of Canada’s Currency Converter. Traveller’s cheques are accepted at all chartered banks (eunhaeng in Korean). U.S. dollar traveller’s cheques are recommended for the best exchange rate. Foreign debit cards are only accepted in certain banks. Some major banks have ATMs with English translations that accept international client or credit cards. The amount allowed per withdrawal may be quite low, and you may have to pay a disproportionately high service fee. Most ATMs that can be used to draw money from Canadian banks offer English instructions. Major foreign credit cards (VISA, MasterCard, American Express) are widely accepted by hotels and other tourist facilities and are generally regarded as safe to use. Travellers may wish to check with their card issuer prior to travel for the latest reports of credit card fraud. Leave copies of your card numbers with a family member in Canada in case of emergency.
In keeping with Korea’s Foreign Currency Control Act, when transferring funds from Korea to Canada, you need to report and register your intention to transfer regular funds, within your salary limit, with a local bank, providing your employment certificate and proof of income (such as an income tax payment certificate). A local bank will place a stamp in your passport stating how much was transferred. If you are working in Korea and paying Korean income tax, you can transfer your entire income, based on your tax payment certificate. As a tourist, you are required to declare at customs if you are carrying more than the equivalent of US$10,000, including local currency.
Some contracts will require that you stay in the institute’s prearranged housing, whereas other contracts will require that you find your own accommodation, and others will allow you to choose whether to stay in prearranged housing or to make arrangements to find your own. However, few institutes have prearranged housing. This can be a serious problem as housing in Seoul is very expensive. In cases where you must find your own housing, most institutes should at least be able to assist you in some way and negotiate the appropriate rent and utility payments.
Housing options include:
- the key money system (yearly deposit);
- a combination of the monthly rent and key money systems;
- shared housing; and
- dormitories, lodging houses and inns.
Under the chunseh system, you give the owner of the property a lump sum deposit – anywhere from 50 percent to 100 percent of the market value – for the rented space when you move into the premises and you pay no monthly rent or a small monthly rent. At the end of the contract period, you receive the chunseh back. In return for the use of your money to earn interest during the contract period, the owner gives you back most of the deposit.
This system is well established in Korea, but it does involve risks. For example, an owner may simply decide that a foreigner is in no position to fight for the chunseh, and there have been cases where ownership of a property changed during the contract period. You can reduce the risk by having your employer agree to pay the chunseh.
The most common housing arrangement for non-Korean residents is a combination of the wolseh (monthly rent system) and the chunseh (key money system). Usually, the higher the chunseh, the lower the wolseh you will be required to pay.
This is a popular option, but you should of course be careful in choosing roommates, and each person’s financial responsibilities should be spelled out in advance.
Several universities, including Yonsei, Ewha, Seoul, Hanyang and Konkuk universities, have dormitory accommodation available. In addition, the National Research Foundation of Korea runs an International House for foreign students. Sometimes these dormitories can accommodate foreign instructors, although usually they accommodate only their own faculty.
Lodging houses (hasuk) are popular with young Koreans in college or those just starting their professional career. Single rooms include Korean-style breakfast and dinner, and sometimes laundry service. The disadvantage is the lack of privacy. Another option is to stay with a local family. This can be an excellent opportunity to experience Korean life and culture directly, but again the lack of privacy can be a disadvantage. Most instructors who live in such homestays eventually move into more private accommodation.
Finally, some teachers rent rooms in an inn (yokwan) on a monthly basis. This is similar to staying in a lodging house and costs about the same with no food provided, but it offers far less security and less privacy as well. Some yokwans accommodate dubious short-term (hourly) clients, so staying in a yokwan could put your personal safety and reputation at risk.
When housing is provided by the employer
Real-estate agents worldwide are experts at writing enticing descriptions of their properties. There are instances where the quality of accommodations falls far below the expectations of foreign language teachers.
Given that employment contracts, in accordance with Korean culture, are often viewed as intent to enter into a long-term relationship, it is not always wise to insist on Western-style accommodations upon arrival. It is also important to remember that real-estate prices are generally higher in Korea than in Canada. Modest accommodations may be very expensive.
Most institutes require foreign instructors to teach five to six hours a day, Monday through Friday, not necessarily consecutively. Some institutes ask instructors to teach on Saturday mornings as well. University departments usually require instructors to teach 10 to 15 hours a week and to participate in student activities and in the editing of school newspapers. Research institutes usually require instructors to work 40 hours a week and do occasional overtime without compensation.
Canadian government offices in Korea receive many questions and complaints about severance pay (taechikum) issues. It is important to make sure that your contract contains a clear statement about severance pay, even if your employer is reluctant. By Korean law, all full-time instructors (if you have an employment visa, you are considered full-time), whether Korean or foreign, are entitled to receive severance pay equivalent to one month’s salary for each year of employment. Employers cannot ask you to waive this right, nor can they evade it by employing you on an 11-month contract.
The Ministry of Employment and Labor has jurisdiction over matters of severance pay. You can reach the Worker’s Welfare Division at +82 (52) 702-5089. The general number for the Ministry of Labor is 1350 or +82 52 702-5089. The Ministry of Employment and Labor or the Ministry of Education may, at your request, call employers to remind them of their legal obligations. If you have exhausted all other avenues in trying to obtain severance pay and feel that you need to take legal action, the Embassy of Canada to Korea can provide you with a list of lawyers.
Severance pay rights are covered by the Labor Standards Act of the Korean legal code. English-language translations of the code are available at the Kyobo Bookstore, located near the U.S. embassy. The key provisions of the Labor Standards Act relating to severance pay include:
- Article 34 (Retirement Allowance System): With regard to the system of retirement benefits paid by employers to retiring workers, conditions prescribed by the Employee Retirement Benefit Security Act shall apply.
- Article 6 (Equal Treatment): No employer shall discriminate against workers on the basis of gender, or discriminate with regard to treatment in relation to working conditions on the basis of nationality, religion or social status.
- Article 11 (Scope of Application): (1) This Act shall apply to all businesses or workplaces in which five or more workers are ordinarily employed. This Act, however, shall not apply to any business or workplace which employs only relatives living together and to a worker who is hired for domestic work. (2) With respect to businesses or workplaces which ordinarily employ fewer than five workers, only part of the provisions of this Act may be made applicable as prescribed by the Presidential Decree.
When there is a dispute with your employer over your salary or severance pay, you should contact the local labour office. The list of regional labour offices is available on the Ministry of Employment and Labor website. A labour law counselling service is available from Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. at 1350 (ext.4) or +82 52 702-5089 (ext.4).
You may also wish to contact the following offices for legal advice:
Seoul Bar Association
Legal Center for Foreign Workers
Lawyers Association Building, 1st Floor, 1718-1 Seocho-dong
Tel.: +82 02 6200-6200 (English-speaking consultants are available on Mondays from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.)
Foreign Workers’ Council
95 Bomun-dong 5-ga Sungbuk-gu, Seoul
Tel.: +82 02 924-2721/2
Website: www.nodongsamok.co.kr (in Korean only)
Korea Legal Aid Corporation
26, hyeoksin 2-ro, Gimcheon-si, Gyeongsangbuk-do, Seoul
Tel.: +82 54 810-0132
You can get information on small claims action on the website of the Supreme Court of Korea.
Income tax is another common cause for complaints to Canadian government offices in Korea. Most foreign employees are required to pay Korean income tax, which is generally withheld from an employee’s salary and paid by the employer. The Korean income tax rate is 5 to 10 percent.
If you fail to pay taxes on all income earned and get caught, you will be fined and you won’t be able to leave Korea until you have paid the required amount. If you do not have sufficient funds, immigration authorities will insist that you arrange for money to be sent from Canada.
For guidance on taxation matters, you may contact the Korean Tax Office in Seoul. The office publishes a free English-language income tax guide for foreigners in April of each year. This publication is available on the Korean National Tax Service website or at any tax office.
The Korean tax year runs from January 1 to December 31. It is your employer’s responsibility to do a year-end tax settlement every January. If your employer does not file the appropriate tax forms, you may be penalized for failing to file. If you believe that your employer is not complying with national tax laws and is illegally withholding income tax from your salary, your first step should be to discuss the matter with your employer. If that does not settle the matter, you should contact the International Taxation Division of the Korean Tax Office in Seoul at +82-1588-0560, or the nearest tax office. If the problem is still unresolved, you may wish to consider contacting a lawyer.
Depending on the length of your stay in Korea, you may or may not be liable for payment of Canadian income tax on income earned in Korea. Before leaving Canada, contact the nearest Canada Revenue Agency office to determine your residency status with regard to Canadian income tax.
In principle, foreign instructors are entitled to Korean medical insurance through their employer. You should clarify this when you accept an offer of employment. It is important that you know and understand the nature and scope of coverage. While medical care in Korea is generally good and not as expensive as in Canada, it can still become quite costly. If you do not get insurance through your employer, you can get public health insurance on an individual basis, but only if you hold a residence permit.
If you purchase private health insurance, whether from an overseas or domestic company, it is important to note that most medical practitioners and hospitals will not bill your insurer directly. They usually ask for payment before treatment, and patients have to settle for reimbursement with the insurer later on.
It is therefore very important to make sure that you have insurance and/or funds available in case you need medical attention. The Embassy of Canada to Korea maintains a list of English-speaking medical and dental care providers in Korea.
For further information, visit the National Health Insurance Service website.
When you leave Korea, you may be entitled to receive a refund of both your contribution and your employer’s contributions to Korea’s National Pension Scheme if you:
- are a Canadian or Korean citizen; and
- have contributed to the Korean National Pension Scheme for less than 10 years.
The documentation required for a refund application is as follows:
- your passport;
- your alien registration;
- a copy of your bank statement (Korean or Canadian); and
- an airline ticket showing your departure date.
Your employer will also have to report the termination of the contract to the Korean National Pension Service (NPS) upon your departure from the country. The NPS will deposit the refund in your bank account after it confirms your departure.
If you are a Canadian citizen and are eligible for a lump sum refund, you will only be refunded contributions made on or after May 1, 1999, when the Agreement on Social Security between Canada and Korea became effective. This lump sum benefit must be claimed within five years from the date you became eligible. It is important to note that you will not be entitled to receive a pension from Korea if your contributions are refunded.
If you do not apply for a refund of your pension contributions, the provisions of the social security agreement can help you receive a Korean retirement pension if you:
- contributed to the Korean National Pension Scheme for more than one year;
- contributed to the Canada Pension Plan after 1988; and
- contributed to both the Canada Pension Plan and the Korean National Pension Scheme for a total of at least 10 years.
The period of time in which you participated in the Canada Pension Plan will be counted toward the Korean eligibility requirement of 10 years.
More information on the Social Security Agreement is available on Korea’s National Pension Service website. For additional information, visit the Service Canada website.
Some institutes will provide you with a ticket home on completion of your contract and will also promise to reimburse your costs for the trip to Korea. You should be aware that sometimes this commitment is not honoured.
There are many different types of people teaching English in Korea. Some are professionally trained, with degrees in TESOL; some hold postgraduate degrees in other disciplines and teach in Korea because they want to experience another culture; some teach English while doing other work, such as research; some teach English while looking for other jobs; and some are merely passing through.
Most of these people bring their own unique expectations to their jobs, as well as their own individual reactions to the circumstances in which they find themselves. Some expect to be treated professionally and are shocked when they are not. Some expect to make a lot of money but later realize that they are actually earning about the same as a unionized bus driver in Seoul. Some expect to receive a large Western-style house and are disappointed to find themselves living in very modest accommodations. Being aware of cultural differences before you start employment as a teacher in Korea will help you prepare for any challenges you may encounter.
The status of foreigners in Korea
Being accepted into an individual’s family circle, making friends and bonding with colleagues can be challenging in Korea. It may take some patience and effort to overcome cultural barriers and form close relationships. Nevertheless, most foreigners have found that Koreans can be quite warm and friendly.
The status of teachers in Korea
Most teachers in Korea, including TESOL teachers, are treated with great respect by their students, and it’s important for teachers to exhibit the personal qualities and behaviour that will maintain that respect. A foreign teacher who acts disrespectfully will be regarded with great disdain by most Koreans, and runs the risk of getting into serious trouble with his or her employer and with Korean immigration authorities. As a foreigner residing in Korea, your appearance, language and mannerisms are very noticeable: it may seem that everyone around you is watching what you do with great interest. Always remember that Korean society is much more conservative in many ways than North American society; you should try to be sensitive to cultural norms and expectations.
Female teachers in Korea
Korea is culturally very different from Canada. Some female Canadian teachers have commented that their working conditions are not as favourable as those of their male counterparts. Sexual harassment is not the norm, but it does happen, and women should keep this in mind when deciding whether or not to work in Korea.
There have been cases of sexual assaults against Canadians and other foreigners. Victims have reported being robbed and sexually assaulted. Canadian female teachers should remain cautious and try to share accommodation whenever possible. For more information and advice, see the publication Her Own Way: A Woman’s Safe-Travel Guide.
If you are the victim of sexual assault, you should immediately seek the assistance of the nearest medical and police authorities and inform the Canadian embassy. Canadian consular officials can:
- assist in reporting the crime to the police;
- provide support and assistance in relation to the emotional, social, medical and legal consequences of the assault;
- assist in contacting relatives or friends;
- put you in contact with counselling services locally or in Canada;
- assist in meeting your basic safety needs; and
- request that local authorities conduct a proper investigation and lay charges if the assailant is identified.
For further information on this matter, see our FAQ on sexual assault.
Korea is a more hierarchical society than Canada. Employees are not expected to question decisions made by their employers or to challenge their authority, especially in the presence of others. When discussing issues that might become difficult, it is usually more effective to do so in a private setting and not lose your temper, raise your voice or use disrespectful language.
Both the language and social customs of Korea are subtle and indirect. Many things are understood rather than stated. Of course, foreigners are often at a loss. It is important that you understand what is expected and required, and that any misunderstanding be resolved immediately. Otherwise, problems may develop.
When first arriving in a country, we are usually excited and eager for new experiences. After a while, the novelty wears off and homesickness begins. Do not be too hard on yourself; it happens to everyone. “I will never understand this place.” “I want some real food... some real friends... a real apartment.” “Why do Koreans do this or that?”
It is usually just a matter of time. As you continue to cope with the realities of living in Korea, you will begin to understand things that used to annoy you. Life will become enjoyable enough that you will no longer care about the inconveniences. You will suddenly find that you like kimchi; you will realize that your students are interesting people and that helping them to improve their English just adds to that interest; you will begin to understand your friends who want to show you the Korea beyond the expatriate community; you will begin to try to learn some Korean language and use it.
For more information on culture shock and how to cope with living in a foreign country, consult our page on culture shock.
There are numerous ways in which Canadian government offices can help you when you are abroad. However, there are also limitations as to what they can do for you.
For instance, consular officials can:
- assist you with notarial services;
- assist you with the replacement of a lost, stolen, damaged or expired passport;
- provide you with a list of local lawyers; and
- provide you with a list of telephone numbers of various Korean government agencies.
However, consular officials cannot:
- provide you with legal advice or recommend any specific lawyer;
- obtain a criminal record check on your behalf;
- acquire local permits or licences on your behalf, including foreign visas or work permits;
- investigate, certify or vouch for perspective employers; or
- help you find accommodation.
A more complete list of consular services is available at About consular services.
We encourage all Canadian citizens in Korea to sign up with the Registration of Canadians Abroad service. Registration allows the Government of Canada to contact you in an emergency abroad or in Canada. Registration is voluntary, and the information you provide is protected and used in accordance with the provisions of the Privacy Act. Canadians may also register at the Embassy of Canada.
If you have any further questions about visiting Korea, please contact Consular Services at 1-800-267-6788 (in Canada) or 613-944-6788.
Once you have arrived in Korea, it is a good idea to subscribe to one of the local English newspapers, such as The Korea Herald, The Korea Times or Korea JoongAng Daily (distributed with the International Herald Tribune). They are published six times a week and cost from 20,000 to 26,000 won a month. They are also available at most street newsstands in Seoul. Outside Seoul, they are generally available only by subscription. You can contact the Korea Herald at +82 02 727-0114, Korea Times at +82 02 724-2715 or JoongAng Daily/International Herald Tribune at 00798-8521-6295. Overseas subscriptions are also available.
The Korean Yellow Pages and other directories
The Korean Yellow Pages is a very useful English-language telephone directory available for sale at most of the larger bookstores, along with other business directories. The U.S. Embassy Foreign Commercial Service and the American Chamber of Commerce in Korea jointly publish a Korean business directory. All these directories contain a wealth of information, including the addresses and telephone numbers of universities and Korean government offices. The National Research Foundation of Korea produces a pamphlet on studying in Korea; it contains information on all the universities in the country.
Korea TESOL (KOTESOL)
KOTESOL is a non-profit organization established to promote scholarship, distribute information and facilitate cross-cultural understanding among English teachers in Korea. It is a good source of up-to-date information on teaching in Korea. KOTESOL’s national executive supports teacher training and development through special interest groups, academic publications and research grants. The annual international conference each October, attended by over 800 people, is an opportunity to meet some of the best authors, teachers and researchers from around the world.
KOTESOL has active chapters in Seoul, Suwon, Cheongju, Gangneung, Daejeon, Jeonju, Gwangju, Daegu and Busan. Chapters hold monthly workshops and sponsor educational activities in their area. Dates, times and locations can be found on the chapter pages of the national website. For further information, contact:
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