I came to South Korea in the early 1990’s when the country was still in the rigors of its “developing nation” status. ‘English Language Studies’ was just being introduced in the public school sector of Korea’s changing educational system. And there were lots of teaching opportunities for anyone adventurous enough to come to this “Land of the Morning Calm” with its temples and mountains, exotic foods, and burgeoning industries that are all part and parcel of the country today.
These days, if you want to teach English in Korea, there are interesting opportunities for those who enjoy traveling and learning about new cultures, or even those who are just willing “to go.”
Today, Korea is recognized as a ‘developed’ nation, a member of the OECD group of ‘advanced’ countries, with the world’s 11th largest economy. Living in Korea gives a traveler a chance to not only enjoy the ‘conveniences’ of life but to grow a well-rounded view of the country’s diversity, from the ultra-modern mega-city of Seoul to the agricultural way-of-life in the countryside to the fishing-village lifestyle in the thousands of islands that harbor the peninsula’s coastlines.
Teaching English in Korea can be very rewarding, as it not only hands you a paycheck, but allows for plenty of free time to explore the land and see a part of the world most people have never seen before. And traveling around in today’s Korea is not difficult, as public transportation is plentiful, clean, inexpensive, safe and expedient. (It’s usually right on schedule – and signage is often written in Korean, English, Chinese and Japanese for the traveler’s convenience).
Living in Korea can be expensive, that is true! But with ingenuity, some exploring and a little ‘networking’ (there are numerous organizations, groups and chat lines that offer help to newcomers to the country), a person can quickly learn to get by comfortably.
You can eat cheaply at the many street market stalls that serve-up delicious bowls of noodles, rice dishes, batter-fried vegetables with pork and poultry, and a stewing of soups beyond imagination. Shopping can also be ‘cheap’ as there are multitudes of ‘everyday’ shops lining the streets around the ‘traditional markets’ in every city and town in the country. Housing in the very swank neighborhoods can be expensive, too, but it’s not unusual to find a small efficiency apartment for as little as 400-500 U.S. dollars a month (NOTE: Most teaching positions in Korea come with a small apartment as part of the one-year contracts that most institutions, schools and universities are required to offer by law).
Korea is a unique place for sure. And because of its central location, it’s easy to quickly jump over to other Asian countries too; it’s just a one-hour flight to Japan, one-and-a-half hours to Shanghai and Beijing, four hours to Hong Kong, and about five hours to Bangkok or Singapore.
As I mentioned, I came to Korea in the early 1990s and I am still here in 2014. Teaching in this country has given me many opportunities to see, to learn and to travel.
[Editor’s Note: If you want a way to use a skill you already have to fund a life abroad, Teaching English may be right for you. To learn more about how you can get started—in multiple locations around the globe—check out International Living’s Teach English program.)
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