The Korean Hogwan

Before embarking on a career as an ESL teacher in South Korea, you will have to make one decision: EPIK or Hogwan?

A Hogwan is the name of a private academy in South Korea. Thousands of Hogwans are located throughout the country and offer all types of learning! From piano lessons to English conversation classes, from soccer academies to conversational Japanese. They cater to all ages, even from as young as one years old.

Every year thousands of companies hire native English speakers to work in these education centers. Working hours can vary from job to job, but can start from as early as 6am and finish as late as 1am. (Recent laws have made this less likely).


It is important to note that every Hogwan is different and they should not be mistaken for a Korea public school (EPIK).

It is recommended to use a recruiter when applying for jobs at a Hogwan because at least if something goes wrong you have a second point of contact.  But be warned – you should never ever pay a recruiter for this service.

Below is a brief list of the benefits and negatives of a typical Hogwan:

Pros

Salary

Generally, Hogwans pay well. A starting salary normally varies between 2.1 and 2.3 million Korean Won, depending on qualifications and experience.

Free Accommodation

The majority of Hogwans also provide free accommodation and free school meals, which cut your costs each month and allow you to save more of your money.

Severance Pay

The completion of a one year contract normally means the employer will give the employee severance pay, which is equal to a full month’s salary.

Flights

Almost every Hogwan will provide you with a free one-way flight to Korea. Many also offer a return ticket upon completion of the contract, but unfortunately, this is becoming less common over time.

Paid Vacation

By Korean law, Hogwans are obligated to provide their employees with 2 weeks paid vacation a year. Most allow one week off in July (summer vacation) and one in December (winter vacation).

Unfortunately, like with everything, there are also some negatives to working in Hagwon…

Cons

Parents

The students’ parents have too much involvement in most Hogwans. They can be very generous with gifts on special occasions, but equally as critical and moany every other day of the year. Ultimately they are paying a lot of money for their kids to attend school, so as annoying as it is, I can see why they hold so much power.

Closure

Many potential teachers fear that the school they are applying to will close down. This is not common, but unfortunately not a rare thing to happen either. Hogwans are ultimately businesses, so when they are not profitable or the owner has had enough, they can be closed down just as easily as your local corner shop. In most circumstances though, the Hogwans are bought out by investors who keep the current teachers employed.

Money First

As I just mentioned, Hogwans are businesses and money comes first. Sometimes the decisions by management and staff are not made in the best interest of the children or the teachers, but due to a financial means.

Before accepting a job at a Hogwan in Korea it is important to weigh both the pros and the cons. Do your research on that Hogwan and try to contact current teachers if possible!

Check out the A-Z Guide to Teaching English in South Korea:

#TRAVEL – SOUTH KOREA: THE DMZ

The North Korean way of life is perceived negatively throughout most of the western world, but many of us are equally fascinated by it. North Korea is located north of South Korea (SHOCK); the two countries have been separated since the 1950’s, and now a 150 mile long & 2 1/2 mile wide barrier runs between them. This barrier is known as the DMZ or the Demilitarized Zone.

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Anybody visiting or living in South Korea (it’s highly unlikely you’ll see many South Koreans there though) can visit the DMZ as part of a tour. The majority of the tours depart from Seoul and most companies offer both morning and afternoon options.

When I visited in 2015, I used a company called VIP Tours. They were very helpful and provided a great service. I’d recommend them!

You can check them out here VIP TRAVEL

VIP Tours and most other DMZ Tour operators offer several different options, two of the most popular being:

1) DMZ TOUR

The cheapest and most common option allows you to visit several interesting places –

The Bridge of Freedom – A park full of statues and monuments, built to console the families of both the North and South Korean people.

Dora Observatory – From here you can look into North Korea. On a clear day, it’s very impressive.

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Dorasan Station – A brand new railway station built to connect South Korea and North Korea. However, in 2008 the North Korean government stopped the service accusing South Korean government of a confrontational policy. So now it stands empty.

DMZ Theater & Exhibition Hall – Full of artifacts and information on the Korean war and the DMZ itself.

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The Third Infiltration Tunnel – My favourite part of the tour! In 1978 a tunnel was uncovered. The tunnel was built by North Koreans trying to pass under the border. The tour allows you to travel deep underground and see for yourself.

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2) DMZ & JSA TOUR

The second option allows you to visit all of the above AND the JSA or the Joint Security Area. The JSA is where North and South Koreans discuss diplomatic engagements and negotiate.  This option does cost a bit more and require a but more time, but a good experience for those who are interested.

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If you are interested in the Korean war and/or are curious about mysterious North Korea, or maybe you just have some time to kill in Seoul, I’d definitely recommend checking this tour out!

If you’re going to South Korea, make sure you take your guide to ensure you don’t miss anything –

26 Reasons to Teach in South Korea

South Korea is an exciting country, and teaching there can be one of the best decisions you ever make.

Here are 26 reasons why –

1 – Live Abroad

Living abroad has limitless benefits on both yourself and your CV.

2 – Teaching Experience

Whether you want to become a teacher in the future or whether you’re deciding if teaching would be right for you. What a excellent way to get some experience!

3 – Save Money

In comparison to the cost of living, the salary in Korea is quite high. It isn’t difficult to live well and send home around $1000 a month.

4 – Learn a language

Who doesn’t want to learn a new language? Spoken Korean might take some time and effort to master, but the alphabet system; Hangul is very easy!

5 – Make friends for life

This is cheesy but true. Whether you live, work or party with your friends, you’ll create a unique bond that’ll last for life.

6 – Technology

Technology in Korea is super advanced. The WiFi is one of the fastest in the world.

7 – Dating

Don’t come to teach English in Korea for this reason alone, but the different dating cultures can be quite fun to experience.

8 – Transportation

Korea’s transportation system is nothing short of brilliant. It’s effective and very cheap.

9 – Develop your teaching skills

Whether you teach in a public or private school, it’s sure to open your mind to different teaching methods and help you develop your teaching skills.

10 – Islands

Korea isn’t Thailand, but it does possess numerous stunning islands! Jeju, Geoje and Namhae to name a few.

11 – Mountains

One of my favorite things about Korea are the mountains. They are plentiful and dramatic. Seoraksan, Bukhansan and Taebaeksan are among some of the best.

12 – Beaches

It may surprise you, but South Korea isn’t short of beautiful sands.

13 – Food

I could write a post alone on this! One of the best things about living in South Korea is having countless delicious food easily at your fingertips.

14 – K Pop

I’m not going to pretend to know what I’m talking about here, but I heard it’s huge!

15 – Jimjilbang (찜질방)

Don’t be shy, get naked in a Jimjilbang and give it a try!

16 – Noraebang (노래방)

I’ve never been much of a singer, but these private Karaoke rooms can be barrels of fun.

17 – Seoul

Seoul is a vast concrete jungle surrounded by mountains. It has a variety of different areas that suit all types of people. The city also boasts a pretty impressive subway system that will get you to anywhere you need to go!

18 – Palaces

Korea may not be the first country that comes to mind when you think of palaces & pagodas, but they have some good’uns!

19 – Culture

Experiencing a new culture should always make your list when deciding to live abroad.

20 – Paid accommodation

All teaching jobs in Korea provide free accommodation.

21 – Paid flights

Most teaching jobs in Korea pay for at least a flight to the country. Many pay for a round trip.

22 -Travel Around South Korea

On your weekend or during vacation, travel around South Korea, there are many things to see and do!

23 – Travel Outside of Korea

Geographically, South Korea is positioned in a fantastic location. Take advantage of this and travel to nearby countries in your spare time. China and Japan are both only one hour away!

24 – North Korea

Many people view this as a reason not to go, but on the contrary, go visit the DMZ and learn about the sad, but fascinating, North and South divide.

25 – Safety

South Korea is one of the safest countries in the world.

26 – Nightlife

Drinking culture is massive in Korea. After a hard weeks work, grab some soju, unwind with your friends and hit some of the numerous party spots. In Seoul; Gangnam, Hongdae and Itaewon are 3 of the top locations.

I hope you enjoyed my list.  If there is anything you think I’ve missed,  please comment let me know below!

I tried (and failed) to learn Korean. However, I do recommend this book. Maybe you’ll do better than I did?

Visa Guide: Korea

Getting Your Work Visa in Korea

South Korea has one of the most complex and time-consuming Visa processes of all the countries I’ve been to. The amount of paperwork involved is intense and unlike most countries, you really need to begin the process of collecting documents long before you’ve actually secured a job. Further, while most countries process these applications at their foreign consulates, your documents will actually need to be sent to Korea before you can proceed. Let’s start with the basics—here’s what you’ll need to collect:

  • Three sealed copies of your University transcripts
  • Notarized copies of your degrees
  • Two copies of an FBI Criminal Background Check—depending on where you live, this can be quite a hassle. In order to obtain the correct check, you need to supply them with fingerprint cards. Getting your fingerprints taken in the past meant walking into any police station, but these days finding one that still does it (or even better—does it for free) can be hard to do. For the process on ordering or to print out fingerprint cards, go to https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/identity-history-summary-checks/identity-history-summary-checks . This one has to be timed correctly as well—these checks often take up to 3 months to get back to you and they need to be less than 6 months old to be valid.
  • Signed Health Statement—this will likely be provided by your school or recruiter.
  • Resume with at least 2 letters of recommendation
  • Copy of your Passport Information page
  • 5 Passport-sized Photos
  • A signed copy of your new school contract.

So far this seems pretty standard, right? Well, here’s where it gets complicated. You’ll now need to take your notarized degree copies & FBI Check and have them apostilled. For those of you who are completely unfamiliar with this process, welcome to the club. It’s a needlessly complicated and expensive way to basically notarize the notary—double-confirm that the document is real. In the US, each state has a designated office that can issue apostilles, each with their own fee ranging from $0 – $35 per document. You’ll need to send your degrees to the office of the state they were notarized in. Occasionally, you’ll be asked to send them to the state they were issued in instead—make sure you clarify this with your recruiter or school before sending your documents.

Your background check will need to be apostilled at the federal level, so you’ll need this form (http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/183033.pdf ) and will send your documents to the Department of State.

For those not in the US, apostilles may be obtained from:

Okay, so now you’ve spent a few hundred bucks and wasted hours waiting for the mail to arrive, but you’ve finally collected all your papers. Now, you’ll need to send them to your school or recruiter in Korea. They’ll then file for your visa issuance number and send the required documents back to you. Now, you’ll need to collect the documents you’ll need at the consulate:

  • Passport
  • E2 Visa Application form (obtainable from the consulate or online)
  • Consulate’s Checklist (obtainable from the consulate or online)
  • Passport Photo
  • One set of sealed university transcripts
  • Visa Issuance Number

The final step in the process, after your documents have been reviewed, is an interview with the consulate which can be scheduled via telephone, although most require you to appear in person for the actual appointment. They’ll mostly just ask about your employment, your housing, your long-term plan, and your medical record/vaccinations—all pretty basic.

You then need to wait for your passport to arrive with your newly minted Korean Work Visa, and once it arrives you’ll be on your way!

-Ashley

EPIK

This post is the second part to – http://tefltravelling.com/2016/01/26/the-korean-hogwan/

EPIK (English Program in Korea) is a program set up to help students learn English throughout the country. EPIK has been in existence since 1995 and has been used by thousands of teachers and students. Run by the Korean government, it is operated in public schools located all over Korea, catering to both elementary and high school.

EPIK should not be mistaken for the Korean private school system: The Hogwan.

Many ESL teachers choose to teach with EPIK for wide varieties of reasons that are briefly listed below:

Pros

Housing

All EPIK program jobs come with free housing; however, utilities are not included. Accommodation is usually standard but fine for its purpose.

Free Flights

EPIK provide an entrance allowance for teachers to purchase airfare to Korea (this is reimbursed during your first month). Upon competition of the contract, EPIK will also provide an allowance for teachers to purchase a flight to leave the country.

Paid Vacation

EPIK allow teachers 18 days paid vacation in addition to the 13 – 15 national Korean holidays. Vacation days can be used during the summer and winter breaks.

Regular Hours

In my personal opinion, one of the main differences between an EPIK and a Hogwan are the working hours. All EPIK schools run between 8/9.30 – 4/5.30, 22 hours of which is teaching time. Hogwans can start and finish at a wide variety of times and teaching hours drastically change between each one.

No Parent Involvement

Another HUGE benefit of EPIK over the Hogwan system is the lack of parental involvement. In many Hogwans parents basically run the show, which is not how a place of education should be run. In most cases, EPIK schools are run by professionals and people with experience.

Bonus

After a year at EPIK you will most likely be offered the chance to re-sign your contract, for which you will be given a re-signing bonus. It is also worth mentioning that for each year you stay at an EPIK school your salary will increase.

Training

Being an EPIK teacher requires you to participate in an EPIK training program.  This can be great for those with little experience or those looking to create a social circle within Korea.

Cons

VISA Process

The VISA process to work in Korea normally takes time and can be quite costly. In addition to the usual documents required for the E2 visa, EPIK candidates also need to provide 2 letters of reference.

Application Intake

A job at a Hogwan can be found all year round but this is not the case at EPIK. February and August are EPIKS two main recruitment periods; they need to have teachers in the country before the semester starts so they can complete the EPIK training programs.

Located Anywhere

You can be placed anywhere. EPIK places teachers not only anywhere in Seoul, but anywhere in the country. However, couples that apply together will stay together.

Training

EPIK training can also be a con because you can fail it.  Also, you won’t necessarily find out your location until after training and they are sorting you onto buses.

It is clear that the pros of working at an EPIK school dramatically outweigh the cons. Many argue that there is simply no contest between the Hogwan and EPIK.

Whether you chose to work for a Hogwan or use EPIK, it is always recommended that you use a good recruiter with a great reputation.

-Liam