To the students who made my year

My last day of teaching was bittersweet. I was excited for S.E. Asia trip coming up, but sad to leave my students, knowing that I’d likely never see them again. 

Chan Ho is incredibly bright and even more kind.

One student, Chan Ho, was getting so excited to tell me something that he began to stutter. He couldn’t think of the English. Then finally he stops and says in a very serious tone, “Sarah Teacher, you are the Best English Teacher.” he pauses for dramatic effect, “Of..My…Life.” “Thank you, Chan Ho.”

Collecting your pension

One thing I did not mention in my first two posts about applying for a job in Korea is that my job includes a pension plan. The pension is on top of the salary, severance pay, round-trip airfare, health insurance and furnished apartment. Not bad, eh?

The pension is called a lump-sum pension refund. If you qualify, a small amount of money is taken out of your paycheck each month and matched by your employer. Unfortunately, my British and Kiwi coworkers pay into the pension yet do not qualify to receive the pension at the end of their contracts, yet Americans and Canadians can expect to receive their lump-sum pension refund four to five weeks after ending their contract.


That is what 9 million won looks like in 50,000 won notes. Not too shabby.
That is what 9 million won looks like in 50,000 won notes. Not too shabby.

My pension is meant to be around 1.6 million won (or $1,550)** after working in Korea for 12 months. For me, the best part about this money is that it was an added “savings” account for me. While in Korea I was able to save about 59% of my paycheck, this is added savings that I did not have to account for.

Collecting your lump-sum pension refund in Daegu is easy. The woman in the office in Daegu speaks English. Some male foreign teachers have tried to snag her number; she is good looking, too. I recommend visiting the office four weeks before you fly out of Korea to give you time in case you’re missing documents.

It is an easy trip to the National Pension Service Office.

Be sure to bring:

  • Passport (original)
  • Alien Registration Card
  • Flight ticket (should be within one month of departure date)
  • If you want your money transferred into your KEB account, bring your KEB bank account passbook
  • If you want the money transferred into your home country’s bank account, bring the following information: bank’s address, phone number, account number, routing number, and a copy of a bank statement.

Where’s the National Pension office in Daegu? 
Beomeo Station (범어역), on the green line. The LIG building is between exit 1 and 4. It is a huge building, you cannot miss it.  The office is on the 11th floor.
If you want to be lazy and take a taxi (you are about to get 1.5 million won, so you can afford to splurge) Tell the taxi: 범어역 출구 1번으로 가주세요 – (Boh-Moh-Yuck-Chool-Goo-Eel-Bohn-Euh-Roh-Gah-Choo-Say-Yoh)

Phone: (053) 750-9180
Address: 11th Floor, LIG Bldg., 712 Dalgubeol-daero, Suseong-gu, Daegu


** UPDATE: In Mid-November 2015, $1,900 USD was deposited into my Bank of America account.

Why Korea? FAQ: teaching in Korea

Q: Why Korea? 

A: There’s a long list of reasons but here are the three most important.
1. I wanted to live abroad again.
2. I wanted to visit Asia, so why not move there?
3. Teaching is a great way to live abroad and make money. In college, I enjoyed doing ESL volunteer so work, so I had hoped that I would  enjoy teaching.
I wanted to go, and I wanted to go now. Not February and not next August. I wanted to leave as soon as possible. Thankfully, applying for a teaching job in Korea is relatively simple and quick.
Korea is a small country which for me meant I was less intimidated. South Korea seems less scary than let’s say China. In one year, I can likely visit nearly all over the country. South Korea is only 39,000 square miles yet is home to more than 50 million people. That’s roughly the same size as the state of Indiana with the population of California and New York combined.
From my limited knowledge and research, each public and private school in Korea hires a native English speaker. Koreans have put a huge emphasis on education, especially English education, which means there is a huge need for native English speakers as English teachers. That’s where I come in.
Q: What do you need to be hired as an English teacher in Korea? 
A: 1) Be a Native English Speaker
2) Hold a Bachelor’s Degree – doesn’t matter if you studied micro-biology as a once thought pre-med candidate or walked away with a four-year hangover and a liberal arts degree.
Q: How long are you going for? 
A: One year. I signed a contract for October 2013 to October 2014.
Q: Can you get out of your contract? 
A: Yes. there are a few ways to leave:
1) Midnight Run. This is exactly what it sounds like. Pack up your things quickly and quietly and leave. This will cost you – a plane ticket home and a poor reputation in Korea and the ESL community.
2) Your school breaks the contract; thus, they owe you a plane ticket home.
3) You break your contract, and you could owe them the cost of a round-trip ticket.
Good news is the school wants you to stay, and they want to enjoy the stay. It’s the school’s job as well as the recruiter’s job to help you and guide you. They want you to tell  your native English speaking friends positive things about the school and the experience so they, too, want to teach English in Korea.
Q: What’s a recruiter? 
A: A korean recruiter is similar to headhunter. It is their job to hire native English teachers. The recruiter conducts the initial communication (emails you to set up interview, conducts the interview, passes along your information to the school and sets up an interview with the school). Once a school wants to hire you, your recruiter will send you an official job offer from a school along with a job contract. You will conduct all communication with your recruiter – that’s their job.
I ended up using Solon ESL Networks and I have only good things to say about my recruiter, MiHye. Feel free to contact me if you have any specific questions.
Q: Did you get hired by a private or a public school?
A: A private academy. (Called a Hagwon in Korean).
Q: What’s the difference?
A: I am NO expert, but from what I understand, a public school is similar to what we call school in America and runs  from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Public school jobs offer more days off with less pay, so depending on your priorities, a public school is a great option.
A private school/academy (Hagwon) is typically held in the afternoon/evening. My working hours will be 3:30-10:30 p.m. My students will go to school in the morning, and then come see me in the evening. The upside of a private academy is that they pay more while offering two weeks vacation. The internet and TESL blogs will warn you that Korean private academies are more likely to breach contract and possibly screw you over (they could not pay you the agreed amount, not pay you on time or fire you during the last 60 days to avoid paying for your return flight).
Q: Why would you accept a job at a private school after the warnings?
A: Back to what I said at the beginning, I wanted to go as soon as possible and private academies hire year-round. While public schools typically hire twice a year in August/September and again in February.
Secondly, not all hagwons are bad.
Q: But how do you know the school you choose will abide by their contract? 
A: A high school friend was working at the school I was hired at. He had had a positive experience and recommended the academy. The school director is kind, they pay on time, and things are great, according to him.