Question from a reader: Pros and cons of coming to Korea

A reader writes in:

I hope you don’t mind me emailing you? I came across your blog whilst surfing online and would appreciate any advice from you with regard to teaching English in South Korea.

I’m South African and would be coming across in March 2010, I’ve been offered work in the province Chungcheongnamdo School District, can you please tell me more about it?

As you can imagine I’m a bit nervous as this is my first time working abroad in a foreign country so I’d like a bit more information i.e. advantages/disadvantages/pro’s/con’s with working and living in South Korea.

Any advice would be so much appreciated.

As far as accepting work in Korea, take a look at where Chungcheongnamdo is (the light green province):

Depending on where you are in the province, you may be somewhat far away from major cities, but that can be both a plus or minus. Chungcheongnam-do does have a few subway stations on line 1 that connect to Cheonan and terminate at Sinchang; Daejeon is connected to Seoul via KTX, which takes only an hour to traverse the distance between the two cities.

As for pros and cons, that's the sort of list you'd have to sit down and make for yourself, based on your own research and feelings. There are plenty of reasons to come to Korea, or to try your luck with another country as I've recently written about. My personal pros and cons list is below - again, make your own.

  • Relatively nice standard of living, even higher than in the US in some areas
  • Easy-to-use public transportation
  • Relatively clean and comfortable lifestyle
  • Plenty of places to travel / plenty of things to do (even after 19 months of seeing one new place a week, there's plenty more to go).
  • Plenty of community if you know where to look
  • Some discrimination against foreigners
  • Getting more difficult to find a quality job
  • Very few career options - you need to break out of teaching unless you like making the same salary with little chance of raises
  • The language barrier can limit contact with the locals
Basically, the decision comes down to whether you WANT to move (choice, perceived lifestyle improvement, etc) or NEED to move (have to find a job or place to live). If you NEED to move, Korea probably isn't for you - it can be too unpredictable at times.

If you WANT to move, proceed to step 2 - what do you WANT to do? There are teaching jobs of all age levels and all over the country - some are just a little harder to get. In general, teaching kids is the easiest job to get, but teaching adults is also a job that's easier to get. Teaching at university is far more competitive and usually requires a Master's degree.

Later on, move to step 3 - review your personal reasons to traveling / wanting to leave your home country. Do you just want to do it for a year? Do you have responsibilities to take care while away from home (bills to pay, houses / cars to take care)? What might you get into after the first year?

Since you've already been offered a job, I'd be inclined to learn more about the job, and accept it if it's what you're looking for. What are the hours like? How much is the salary? What other responsibilities will you have outside of teaching? Bear in mind that other jobs will be available - and you have plenty of time to find them. Good luck.

If you have a question of your own, write to me at chrisinsouthkorea AT gmail DOT com.

Readers, what are your pros and cons of living in Korea?

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