Question from a reader: the whole enchilada

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A reader writes in from Thailand:

I’ve been reading Brian’s blog and came across yours. Tell me the truth, are all the horror stories over blown? Am I going to have a good decent employer in Korea and a nice place to live and a rewarding job?

I’ve been teaching uni in [city redacted] Thailand for five years now. The money is simply not enough, even with Thailand’s extremely low cost of living. So Korea looks appealing. I like the Internet speeds, the high tech society, the money that seems to be on offer for ESL teachers. But scared of getting stuck in an abusive situation. I have a BA from an American U but no Masters so, apparently, teaching at a uni in Korea is out of the question.

A reader writes in from Thailand:

I’ve been reading Brian’s blog and came across yours. Tell me the truth, are all the horror stories over blown? Am I going to have a good decent employer in Korea and a nice place to live and a rewarding job?

I’ve been teaching uni in [city redacted] Thailand for five years now. The money is simply not enough, even with Thailand’s extremely low cost of living. So Korea looks appealing. I like the Internet speeds, the high tech society, the money that seems to be on offer for ESL teachers. But scared of getting stuck in an abusive situation. I have a BA from an American U but no Masters so, apparently, teaching at a uni in Korea is out of the question.

What’s your take on the whole deal? The big enchilada? The view from the ground up? Anything yo’ve got will help. I’m trying to do my due diligence here.

While the number of horror stories remains enough to scare some people away from Korea, the number in reality is usually a small percentage. No, not all employers are honest businesses – but not all teachers are blameless either. There are two (and sometimes more) sides to every story, and the other side rarely (if ever) gets a fair shake / say in the same forum. Thus, ‘horror stories’ need to be taken with a grain of salt.

With that said, there are enough dishonest employers to give anyone interested in Korea pause. Thanks to the draconian Korean libel laws I won’t name any names. Some of the blacklists have gone belly-up, but http://blacklist.tokyojon.com/ – and the accompanying green list at http://greenlist.tokyojon.com/ is still working fine.

The “whole deal? The big enchilada? The view from the ground up?” It’s fairly safe to say that coming to Korea is a crapshoot. On one hand you could do all the research in the world and still end up with a crappy job. On the other hand, you could just go with the first recruiter and job you hear about and have a great time. More experienced teachers than myself have complained about how they were treated at the school they presumably vetted to some level of satisfaction. I’m sure it’s the same way in Thailand, along with other countries – jobs are rarely exactly as you expect them, although few are crappy to the point of making you want to leave. Of the “good decent employer in Korea and a nice place to live and a rewarding job”, you’ll usually get two of the three.

If the crap does hit the fan, however, there is hope. Getting multiple copies of your paperwork (criminal background check, transcripts, etc.) is insurance against a school that might try to keep your documents (which is admittedly pretty rare – especially if you know to ask for it back). Going from one job to another after a month in Korea isn’t the best sign in the world, but recruiters can explain your trying to leave as ‘not a good fit’. You’re never ‘stuck’, although leaving abruptly usually has some consequences – not getting reimbursed for your plane ticket, or having to make that up in your last month’s pay is a downer for most.

For what it’s worth, teaching English at a Korean university is possible with only a Bachelor’s degree – and with your experience it’s more likely than you think. Your options would be greater with a Master’s degree, of course – but showing your experience and any teaching certifications you’ve picked up can go a long way. Bear in mind those jobs are more competitive than your average ESL job – but they’re worth getting.

If you’re looking for the money, Korea has it to offer. The fast internet? YES, without a doubt. A better working environment? That’ll depend more on the employer and your personal situation than anything else.

Readers – any advice for this prospective teacher? Comments are open.

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This post was originally published on my blog, Chris in South Korea. If you are reading this on another website and there is no linkback or credit given, you are reading an UNAUTHORIZED FEED.




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