Experiences of an English Language Teacher

Major Announcement: I am moving back to South Korea

After returning from South Korea from a trip during the Christmas of 2019, I was ready to return to my work and continue teaching international students at the University. Things were going well for in the first three months on 2020, until news broke of a virus doing the rounds in China and Italy. About a month later in April, all staff were advised to work from home remotely.

The next few years were rather surreal with our family contemplating on life’s big quests. One thing that became clearer when speaking with family was the desire for us all to return to South Korea, and that sparked our efforts to return for an indeterminate amount of time, once the pandemic was no longer an issue. Therefore, my wife, son, and I have decided to return back to South Korea at the end of August 2023.

I shared our family’s update on YouTube, so take a look here for more information

Challenge No. 1: Employment

Currently, I am seeking employment with a reputable and established organisation or higher educational institute rather than working for a ‘hagwon’ (also known as a private institute). These organisations are a for-profit private language institute, with much pressure placed on teachers to confirm to a set curriculum or to ‘entertain’ kids, rather than it being a focus on education and lifelong learning. Many of the kids attend these private institutes on top of attending state school, so by the time the kids roll up to class, they are already tired and unwilling to participate in class.

The advantage to working for a ‘hagwon’ is that it usually offers an opportunity for someone to enter South Korea as an English Teacher, but the work-life balance will be nonexistent with most offering a measly 10 or 11 days paid holiday per year. These positions are best suited for aspiring English teachers who have not yet had any opportunity to develop and are early in their stage as a teacher.

Therefore, the main challenge that I am encountering is seeking employment with potential employers which recognise my experience and qualifications. Over 90% of current job openings in Korea are with ‘hagwons’, and the majority of universities in Korea recruit in-country and the British Council is quite difficult to enter. It isn’t impossible, but it is certainly tough to secure employment that I am happy with.

Challenge No. 2: Visa

Another aspect that many people will have to consider is the work visa. For me, when I worked in South Korea, I had the opportunity to have a spousal visa. This was the golden visa for many foreigners wishing to live and work in this wonderful country. The only requirement was that the foreigner be married to a South Korean national. Fast forward 14 years, and my wife is now a British citizen, so the spousal visa appears to be a little out of reach for me.

So, I am required to either secure employment prior to arrival or do the usual ‘visa run’ once work is confirmed when I am in-country post August. However, there is always a slim chance that immigration may look fondly on my marriage with a Korea national who has attended the most prestigious university in the world, the University of Oxford, and may be sympathetic to our rather unique circumstances.

We have had connections to this beautiful country for over two decades, so I am keeping my fingers crossed but things are currently unclear and the immigration website can be quite confusing with over 300 visas available for a variety of unique circumstances.

Challenge No. 3: Location

The third challenge facing our family is location. Although, being in South Korea will offer more time with our Korean family, much of the location is dependent upon securing employment. If employment is not secured, then we will focus on moving to a location which is well-connected. We used to live in Bundang-gu – a very friendly environment which is close to Seoul and offers much to do in such a location.

As our son will be joining us in Korea, who is keen to take a Korean language course before starting university, moving to a location that is familiar for him would be beneficial. However, should employment be secured, then we will be moving to that location and it will all be new for our family.


Opportunity No. 1: Korean Studies

Having spent two decades personally involved with Korea, I would be very keen to improve my Korean linguistic skills. I have never had the opportunity to study Korean language and it would be great to study in a formal setting. Of course, I picked up much of my Korean (which is totally rubbish if I am honest) from my wife or from self-study.

It would be great to work towards a formal qualification in the future and I have aspirations of passing some language exams or completing a PhD in Korean Studies at a University in South Korea. Who knows what will happen but this would be a great opportunity to make the most of my time in Korea.

Opportunity No. 2: YouTube Content

The next opportunity for me is to share with other English teachers and those that are passionate about South Korea in the form of content on YouTube. It would be wonderful to share more vlog-style videos in the future as well as informative content that helps other aspiring English teachers learn more about working and living in South Korea.

Currently, my YouTube channel focuses solely on English teaching and attempts to support with a variety of informative videos. It can be a bit difficult attempting to think of new ideas for videos after over 200 videos on English teaching. I am looking forward to sharing more videos related to South Korea and my move to this beautiful country.

Opportunity No. 3: Travel in South East Asia

I have been very fortunate to have travelled around the world and visited many unique countries over my lifetime. However, I have not had much opportunity to visit other countries in South East Asia other than South Korea. I have friends in Thailand, Japan, and China, and it would be wonderful to visit them in the near future.

Living in South Korea would offer me an opportunity to travel a short distance to experience a new culture in the region and I would be able to see old friends who I have not seen in many years. So, I am keen to travel once I settle in South Korea and visit all the places that I desire.


Summary

I cannot wait to return to South Korea in late August and to see all my family. There is an awful lot to organise (i.e., shipping our belongings around the world, finding a place to live, securing employment or establishing my own company, etc.) but I am looking forward to this next stage in my life. Thanks for reading and I look forward to sharing more information in the coming months when things are more concrete with out move to Korea.

Take care and look after yourself. We only live a short life and you have to make the most of it.

5 Comments

  1. I wonder if you can design a job at some point. I spent 13 years in Thailand, first with the American Peace Corps and then teaching at two schools as a Thai Ministry of Education rep. It was like a long summer and I finally realized I’d better at least get an MA. To make a long story short, after 8 years out of the country I eventually got together with the Bangkok Post newspaper management and we designed a job which eventually led to a new department: Bangkok Post Learning. I ended up doing daily web lessons on the latest content in the Bangkok Post to help our Thai readers understand the English and to encourage others to try. Worked very well and at much better pay than normal teaching jobs. I wonder if there is much opportunity in the Korean corporate community, particularly with the advent of AI which you might help employees to use effectively.

  2. Wish you the best in your move!

    • Martin Sketchley

      Thank you ever so much. Lots to organise but things will get clearer nearer the time.

  3. Best of luck with all that. It was about 13 years ago, but I moved to Seoul to work for the British Council without ever having worked for them before and they seem to have expanded since then, so must be a fair chance of work there??

    • Martin Sketchley

      Thanks Alex. I’m very fortunate to have secured employment with a university outside of Seoul – I’ll be sharing an update soon and can’t wait – but for now I’ve got a lot to organise such as shipping our family’s bits and pieces before we leave the U.K.

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