If you are planning on teaching in South Korea and are not applying directly through EPIK, then your first step in finding a job is contacting a recruiter. Although there are plenty of recruiters in Korea offering similar services, they don’t all offer quality services with your best interests in mind.
Some schools in Korea, especially in the private sector, have been known to mistreat their teachers leading to some very negative experiences in Korea. For that reason, it is important to select a recruiter who is trustworthy and will ensure you are placed in a safe, reliable and enjoyable working environment.
Recruiters also find suitable candidates for public schools, hagwons (private schools) or both. It is therefore, VERY important to understand the difference between the two, as benefits and working conditions are VERY different.
Hagwon vs Public School
What's the difference?
Hagwons (Mostly referred to as private schools) are privately owned, for-profit private institutes or language academies. Hagwons typically run kindergarten programs (ages 3-6), after school language classes (elementary, middle and high school), or teaching adults. Although Hagwons may sometimes pay higher salaries, a teacher is expected to work longer hours with fewer vacation days to that of a public school teacher.
Public schools are government owned schools that offer education to children at elementary, middle and high school levels. Usually the foreign English teacher will work together with a Korean co-teacher. Teachers work fewer hours and generally receive more vacation days than those teachers working for Hagwons.
What's best for you?
I personally have never taught at a Hagwon, but have heard mostly negative reviews about teaching at these privately owned businesses. These negative reviews range from longer working hours, stressful and demanding working conditions to the more serious cases of teachers not being paid or dismissed a month before they are due to receive their bonuses.
That being said, there a few cases of very good Hagwons, where teachers are extremely happy.
In summary, a public school job is less demanding and far more reliable. If you are to seek a hagwon position, be sure to do a thorough background check on the institute before signing any contracts.
About: Korean Horizon provides government public schools in South Korea. They are an official recruitment agency for EPIK and Regional education offices in South Korea, providing public schools nationwide. The team at Korean Horizon pride themselves on honesty, even if it might not be what you want to hear. This straightforward approach might be the reason they receive the most positive reviews amongst current and past teachers.
About: Korvia Consulting is a recruiting company based in Seoul, South Korea that places native English speakers into Korean public and private schools as native English teachers. The company works with the Korean government, offices of education, commercial education franchises, as well as national public school teaching programs such as EPIK, GEPIK, and GOE.
About: ESLstarter are an official recruitment partner of the public school program (EPIK) in South Korea. They also offer teaching placements in Thailand, teaching internships in China, Vietnam and Argentina as well as volunteer teaching programs in India, Nepal and Ecuador.
About: Founded by two English teachers, Ben and Jeff, Footprints Recruiting recruits ESL instructors from Australia, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa and the United States. These university graduates are then placed in teaching positions in safe, reputable English institutes and government programs worldwide.
About: Teach ESL Korea help to bring reliable schools and energetic, dedicated teachers together. They pride themselves on working with only the most reliable schools, and since the supply on the school side is always higher, they can allow themselves to be picky.
About: Using their extensive on-the-ground experience and expertise, the Adventure Teaching team takes your unique set of skills, needs and desires and matches you to the perfect paid English Teacher employment opportunities in South Korea. They are aware of and interested in each teacher’s unique needs and desires because they were all teachers once, too.
About: Reach to Teach carefully screen all schools to ensure their teachers know as much as possible about their school and the contract they will be signing. You can feel comfortable and confident moving overseas knowing what your job will be like.
About: Gone2Korea is a leading recruiting and placement agency with staff and offices in North America and Korea. As of 2016 Gone2Korea has secured school clients in more than 90 Korean cities throughout the country. Over the years they have developed solid relationships with their partners and an honest reputation among the teachers they represent.
About: DreamWorks is a family run recruiting company and like to treat their candidates as part of their family. Placement consultant, Joanne, is a native English speaker with 10 years of teaching experience in Korea and can give you the honest ins and outs of what to expect.