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What are the Typical Wages and Benefits for English Teaching Jobs in Korea?

Wages of course depend on where you work, generally however private language institutes pay less than public schools and high schools, and universities pay the most.

Annual pay increases also are dependent on your employer. Public schools and universities may have automatic cost of living raises, but private institutes may not. In the university the author worked there was always a annual salary increase of about 4 percent per year.

Average starting salaries can range from 1.6 million to 4 million won a month based on education and experience.   For first time teachers at language schools, starting wages - on average - tend to be in the 2.1 to 2.5 million won range.  As the strength of the won varies against major currencies (primarily the US$) schools tend to adjust their wages accordingly.

Typically the following deductions are made from a teachers salary:

      Health insurance– 2.5% of salary

      National pension plan- 4.5% of salary

     Income tax– 3-4 % of salary

     Resident tax– 10% of income tax

Housing deposit: Some employers may have a housing deposit, which will vary from employer to employer. Generally the housing deposit is between 400,000 and 900,000 won. The deposit is usually deducted from the first 3 months salaries (but can be negotiated). The purpose of the deposit to cover any unpaid monthly service, utility, telephone charges, etc. at the completion of contract. The employer, after all outstanding monthly service, utility, and telephone charges have been paid, will return the remaining amounts of the deposit to employee at the end of contract period.

Approximate take home pay after deductions (excluding housing deposit):

     Gross wage: 1,600,000     Net pay: 1,408,000

     Gross wage: 1,800,000     Net pay: 1,584,000

     Gross wage: 2,000,000      Net pay: 1,760,000

     Gross wage: 2,400,000      Net pay: 2,112,000

     Gross wage: 2,800,000      Net pay: 2,112,000

     Gross wage: 3,000,000      Net pay: 2,640,000

     Gross wage: 3,500,000      Net pay: 3,080,000

What kind of benefits can a teacher can expect to get?

Health insurance: The insurance covers basic medical and dental needs, but not elective or cosmetic surgery. Medical care is very inexpensive, with the amount of coverage that the patient pays being extremely low, when compared to other countries. This medical insurance will allow you to receive medical attention and prescription medicines at a fraction of their original cost.

Holidays: There are 13 national holidays in Korea and employers are obliged to observe them. Just keep in mind that some holidays may fall on your regular days off. Regardless of the number of holidays that fall during any given teaching session, your monthly salary is guaranteed.

Vacations: Generally a teacher at a private language institute can accrue between 7 and 10 days of vacation per year, depending on the employer. Public schools may have as few as 7- 12 days of school vacation time per year as dictated by the schools' calendar, such as Christmas, New Years holiday, summer vacation etc - and sometimes much more.

Sick leave: Generally teachers are allowed between three to six sick days per year. Calling in sick is not a common occurrence in Korea, unless one is really sick. Mental health days are frowned on and employers may require documentation from a doctor, especially if it becomes a habit with specific individuals. The employers have the legal right to dock the employee’s pay if they do not have appropriate documentation. Also keep in mind that if you are absent from class, some one has to take over for you and that is usually a co-worker or maybe the owner or manager of a private language institute. They will not be pleased if they have to do their job and your job too!

Severance pay: By law, employers are required to pay an employee one month’s average salary at end of a 12 month contract. In essence, teachers are being paid for 13 months for working 12. What a deal! If the contract is for less than one year, employers are not obligated to provide a severance payment. If the contract is longer than 1 year, the amount of severance pay is prorated. For example, an 18 month contract would have 1.5 months salary payment for severance pay, a 2 year contract would have a 2 months salary for severance pay.

If a person works for multiple years it may be possible (depending on the employer) to pay all of the severance payments in one lump sum when the employment is ended for good and the contract is not renewed for another year. Most employers willingly pay the severance package without problems. However there have been cases in which employers were reluctant to do so.

This mainly happens if the employer thinks the employee will not protest too much. If this happens to you, contact the regional immigration office and they will contact the employer and force payment. Also, if you are fired just short of the end of your contract (and you feel it is unjustified), the employer may be trying to avoid paying you the severance amount. You can also contact the regional immigration office in this case and they will investigate the matter. But before contacting the immigration office, talk frankly with the school director or language institute owner or manager. It may well be just an oversight, especially for organizations that employ numerous foreign teachers. Employers do not want to create situations that prompt immigration officials to investigate. The immigration office has the power to do random checks of schools and institutes and to delay visa processing. These can be problematic for school directors and institute owners.

National pension plan: Employee’s contributions to the National Pension Fund are returned to the employee after leaving the country. It usually takes about a month for the paperwork to be processed and the money transferred to the employees home bank account (or wherever they designate). To receive the money you have to visit the local Pension Fund Office, with documents provided by the employer, fill out a copy of forms, and provide information on where to transfer the funds. This should be done a day or two before you leave the country.

Transportation cost: Many employers will cover the cost of transportation to Korea (an economy class ticket) usually by reimbursing the teacher upon arrival and from Korea to their home country at the end of the contact. Discuss this with any potential employer before signing a contract. This information (in greater detail) is also generally provided in ads on the Internet.

Housing: Most private language institutes, public schools, and universities provide housing for their foreign teachers. For the teacher's convenience the housing is usually located near the school or place of employment . The housing may be a single accommodation or shared apartment with two or three-bedrooms (which is shared by two or three teachers with a private bedroom for each teacher and a shared kitchen and bathroom). Rent payment is provided by the employer, with the monthly utilities bills being paid for by the employee.

 Taxes: Normally, one would not consider taxes as being a benefit, but for some it may be. Yearly tax returns may or may not have to be filed in Korea. I never got a definitive answer to this question while employed there, and have read conflicting reports about the requirement for filing income tax. What ever the legal answer is– don’t worry about it, the employers don’t seem to.

In the first two years in Korea, I did not file a return, but my employer might have. If the employer did, he didn’t inform me. While employed at the university, an income tax was filed, but the university personnel office took care of everything. All I had to do was sign a couple of documents. American citizens are required to file income tax returns in the U.S. when working in a foreign country, but can file for an exemption.

The exemption allows the employee to earn up to $86,000 (at present, but things change) without having to pay taxes. Another stipulation of the exemption is that the employee must pay taxes in the host country (and in Korea foreign employees do pay Korean income taxes).

In order to qualify for the exemption, a person must meet the “bona fide residence test” or the “physical presence test”. Evidence for bona fide residence includes proof that a person has a home in the foreign country or illustrating you have settled there on a permanent or long term basis. Documentation (in your name) can include a bank account, phone bills, cell phone bills, or utility bills.

Evidence for physical presence includes documentation that you were physically in a foreign country for 330 days in a consecutive 12 month period. This evidence is usually found in your passport, by the dated entry and exit stamps or visas. For more detail information about tax requirements and reporting of foreign income contact the IRS website. ( http://www.irs.gov/ )

 Canadian citizens also get a tax break if working in Korea. Canada has a tax treaty with South Korea, so if a citizen is working there with a legal visa, they are considered a legal resident of that country (and are required to pay taxes there) and are not required to pay Canadian tax, because you can qualify as a ‘deemed non-resident’.

Proof of residence required by the Canadian government includes: A home A spouse or common-law partner and dependants who stay in Canada while you are living abroad Personal property, such as a car or furniture, and social ties Credit cards Driver’s licenses Bank accounts Health insurance

For more detail information about tax requirements and reporting of foreign income contact the Canada Revenue Agency website. ( http://www.cra-arc.gc.ca/menu-e.html#1 )

above: A relatively common sight
- employees getting together after work to celebrate a special occasion.


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