Sunday, April 19, 2015

teaching English (ESL) in South Korea | for Filipinos and other non-native speakers of English

South Korea is in the top-tier in terms of pay and benefits for expat English teachers. The hagwons or academies alone is a US$20 billion industry.

Ewha Womans University, an exclusive school for women, is one of the top universities in Korea. 

My visit to Korea last year gave me the opportunity to see up close the lives of my expat friends--the non-native English teachers in particular.

After all the news and job qualifications postings online that screams native speakers only, the question begs: Can a non-native English speaker (Filipino, Kenyan, Singaporean etc.) legally teach English in Korea?

The answer is yes. But the teacher must satisfy two basic requirements:
  • a post-graduate degree (any field)
  • teaching experience (preferably in a university setting)
These expat non-native English teachers hold different post-graduate educational qualifications back home. There's one with an MA in Psychology. Another with MA in Organizational Development. Most of them hold an MA in English. A few have Ph.D degrees.

The next question is: How can one apply for a teaching job in South Korea.

The answer and process come easy for native speakers of English because most Korean institutions normally hire the services of a recruitment agency abroad to head hunt for the most qualified applicant. Saves them time and resources. There are job postings online, too, wherein applicants can directly contact the school. Other applicants throw caution to the wind--fly to Korea and apply directly to the institution. If one has Caucasian features, that's already a foot in the door. This is the boon to the industry. These hagwons, to please the parents who demand teachers must be native speakers, would place anyone with blue eyes, blonde hair and fair skin regardless of qualifications, nationality and competence.

So how can a Filipino--a non-native speaker of English--apply for and pluck a teaching post? Most of my friends began their journey back home when a university in Korea went to Cebu to look for ESL teachers to teach in Korea. It was word-of-mouth. When one is successful, he/she gets the documents from the sponsoring university and goes to Embassy of South Korea in Mc Kinley in BGC for an interview to secure the employment visa or E1 Visa. The fate of the teacher now lie in the hands of the consul and on how the applicant answers the questions.  
  • E1 Visa is issued to University Professors of English and other fields of study. 
  • E2 Visa on the other hand is only issued to a native speaker of English.

When one gets the visa, he or she flies (all expenses paid) to Korea and is assigned a flat or apartment (paid for by the sponsoring university). Teaching contract normally is two years and renewable. Some of the teachers I know, toward the end of the contract, apply to other universities. And yes, the pay cheque for English teachers in South Korea is way generous compared to anywhere else in Asia.  

For now, teaching English in elementary, middle school and high school in South Korea is only for native speakers of English. It was in the news that the Korean government plans to allow Filipino teachers of English to teach in basic education but everything is still in the pipeline.

Next post I will talk about the life, lifestyle and work environment of a Filipino teaching English in South Korea.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Hi. The article was a bit unclear.

    "Most of my friends began their journey back home when a university in Korea went to Cebu to look for ESL teachers to teach in Korea."

    You only stated what your friends did. So did you also apply to that Korean university? And is that the only way to get a teaching job in South Korea? Do you know any other way? Thank you :)

  3. Do you happen to know Mr. Ezra Cutas? Please send me an email through

    Thank you.

  4. Grabeng ambigat naman! Need ng MA talaga?

  5. Grabeng ambigat naman! Need ng MA talaga?

  6. Good evening. Can I ask for help here? Do you know anyone who teaches in Korea? I really really need someone to be interviewed for my school requirements. Pls.


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