Before embarking on a career as an ESL teacher in South Korea, you will have to make one decision: EPIK or Hogwan?
A Hogwan is the name of a private academy in South Korea. Thousands of Hogwans are located throughout the country and offer all types of learning! From piano lessons to English conversation classes, from soccer academies to conversational Japanese. They cater to all ages, even from as young as one years old.
Every year thousands of companies hire native English speakers to work in these education centers. Working hours can vary from job to job, but can start from as early as 6am and finish as late as 1am. (Recent laws have made this less likely).
It is important to note that every Hogwan is different and they should not be mistaken for a Korea public school (EPIK).
It is recommended to use a recruiter when applying for jobs at a Hogwan because at least if something goes wrong you have a second point of contact. But be warned – you should never ever pay a recruiter for this service.
Below is a brief list of the benefits and negatives of a typical Hogwan:
Generally, Hogwans pay well. A starting salary normally varies between 2.1 and 2.3 million Korean Won, depending on qualifications and experience.
The majority of Hogwans also provide free accommodation and free school meals, which cut your costs each month and allow you to save more of your money.
The completion of a one year contract normally means the employer will give the employee severance pay, which is equal to a full month’s salary.
Almost every Hogwan will provide you with a free one-way flight to Korea. Many also offer a return ticket upon completion of the contract, but unfortunately, this is becoming less common over time.
By Korean law, Hogwans are obligated to provide their employees with 2 weeks paid vacation a year. Most allow one week off in July (summer vacation) and one in December (winter vacation).
Unfortunately, like with everything, there are also some negatives to working in Hagwon…
The students’ parents have too much involvement in most Hogwans. They can be very generous with gifts on special occasions, but equally as critical and moany every other day of the year. Ultimately they are paying a lot of money for their kids to attend school, so as annoying as it is, I can see why they hold so much power.
Many potential teachers fear that the school they are applying to will close down. This is not common, but unfortunately not a rare thing to happen either. Hogwans are ultimately businesses, so when they are not profitable or the owner has had enough, they can be closed down just as easily as your local corner shop. In most circumstances though, the Hogwans are bought out by investors who keep the current teachers employed.
As I just mentioned, Hogwans are businesses and money comes first. Sometimes the decisions by management and staff are not made in the best interest of the children or the teachers, but due to a financial means.
Before accepting a job at a Hogwan in Korea it is important to weigh both the pros and the cons. Do your research on that Hogwan and try to contact current teachers if possible!
Check out the A-Z Guide to Teaching English in South Korea: