The Korean Hogwan

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.

Free Accommodation

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.

Severance Pay

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.

Paid Vacation

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.

Money First

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!

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12 thoughts on “The Korean Hogwan

  1. It is indeed a great destination. If I may, I would like to give a few points out of an EPIK public school teacher’s viewpoint:

    Hagwons take advantage of the teachers and work them to the bone. Long hours. Less vacation (ten days a year, of which they decide the dates). Less pay. No-one to go back to should the shit hit the fan and your hagwon close.

    Here are some general pros and cons of working with EPIK at a public school:
    22 hour work weeks with regular 9-5 hours.
    18 days paid vacation (of which you can choose the dates during winter and summer break).
    Pay starts from 2.3 million won (less if you want to teach in Seoul).
    Flight re-imbursement for both flights.
    Re-signing bonus of 2 million won AND 5 vacation days. This does not include your severance.
    Job security.
    Backing and assistance from EPIK and/or the Provincial Office of Education.
    Free fully furnished housing (or a housing allowance if you wish to find your own accomodation).
    No grading or parents’ involvement.

    You can not choose a specific location or school.
    There are only two main intakes. One in February, and one in August.

    So basically, I would suggest to try to find a job at a public school first and only really consider a hagwon job if I want to choose a specific location, or if I need/want to start as soon as possible.

    Please understand that situations and experience are different for everyone else and that this is just my viewpoint.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. When I was working in South Korea, I always gave people the advice to avoid hagwons if they could. In comparison, public schools are so much better: better working hours, better compensation, more room for career advancement, opportunities for professional development, and something you can put on your resume or CV later for other jobs. Many teachers that I knew in Korea pursued doctorates in TESOL just so that they would never have to teach in hagwons again.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. After reading this I totally see why a hagwon is a better choice apposed to teaching at a public. For me there was way too much free time for me doing nothing in my desk. It was called “deskwarming” and there were endless days of this in my school. EPIK is a great choice, great benefits but I didn’t come to Korea to spend a grand majority of my time sitting at a desk because my classes got cancelled. It was a tough one.

    Liked by 1 person

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