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How to Understand English Teaching Contracts in South Korea

What to Ask For

South Korea Student with the author.

So you have gone through the whole drill. You have done hours of research online to find the best recruiter to find you the best job in Korea. You have even gone through the awkward interview with the very nice school director who barely spoke English yet somehow still found the words to promise a home-cooked meal every other night in Korea.

You have gotten the job, but now you are staring at the contract. What does it all mean? How will you know the school will stay good on its word? What should be your demands and what should you not worry about?

Picking up and moving to a foreign country can be scary for anyone. Doing so is especially the case when you do not speak the same language as the locals. It is important to know and understand your contract and know what to expect of your school and what your school expects of you.

Here is a breakdown of a typical contract in Korea (please not my comments in blue). Most contracts tend to look the same, as most school principals and academy (or hogwan as it is called in Korea) directors go online to find a sample contract and use it as their own.

Begin Contact

The employer:
School name
The employee:
Your name:
Passport number:

Sometimes the School Name is left blank. Do not worry. It is just likely the school found this contract and printed it off the internet. Ask your recruiter for the school’s name.

<Number one>

1) The employee is hired by the employer and both parties agree as follows:

<Number two>

  1. The Employer wishes to engage service of the employee for him/her to work as an English teacher at the Employer’s school from _____________ to ______________ for 1 year and the Employee agrees to work under the terms and conditions of this contract and the Employee should finish Student Evaluation when the semester ends.
    Make sure you ask your recruiter the start date. Do not stress about this date. It is very likely to change if your E2 visa application takes longer than expected.
  2. The Employer can reappointment the employee by mutual agreement.

<Number three—working hours>

  1. Conduction professional, well-planned English conversation as a special subject.
  2. Performing all duties related to the classroom work, such as Lesson preparation, Student Evaluation, Monthly Schedules, new student interviews, teacher meetings and workshops.
  3. One hour is 40 minutes.
  4. 35 classes a week (from first to 6th class is 40 minutes a day, 7th class is 50 minutes from Monday to Friday)
  5. After finishing the semester, the employee evaluates the students’ scores and comments by the established form.
Ask your school what time you are required to be at work and what time you will leave, including any required prep time. This is not usually stated in a contract.

<Number four—monthly salary>

  1. The employer will pay the teacher a total monthly basic salary of ___________________ including four insurance payment (National pension, Medical insurance, Korean income tax, etc.) and taxes.
    Most salaries range between 1.8 and 3 million won (US1,800-US$2,400). Bigger schools will direct deposit the money into your account once a month.
  2. The employer will pay the salary into the account that the staff appointed at the end of the month.
  3. The employer will pay the salary even if the school events or holidays.
  4. If the employee misses the class in the case of person reason, he/she has to supplement the missed classes in a proper time or the employer will pay the salary except for the missing classes.
  5. The employer won’t pay any other allowances except for the salary.
  6. Severance Payment: The employer will pay ___________ won (the monthly salary) to the teacher after the completion of this contract. And it will pay by bank transfer on later than one month after the teacher has left the school. Tax will be withheld. Any outstanding debts will be subtracted from the severance pay.
    If you break your contract before 12 months, you will receive no severance pay.

<Number five—housing>

  1. The employer will provide furnished living accommodations and electronic utilities.
  2. The employee has to pay public taxes (ex. Electric charges, mobile phone charges, cable service and water rates.)
    The provided apartment in most cases will be ready for you when you arrive. Some schools will take photos of it and send to you. You can always ask. Your school will set you up with a bank account, internet, and anything else you might need.
  3. After the completing the one-year contract the teacher will be provided a return ticket (NOT CASH). In the case that the teacher willfully leaves the school before his/her contract is over, the school will not be responsible for the return ticket. If the teacher willfully leaves the school before the months from the date of hire/arrival in Korea, the teacher must pay back the initial airfare or the school will deduct the amount of airfare from the teacher’s last payment.

<Number six—vacation>

Two weeks of vacation which must be taken when the school is closed, generally during the winter and summer vacations.

Ten days Is the average vacation time at most academies. Public schools often offer more. Make sure to check with the school before you sign the contract to see if holidays are included in your 10 days of vacation.

<Number seven>

Teachers will not be allowed to teach private lessons outside of the place of employment without permission of the Employer.

Private lessons are illegal in Korea unless you get permission from your employer.

<Number eight>

  1. The staff of school can observe and estimate an employee’s classes.
  2. The employer can advise the employee to improve the curriculum and teaching methods. The employee should allow them.

<Number nine>

  1. In case of inevitable change of environment or institution, the employer an employee can change the contract by mutual agreement.
  2. If the employee terminates the contract or doesn’t accomplish regular lectures, the employee has to compensate for loss.

<Number ten>

  1. The employer has the right to terminate in whole or in parts as follows.
    In case of observing rules in school and degrading him/herself as the elementary school teacher.

    In case of changing teaching curriculum and contents without consultation with staff of the school.

    In case of disturbing the teacher’s classes intentionally.
  2. The employer will notify the above instances to the teacher in writing according to No. 1-3 when the employee terminates a contract.

<Number eleven>

1) The employer will coordinate with the employee by mutual agreement.

a) The matters which are not mentioned above.

b) Each matters and other special agreements can be adjusted.

Most schools are very good about following their contracts. Should a problem arise, talk to your school or your recruiter for help.
1) This contract is valid for one year and shall commence on the first day of employment.

a) The employer will prepare for two contracts and share with the employee individually.

b) The employer will inform the school schedule to the employee.

<Number twelve>

The laws of the Republic of Korea shall govern this document.

<Number thirteen>

The following Employment Agreement is made between the following two parties.

Employer/President _______________________ date________________________
Employee _______________________________ date ________________________

End Contract

Notice any strange words or misspellings? Don't worry. This is completely common in Korean contracts written in English.

If you break your contract, there are a few things you should understand.

  • It is a one-year contract, meaning a promise to your school that you will stay there for one year and follow their terms of employment.
  • If you break the contract and leave your job in the first six months, you MUST pay back the school for your original flight to Korea within 30 days of your quitting day. Of course, you will also be responsible for your flight home.
  • If you break the contract between the sixth and 12th month, you will not receive your severance pay (bonus that is equal to one month regular salary) OR your return flight home.
Related Topics
Living in South Korea
Articles on Teaching English in South Korea
The Guide to Teaching English and Living in South Korea
Why College Graduates Should Consider Teaching English in South Korea
Teach English and Live in South Korea
To Live and Teach English in South Korea
A Different Pace of Life: Living, Learning, and Teaching in Korea
Living in Korea: Hollywood and Xenophobia
Teach in South Korea: Demand for Teachers is High, Rewards Generous
Teach in South Korea: Public Schools are a Great Option
How to Survive and Thrive Living in Korea as an EFL Couple
On Being an EPIK Ex-pat
Teaching and Living in Seoul

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