3 ways to teach English in South Korea

2 Ways to Teach English in South Korea: EPIK and Hagwons

South Korea is often at the top of people’s lists as a great place to teach English abroad. With lots of benefits, high potential to save money and modern conveniences, Korea stands out among teach abroad destinations. In today’s post, you’ll learn 2 ways to teach English in South Korea: EPIK private academies called and hagwons. Find out which is the best option for you!

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EPIK teaching program South Korea

First Way to Teach English in South Korea: EPIK

To begin, the EPIK program is the most popular way to teach English in Korea. EPIK stands for “English program in Korea” and offers a competitive salary, paid airfare, accommodation and bonuses.

There are placements both in metropolitan areas like Seoul and Busan as well as provinces. Placements are much more competitive in larger cities, do just be aware of this if you have your heart set on Seoul or Busan.

Benefits include a settlement allowance during the first month of your contract, accommodation, severance pay once you complete your contract, bonuses depending on the location of your contract, 50% of your insurance premiums, and lodging and meals during the mandatory orientation.

Contracts are for one year and there are two intakes for new EPIK teachers each year. The working hours are 8 hours per day, 5 days per week M-F. Instruction hours are 22 per week, with overtime paid if you work more than this. There are around 14 days of Korean holidays per year.


As of 2023, Premier TEFL is now an official recruiter for the EPIK program. This means that if you complete your TEFL course through Premier TEFL, your application for EPIK will be prioritized. Learn more here. EPIK is becoming more competitive, so this could be a great option!

Is EPIK right for you?

If you are a native English speaker with a degree, then EPIK could be right for you!

  • Native speaker from Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the US, the UK or South Africa (Indian citizens must have a teacher’s license in English).
  • Must have completed schooling in English starting at least in 7th grade.
  • Must have graduated from a university in one of the countries above (program in English).
  • Have a TEFL of 100 hours of more or a degree in teaching.
  • Positions are available for teaching elementary, middle and high school students in public schools.
  • The EPIK program helps you get your visa.

If you don’t have a TEFL or teaching degree, you can complete a TEFL certificate during the application process. You must complete your TEFL no later than 6 weeks before your arrival in Korea.

If you don’t have a TEFL, I recommend checking out Premier TEFL courses. Premier TEFL is now an official recruiter for the EPIK Program as of Jan 2023 meaning that you’ll get exclusive support during your application and pre-departure process. You can find all the details here.

If you already have a TEFL certificate, here’s the official EPIK website. It’s recommended to apply at least 6 months before you want to go abroad.

You can also learn more on the official EPIK Facebook group.

hagwon South Korea

Second Way to Teach English in South Korea: Hagwons (Private academies)

Finally, the last option is to work for a “hagwon: or private academy in South Korea. This option is best for the adventurous teacher who is comfortable identifying scams and willing to put in the work to find a good school.

Hagwons are language academies that can be found all over Korea. Like the public school program EPIK, hagwons in larger cities like Seoul and Busan are more competitive. However, the advantage is that hagwons hire year-round and the process to get abroad is faster. Some teachers are able to start working in Korea in as few as 2-3 months.

In general, pay is higher in hagwons, but the hours can be a bit sporadic. Hagwon hours are usually after-school, evening and weekend hours. If you go through an agency, you’ll likely be offered benefits similar to public school jobs: flight stipends, accommodation and more.

Is working in a hagwon right for you?

Hagwons are looking for native speaking English teachers with a college degree. You’ll be easier to hire if you have a TEFL or teaching degree and some previous teaching, tutoring or mentoring experience. 

  • Must be a native English speaker.
  • Must have a college degree and it’s HIGHLY recommended to have a TEFL.
  • The best way to find hagwons is through a recruitment agency. However, you’ll need to be careful because there are both agencies and hagwons that are scams.
  • You’ll need to get your own E-2 visa. You can start the process before looking for hagwons (such as getting your degree notarized and requesting an FBI background check), but can only apply once you have a contract from a hagwon.
  • Working at a hagwon is recommended for people who have taught abroad before or are good at avoiding scams.

How to Avoid Hagwon Scams

To avoid scams, always look for reviews of the agency/hagwon. Try to find hagwons with a good number of reviews. Additionally, you can google the name of the hagwon followed by “blacklist” and look for comments from former teachers.

Check out the forums on Waygook and recent comments in teach in Korea Facebook groups. Ask current or former teachers to recommend agencies and hagwons. Also, during the interview process, ask to speak with current teachers.

Don’t settle for one agency or one hagwon. Contact as many as possible so you can find the best fit for you!

Can I teach in Korea right now?

Yes! The EPIK Program and hagwons are currently accepting teachers. Prior to 2020 there was another program to teach in Korea called TaLK, but it has unfortunately closed down.

Make sure to start your visa process as soon as possible and know that some documents, such as notarizing diplomas or FBI background checks are taking longer post-pandemic. Check with your local Korean consulate or embassy to find out what documents you’ll need.

If you need any help during the application process or to decide which program is right for you, you can fill out this survey or send me an email at jamie@eslteacher365.com. Happy teaching!

Looking for programs similar to EPIK in different countries? Check out this post on teaching abroad after college in language assistant programs.

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Certified Teacher & Founder of ESL Teacher 365

I am passionate about helping people teach abroad & online so they can live a life of adventure!

I’ve taught in 6 different countries and love sharing my teach abroad (and online) tips and tricks.

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– Jamie


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