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How Can I Get A Non-Teaching Job in Korea?

December 12, 2012


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So this is a question we get asked A LOT A LOT. And so we’re gonna try to answer it to the best of our abilities, based off of our experiences of trying to find a visa in Korea, to setting up our own business, to speaking with people who have non-teaching visas.

To begin with, we don’t work for Korean immigration, so if you have detailed questions about getting VISAs and getting hired in Korea, we really can’t help you at all, and I’m sorry if we don’t reply to your email! We get so many emails about how to get a job in Korea, but we have no answer to give besides, “I don’t know”. We only know what we’ve learned from friends who have different jobs, and even the jobs they got are very specific to their education, the country they’re from, and what they’re doing in Korea. There isn’t a single answer that can cover a question about jobs and vacationing in Korea because the VISA laws change even country by country. So for example, if you’re Canadian, you can vacation in Korea for up to six months, but if you’re from the USA you only have three months. Even basic steps regarding hiring teachers has changed in the past four years, so the steps we went through to be hired are totally different today. Korea is constantly updating, tweaking, and changing its laws towards foreigners, so I’m sure this TL;DR will become outdated within a year!

So most of the foreigners we meet are, yes, teachers. They’re either working at an after school tutoring centre, an elementary – high school, as professors at University, but there are exceptions. Most of the unique jobs we’ve experienced are from people who work in Korea for a year or so and then move to another country with their company, but it isn’t like they got the job by themselves; it’s a big company kind of deal. They usually have a family that comes with them, and kids that attend International schools in Korea.

To be totally honest, unless you’re married to a Korean or Korean born in someway, it is really difficult to just get an average job. You need to fit one of the categories immigration has laid out, and each category has specific regulations regarding qualifications. You need a company to sponsor your VISA and they have to prove that you are needed at the company and fit all the regulations, and that you specifically can do the job while a Korean person can’t. In order to do anything important in Korea (like get a bank card, a cell phone, get paid into your Korean bank account) you need to get your Alien Registration Card (ARC), and in order to get that, you need to be approved by Korean immigration so you can get the correct VISA status. You ARC number is your access to living in Korea (we’re not talking about just vacationing in Korea because you won’t get an ARC number for that), since even Korean citizens have their own number that they use to register for everything.

Our honest advice would be that in order to get a unique job in Korea, you have to be in Korea already. Attending a Korean university to learn how to speak Korean while having a part-time job would definitely help, if your school allows it, since you could build contacts and show why you’re valuable to a company. We know a couple of people who are students in university and interning at, for example, YG.

It would also give you the chance to really get to know Korea for real and to decided if you do really want to live here or not. We’ve heard from people who enjoy watching korean dramas and following kpop that they were surprised at what everyday life was really like in Korea: while some of them loved it, some of them left after a year. We’re not saying that you’re gonna come here and hate it. Clearly, as is our situation, we came here and loved it and want to make a life here. But our situation isn’t common. We don’t know anyone else blogging as a living here in Korea. We also don’t know anyone as weird as us, so maybe that’s why.

ps-> While we were registering Eatyourkimchi as a business in Korea and we made our announcement video for the Studio Fundraiser, we stumbled upon some angry threads from foreigners who are living in Korea. When they applied for their businesses the cost was lower and the rules were different, yet rather than thinking that, hey, things change constantly and maybe the process they went through is different than what’s current, they called us liars who didn’t know what we were talking about. Considering we JUST went through weeks and weeks of application at Korean immigration, actually yes, we do know what we’re talking about, but that’s just for now. If someone has a different story a year from now, we wouldn’t be surprised.

I’m not bringing this up to complain even though those people suck donkey farts for a living; I’m bringing this up to say be wary of advice from forums! There are lots of foreigners who have been living in Korea for a while and who are giving advice about VISA status and other things, but sometimes this advice is coming from someone who is comfortably living in Korea and has not recently had to go back to immigration to update anything. Thus, they might not know about all the changes in the laws. Even simple laws about traveling with cats and dogs to Korea have just recently changed, so don’t trust what someone says in a forum; look up the information for yourself from a real Korean government site or go to your local Korean embassy. You don’t want to risk getting into trouble because someone on a forum gave you outdated advice :D

So, TL;DR on this whole post: we’re just relating our experiences with Visas in Korea. Our word isn’t gospel, as the word on Visa regulations is likely to change. We can offer you an idea of what the process is like and what to expect, but we’re not the ultimate source. What can be said, for now, for sure, though, is that getting Visas in Korea is not easy. They’re not given out to everyone, so finding jobs in Korea that aren’t related to teaching is not a simple process.

If you have different experiences, please share them. We’re not even sure if we’re just talking about the Seoul area or Korea as a whole. Or, if you would like to ask some questions while we’re active on this thread, shoot away! Hopefully we can get a somewhat interesting discussion about a very boring topic going on. Woot!



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How Can I Get A Non-Teaching Job in Korea?


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  1. This is a weird question and I know this post is super old but someone I know moved to Korea to become an international student a few months ago. She told me you can go to something like a job bank, and they’d tell you what job you get (mostly cleaning it seems) and you do the job only for one day. Is that true?

    4 years ago
  2. Hello

    My name is Nessa. I just happen to be a senior this year. I have a few questions, myself. I’m really interested in living in korea. It’s not because i love (korean dramas), it’s because I enjoy the culture, and many things about korea, that would inhabit me to hopefully live there one day. Though, I worry about the employment, i want to go to college in korea, do you have any advice for me???? It seems like the only thing I can do is teach English, my favorite subject, but i can’t but wonder if that’s the only job that i can get my hands on. Please enlighten my ignorance,

    pleasure talking to you


    5 years ago
  3. Hey Simon, you probably don’t remember me, but we met years ago back when you and Martina were the stars of GEPIK orientation. Your post about getting non-teaching jobs in Korea caught my eye because I recently made a website that brings together all the English-language *professional*/*company* jobs from the major Korean job portals (Saramin, JobKorea, PeopleNJob, etc). My theory is that if a job posting is entirely(ish) in English, then it’s probably more welcoming for foreigners and expats to apply and get the job. You can check it out at http://ProKorea.Club. I’d love to get your feedback.

    5 years ago
  4. Hello Martina and Simon,

    My name is Olivier and I moved to Seoul to live here with my beautiful Korean wife (yes I have a valid working visa).

    I have been looking for a normal job (normal income and if possible not being considered as a slave) for a while but so far without success.

    I speak French, English, good German and I am currently learning Korean (almost intermediate level) with a business management background.

    Do you have any suggestions that could help me to find a job?

    I thank you guys in advance for your help.

    Enjoy your kimchi and have a nice day.


    6 years ago
  5. “When they applied for their businesses the cost was lower and the rules were different, yet rather than thinking that, hey, things change constantly and maybe the process they went through is different than what’s current, they called us liars who didn’t know what we were talking about.” How dare they?!! > . <
    I appreciate your work! (even though some don't…. I guess you can't have a world full of wizards…you must have muggles as well
    – . -')


    7 years ago
  6. I’m curious now. What is this slack jaw problem?

    7 years ago
  7. I just wanted to say that Martina is wearing an awesome sweater. Sweater love.

    7 years ago
  8. Korean chebol companies send out people to prestigious college/univ. to recruit engineers who can speak English and some level of Korean… usually they make contact with Korean student clubs and hold close door recruitment event.

    7 years ago
  9. lets say that im a veterinarian and i want to go to Korea would it be hard for me to get a job as that over their?? would i need to gain citizenship first??

    7 years ago
  10. Oh man, I had been wondering if you guys would ever tackle this question. I got into the film business because I wanted to travel the world (well thats obviously not the only reason) but things change. Now I get to hear stories from all of my seniors about all of the places they’ve been but in reality it doesn’t happen anymore (just like shooting on actual film doesn’t happen anymore). Its easier to hire a local crew (plus tax breaks) unless you’re working on a documentary they just don’t spend the money to travel. For instance, I worked for 14 days in Toronto on Kickass 2 but the rest of it is being shot in England. So now, only the highest members of the crew get to work at both locations (because of their specific qualifications).
    I’d love to experience the life korea (and other countries) but I know deep down it just wont be a reality. It’s not worth it to step away from my real dream that I’ve been working so hard towards (unless I fail which could still happen at this point!) to try working vacations plus I’m already 27 and most of them only work until 25!
    I’m grateful to your videos, specifically the non-k-pop ones for allowing me to second hand experience this culture from a Canadian perspective and just hope one day I can save up enough money to visit. I’m sad that I’ll never get to see the simularities and differences between a kdrama crew and our Canadian ones though! That interests me more then anything and it’s something that is impossible to show only experience first hand. :(

    7 years ago
  11. I would also add, it’s not that easy to move to a different country period. Not just South Korea. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Montreal, but you Canadians also won’t just hire an American if a Canadian can do the same job. OF COURSE you can find a Canadian who can do the same job. So even though many of us threaten every four years that we are “Moving to Canada!” it’s too much of a hassle to actually do it (and the Canadians all give each other a knowing nod as if to say, “and that’s why we keep it complicated folks.”)

    7 years ago
  12. Can I just tell you as someone who is in the schools now, GET THAT ESL CERT! There are a lot of schools in need of ESL teachers, especially in urban areas with large immigrant populations. Many schools are paying for their classroom instructors to go back to school to get it, just so that all of their teachers will be ESL certified. My school is not one of those schools unfortunately. I really wish I had done it when I was still in school, but I foolishly didn’t think about how valuable it would be later.

    7 years ago
  13. So many things about this that I’m glad you discussed.
    First, I’m glad that you brought up that people shouldn’t teach unless they WANT to teach. I’m a teacher of some years of experience (how many years will not be revealed here!) When people who have no background in education just decide they’ll pop into a classroom and “teach” as if it doesn’t take any kind of skill, that really chaps my ass. It’s not an easy job when you WANT to do it and are prepared to do it and are trained to do it. So it’s definitely not easy if you’re not really into it.
    Second, what is the motivation for moving? Wanting to move to a country because of their pop culture is not…advisable. Wanting to move to a country without ever having visited is even less advisable. I actually think Simon and Martina responded so well to Korea because it was a surprise to them. From their earlier videos they had previously stated that the master plan was never to move to Korea. It was to spend maybe a year in Korea and then pop off to another country, then another country etc. But their lack of preconceived notions worked towards making Korea a pleasant surprise (same thing happened to me when I visited Turkey) and they stayed because they wanted to know it better. I was watching a travel show the other day (The Layover if you must know). They were in Paris and they were speaking to a local who said that when people show up with their beret and their striped shirt, they’ve already closed their mind to the real charms of Paris, because they want it to fit into their *idea* of Paris. He said that people need to come to Paris naked (figuratively…I hope) and let Paris dress them. Now, aside from making me want to hop a flight to Paris immediately, I found that statement to be excellent travel advice in general.

    7 years ago
  14. “I don’t want to ruin anyone’s dream of becoming an idol and eating doritos in SHINee’s dorm jacuzzi!” LOL

    7 years ago
  15. I was planning to continue my studies in Korea , well a french University is in touch with others Universtities in Korea and that’s awsome !

    I would be soOooOoOo Happy to work for you in some years ! I’m Funny and I love making videos and all that stuff…. And I’m a Magical french ! YES ! French are magic ! Hum hum… Bye !

    PS: You need me but you don’t know it yet !

    7 years ago
  16. lmd

    I went through the whole process to teach in Korea (twice actually) only to decide it was probably a bad idea because the South Korea we see in the media is not a good reflection of the country as a whole. The same can go for Japan. Daily life is pretty much mundane and the same as ours (except in another language of course). My boyfriend is Chinese and he was looking into working in Hong Kong a few years ago. Ultimately, he decided it was not worth it. It’d be longer hours, smaller space, and less pay. All of that on top of being thousands of miles away from his family and friends. When I was considering the teaching jobs, I often asked myself if going abroad was going to help my career (my degree is in Graphic Design).

    Trust me, I know how many younger people want to go to South Korea because they love kpop and kdramas and want to find a charming South Korean boyfriend straight from a kdrama (been there, done that). However, I think a better idea would be to vacation in these countries for a while and befriend foreigners who live there to get their take on things. Why jump through all those hoops when you might not even like the country after all? I have Korean-born friends who live in North America now who hate their country. One who moved here a couple years ago and hates Korea so much he was desperately trying to renew his VISA so he wouldn’t be shipped back.

    Also, last time I applied (a year ago), the teaching jobs for public schools were getting scarce and harder to get. Hagwons were still hiring normally, but I know a lot of them can be shady. I mean, I don’t want to be a debbie downer here, but I think a lot of people who say they want to live there are living life with rose colored glasses on.

    7 years ago
    • lmd

      I’m not saying people shouldn’t do it because it’s great to experience different cultures. However, people shouldn’t go into it having the expectations that it’s gonna be some fairy tale. That’s why I think it’s somewhat better to vacation in the country ahead of time. You still experience it but don’t have to commit to it.

      And about my friend, he specifically commented about the pressures of living in their society. Having to be the best at everything, their education system being very corrupt, along with society being somewhat closed minded about things (women’s rights, gay rights, etc). He likes that at least here he can speak his mind. That’s not to say SK is bad, like every country it has its pros and cons.

      Like Simon and Martina are saying, people need to be realistic about the outcomes.

      7 years ago
  17. Well in two and a half years, if you need a foreigner with a degree in multimedia and a specialization in animation and film editing (and a minor in Korean studies), I’m your girl! Like, I’m serious. That’s what I’m in Uni for AND I’m in Hong kong so I’m pretty close!

    7 years ago
    • The main things, in my Uni, that we learn about is the language and the culture. I know there’s a culture course that every Korean minor has to take, and you have to take around fifteen credits of the Korean language.

      7 years ago
  18. “i work for a Dorito factory and i want Taemin to be all over me yo” bwahahahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!!
    i’d love to work in Korea! not just for kpop but cos i love the country!! i’m studying as a graphic designer now and slowly learning the Korean language but i’m not sure of moving to Korea and being a GD’ll (haha no not THAT GD!!) be a good idea…it’s already hard enough in England!!
    but i wanna start my own brand so i’ll see if i can ever sell stuff in Korea!! (and have kpop idols wearing my stuff hahahaha) that’d be awesome!! but yeah that’s way ahead into the future!!

    oh i can’t wait to see Spudgy and Meemers working at the company!! i wanna see Spudgy sitting at a CEO-like desk with his own engraved nameplate and Meemers at a large desk with a laptop and wearing a bow-tie!!

    7 years ago
    • hehe aaaww thanks!!

      7 years ago
    • oh thanks! yeah i thought if i did move to another country to work as a GD, Japan would be the best place!
      also it seems like i good idea cos i’m really inspired by Japan!! ^^

      7 years ago