Can You Teach English In South Korea As A Non-Native English Speaker?

Teach English

The Simple answer would be: Yes, you can teach English in South Korea as a non-native English speaker, but there are specific requirements and challenges to consider like

qualifications, fluency, visa requirements, school preferences, cultural adaptation, networking and persistence

South Korea loves English. It’s a big deal there. People want to learn, so there are many jobs for English teachers. 22,000 foreign teachers worked in South Korea in 2023. But, it’s not easy for everyone.

If you’re not from a place where English is the main language, it’s harder. This is because of the E-2 visa. It’s the main visa for English teachers, but only some countries can easily get it.

But, don’t give up! There are other ways. Private schools, international schools, and even some universities hire non-native speakers. Online teaching is also getting bigger, and they like teachers from different places.

Teaching in South Korea can be great. The pay is good, and you get to learn about a new culture. You also help people learn English, which is important to them.

Things to remember:

  • Lots of jobs, but also lots of competition: Many people want to teach English in South Korea.
  • Visa problems: The E-2 visa is hard to get if you’re not from the right country.
  • Other options: Private schools, international schools, universities, and online teaching are all possibilities.
  • Learn about the culture: It’s important to understand Korean culture to be a good teacher there.

If you want to teach English in South Korea, it’s possible. It will be hard, but it can also be very rewarding.

In this article we will talk about the realities and possibilities of teaching English in South Korea for those who aren’t native English speakers.

Non-Native English Teachers in South Korea: A Growing Trend

Recent studies show that while native English speakers still dominate the South Korean teaching market, the number of non-native English teachers is steadily rising.

A 2022 study revealed that 15% of English teachers in South Korea are non-native speakers. This indicates a growing acceptance and demand for teachers with diverse linguistic backgrounds.

Moreover, a 2021 study found that the number of non-native English teachers in South Korea has increased by 10% in the past five years.

This upward trend suggests that while challenges remain, opportunities for non-native speakers are expanding.

Challenges Faced by Non-Native English Teachers in South Korea

The road to teaching English in South Korea is not without its bumps, especially for non-native speakers.

Non-native English teachers may face bias and unfair treatment from students, colleagues, or employers, sometimes based on stereotypes or misconceptions about their language proficiency.

Adapting to Korean culture, social norms, and lifestyle can be difficult, leading to feelings of isolation or misunderstanding.

While English proficiency is a requirement, navigating daily life and building relationships in a Korean-speaking environment can be a hurdle. Non-native English speakers often face stricter requirements and limitations when applying for work visas compared to native speakers.

Opportunities for Non-Native English Teachers in South Korea

Despite the challenges, the South Korean job market offers a variety of opportunities for non-native English teachers.

Diverse Employment Settings:

A 2021 study found that non-native English teachers can find employment in various settings, including public schools (through programs like EPIK), private language academies (hagwons), international schools, and language institutes.

Competitive Salaries and Benefits:

Research from 2022 indicates that non-native English teachers can earn competitive salaries and benefits packages, often including housing allowances, flight reimbursement, and health insurance.

Growing Demand for Specific Skills:

Many employers value the unique cultural insights and language skills that non-native English speakers bring to the classroom, especially those with expertise in specific subjects or proficiency in multiple languages.

Online Teaching Platforms:

The rise of online education, particularly in the form of “화상 영어” (video English), has created new opportunities for non-native English teachers to connect with Korean students remotely, offering greater flexibility and accessibility.

There are platforms like AmazingTalker, Preply, Memrise. These platforms often allow teachers to set their own hours and work from anywhere with an internet connection.

Alternative Visa Options for Non-Native English Teachers

While the E-2 visa is the most common route for English teachers in South Korea, it’s not the only option for non-native speakers. Here are a few alternatives:

  • F-2 (Residence Visa): This visa is for those with a long-term stay in Korea, often through marriage or investment. It allows for various types of employment, including teaching English.
  • F-4 (Overseas Korean Visa): If you have Korean heritage, this visa offers more flexibility for work and residency.
  • F-5 (Permanent Resident Visa): This is a difficult visa to obtain but allows for unrestricted work in any field.
  • D-10 (Job Seeker Visa): This visa allows a six-month stay to seek employment in South Korea. While it’s not specifically for teaching, it can be used to explore job opportunities and potentially secure a different work visa.

Obtaining these visas can be more challenging than the E-2 for non-native speakers. Each visa has specific requirements related to financial stability, language proficiency, and ties to Korea.

For example, the F-2 visa often requires proof of marriage to a Korean citizen or a substantial investment in the country. The F-4 visa necessitates proof of Korean ancestry.

English Proficiency Requirements for Non-Native English Teachers in South Korea

South Korea maintains relatively high standards for English proficiency among its foreign teachers.

While specific requirements may vary depending on the employer and the type of teaching position, here’s a general overview:

Minimum Requirements:

  • Bachelor’s Degree: Most teaching positions in South Korea require a bachelor’s degree in any field.
  • Native-like Fluency: While not explicitly stated, employers often expect non-native English teachers to demonstrate near-native fluency in both spoken and written English.
  • Teaching Credentials: A TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certificate or a teaching license from your home country can significantly enhance your chances of getting hired.

Standardized Tests:

Employers often require non-native English teachers to provide proof of language proficiency through standardized tests. The most commonly accepted tests are:

  • TOEIC (Test of English for International Communication): A minimum score of 800 or higher is often required for teaching positions.
  • IELTS (International English Language Testing System): A minimum score of 6.5 or higher is typically expected.
  • TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language): A minimum score of 80 or higher on the internet-based test is often required.

Beyond Standardized Tests:

While test scores are important, employers also value practical experience and teaching skills. If you lack formal teaching credentials, consider taking a TEFL course or gaining experience through volunteer teaching, online tutoring (영어 과외), or other language-related work.

Salary and Benefits for Non-Native English Teachers in South Korea

The salary you can expect as a non-native English teacher in South Korea varies depending on several factors, including your qualifications, experience, employer, and location. However, here’s a general overview:

Average Salary Range:

Non-native English teachers can typically expect to earn between 1.8 million KRW and 2.8 million KRW (approximately $1,380 – $2,150 USD) per month.

Teachers with advanced degrees, specialized certifications (such as TEFL), or significant teaching experience may command higher salaries.

Salary Variations by Setting:

Public Schools (EPIK):

Public school salaries are standardized based on qualifications and experience, typically ranging from 1.8 million KRW to 2.7 million KRW per month. Benefits often include housing allowance or free housing, flight reimbursement, health insurance, and pension contributions.

Private Academies (Hagwons):

Hagwon salaries are more variable, ranging from 1.6 million KRW to 2.4 million KRW or more, depending on the school’s size, location, and reputation. Some hagwons offer free housing and flight reimbursement, but benefits are generally less standardized than in public schools.

Universities and International Schools:

These institutions tend to offer higher salaries, potentially exceeding 3 million KRW per month, but competition for these positions is fierce. Benefits are often comprehensive and may include housing, health insurance, and paid vacation.

Online Teaching Platforms:

Pay rates for online teaching can vary significantly, typically ranging from 15,000 KRW to 35,000 KRW per hour or more. Teachers on these platforms have greater flexibility and control over their schedule but are responsible for their own taxes and insurance.


Data reveals a growing acceptance of non-native English teachers, with their numbers steadily increasing over the years. This shift reflects a recognition of the unique value and diverse perspectives they bring to the classroom.

For aspiring non-native English teachers, thorough research and preparation are key. Understanding the specific visa requirements, brushing up on language skills, and immersing yourself in Korean culture can pave the way for a successful and rewarding teaching experience.

Whether you choose the structured path of public schools or the flexibility of online platforms like AmazingTalker, teaching English in South Korea can be a transformative experience.

It’s a chance to share your passion for language, connect with students from a different culture, and embark on a personal and professional journey of growth.

Magazine Union

About Author

Magazine Union, from the bustling US city, is a talented storyteller. With a creative writing degree and imagination, Magazine Union writers tackle complex social topics and human emotions. Poetry and keen analysis are our signature styles in short stories and novels. Magazine Union draws inspiration from nature, photography, and human stories when not reading. Magazine Union will demonstrate its commitment to producing heartfelt stories in the following short story collection.

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