Because the other two days of the week have a slightly more defined theme, I'm trying something new with Mondays over the next month.
Because it's the day named for the moon, I'm going to write four entries on one topic that follow the phases of the moon.
The new moon will be the factual entry, the one where I try to dredge up stats and figures and look at things as objectively as possible. The first quarter will be the first look that is logical, but also personal. The entry posted around the full moon will be the most personal of the entries. And the final entry, that posted around the last quarter, will be another logical look at the issue. In this last entry I'll also try to reach a conclusion about the month's issue.
This lunar month's theme is ESL teaching in South Korea.
According to Gone2Korea ESL Employment Services 17,273 westerners were teaching in South Korea in 2007. The unofficial number cited by the same site for 2011 is 30,000 (and includes those teaching without the proper visa).
On a smaller, more contextualized scale, the major player in Japan, JET, claims 1753 teachers in its program in 2011 while Korea's big name GEPIK claims 2252 for 2010. That GEPIK only covers the north-western province of Gyeonggi rather than the whole country (like JET), it seems that Korea has become an equal, if not bigger draw than Japan (full info here).
This is observation rather than fact, but it's safe to say that a considerable amount (at least 50%) of those who are teaching ESL in South Korea are there temporarily. Maybe they're working to clear some debt, to save some money, or just to take a year or two off from their regular lives. This means that there's a pretty big turnover rate. However, this turnover is also due to the burnout that some teachers planning a longer stay experience.
The job pays well, but having just two weeks of paid time off divided between vacation and sick days (sometimes also need for field trips), having to put up with ridiculous demands from faculty, and dealing with parents that can be as difficult as some students would make anyone bleary eyed.
I mentioned the pay in passing in the last paragraph, and now will get into it more seriously.
As a holder of both a BA and MA in English I can expect my salary to be around 2.4-2.7 million won a month (based on the 2.0-2.7 million won range given on the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education site) as long as I can find work in Seoul. At the current exchange rate that works out to something between 2149.00 and 2417.74 Canadian dollars.
Taxes run at about 3.5-7% of monthly income (according to Gone2Korea). So the median cost of taxes would be about 113.50 (=2270x0.05) Canadian dollars. And regular utilities cost 162,217.14 won per month, or 145.24 Canadian dollars (thanks to numbeo for that figure). So the monthly deduction from my pay would be about 258.74 Canadian dollars, I'd be left with something between 1890.26 and 2159.00 Canadian. That is considerably higher than most entry level jobs here in Canada (please correct me if I'm wrong), and I'd be able to save most of it.
There are 317 colleges and universities in Canada and 415 in South Korea (thanks, Wikipedia). Considering that about 80 or so of those in Canada are entirely Francophone and my French skills allow me to read the language and follow along with songs but nothing more, Canada effectively has about 240 schools to which I could reply. But even Korean universities and colleges dedicated to art and design have English teaching faculty, so I'd dare say that I could work at any of the 415.
Why do these numbers matter? Because my aspiration, if I do go back, is to get into post-secondary ESL teaching in South Korea. This will likely take a year of working elsewhere, however, since most universities and colleges have in-person interviews as part of their hiring process.
So, those are the benefits and costs of living and working in South Korea. Yet there are also the costs of getting there.
These costs involve airfare (generally reimbursed by your employer) that starts at approximately 600 Canadian dollars for a one way trip (according to FlightNetwork). They also involve the paperwork needed for your visa such as a Criminal Background Check ($40), transcripts from all post secondary institutions that you have attended (15$ each), a set of passport photos (about $15), and the visa application form ($50), and potentially a new passport ($87). So the grand total of the "start-up" costs is $822. Add another $995 if a certification course needs to be retaken, to bring that cost up to $1817.
Any reimbursement for airfare or from the certification company notwithstanding, that's a cost that could be easily recouped within two months. Any other debt that may be incurred as a result of going overseas could also be easily paid back within a few more months, or, at the most, a year.
So, there are the facts as I've found them on the net. Next week I'll look at their relevance to my own situation. And maybe I'll add in a few more costs to reflect that as well.