Recruiter In Korea

The Honest Truth About Recruiting in Korea

At least these guys are doing okay…..

with 15 comments

I actually live close to here and no doubt, there are tons of so-called ’boutique’ hagwons in this area.  Several friends who have worked in this area (some still do) all make 4 million+.  Most of them are F-4 visa holders but these schools do hire some E-2/F-2 holders as well.

Is this the elusive ‘perfect’ position I said that was out of reach?  Well not so perfect actually:  usually no housing included, no pension/health benefits, no severance, 6-hour workday (which is quite normal), and more often than not, weekend work.  However, the high salaries usually offset any negatives; although I would hate to work on weekends.  During the summer and winter intensive months some of these guys earn 10 million+.

One veteran SAT teacher I know (he’s Korean-American) just pulled in 30 million in July and August when all the Kor-Am high schoolers come here for vacation.  He does work a hard grind though (usually 8 hours per day and 3 hours each on Saturday and Sunday).

Anyways, back to the article, this area has one of the densest hagwon concentrations in Seoul and I’m guessing in pretty much the entire country:

According to the education office, of the 2,840 hagwons in the whole of Gangnam, more than 400 hagwons are currently located in the Daechi-dong area alone, making it the largest mecca for private institutes in Seoul. Despite the recent bad economy, “the number of hagwons opening keeps on growing,” said Song Ki-cheol, an official from the district office.

As you guys know, Daechi is a very affluent area so it only makes sense to put a bunch of cram schools and hagwons around here.

So, why is it that hagwons located here are so prosperous and well-off compared with others around Seoul?

“The [Daechi-dong] area is a relatively good location for private institutions because there are a number of elite schools nearby and many apartment complexes,” said Kim Jin-ho from Seojin Hagwon.

Stepping out of Daechi Station, each of the eight exits leads to different apartment complexes, including the Eunma, Mido and Woosung apartments.

Kim also said that there are hardly any entertainment spots and that most buildings here have less floors compared with others in the southern Seoul areas.

“In Daechi-dong, there isn’t a building that is higher than 10 stories,” he said, noting that most are five to six stories high. “It’s relatively easy for a hagwon to open since it is more convenient for them to advertise using signboards.”

Though the exact year that the hagwon hot spot was established is unclear, industry experts point to a probable start in 1987.

Back then, the government lifted a ban on hagwons and allowed students to enroll in private institutions. For years, parents complained that the cost of private tutoring was excessively high and demanded that hagwons be allowed to open. Officials took note of the complaint and students were soon allowed to go to the private institutes.

In the 1980s, large institues dedicated to college entrance exams opened in Daechi-dong, such as the Jongno, Daesung and Hankuk hagwons. Then, smaller and private hagwons started opening, surrounding the larger ones.

The trend today, however, is that “parents prefer sending their children to small, private hagwons instead of the larger ones,” Kim said.

“It’s normally the case that well-known brands are popular elsewhere but not here in Daechi-dong,” said a principal from a small hagwon who asked to remain unnamed. “Also, there is a tendency that more expensive hagwons attract parents because they think that cheaper ones are low in quality.”

The principle said that that’s why hagwons here are raising fees.

“Parents here want their children to be raised as socially elite intellectuals rather than to be rich or successful,” said Kim, a teacher from a well-known Korean language hagwon in Daechi 4-dong. “Parents ask teachers for classes that are well-suited to their children rather than lectures that are for the masses. An increasing number of parents are wanting more from hagwons. For example, they want us to teach students to improve their creativity.”

The teacher said that if hagwons cannot meet those parent demands, they cannot survive.


Written by recruiterinkorea

November 3, 2009 at 12:07 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

15 Responses

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  1. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the future of the ESL market in Korea.

    There’s been a lot of chatter about the current economic situation causing a flooded ESL market and that the jobs are harder to come by. How true is this? Should first-year E-2 holders be concerned about finding a new job/renewing?


    November 4, 2009 at 2:22 pm

    • People are under the impression right now that it’s an employer’s market. While it is true that there is a huge flood of applicants compared to the last several years (actually the most I’ve seen since I started recruiting), in my opinion it is still an applicant’s market. Of course it’s a little tougher now and with more competition but that just means that applicants have to be more aggressive, more patient, and more resilient. ESL jobs are and will always be available.

      At the same time, applicants must be more flexible but that doesn’t mean you have to bend over and take any job that comes to you. I would never advise an applicant to accept a job below 2 million. I actually don’t work with any schools that offer that little but see a lot on ESL Cafe that do. Work on your resume to make it look more attractive (check out my tips) and be sure to send in a great photo to sell your personality to your future employer.

      And while it is true that employers try to take advantage of the current market conditions to offer lower salaries than perhaps a year ago, employers will always be willing to pay for good talent. If the ESL economy was so bad, schools wouldn’t even be looking for instructors; they would just close down. In fact I believe that only the bad schools are closing down right now. Korean parents, unless they lost their job or business, would never stop sending their kids to hagwons because they’re worried about the economy.


      November 4, 2009 at 3:09 pm

      • Thanks, great reply.

        I’m working at a public school on my first contract but I will be staying another year. Beyond that is uncertain but very likely.

        Would you recommend that I renew at my public school or should I use my 1 year of experience to try for a higher paying hagwon job? I realize this is a personal choice but do you have any tips for someone who is thinking beyond just one year in Korea?


        November 4, 2009 at 6:16 pm

      • You’re right; it is definitely a personal choice. You would have to ask yourself what’s most important to you. Is it money? Stability/reliability? Good employer? (goes hand in hand with former). Location? Schedule? Looks like you like where you’re working right now so that’s a good thing. Even if you decide to stay, keep your options open. See what else is out there. Who knows, you may get a great new offer and decide to go that route. Everything’s a gamble though but it never hurts to look. Do your research, talk to other teachers, schools, and recruiters.

        If money is on top of the agenda, I don’t believe that the pay raise is that great at public schools relative to hagwons. With that one year of experience under your belt, it would look good on your resume so I’m sure that a lot of private academies will be able to offer you something better. The hours and vacation time won’t be even close to par with your public school gig though.

        Whether you decide to stay or go remember to always have good relations with the staff at your school so you will be able to provide a great reference to your next employer.


        November 4, 2009 at 7:45 pm

  2. Do you have any tips on how to find the SAT hagwon jobs? Do they usually go through a recruiter or should I contact the schools directly? I’d greatly appreciate it if you can provide any information. Keep up the interesting blog!


    November 10, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    • SAT/AP jobs are probably the most sought-after positions as they typically high paying. While it’s true that these places hire mostly F-4 (gyopo) visa holders, don’t believe that they won’t hire an E-2 with a good background because they do. It’s just that these schools are less concerned about looks and more about their students doing well on these tests.

      These schools rarely use recruiters. I just know of them because I have a lot of friends that work at these ‘test-prep’ hagwons. They’re pretty much all over Seoul (and Korea) but the highest concentration of them are in the Daechi-dong Hagwon District.

      My best advice would be to go to this area with a bunch of resumes and just drop them off at these schools. They also rarely advertise on ESL Cafe although I’ve seen a few postings on Hiring usually happens through word of mouth or by one of their current instructors. If your Korean is decent, check the classified sections where these schools advertise for SAT/AP/Test Prep students.

      Good luck!


      November 10, 2009 at 4:06 pm

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  4. […] leave a comment » Interesting article from the Chosun Ilbo.  Tax accountants come out on top in terms of top earners.  Fresh grad salaries were touched on before.  I know a few English instructors who make 10 million+ but it’s usually seasonal work teaching AP classes. […]

  5. […] like the only ones that can get ahead are the ones with money.  Regardless, it truly sucks to be a kid in this […]

  6. […] in Korea.  I think I only know 5 people that make a hundred grand or more. 2 of them work in the SAT/boutique hagwon circle.  2 are upper management for a well-known education company and the 5th is my uncle who runs a […]

  7. […] course there are some schools that specifically want experienced instructors in Korea, namely the ’boutique’ hagwons.  Also, guys with F-series […]

  8. […] it.  This is one of those ’star’ SAT instructors working at a high-paying job at an elite Gangnam hagwon. By Kang Shin-who Staff […]

  9. […] seems like the article focused mainly on the affluent Gangnam/Seocho area so I’m sure that these guys have also seen a spike in enrollment over the past few years when studying abroad started to […]

  10. […] perspective.  A lot of foreigners in their 20s and 30s make over 50 million regardless of their line of work and we all know that working at a company in Korea isn’t always as good as it may […]

  11. […] 1: Although many of these high paying academies do offer E-2 visa sponsorships, it seems the preference is to hire people with their own working visas for […]

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