Recruiter In Korea

The Honest Truth About Recruiting in Korea

Archive for October 2010

Hagwon English instructor turned out to be gangster

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Another ‘gangster’ posing as an English teacher has been arrested in Seoul.  A previous incident of Korean-American ‘gangsters’ is what prompted the review of F-4 applicants for teaching positions.  Foreigners (including myself) argue that these incidents only represent a very small fraction of the overall foreigner community (especially English instructors) but I wonder why new hurdles they will come up with now.

I read somewhere else that the most recent suspect did not even have a high school diploma.  Therefore, the problem is not only the suspect but the schools that hired him:

After committing the crime, he escaped to Korea and worked as an English instructor in private institutes in Cheongdam-dong and Mok-dong.

Why aren’t they checking these things?  It seems that they think that anyone with an F-4 who speaks English can legally teach.  Articles in Korean did imply that this person was legally residing in Korea so I can only assume that he had an F-4 visa.

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October 29, 2010 at 10:51 am

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Low Birthrate Means Fewer Kids in Schools

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Less children, less need for English education, less need for native English speakers?

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October 27, 2010 at 10:40 am

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Koreans Lose Hope of a Better Future

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A sad but true story about the future of Korea:

The so-called “lost decade” of economic stagnation in Japan has been blamed on widespread lack of motivation throughout Japanese society. The trend sees a growing number of young people left behind in a highly-competitive society, giving up on plans for successful careers and choosing to juggle part-time jobs for low wages. This slacker mentality is being cited as triggering the vicious cycle of prolonged economic stagnation.

Now the phenomenon seems to be spreading to Korea as more young people here become convinced that it is impossible to improve their social and income levels through hard work.

Slacker mentality:  From what I see, there are a lot of people who don’t work simply because they don’t have to work.  They have mommy and daddy providing the roof, car, food, and spending money so that they don’t need to if they really don’t want to.

However, there is definitely a big gap between the rick and the poor here but not trying because of that predicament won’t get you anywhere.

Among those surveyed, 49.1 percent felt they cannot become wealthy even if they try, while 48.2 percent felt they can. When asked what Korean society will look like 10 years from now, 63.5 percent said the rich will get richer and the poor poorer, and 10.3 percent that living conditions will become more difficult for everyone. Only 19.2 percent believed living conditions will either improve or remain the same.


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October 26, 2010 at 11:26 am

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Getting a national CRC Check in Korea

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Savstrom asked:

Not related to this post but a question that many Americans are wondering about:

Could you please explain the new visa regulations requiring FBI CRC for Americans?

I am especially interested in how this pertains to people currently in Korea. Should anyone renewing a contract after January 1 plan on getting this? How can you get an Apostille while in Korea?

Immigration is now implementing that all criminal background/records check must be at the national level starting from 2011.  For Americans, a state-wide CRC will suffice until the end of this year.  Prior to that, a city-wide was good enough for the visa.  Immigration finally figured out that state-wide checks in the U.S. only checked the state where the search was conducted and after some idiots made all English instructors look bad, they now require the the nationwide check.  Therefore, an arrest/charge/conviction in Maryland for example, would not show up on a Virginia check.  We called immigration a month or so ago, and they said that since Canadian local checks all stated that a search was conducted in the ‘national repository’, they will still suffice for the new visa regulations.  Of course, they can change their mind on the matter whenever they please, so I’m still suggesting that all Canadians still get an RCMP check now if you plan on renewing or if you are going to find a job in the new year.

With regards to your questions about getting an FBI check in Korea, please go to their website to get all the forms for Americans who are currently overseas.  You will need to get your prints done here and then send them back to the U.S.  The FBI will then send the results to get the Apostille and then send everything back to you.   It will take a long time though (few months).

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October 18, 2010 at 7:00 pm

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Who Wants to be a Recruiter Part 2

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Tyler asked:

hi, I’ve been in Korea 3+ years and am looking to get into recruiting by joining an existing company. Was wondering if there was any way to get in contact with you to ask some questions. Thanks.

I’ve actually received a few inquiries since my last post on the subject here.  Please read through it; the most important thing you need is an F-series visa (if you’re a foreigner).  Otherwise you’re out of luck unless the employer is willing to sponsor an E-7 visa which is difficult and unlikely.

These days, the recruiting business is not all that great unless you’re established and been around for several years resulting in loyal clients who are also in turn doing well (or better than the rest).  It’s definitely better than a year ago when agencies were referring candidates for $100 or giving them away in some instances simply because they had way too many resumes and not enough clients.  However, it hasn’t gotten that much better.  With most agencies not doing so well, you’d be hard-pressed to find a job recruiting; not impossible but difficult.

Also, if you are lucky to find a job in this field, don’t expect the pay to be anything spectacular.  You’re probably better off being an instructor if money is your top priority.  Also, to be blunt, this job sucks.  Of course every job has it’s good points and negatives and you should always be thankful for having employment especially in times like these.  However, if you read through this blog, you’ll generally get a good idea of what I mean, particularly the reputation among foreign native English instructors in Korea.

All that said though if you really want to get into this, I would suggest rather than trying to join an agency, you could start one on your own.  With visa and licensing issues in Korea, you’ll probably be better off starting something from back home.  Keep in mind though that you’ll be competing with a plethora of other individual recruiters and agencies in Korea and abroad.

If you have more specific questions, please shoot me an email at

Hope that helps.

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October 18, 2010 at 5:47 pm

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TaLK Back Alive?

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I read somewhere that the TaLK program disappeared but it looks like its back in business.  Actually from the article, it looks like they were alive and kicking this whole time.

Under the Teach and Learn in Korea (TaLK) program, the NIIE, an affiliate of the education ministry, intends to provide rural Korean students with native English-speaking teachers while giving foreign students chances to learn the Korean language and culture.

The NIIE plans to recruit more than 300 native English-speaking students across the world this year, Chung said. They will be given a monthly stipend of 1.5 million won plus round-trip air tickets and lodging.

Pay is obviously low for an English instructor but the instructors they’re looking for are college students looking for more of an ‘experience’ than making a ton of money.  I wonder if they actually get college credit for participating in the program.  If that’s the case, it would be a great deal.  However, I think the agreement has another agenda:

The initial contract period is six months and is renewable for up to two years, he said.

Two years eh?  From the outset, it looks like the government is perhaps trying to tighten its purse strings and get English instructors on the cheap?  Who knows?


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October 17, 2010 at 8:58 pm

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The good and the bad of foreigners working at Korean firms

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Interesting article from the Joongang Daily about non-teaching foreigners working in Korea:

Foreign employees working in Korea mostly agree that one of the strengths of Korean companies is the work ethic and corporate commitment here.

“The Korean corporate environment in general promotes a very strong work ethic and employees tirelessly put in hours to support their companies,” said David James Biske, who has been working at GM Daewoo for six years and currently is the development director.

This is quite the opposite of the sentiment of most English language instructors.  Of course when big salaries and status comes into play, one is willing to put in more effort and sacrifice a lot of free time.  Not saying that language instructors don’t work hard but reading ESL Cafe, you can’t miss a post where overtime hours are a major complaint.  However, to be fair, since more instructors are contracted for specific hours, they have every right to complain IF they don’t get paid for those hours.

I think the following is very true but I don’t necessarily think it’s a good or bad thing:

“There are certainly differences between Korea and the U.S. that affect the work environment,” said Steve Frawley, the first non-Korean executive at SK Telecom. “The U.S. tends to place a greater focus on individualism versus collectivism in Korea.”

Frawley added that there is a stronger focus in Korean companies for maintaining harmony as compared to the U.S. where employees “confront and challenge each other in solving a problem or issue.”

Challenges for foreigners working in Korea seem to be similar regardless of employment:

“Although there are many positive aspects to the strong work ethic in Korea, it is also unsustainable over long periods and may ultimately cause lower effectiveness and higher chances for mistakes and accidents,” said Biske.

For Frawley, the biggest challenge in working in a Korean company is the language barrier.

“I do believe that in order to adjust to Korean life, it is advantageous to learn some language skills and certainly gain a good understanding of the culture,” Frawley said.

“There are lots of internal research and reports in Korean sent to me everyday, but I don’t feel as though I have any real access to this information,” Lee said. Due to the language barrier, “I sometimes feel as if there is a glass wall that prevents foreigners from getting on the inside, whether it would be people, information or authorities.”

More about challenges faced by these foreigners working at these companies on my post here.

Other barriers include the lack of infrastructure supporting foreigners and a homogenous culture that does not embrace diversity.


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October 15, 2010 at 4:14 pm

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Using a Non-Korean Mobile Phone in Korea and Banking Info

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Elijah H. wrote:

Thank you for your information! I am living in the united states an im moving to korea very soon! I would like to know what cellphone companies they have there.. and if sprint pcs or verizon, or at&t phones will work there…! please get back with me, it would be a big help! Thanks in advance,
ELijah H.

This is a question based on this post and that I get asked a lot.  Basically, if you’re going to live in Korea for an extended period of time, you will need to buy a cell phone in Korea using a Korean network.  You cannot use your American or Canadian cell phone here unless you are okay with paying ridiculous roaming rates.  I have heard of people registering their Blackberry or iPhone that they brought from home and using them in Korea, but there’s a hefty charge; I believe it’s in the 300,000 KRW range.

There’s 2 ways to get a cell phone:  pay-as-you-go or a contract phone.  The latter is a little tricky since some companies require a large deposit or a Korean co-signer.  Prepaid phone services in Korea are much better than back west since calls you receive are still free so even if you run out of minutes, you can still receive calls.  If you are able to get a phone under a regular contract, you don’t have to pay for the phone out front; you can spread the payments over a number of months, typically 24.

Another question that comes up a lot is if people can use their Canadian or American bank accounts in Korea.  When you get to your school or hagwon, they would most likely want you to use the same bank that they use so it’s easier for them to transfer money into your account every month.  There are banks that have offices in Korea and overseas (KEB, Citibank, Shinhan, etc), but as they are still separate entities so you would still need to open up a Korean bank account regardless, which is a fairly painless process.  If you need to send money back to make payments on loans, cars, homes, etc., just bring all your banking information with you to set up a system where you can transfer money from your Korean bank account to your home bank account every so often.

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October 14, 2010 at 3:17 pm

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Sound Advice If You’re Thinking About Teaching in Korea

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Thanks to Akfusion for his comment on my post on Drop Out Rates:

I also think it’s a person’s responsibility to find out as much information about the country before coming there themselves. I would not want to undergo intense packing and hit a 15+ hour plane ride to a foreign country without knowing what I am getting into, especially if I didn’t like the food, know the language, and know the culture some. There are so many facets to take into consideration as you said. I would say those that want to work and the Korean government both could do their parts better. But I agree with you mostly!

It echoes one of the traits of the typical runner that I had mentioned before:

Didn’t do ANY or very little research before coming to Korea.  Korea is not Canada, the U.S. or pretty much like anywhere else in the world.  It’s very…shall we say…unique in a not necessarily good or bad way.  There’s a lot of negativity on Dave’s but I don’t think some of it’s unwarranted.  Make sure you have a good idea of what to expect (not all of it will be bad though).  Keep in mind that small towns are a lot more conservative than big cities like Seoul or Busan.

Korea is definitely not for everyone whether you’re a fresh college grad or have a teaching license.  It all comes down to personality.  From general research, you’ll at least know if you may or may not be able to handle life here which is very different (in good and bad ways) than life back home.


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October 6, 2010 at 12:18 pm

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Language, visa rules and big school fees deter foreign talent

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Interesting article from the Joongang Daily about the difficulties foreigners face when in Korea.  The article seems to focus more on professionals working for companies rather than the ubiquitous English instructors:

According to the Korea Immigration Service, the number of foreigners living in Korea has reached 1.22 million this year. Although more than 550,000 of them are employed, only about 44,000 are classified as professionals, a mere 4 percent of all foreigners residing in Korea.

But the struggles are still the same:

Foreigners complain that they have difficulties overcoming the language barrier in coping with daily tasks, such as using appliances at home or communicating with work colleagues.

“Living in Korea as a foreigner is an absolute headache. When I first arrived here, I didn’t know how to throw out the garbage or install internet service, and no one was there to guide me,” said an American teacher in his 30s.

I think English instructors are better off in these respects because they usually work with a group of foreigners at their particular job.  This seems to contradict the posts I made here and here and here awhile back.

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October 6, 2010 at 12:05 pm

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