Are you considering teaching English in Korea? Chances are that the opportunity to save a lot of money has something to do with this! It’s no secret that Korea offers one of the most generous benefits packages for ESL teachers in Asia and with its vibrant cities and rich culture, it truly is a great place to teach.
If you’re wondering just how much you can save in a year teaching English in Korea, you’ve come to the right place. We’re going to give you the lowdown on all things money in Korea, from salaries to spending and we’ll help you finally become a millionaire. (Yes, really!)
First Things First, How Much do English Teachers Earn in South Korea
As a first-time teacher in South Korea, you have two choices: to work at a public school or private school. Private school teachers tend to get paid slightly higher and can enjoy a salary of between 2 and 2.2 million won per month. (Told you that you were going to be a millionaire!) Public school teachers, on the other hand, are usually paid between 1.9 and 2.1 million won.
Is Korea Expensive? Will this Money go Far?
Although Korea isn’t dirt cheap like Thailand or Vietnam, it’s definitely not as expensive as the likes of Singapore or Japan. In comparison to The UK, you get a lot for your money!
You’re out with your friends eating piles and piles of meat, have a table full of side dishes, rice, soup and a ubiquitous bottle of soju (or two or three) to pass round. And some beers as well, of course! How much do you think a lavish feast like this would cost you? Korean barbeque is a popular Friday night ritual among most English teachers in Korea and very rarely works out more than 20,000 won (£13) per head!
Meals like this cost much less than they would at home and, better yet, meals at little gimbab restaurants cost a mere fraction of this. Street food favourites like Korean dumplings are even less. It goes without saying that you won’t go hungry in South Korea- even if you are trying to save money.
As well as this, Korea is filled with underground shopping malls where you can pick up the latest fashions for as little as 10,000 won per pop. Korean beauty products are renowned around the world for their high-quality products in ridiculously cute packaging. When you live in Korea, you can enjoy picking up little sheet masks for as little as 1,000 won (£0.65)!
On a generous salary, English teachers can enjoy all of these luxuries and still save money. It’s a nice situation to be in when you’ve just graduated university.
How Much will I Spend Each Month?
So, now you know how much your Friday night barbeque session will cost and that you can explore the underground shopping malls guilt free. You’re probably starting to wonder about the more boring things like gas and rent.
But this is where things get exciting.
One of the biggest perks for English teachers in Korea is that their apartment is completely FREE!
Yup, you can live rent-free in one of Asia’s most exciting countries and have a fair bit of extra soju money for the weekend.
Your main overheads will be electricity and gas bills and these tend to vary based on the season and how old your apartment is. When I taught English in South Korea, my bills never came to more than 125,000 won combined in the hottest months when I was seriously pumping out the air-con.
Transport is also cheap with bus and subway tickets costing 1,350 one way at the most.
How much you spend in South Korea all comes down to you, though. If you want to travel around the country twice a month, eat mostly Korean food and buy yourself a reasonable number of treats, 1 million won is a very realistic monthly spend.
If you want to indulge in some craft beers, feed your sushi craving, hang out in Gangnam and explore the dangerous world of Korean department stores, you’re going to have to bump that figure up!
So, How Much Can I Save?
Let’s say that you’re going to limit your spending to 1 million won a month and take true advantage of the situation you’re in (while still living a pretty comfy life!) If you get paid 2 million won per month, this gives you 12 million won over the course of a year.
If you want to explore Japan, The Philippines or China on your holidays, knock a million each off for winter and summer. You can bring home change if you like but, for now, let’s leave the total at 10 million won.
Any Other Perks?
Well now that you mention it, yes actually!
Along with that free apartment, English teachers in Korea can also expect a generous severance payment at the end of their teaching year. The severance payment is equal to a month’s pay so you can throw 2 million won back onto the total.
Plus, in addition to this, English teachers get free return flights to their home country and public school teachers get 300,000 won when they first arrive.
All in all, though, 12 million won is a realistic figure to aim for in a year. If you’re frugal, you’ll save more and if you’re frivolous, it’ll be less. But still, not a bad amount of money to save in a year teaching abroad is it?
If you’re considering teaching English in Korea, don’t miss our other blog posts that will make you eager to touch down. For millennials looking to experience another country, this really is one of the best opportunities out there!
About the Author
Hailing from Scotland, Nicole is an eternal expat addicted to travelling and eating spicy food. After spending 3 years teaching English in South Korea, she’s now on an indefinite journey through Latin America. She spends most of her days hunting out the best coffee and strongest WiFi but will never turn down the offer to hike a volcano or find a hidden beach. You can follow her blog, Wee Gypsy Girl, where she writes about all her international adventures! You can also find her Instagram or Facebook.