Teaching at a Korean University

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I have talked about how to find a teaching job in Korea and what it’s like to work at a private academy (hagwon) —but I want to share a bit about my experience teaching at a Korean university for two years.

A lot of college graduates come to teach in Korea for a new experience and/or the hope of saving a lot of money. A university job in Korea is ideal because you work less hours (12-18 teaching hours a week) and have a fantastic amount of paid vacation (3-5 months of the year). These days, university jobs are very competitive; it’s based on who you know and how great your resume is. 

Every contract and school is different. I was lucky to have my own student assistant (to make copies and do grading), my own office (with a sweet view of the ocean), decent pay with full benefits, a ton of flexibility with picking books and teaching materials, a nice staff, great students, money paid into a private pension, and the opportunity to do research I was semi-interested in. 

I have a master’s degree and taught public speaking at a public university in the U.S., so I did have prior university teaching experience. Also, I taught at private academies and a public elementary schools in Korea, as well, so I had experience with teaching in Korea. So, why would I leave my cushy university job in Korea?

1. I hated my commute. Yes, I only had to go to school for seven months of the year. Some semesters, I only taught four days a week. I didn’t want to live near the university and my students, which were far from downtown, so my commute was 80-minutes of walk, subway, and bus twice a day.  For two years, I accepted a housing stipend, which was small and only covered half of my rent and commute costs. Choosing to commute was my decision, but I didn’t want to do it anymore.

2. No flight or severance pay. All full-time teaching jobs in Korea should pay for your flights (coming and going) and an extra month of pay, after completing a year of teaching. Private universities fall into some loophole and my school didn’t have to pay these two things to me. This really pissed me off, given that…

3. The pay was minimal and didn’t increase. My university paid everyone the same, regardless of what kind of experience or teaching degrees you had. 

I have been teaching in Korea since 2010. I have seen housing and school + academy costs increase while foreign teachers’ pay remain stagnant. Also, there are no pay raises. Having life expenses increase while salaries remain the same (regardless of how hard you work) is really demoralizing. 

Many times, my school put way too many students in a class, at all varying levels, and yet, under-paid teachers. No one benefits this way. 

4. It’s kind of a dead-end job. No matter how great of a professor you are at a Korean university, there is literally nowhere to move professionally but sideways or down. It’s impossible to get a tenured position and if you can get a “head teacher” position, it usually involves a lot more work for no extra pay. 

Also, given the poor academic integrity in Korea, you will be given very little respect from international universities. Korean universities are world-famous for cheating, plagiarism, lying, grade-fixing, and bribery. I don’t publish anything academic from my Korean university for a reason.

5. This job may not exist in five years.  Korea has an extremely low birth rate and, in fact, it’s one of the lowest in the world today. From 2013 to 2023, the number of university students in Korea will decrease by 160,000. Each year, there are fewer university age students in Korea and there are no signs that this will change in the future. It’ll likely just get worse. 

While the median age of Koreans increases, the need for foreign teachers is decreasing. The market here is over-saturated with native English teachers —many of them with no experience, fresh out of college, who accept pretty much any pay. Granted, those teachers won’t be getting jobs at universities, but if you lose your university job that’s who you’re competing with for another teaching position in Korea. 

If you’re interested in teaching in Korea, at a university or otherwise, think about why and for how long. And, always keep your options open.



















 


About 

Hi, I'm Stacy. I'm from Portland, Oregon, USA, and am currently living in Busan, South Korea. Check me out on: Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram, Lastfm, and Flickr.

 


lindamoorefamily
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Joined: 05/09/2015
Re: Teaching at a Korean University

Also, given the poor academic integrity in Korea, you will be given very little respect from international universities. Korean universities are world-famous for cheating, plagiarism, lying, grade-fixing, and bribery. I don’t publish anything academic from my Korean university for a reason.

 

 

 

Wow, what a terrible thing to say about your fellow Koreans. I do not agree with this one bit.

Do you see everything as being black and white? You have an M.A in what?? I can tell it is not in English because of your lack of critical thinking skills- painting everything with a broad brush- I feel sorry for you.

You, being of Korean descent should be ashamed of this comment. 

MrFunnyHaHa
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Joined: 04/25/2016
Re: Teaching at a Korean University
Yes, Linda. You're so right. She should be ashamed that she isn't a programmed robot. I must agree, I must agree. 내, 내, 내. Imagine, how rude of her being able to express her own views and experiences, (which are spot on) without caring what someone like you won't like them. I think we should notify the police, the army, the air force and the navy. Someone wrote something critical. I can hear the fireing squad loading as we speak. Oh, wait. This isn't the North, is it?
lindamoorefamily
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Joined: 05/09/2015
Re: Teaching at a Korean University

 

Mr Funny.....her own views are from what...one university?  I see she has many things in common with Trump who also has a myopic view of the world.....Where do you teach? I teach at a university and can say that my students can compose essays better than the students back home. Their vocabulary and sentence structure comes from their parents sending them to European countries such as France and Germany. Can you compose an essay in German or French?  I teach English Literature and often give my students materials from my graduate level classes- thus bringing different perspectives and insights into  the Literary Canon. I have met other teachers at universities here in Korea who have also spoken highly of their students. Maybe you teach at a college...or hogwon....??

Maybe you and her are both full of unproven assumptions- do you think that credule distortions are possible?  By the way....just because you do not know how to spell FIRING SQUAD should I assume that all teachers in Korea are lazy and cannot spell?  No, I am not that banal. I think it is just you.

 

MrFunnyHaHa
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Joined: 04/25/2016
Re: Teaching at a Korean University
It seems I'm being judged on my English. If you like I could recommend a hogwon for you? I'm sure they can fit you in a beginner's class to learn the correct use of punctuation . Would you like that...?? I'm ...surprised...one of your...fantastic students...didn't write an essay...to teach you...how to do it....already...or did they?? You did say their ability was superior to students back home. Didn't you??
surprises aplenty
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Joined: 03/11/2010
Re: Teaching at a Korean University

Responding to Linda Moore,

There is good reason to question the integrity of university workers.

Here is one example - or 200:

Some 200 professors from up to 50 universities are implicated

South Korea is set to indict 200 professors from several of the country’s universities for alleged copyright violations after they republished books by other authors under their own names, the Korea Herald newspaper reported Wednesday.

------

And another:

Yet not all is well in South Korean academia: Recent years have seen a spate of scandals involving scientific misconduct, job fraud, and academic dishonesty.

Take for example Seoul National University’s former professor of biotechnology Hwang U-seok, whom Timelisted among its 100 most influential people of 2004 after he published his success with human embryo cloning in the illustrious journal Science. A 2005 investigation determined Hwang’s research had been faked. Or Sin Jeong-ah, former professor of art at Dongguk University appointed in 2007 to co-direct the prestigious Gwangju Biennale. The Korea Times reports she claimed to have a PhD from Yale. She lost her job and the appointment when officials learned her academic background was a fabrication.

----

I have very much enjoyed my work at a Korean University and my superiors all seem dedicated to adademic excellent.    I don't know Stacy but even while I have had an excellent work experience, I know there are deep problems here.


manager
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Re: Teaching at a Korean University

Just a reminder about Koreabridge's Posting Policies....

We welcome a heated exchange of ideas and opinions, but do not tolerate personal insults. We also ask that people not correct or comment on others'  language abilities - that never leads anywhere good. 

Some lines have already been crossed in this thread, but since there is a potentially substantive conversation that's been started, we'll keep things where they are.  Going forward, comments that include personal insults will be deleted in their entirety. 

Thanks, 
Jeff
manager@koreabridge.net

lindamoorefamily
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Joined: 05/09/2015
Re: Teaching at a Korean University

 

Thank you Jeff for your message, and I want to thank you for a great web page!

 

In regards to Mr. Funny... who just registered the same day I posted my response...hmmmmmmm….

Using an ellipsis for rhetorical devices is not only fun-and certainly something that many modern day writers use to pepper their sentences with spice. It was highly recommended in my advanced writing and rhetoric classes, and something my favorite satirists have used in both modern and historic Chicago and New York journals. 

 

As far as my first post is concerned- I still stand behind my students and the professors at my university (some have graduated from American Ivy League universities).  Stacy the ‘professor’ maybe had a different experience than I did, and for that I feel sorry for her lack of luck. I have met some very erudite, upright and intriguing Korean and visiting professors here in South Korea and that has made a rewarding difference in my life here.

 

 

windupbird
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Joined: 01/17/2010
Re: Teaching at a Korean University

Lindamoore-

 

After reading your post, I have to say you and Stacy are in two totally different worlds. Stacy is not a professor, she is merely just a glorified teacher at best...

So in that regard, cut her some slack... She isn't held to the same standards as you in terms of true academia. 

lindamoorefamily
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Joined: 05/09/2015
Re: Teaching at a Korean University

Thanks! I appreciate your comment and agree with you. 

 

Maybe it has to do with the students and their economic situation? At the university where I teach it is the norm to accept high school students who lived in America and Canada and throughout the U.K. We use text books in English and just two weeks ago I had my students read Moby Dick in English. We read the first few chapters in class and 90 percent of the class could understand the vocabulary with no problems at all. Some of my students went to a Princeton University for a language program for young learners-kids who have fathers with high positions in the government and international doctors and lawyers. One of my students was at Boston University last year and decided to come home and finish her education because of some family problems.

 

When I read those notes written to the poster I was like.....What???

surprises aplenty
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Joined: 03/11/2010
Re: Teaching at a Korean University

We sure are lucky to have Windupbird here to tell us which professors are real and which are not.  It might be true that the original poster teaches basic English while Linda Moore teaches more complex material but both are teaching at universities to students for credit.  Was the professor who taught me beginner's Spanish at university a real professor?

Windupbird and Lindamoore, please stop attacking the poster and attack her claims - or my actual evidence of systematic problems in Korean academia.  I, and probably the OP, can definitely agree that many professors and even whole universities are well run and produce reputable research.  This doesn't affect at all the claim that Korea does have a larger than average problem with " cheating, plagiarism, lying, grade-fixing, and bribery."

hardpuncher
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Joined: 08/27/2009
Re: Teaching at a Korean University

We're so proud of you Linda. Without you we would've never known that your student read Moby Dick all by herself. From what you write it sounds like you're a totally awesome professor. I wish I could go back in time so I could take your class and then go to 'a Princeton University.' 

windupbird
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Joined: 01/17/2010
Re: Teaching at a Korean University

You make valid points, and a valid argument. I guess I would have to sit through Professor Fishstick's class to be the judge. However, my 101 SPA teacher was fluent in both languages, contrary to many visting instructor's in Korea, and had a solid curriculem attached. 

It's uncomparable, me thinks. 

surprises aplenty
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Joined: 03/11/2010
Re: Teaching at a Korean University

" I guess I would have to sit through Professor Fishstick's class to be the judge. However, my 101 SPA teacher was fluent in both languages, contrary to many visting instructor's in Korea, and had a solid curriculem attached. "

Re sitting through Professor Fishstick's class: that would have been wise to think before writing #9 where you called her "merely just a glorified teacher at best".  You might have noted in reading her post that she had previously taught at an American university. Sounds like a professor to me.  I chose to give her the benefit of the doubt.

My problem with Lindamoorefamily's response- and your own -  was her attack on Professor Fishsticks and also the way neither of you engaged her claims.  She claimed there was "poor academic integrity in Korea".  I gave some support for that claim.  I have heard nothing but anecdotes as a response.

windupbird
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Joined: 01/17/2010
Re: Teaching at a Korean University

I stand by that comment fully. It's not just how the students perceive the teachers, but also how the administration perceives the teachers. She is right on one point, it is a dead end job. I think she would  probably agree with me, actually,thus probably one  her reasons for quitting.

a T.A does not reference to themselves a professor. If she was indeed an actual professor in a U.S university.... And, a small number of teachers at U.S schools are full blown professor. There are visiting lecturers, associate professors, etc. 

 

good luck trying to do that here as a foreigner. 

surprises aplenty
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Joined: 03/11/2010
Re: Teaching at a Korean University

If you are done attacking her, how about her claims?

"My problem with Lindamoorefamily's response- and your own -  was her attack on Professor Fishsticks and also the way neither of you engaged her claims.  She claimed there was "poor academic integrity in Korea".  I gave some support for that claim.  I have heard nothing but anecdotes as a response"

windupbird
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Joined: 01/17/2010
Re: Teaching at a Korean University

Yeah - I didn't acknowledge that because I frankly have no interest in arguing about what goes on in Universities, maybe it's my ingorance, but as I don't speak the language I can't read the facts for myself about the claims Poor academic integrity. 

BusanGraham
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Joined: 02/10/2010
Re: Teaching at a Korean University

Sounds like a bit of snobbery going on in here !!

I feel sorry for the OP - Because she highlighted what has been known forever.  I have been here a solid 8 years and taught at 3 Uni's...

You need only look around the message boards to find Professors/ Teachers/ Minions/ Slaves - whatever you wish to call them and find anecdotal evidence of what the OP said... What do you want a bibliography to support each post?? ... Jeez

We know it's true - and you who are in denial are delusional.. ... Yes there are some good professional professors - I have no doubt, but they are the exception to the rule!!!

I finished my degree 5 years ago in the UK (a nothing fancy university) & I am now studying for my masters in Korea (in a quite well respected university) - I can tell you catagorically that the level of accademic ability and the standard of the work expected here are miles apart than back home.....  If I turned in the same work at home that I have seen being submitted here, my professors would have thrown it back at me...

I teach at a Uni (I call myself a teacher as I (try to) impart knowledge) and I am purposely told not to go too heavy on the students - Keep it light - Keep them happy and all will be well. That is the same story at the three Uni's I have worked at!!  And it is the same story from my friends and aquaintances - Maybe if it is a SKY Uni the rigors may be different..

PS.. If you look on the door it says Prof. Stacy Austin - So she was regarded as a Prof at the Uni she taught !!!!
What others choose to say she is/was is irrelevant... Not to mention elitist .... 

She obviously was able to teach in a Uni back home...   I wonder how many of us can honestly say we could be "real" university professors back home - I couldn't !!!!

Goodnight boys and girls - play nicely :) :) :)

jackieb
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Joined: 05/31/2012
Re: Teaching at a Korean University

Thanks for straight up plagiarizing from my blog, My Life! Teaching in a Korean University and not giving me any credit for it.

http://teachinginkoreanuniversity.com/

Nice one.


Jackie Bolen: How to Get a University Job In Korea

Amazon
amazon.com/How-Get-University-South-Korea-ebook/dp/B00ORLRP2Y 

My Life! Teaching in a Korean University
eslteacherinkorea.blogspot.com

University Jobs Koreauniversityjobkorea.com

YouTube: youtube.com/playlist?list=PLL0Q8kr18oQIo12jZrwIUdnU4C6eJV5rK


 

windupbird
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Joined: 01/17/2010
Re: Teaching at a Korean University

Ah! I take everything back...Proffessor Fishstick, in light of new information, is in fact a real Professor the Korean way has taught her well. 

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