Ahhh, yes, let’s address head on the issue of money as a teacher in South Korea.
As I have written elsewhere, you usually make about $24,000 a year as an English teacher in South Korea. One of the nice things about that is this leads to to something of a utopia because really there is nothing that separates one expat from another. Everyone has a college degree (or at least is supposed to) and everyone is making about the same amount of money.
A lot of people go to South Korea simply to make money to pay off student loans. This is not a bad idea because if you play your cards right you can send back as much as $1,000 a month (with $10,000 being the total you can send back in one year without permission from the government).
But there are a lot of “buts” involved.
A lot of people these days have over $100,000 in student loans to pay off and if one were to stay in South Korea long enough to pay off all that they would be so changed by the time spent there that they would feel like a stranger in a strange land where ever they ended up. Your best bet is to stay in Korea about a year and then get the hell out. Otherwise, you grow attached to the Land of the Morning Calm and its “easy” money and you become something of a misfit. That’s what they don’t tell you about all that “easy” money you can make in South Korea — reverse culture shock is a bitch. The longer you stay in South Korea, the more the “black hole” aspect of it starts to kick in.
Also — the money simply is not “easy” by any stretch of the imagination. Dealing with not only rambunctious kids but the cultural differences associated with with South Korea in general as well can make teaching and living in South Korea anything but “easy.” You have to be something of a weirdo, in fact, to do well in South Korea. Yes, I know plenty of goddamn hipsters are washing up upon the shores of South Korea, but they are in for a rude awaking. In South Korea, it’s hip to be square, at least in the expat community.
It’s so rare to find a “normal” person in the expat community that by my fifth year in Korea I was shocked and taken aback should I stumble across such a rare creature.
And don’t think you can speed up the process by doing a lot of private teaching. It’s dangerous to do privates, yo, and you can and will get caught, fined and deported. That doesn’t stop people from doing it, yes, but do you really want to be living on the edge like that?
So while the short answer to “Can I make money in South Korea teaching English?” is “Yes,” the longer answer is much more complicated. Simply going there can change your life so much that you stop thinking about your life back home and all those student loans and you start to think about how you can sneak off to Thailand or Cambodia for some RnR.
And that doesn’t even begin to address how much “wine, women and song” there is to be had in South Korea. Your ability to control yourself — especially if you’re just out of college and have nothing to compare it with –is probably going to be close to nil. So you may find that easy money is spent not on paying down student loans but instead on going to a noraebang (singing room) every night and drinking booze until the wee hours of the night simply because you don’t have to work until 4 p.m….and going on a huge number of dates with really hot Korean men/women.
So be careful. Think long and hard about why you’re going to Korea and what would happen if you loved it.