English Teacher in Korea

Korea - Friday, February 11, 2005 by: Devon Mason
Stepping off of an airplane in Korea was like being in a movie. There were dozens of people holding signs in a language you could not read. I flew from Canada to Korea to teach English, as a second language, to Korean children.

You arrive in a strange country, surrounded by a language you do not understand and within a couple of days, you are in a classroom teaching. This depends not upon your experience teaching. All you need is a four year university degree in any subject. It is as much a babysitting service as a teaching position. Parents in Korea are busy people and need a service to look after their children. These children will take care of the parents when they are older. So the parents kill two birds with one stone and they pay numerous teaching institutes to watch and teach their children.

The children in Korea are constantly in classes to learn new things to keep them competitive in the future when they are applying to universities or looking for jobs. The better the job, the more likely the parents get taken care of in the old age. This is due to the fact that in Korea the parents move in with their children in their old age. The existence of old age homes in Korea is rare.

This process seems good in theory, but when you see it in practice you realize how quickly it loses its appeal. The children here are on the go from early in the morning until extremely late at night. I taught students (13 years old) in Korea that started classes at 8:30am and finished at 11:30pm. The only breaks in this schedule were travel times between schools, recess and meal breaks. Then after classes they go home, do homework and study until the early hours.

Don't get me wrong, the country is very well respected in the world's learning communities and our job is tolerable. We are set up nicely with airfare to and from Korea, a furnished apartment and a decent salary. It also affords you the opportunity to travel throughout Asia and pay off your student loans.

The best aspect is that you experience a new culture. The Korean culture is based on good food, singing rooms and soju (Korean rice wine). It is actually much more complex, but I will only explain those three.

In Korea the food is excellent. The main staples are kimchi (spicy fermented cabbage) and rice. These are served with most meals and most meals have meat or tofu with them as well. I have tried many dishes, including boshintoung (dog soup), silkworm pupa and live octopus. Finding a bad dish is quite rare.

The singing rooms in Korea are a popular pastime. They are similar to Karaoke but are in a private room for you and your friends. You can also go to DVD rooms to watch DVDs, video game rooms to play games or board game cafes to have a cup to coffee and a beat your friends at Monopoly.

Soju is an extremely cheap alcohol that makes most people go crazy. Drinking in Korea is a masculine statement. The more you can drink in one sitting, the more you are respected. This leads to some crazy events happening when people are trying to gain respect. I find it is easy just to avoid the whole soju scene.

I paid off the final payment of my student loan this month with much awaited enjoyment. I have also come to the end of my second year in this country and I am looking forward to returning to Canada. I think that teaching in Korea was a good experience and gave me some great memories.

If you feel you are up to it you might like to try it out. It is not a job to go into lightly. Do some research and make sure you get a respected school. It is not unknown for foreign teachers not to get paid. Or for a school to go out of business and the teachers be stuck half way around the world form their home with no place to live. It is also not a job to go into with long term expectations because the chances to advance are extremely limited.

If you do decide to try it out, you get the chance to see much of Asia. It is a lot cheaper to fly to Asian countries from Korea than it is from Canada. It is not all fun and games though, just remember it is a job first.
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Hong Kong
This area is a dish of Asian with a side order of Western. The city state has fantastic shopping, a wild nightlife and tons to see. It is a little more expensive than other Asain countries but nowhere near the level of Japan.
This former Portugese colony is now back in the hands of China. It is a city of casinos and old world elegance. The sites have been forgotten in the swarm of the gambling. It is an easy day trip from Hong Kong.

My time in Korea is soon drawing to an end. In the remainer of this year I plan on traveling to China, the Philippines, Cambodia (again), Vietnam (again), Laos, Myanmar (formerly Burma), Thailand (again), India, Nepal, Egypt and Germany (again).This will be a long journey home but life is too short. I will update my adventures when I return to Canada.

click on the images below to see them in a larger format

Hyangwonjeong Pavillon in Seoul, South Korea

Apartments in Sanbon, South Korea

Those mountians in the background are North Korea

Paldalmun Gate in Suwon, South Korea

Wat Phra Kaew (Emerald Buddha) in Bangkok, Thailand

The Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand

Roof Tops at the Grand Palace - Emerald Buddha in Bangkok, Thailand

Guard at the Grand Palace in Bangkok, Thailand

The Bayon - Angkor Thom in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Ta Phrom in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Overgrown Ta Phrom in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Traffic in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), Vietnam

Inside Caodai GreatTemple, Vietnam

Hiding Hole at the CuChi Tunnels, Vietnam

Caodai Great Temple in Vietnam

Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (formerly World's Tallest Buildings)

Batu Cave in Kuala Lumpur, Malayia

The Merlion in Singapore

Sri Mahamariamman Hindu Temple in Singapore

Temple in Bali, Indonesia

Sunset on Kuta Beach, Bali, Indonesia (1)

Rice Terraces in Bali, Indonesia

Elephant Cave in Bali, Indonesia

At the Elephant Caves in Bali, Indonesia

Sunset over Mt.Fugi in Fujisawa, Japan

Osaka Castle in Osaka, Japan

Kamakura Buddha in Kamakura, Japan

101 Building in Taipei, Taiwan(World's Tallest Building)

View from Victoria Peak , Hong Kong

St. Pauls Cathedral in Macau

Devon Mason


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