Monday, April 27, 2009

Teaching Chinese (or piano) in Korea

Here's the question:

Hi,

My name is Meiqin. I am from Singapore and this 22 years-old. I am very interested in going Korea to work, probably teaching English, Chinese or piano. However, I am not sure what are the essential qualifications that I need to achieve and survive in korea. I want and determined to go Korea. Just that, I have limited knowledge about Koreans. Can you help me? I will be grateful to receive advice from you.

Thanks and hope to hearing from you soon.

Love,
Qin


Thanks for the question. First things first, before you start worrying about surviving in Korea, you need to focus on getting here and that takes getting a job. You would think that a quick visit to the Korean Immigration website would help, but it has got to be the most difficult site to navigate. So, we'll go it alone.

You mentioned teaching either English or Chinese and I should go ahead and suggest that you focus on Chinese. The requirements for teaching English and gaining the E-2 visa in Korea are simple, but it includes owning a passport from either Canada, US, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, or South Africa. Assuming you have a passport from Singapore, that would eliminate you from teaching English.

Take a look at all the visa types here.

As you can see, the E-2 visa is not only for teaching English though, but rather teaching all languages in a non-university setting (E-1). If you want an overview of how to start the process, you can start here to get some simple background info.

The best way to come to Korea is with a job, but unlike teaching English, jobs for Chinese teachers are much more difficult to find. I know of four teaching sites, but unfortunately, they're all in Korean. Just in case you have a Korean friend who can help, try here, here, here and here. You could also try your hand at an international school.

As far as teaching piano goes, I'd say that might prove fruitless as well. There are thousands of Korean piano teachers here, so getting visa sponsorship for that might be difficult. I will say, however, that you might have some luck teaching piano IN ENGLISH. I have had little luck locating any resources yet, but I do know that there is a demand for that combination.

If I were you, I would start looking at websites and forums in Singapore and by that I mean at your home and in Chinese or English. That's what you should be working on right now. The jobs are out there, but you'll have to do a little more work and since I can't speak or read Chinese, I'm at a loss on this one.

The next part of your question is a very far-reaching one.

"I have limited knowledge about Koreans. Can you help me?"


I think even those of us who have been in Korea for 10 years would have a hard time organizing our thoughts in order to form an accurate and coherent answer to this one. If I were you, besides reading the papers, I would take a look at a couple books and read a few blogs.

If you want a nice read, then go for Michael Breen's book titled, "The Koreans". He also writes a column in the Korea Times. For a more exhaustive and historical look, I'd recommend "The Two Koreas" by Don Oberdorfer.

As for blogs, I'd have to go with a personal favorite, Ask A Korean. Other than that, if you want a good look at Korean society, then Gusts Of Popular Feeling and The Grand Narrative offer excellent snips of the culture. For more biting commentary, I would suggest Brian in Jeollanam-do or The Marmot. There are a few other good ones out there, but for the most part, the ones I gave you should suffice.

I'm sorry I couldn't paint a rosier picture for you, but that doesn't mean there are great jobs and experiences awaiting you. I will continue and try to locate some more information for you, but until then, I wish you the best of luck.

If anybody has any questions, just send me an email at asktheexpat@yahoo.com or leave a comment.

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