Do you want to get jobs in South Korea but don’t know how?
You are not alone — People from far and wide dream of moving there for many good reasons, including employment.
Well, the good news is, you can.
But how easy or difficult is it to find a job in Korea? What are the pros and cons? What do you need, and which visa to get? When and how to apply?
This article covers all you need to know about jobs in South Korea for foreigners.
So let’s begin right in!
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Why work in South Korea?
- What are the jobs for foreigners in Korea?
- Requirement for employment
- Work Culture in South Korea
- Types of Visas for jobs in Korea
- Should you consider working in Korea?
Why work in South Korea?
The real question is: why not?
South Korea, or Daehan Minguk as the natives call it, is a country garnering people’s attention worldwide.
Starting from being Asia’s fourth-largest economy to housing big market players like Samsung, LG, Hyundai, and POSCO, it has a robust economy.
Just look at the pictures of major cities like Seoul, Busan, Incheon, or Daegu. I’m sure it would captivate you with the beauty of high-rise buildings and picturesque streets co-existing in one space.
South Korea has taken the world by storm with its well-known booming entertainment industry. As an outcome, it has already become a potential cultural superpower internationally.
It is also home to a rich, colorful, and aesthetic culture that aims to establish calm, peace, and prosperity.
The South Korean cuisine is another reason to consider working in or even visiting there profoundly. It caters to all tastes and makes you feel at home with its flavors and ‘visual’ (Korean slang for anything that looks picture-perfect).
If, at this juncture, you are considering exploring this beautiful country (and I’m sure you are), working there would be an ideal way to do it.
It gives you a good and complete experience of all aspects of the culture and lifestyle. Also, it is easy for you to get a visa.
Job prospects in Korea
As far as economic development is concerned, South Korea is one of the most promising countries in Asia.
Because of the ever-growing expansion of big companies and the increase of new businesses, Korea’s job market is enormous and maturing.
South Koreans are now finding it difficult to break into the Korean job market. So instead, they are also looking for prospective employment in countries like China, Japan, Europe, and even the United States.
There is a rising necessity for people who speak other languages beyond the native language of Korea. And that’s why foreigners are more welcome in the employment scenario.
Before diving into it, keep a few things in mind.
Koreans are native speakers and have a better cultural understanding than foreigners. Thus, they will always have an edge. So, instead of competing with Koreans, focus on jobs that you can do better than them.
Find a niche and work where your credentials and background can help the company.
For example, a German will do better for a Korean company that deals with a German-speaking region.
You will be more valuable if your expertise is rare in Korea as a foreigner. Or your task involves communicating with international clients, especially from your home country.
In the heavy competition, you will probably get a job opportunity as an ex-pat in South Korea than native Korean citizens.
We can attribute mainly this to how the country’s image in the global perspective changes and grows. As a result, the number of foreign enterprises and ties increases exponentially.
Once you know some basic Korean language skills, you can see the prospect. You can take the TOPIK exam. You also get the chance of being employed in South Korea to bring diversity and contribute to and develop these ties.
Benefits of working in South Korea
Korean culture places heavy emphasis on human relations and welfare. Thus, Koreans consider human capital to be of great importance and ensure investing in and maintaining it.
This would mean that you would get some top-notch benefits as a part of the Korean workforce.
The advantages provided would differ from one organization to another. But rest assured, your life as an employee in South Korea has many things to look forward to.
Self-improvement is one of the outstanding values in South Korea.
Thus, you can expect the company to offer courses, workshops, and more to help you improve and become better in your field.
Most Korean organizations, large and small, offer lunch in some form or another. Also, many prominent corporations often have an on-site restaurant or cafeteria that serves a range of lunches.
The better the cuisine, the larger the company, and it doesn’t just end at lunch; some corporations will even go ahead to provide breakfast and supper.
Korea’s social security system contributes to the national health insurance system. So, once you are a registered South Korean resident, you can join the public health insurance system despite being a foreigner.
The incentives and motivations for jobs in South Korea are many!
What are the jobs for foreigners in Korea?
South Korea has a high demand for foreigners in various fields. More and more job openings are available now than ever before. The prospects for work are not limited to a few industries but across the board.
Some of these positions won’t require you to have fluent Korean! But, of course, a higher Korean level can help you get more job opportunities.
But don’t let that bring your hopes down. You still have many options. So, let’s look at some of the most popular jobs for foreigners working in Korea.
(i) English Teacher
A teacher is the most accessible and great job to land for a foreigner. In particular, if you are teaching English in South Korea as a second language (ESL). It is the most common way to start a career in Korea.
South Korea has a lot of demand for English speakers. As a result, English teachers are sought after across the country. You can also find job postings all year round.
It is not only in schools, tuition centers, and colleges but also by big corporations for their employees.
You can either work for government public schools like EPIK, SMOE, GEPIK, GOE, TaLK, or one of the many private centers (Hagwon).
Besides a certificate for an English test like TEFL, TESOL, or CELTA, you need to have a bachelor’s degree. It will certainly help if you have prior teaching experience. But it’s not a necessity.
You can apply if you are a native English speaker from the UK, Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, or South Africa.
You can also apply if you speak fluent English and come from a country with an arrangement with the Korean government. For example, Indians are eligible to apply under the CEPA agreement.
Based on my understanding and what I read, they prefer native speakers. Still, you can apply if you have an excellent native accent, the required certificate, and a superior track record.
As an English teacher in Korea, you can make decent money and get one-of-a-kind personal and professional experience. You’ll quickly get a working visa and live in the place of your dreams.
Teachers also receive financial benefits, such as accommodation and travel expense compensation. This makes this line of work very popular among those wishing to move to South Korea for a job.
Since you will teach English, your lessons and entire work will be entirely in English.
You don’t need to be good at Korean. But, of course, knowing a little would be helpful.
The great news is that you will learn by immersion even though Korean is a hard language.
(ii) Office and other jobs for foreigners
South Korea is also a fast-expanding economy with job openings spread across industries. This includes but is not limited to manufacturing, auto, information technology, healthcare, finance, and more.
Besides, the startup sector is thriving and expanding at a rapid pace.
Seoul, the capital of South Korea, has a thriving startup ecosystem and has spent 1.6 billion dollars to expand it in the coming years.
Despite the epidemic, the government has opted to invest in and support startups amid the crisis.
Other significant work lines famous in South Korea include marketing, entertainment, programming, sales, human relations, public relations, project management, etc.
Such professions require you to be an expert in them. So, employers prefer you over other applicants or locals in the same field.
You can also work as a Korean translator, interpreter, content creator, and other work demanding language ability.
Of course, the most popular combination is English and Korean. But there is a demand for other languages, too, including less-spoken ones.
Average salaries for such jobs range from USD 1,200 to 4,000 per month. But, of course, this depends on the position, experience, and skills.
Self-employment and freelancing are also very common in South Korea among foreigners.
The opportunities are many. But competition is equally stiff, making it a mixed possibility.
Self-employment is so widely recognized in South Korea that freelancers just need to show that they are qualified. They do not need to be professional and committed employees.
However, being superb at your desired line of work and being fluent in Korean will get you many splendid chances.
The minimum wage policy has a lot of importance in South Korea. This is because the minimum pay rate is around 9,160 won or US$8 per hour. This translates to around INR 600.
This means you can earn a minimum of 1.3 million won or a little over 100 USD per month on just minimum earnings.
(iii) EPS – Employment Permit System
Besides teaching and various white-collar and high-paying jobs in Korea, there are also EPS of migrant workers.
The Employment Permit System (EPS) was introduced in 2004. It provides better treatment for migrant laborers (lower-skilled professions) in Korea.
This requires employees to work in construction, fishery, manufacturing, agriculture, and various heavy and light industries.
From the date of approval, EPS jobs are valid for one year. In the end, you will receive an E-9 visa (working visa) if all goes well.
The Korean government has signed MoUs with 16 countries whose citizens are eligible to apply. Examples are the Philippines, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Mongolia, Vietnam, and Nepal. India isn’t a listed nation.
In addition to age between 19 and 39, and mental and physical fitness, you need to take the EPS-TOPIK exam. This will boost your chances.
Requirement for employment
Some basic requirements are standard across all employment options. For example, to find employment in South Korea, you must have a university diploma.
Plus, your degree must be in an area related to the job you’re looking for.
The specific conditions would differ based on the company and industry that you are applying to.
For example, you might require a TEFL certificate to become an English teacher. Likewise, a management position might demand some prior work experience. Your experience, good health, and no previous criminal record matter too!
Do you need to speak Korean to work in Korea?
Koreans, especially those in big cities, know some English. This is because most schools and universities teach English. Still, they do not speak that well and only understand a bit here and there, mainly written.
Some jobs ask for Korean language ability, but many others do not.
If you are teaching English, you do not need to know Korean. Students are there to learn the language. So, institutions encourage them to converse in English with native teachers.
Although you don’t need to be fluent in the Korean language, beginner learning will benefit you.
I suggest getting functioning knowledge, including the alphabet Hangul and some day-to-day vocabulary and expressions.
Employers certainly prefer employees who speak Korean or are willing to study it. This enables them to better blend with their counterparts and working surroundings.
Language plays a vital role in jobs that require dealing with the local population.
For instance, speaking Korean isn’t optional but compulsory if you work in a hospital or any big shop. Plus, for a career involving Korean, you need to be fluent.
You get enough time to learn, practice and improve your Korean with locals when you stay there. Besides the plenty of options, you will do it in natural settings and in the most authentic way.
Where to look for jobs?
The simplest option is to look for online postings of job openings that companies would upload. Some leading websites include Job Korea, Saramin, Global Korea Center, People N Job, LinkedIn, Work-Net, Craigslist, etc.
If you intend to teach English there, you can try some specific ESL-based sites, agencies that work as mediators, and job boards.
Examples are Dave’s ESL Cafe, Korvia, Gone2Korea, CIEE, English Work, Teach Away, Footprints, Reach to Teach, Teach ESL, Hands Korea, Work N Play, etc.
Plus, you can find job vacancies in some English newspapers like The Korea Times, The Korea Herald, and The Seoul Times.
You could also look for opportunities through newspaper listings after moving to South Korea if you could manage the initial expenses.
This has the advantage of going to in-person or walk-in interviews and making a better impression on your potential employers.
Procedures and Preparation
South Koreans pay attention to detail and prefer certain specifics to be followed. As a result, many companies even have a standard CV format and specifications.
South Korean CVs are often short, comprising specific keywords rather than phrases. Try to stick to the standard format as much as possible.
A point to be noted is that Korean job candidates frequently discuss their professional development, schooling and educational qualifications, and character. And also the reasons for applying for the position they are looking for.
First impressions matter a lot for South Koreans.
They place a lot of importance on appearance, etiquette, and manners. So, make sure to be dressed impeccably and in a formal outfit appropriate for the position you are applying for.
When meeting someone in Korea, it is customary to bow rather than shake hands. Shake the hand of the interviewer only if they start it. Being humble yet confident in yourself will give you an edge in interviews.
Punctuality is essential in an interview. Try and arrive 10—15 minutes before an interview in Korea. If possible, try to bring hard copies of your resume in both English and Korean.
Work Culture in South Korea
South Korea is still a traditional society. But, it believes in incorporating its long-standing values of respect, hierarchy, and humility into a modern culture without losing its core values.
Even after the slow but steady increase in the number of foreigners, most customs remain, especially in their work culture and approach to human relations.
Since South Koreans believe in spending time with each other to build strong bonds, it is not uncommon for the team leader to take the team out for dinners or drinks.
Team dinners, called Hweshik, are a regular activity in South Korean companies to get the stress off. Besides, it forges deeper relations with your colleagues.
South Koreans value respect even for strangers, and thus, if you meet someone for the first time, wait for a third-person (if present) to introduce you.
It will help if you address someone by their formal title and your own.
Hierarchy is such a crucial aspect of South Korean work culture. Thus, it is common to have clear distinctions in mannerisms between hierarchies.
For example, seniority is highly valued in Korea, both by age and occupation.
Points to consider for jobs in Korea
Here are a few points to remember before applying for any job in Korea.
(i) Working hours
South Korea has a long history of working long hours; the typical workweek is 52 hours (40 regular hours plus 12 hours of overtime).
The number of public holidays varies from year to year, ranging from 10 to 16. This is because your paid annual leave grows each year you work for your employer.
(iii) Tax rates
Workers in South Korea must pay income tax and health and pension insurance. The income tax rate varies between 8% and 35 percent.
(iv) Cost of living
The cost of living varies depending on where you live and how you live. Public transportation and utilities are both reasonably priced.
South Korean cuisine is substantially less expensive than Western cuisine. Marketplaces and small businesses are cheaper than big stores.
(v) Major Cities
Seoul, the capital city, is the most common choice among foreigners for its ease of living for English-speaking people.
Busan and Daegu are also excellent cities for opportunities as they are still expanding yet and face high demands.
For those looking for a slightly lower cost of living, Incheon or Jeju are perfect options. But your Korean language skills need to be higher in cities such as Incheon and Jeju.
Types of Visas for jobs in Korea
You must get a visa before leaving there to work in South Korea or stay for over 90 days.
Depending on the profession, there are many types of work visas. Still, the following are some common types:
(i) Professor- E-1 Visa
This visa is for foreigners who want to teach or research at educational institutions above the college level.
While the usual validity is for one year in some situations, they may permit you to remain as long as you require, with five-year renewals possible.
(ii) E-2 Foreign Language Instructor Visa
This is a popular visa in Korea. It is one of the easier to get as you need a Bachelor’s degree, a criminal background check, and a sponsor company.
You can teach languages at private academies, public schools, and similar institutions with it. They give multiple-entry visas for 13 months, and you can renew after 1-year.
(iii) Guidance on Technological Issues- E-4 Visa
This visa is for ex-pats with knowledge of natural science or high technology. A public or private entity must have invited them. Also, the one who has abilities that are not available in Korea.
The multiple-entry visa has a one-year validity period, while the single-entry access is good for three months.
(iv) Special Profession – E-5 Visa
This visa is available to architects, attorneys, medics, accountants, and other professionals. They must be globally licensed. And also need the authorization to practice their field of expertise from the Korean government.
The multiple-entry visa has a one-year validity period, and the single-entry access is good for three months.
(iv) Activities with a Unique Design- E-7 Visa
This aims at ex-pats who engage in the Korean Ministry of Justice-sponsored programs. This is through a public or private organization.
Multiple-entry visas are valid for one to three years, and a single-entry pass is good for three months.
(V) Study Abroad visa
As an international student in Korea, you can work part-time there if you speak some Korean. But there are some conditions.
For example, you need to take a separate part-time work visa (S3) other than a D-type study visa. And you can only apply after a minimum of 6 months from the arrival date.
Plus, you must receive prior approval from your educational institution. This may not be easy to get as they want you to study and not work, the main reason you came there in the first place.
(vi) Other Visas
There are many categories of South Korean visas that exist.
For example, one can take a general temporary South Korean work visa for 90 days. It depends on the duration and the nature of the job.
Short Term Employment (C-4) is for those working in music, play, sports, entertainment, advertising, and fashion. And also those who want to engage in e-business, research, and technology.
Should you consider working in Korea?
Of all the best reasons to learn Korean, jobs in South Korea are one of the biggest motivations for K-lovers! The one-of-a-kind experience will make every struggle worth it.
There is no easy way to achieve your dream. But if you plan wisely and build your profile, you might, one day, be able to live in Korea.
If you really want to make the most out of your visit and gain an unforgettable experience, learn some Korean!
I have done my best to ensure all information is as accurate as possible. Still, a few things are highly dynamic and may change in the future. So be sure to check and verify with the concerned official websites.
Do you plan to apply for jobs in South Korea? Let me know your opinion below!