Find a hawgwon - Teach ESL in Korea

Finding a Hagwon that’s Right for You

By Stephanie

Finding a hagwon that is right for you will make your life in Korea much more enjoyable. In contrast to the application process for a public school teaching position in Korea, going down the private route may be a little less painless. There will still be piles of paperwork, a criminal background check and one, (if not two or more) interview(s), but there are a few benefits.

Recruiter Assistance

A simple “ESL Jobs in Korea” Google search will return numerous listings. However, weeding through these to find not only one that matches your goals, but is also from a reputable school, takes time. If applying for private jobs, it’s highly recommended to use a recruiter. The schools pay these businesses to find them good teachers, so there’s no cost to you. The recruiter will listen to your preferences and try to return schools that match and come with a good recommendation. Of course, this is not always foolproof, so always be sure to review the contract and ask lots of questions.


While completing the public school application process, you’re asked for preferences of where you wish to be placed, but there is no guarantee that any of these wishes will be granted. If you take the private school route, however, it’s entirely up to you what city you wind up in. English hagwons are everywhere, so if you have your heart set on living in a particular city, this is probably a better option for you. Remember, though, that it may take time. Finding a school that not only matches your goals but also wants to hire you isn’t always instantaneous, with Seoul and Busan hosting the most competitive job markets.


Applications for public schools are generally accepted only twice a year, at the beginning of the school year in March and again at mid-term in August. If you’re looking to come to Korea in between these dates, it may be wise to look towards a private school placement. Here there are openings throughout the year as new schools open or expand and old teachers leave.


Once you start applying to private schools, if you’re lucky, the interviews will start rolling in. Although some of them may not match your ideal standards, it’s still smart to take all the interviews. This will give you an opportunity to compare working conditions across different institutions. Aside from pay and vacations days, two things high on everyone’s list, it’s important to compare working hours, curriculum, school culture (size, staff, method of instruction) and other aspects of each institution. Applying for and interviewing with different hagwons is great practice in learning what standards you should expect from your future employer, important especially for newbies to this process.


Wether going through a recruiter or applying directly to a hagwon, you will need to complete an interview with the director (in public schools this never happens, you show up and meet your principal and co-workers after signing on the dotted line). Don’t let the interview be only about your boss reviewing your skills and ability—use it to your advantage. Take time to ask questions and get to know the person interviewing you, and figure out if this is the kind of person you want to be spending a year with. Most importantly, ask questions if there are any discrepancies in the job description, don’t be afraid to ask about them. The interview is your opportunity to get an insight into the school culture. The contract might offer high pay, but if the director is a slave driver and the kids are brats, it won’t be worth it. A successful interview should be two sided—if you’re committing a year of your life to this place, you want to make sure it’s going to be a good match.

Stephanie is a storyteller, yoga enthusiast, and wandering sole who recently settled in Korea for her second round of teaching.  After her first stay in Korea, where she taught in a public High School, Stephanie spent nearly two years traveling, exploring the world, making new friends and becoming a certified yoga instructor. If you want to read about her travels, teaching tales or just learn more, check her out here: 

Featured Articles, Teaching in Korea

2 thoughts on “Finding a Hagwon that’s Right for You

  1. Lizzy on

    Thank you for that, I’m applying for jobs in Korea now.
    In the interview, is it rude to ask to talk to the current foreign teachers?

    1. Stephanie on

      Not at all, in my experience they’ve offered a foreign teachers contact info without my asking. If they were to object for any reason I’d see it as a red flag…

Comments are closed.