Hagwon Hell to Heaven

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So, you didn’t read up on living and working in Korea quite enough, you didn’t research your school enough, etc. and now you’re in a new country without a job or a place to live.  Great.  First things first: PANIC.



















You’re going to panic whether Dr. Kate tells you to or not.  If you have a place to stay (hotel, love motel, friend’s place) then go there and have your freak out.  It won’t help you to be crying in public in a new place where nobody can or will make sure you’re okay.  Once you’ve gotten the initial shock out of your system, there are a few things you’ll want to remember:

1. You’re not alone.  This has happened before and it will happen again.

2. You have options.  You’re already in the country, you already have an E2 visa (Teacher’s visa – you can transfer your visa to a new school and you won’t have to get new paperwork), and you have 14 days in which to find a new job.  This will be rushed, but since you’re physically available to go on interviews you’ll have a better chance of choosing a good school and seeing where you’ll actually be living and working.

3. This is an opportunity.  Would you have wanted to work for a bad school for an entire year?  I doubt it.  If you can make it through the first 6 months it’s always better to avoid financial penalties of breaking a contract, but you may have dodged a bigger bullet.  If your Hagwon Horror story has occurred during your first 6 months definitely check out your options with LOFT: Legal Office for Foreign Teachers.

4. GET YOUR LETTER OF RELEASE – this is a biggie!  Your school owns your E2 visa, so unless you get your LOR you’re not going to be able to work anywhere else.  You can transfer to a D10 visa if you think you’ll need longer than 14 days to find new work.  Unless you have a letter of release (or an immigration officer who takes great pity on you) you’re not finding a new job.


Once the shock wears off and you’ve stopped considering packing up and going home, get your resume ready.  Write a new cover letter stating that you’re already in the country and are ready to work immediately.  There are tons of jobs listed on Koreabridge and Dave’s ESL Cafe, so email out your resume and cover letter to every posting that sounds even remotely good.  You can start judging when you’ve got an interview.  Don’t be afraid to work with new recruiters or entertain multiple schools.  You have to look out for yourself!


There are tons of fantastic private academies (hagwons) in Korea, you just need to know where to look!  I’m definitely lucky with my school and my contract.  What you need to remember is that in every job there will be things that are not ideal.  Sure, there are more risks involved with choosing the hagwon system over public schools, but in my opinion more often than not these risks can have great rewards!

Do you have a Hagwon Horror story to share?  Tell us all the gruesome details in the comments below!

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