How much money to take with for the first month?

Most people seem to get by with between W500,000 and W700,000 (R3,500 to R5,000) for the first month before they get their first pay check. At public schools you should also get a W300,000 settlement allowance to buy some basic goods. Most schools promise to refund your flight ticket within the first month, but I wouldn’t rely too much on this. My wife and I together took W1,000,000 for the first month, but we ended up not even using half of this, since we got a settlement allowance from our schools.


First the good news. You do not have to pay income tax on your overseas earnings in South Africa if you are out of the country for more than 180 days out of a year. Excellent! Just double check with SARS before you leave.

More good news. If you work at a public school or national university in Korea, you do not have to pay income tax for the first two years. This should be included in your contract. Even more excellent! I have heard that some people have had to provide “proof” that they are registered as tax payers in their home country. However, I personally haven’t had to do this.

The bad news. If you work at a hagwon, you will have to pay income tax. BUT, this is usually between 3.3% and 5%, so this is not a disaster (nothing like the 18% you pay in SA).

Check out these links and the downloads page for more info.

Pension fund

Everyone working in Korea has to make payments towards a pension fund, including foreign workers. The problem is that only some nationalities can claim this money back, and this does not include South Africans. BUT, there is some good news: South Africans are EXEMPT from making pension fund payments, owing to some obscure reciprocal agreement.

We are the only country that sends English teachers to Korea where this is the case. Sometimes it is very cool to be South African. However, because there are so few of us, most recruiters and school directors don’t know about it. But when they find out that because we don’t pay, they don’t have to match our payments, they will make plans to sort this out. We save them money. Very cool!

Check out these links and the downloads page for the official documents.

Sending cash home

Take a look at Luthien’s detailed comment below.

Using SA Credit Card/Accounts in Korea

You should be able to use SA credit cards in Korea to make purchases and draw cash. The cheapest that I’ve come across so far is Virgin Money, which only charges R8.75 for drawing cash at any ATM worldwide. Most other credit cards charge at least R20 for the same thing. Just keep an eye on any charges the foreign ATM might throw in and for exchange rate costs. And the best part is that any point-of-sale purchases (ie when you swipe the card at a shop) should be free!

How much can you save? Seriously?

Let’s not beat around the bush here. One of the main reasons people come to Korea is to save money, either to fund adventures in exotic countries, build a nice nest egg or, more often, to pay back debt. And with all the regulations and paper work needed to come to Korea, the potential to make decent money is probably the one reason a lot of people come here rather than China or Japan.

The truth is that the salary here for teachers is actually not that high compared to other careers. A newbie with no experience or qualifications will be earning less than a Korean teacher straight out of university. But, with all the perks (free housing, free flights, low tax, no pension fund payments) as well as low medical costs, and generally low living costs, you can save a substantial portion of your income. And most people work extra. I have been offered lots of opportunities to legally make extra money, and I’ve had to turn down most of these because I actually enjoy sleeping and having a social life. My EXTRA income every month, from afternoon classes and other lessons arranged at the school, is MORE than what I was able to get out after deductions from my full-time job back in Cape Town.

How much you save depends largely on where you teach and what your lifestyle is. People living and working in Seoul save less, because Seoul is expensive to live in, and it has a whole bunch of temptations for people with some extra cash. If you like to go drinking every other night, especially at trendy foreigner bars, you are going to see your salary go very quickly. Also, if you want to travel around (like I do), then you will be spending a substantial wad of cash on that. But I personally think it’s worthwhile.

On the other hand, if all you do is work and save money, there is no reason why you can’t send home up to R15,000 a month. But that’s pushing it a little far.

If you live a moderate lifestyle, and perhaps don’t live in Seoul, work some extra classes but still go out and travel a bit, it is not impossible to save over R10,000 a month. But I would rather bet on saving in the region of R8,000 to R10,000 a month, and really enjoying your time here.

Don’t start counting all your money like Scrooge McDuck yet. Remember, there is a lot of work and long hours that come with this salary, and often some mind-numbing bureaucracy. Be prepared for hard work, but there is a great reward at the end of it!


59 responses to “Money

  1. To send money to South Africa from Korea

    You will do this by wire transfer. You need a valid bank account in Korea, which is not hard to get once you are working at a school with a contract.

    You go to the bank with the following
    Copy of your contract
    Alien registration card (Korean ID, which you get once you are in Korea)
    (can’t remember if there are more things you need)

    You set up the bank account using an English speaking bank clerk or if they can’t speak English either go with a Korean or use a telephone operator from the bank to translate you and the bank clerk’s conversation (this is a service at most banks).

    Fill in the forms, they will photocopy all your stuff, make a file for you and give you a bankbook and ATM card.

    To send money overseas is reasonably easy, again you need all your documents including the following

    Account name and number in South Africa
    Address and phone numbers of Account holder in South Africa.
    SWIFT code (international transfer code, you have to get this from the bank in South Africa before you come to Korea)
    Bank name, branch, address and telephone numbers of that bank in South Africa.
    Korean ID and passport.

    Then you fill in the wire transfer form with all these information, the bank clerk will help you and tell you where to write what. You fill in the amount. After all the forms and photocopies are finished then the bank clerk will type away on the computer and then ask you to type your ATM card pin into a number pad. That will execute the transfer.

    You pay a fee of 12000 to 14000 won per transfer no matter what amount you transfer. In South Africa you also pay an amount for receiving the transfer. Again if you send a small or big amount you pay the same money, something like R100 per transfer.

    Thus always send big amounts, I would suggest never less than 1 mil won.

    Then it usually takes 3 business days to arrive in South Africa.

    Always send the money as dollars and not Korean won.

    After the first time if you go back to the same bank, then the transfer will be much quicker and easier since they have all your information on file, but I always take all my documents just in case, since I don’t want to come back the next day or have to run home to fetch something.

    Banks in Korea only stay open until 4:30 pm everyday and they are never open on weekends, so either take time off work to go to the bank (which is a reasonable request in the Korean workplace) or just never go to the bank.

    The big important banks in Korea are KEB (Korean exchange bank), SHINHAN, KB (Kookmin bank) and HANA bank.

    If you can join one of these, they are modern and will have all the resources to work with foreigners, the other banks might not always provide a good service for foreigners. Personally I don’t think there is much difference between these banks but others might disagree.

    Then you can also do internet banking and I’ve heard internet wire transfers. I have internet banking with Shinhan bank and it is simple and easy. However you cannot do wire transfers with them on the internet yet.

    I think with KEB you can do internet wire transfers, but I am not sure. You will have to go to the bank to hear what they offer foreigners.

    The the bank and staff and amount of English will depend a lot on where you are living. I live in a very affluent area with mostly foreign businesses, thus all the banks have English speaking workers to help all the foreign business men who come there, other places might differ from this.

    Most ATM’s have an English option that you just select and from there it is easy easy easy.

    You can draw money, transfer money to another account etc with ATM’s. But they do close after midnight and only open early morning so just keep that in mind.

    I don’t know much about Korean credit cards or South African credit cards in Korea, simply cause I don’t own any. But I think it should be possible. In many ways Korea is much much more advanced than South Africa anyways.

    well happy banking, hope this was helpful

  2. I was at Standard Bank, ABSA and FNB today to find out the costs of wiring money to SA. Seems like FNB is the cheapest, at 0.4% of the value of the transfer (with a minimum charge of R90). Standard Bank charges 0.425% (with a minimum charge of R105). ABSA wouldn’t tell us what percentage they charge (weird), but their minimum charge is R100. We think the percentage they charge is about 0.5%.

  3. I had a chat with Forex consultant at FNB this week who warned me not to use my credit card in Korea or anywhere out of the country if I am working and earning money in that country. Mmmm! Didnt have much time to question her on this! Any ideas?

  4. Well, I’m not so sure about not being able to use your credit card outside the country if you are living and working elsewhere. As long as it works and you pay your bills, I can’t see how it could be a problem.

    To be honest, I haven’t used my SA credit card to purchase anything in Korea. The banking system is a bit bizarre here, so I tend to only use cash. I treat my SA credit card as a safety fallback in case of emergency, and so far I’ve only used it to pay for some Skype credit and for one or two things back home.

  5. Hi everyone there, please help me find south africans in Korea. I have just arrived in korea and Im very lonely. Im from durban in natal. I need to make friends with the South Africans. and I think hanging out with them will release the homesickness. PLEASE REPLY. i`M A ENGLISH TEACHER IN A SMALL CITY IN GOVERNMENT SCHOOL.

    • are u still here in korea …..or not contact me.i am on a small island off incheon,landed 2 months ago and staying i think,anyway please respond

  6. I understand how you feel. The first few weeks here were also a bit rough for me.

    I haven’t met many South Africans here, and I’ve ended up hanging out with Canadians and a couple of people from the UK. Sort of bumped into people who happened to be in the area.

    Where are you working? You might be able to find some people in your are on this Facebook group:

    Definitely give it a try.

  7. I lived in Zim (then Rhodesia) in the 1970s and visited SA numerous times (fond memories)–I am USAn, heading to Seoul under EPIK before the end of August.

    In Seoul, I understand you can load up a T-money card, get around, and even use it in some stores, including all GS25 (or something like that).

    What do you know of this T-money card?

  8. Hi

    Just got back today from China, and saw your comment.

    The T-Money card is great. I don’t live in Seoul, but I have a T-Money card that I use in my town and in Seoul on all the public transport. It works great, and it is cheaper than paying cash. I don’t know about using it at GS25 stores, but I imagine that something like that is possible.

    The best is to get a card that uses both T-Money and EB. Then there is a wider range of stuff you can use it for.


  9. I lost my passport and im freaking out coz i cant find the south african embassy, ive only been here 2 weeks. help some1?

  10. Hi Garth

    Wow, that’s terrible! But don’t stress too much. This is solvable.

    Here’s a link to a map of the SA embassy in Seoul:

    Give them a call before you go, as sometimes you have to set up an appointment first. The details of the person to contact can be found here:

    They should be able to set you up with a temporary passport while your new one is being processed. The one problem may be your visa. Did you get your ARC yet?


  11. Hi TB,

    thanks so much for your help. I went today, they said i must get 2 passports, one temp one perm. I dont have my arc yet. But, i gotta pay 70 000 won which sucks coz i haven’t been able to set up my bank account yet without my alien card and i lost my passport on the way to the immigration offices. talk about bad karma… so im gonna get my company to pay for it.

    Otherwise im going drinking, i think this experience deserves a round of VODKA LEMONADE>

    Thanks TB

  12. Glad to hear that things are coming right. Bad karma indeed!

  13. Hey,I work at a Hagwon and struggled with my director for about 9 months before he agreed that I wasn’t supposed to pay pension! I am going to be refunded but understand that it can be a process getting the money back. My director said I will have the money when I leave Korea during November, I am just not sure if I can trust the man! Any suggestions?

  14. Hi Thys

    Yes, it is such a fight to convince people that we don’t have to pay pension. I had a long discussion with my public school about it.

    I’ve also heard that it can be quite a process getting this money back, IF the school has actually paid it to the NHIC. Personally I’d push to get this repaid before you leave the country. Three months seems an excessive amount of time to get a refund. And if you leave, what motivation do they have to make sure you get your refund? Out of sight, out of mind… The school should at the very least give you the cash and then get the refund back from the NPS after you leave.

    Maybe it would be worthwhile to give the National Pension Service a call at 1355. Or at least tell your boss (in a friendly, innocent way) that you’ll give the NPS a call and see if they can sort it out quicker, since you are leaving soon. If your boss has paid the money across, then all you are doing is finding out if you can get the refund sooner. If he hasn’t paid it across, he probably won’t want the NPS to know, and in any case then he is the one with your money and can refund a lot sooner.

    From my own experience I don’t trust Korean bosses as far as I can throw them. I don’t know what your boss is like, but it might be worthwhile to make a noise about this.

    Let me know how it goes.


  15. Hi guys…
    I’m trying to figure out whether to open an international bank account or send money straight into my account in SA… I’d prefer an international account ‘cos I’ve heard you can lose a lot sending straight home, plus I’d like to travel afterwards so it would be nice to have something like that. Any advice on which international banks us old South Africans can use?

  16. Hi Nicole!

    I think this is something definitely to do some research on. I’ve been losing a bundle each time I sent cash home (especially since we lose twice on the exchange rates). I’ve been looking at an HSBC account, but their SA operation is a bit small.

    I’ll do some research and let you know if I hear of any good options. Please let me know if you come across anything interesting.


  17. Hi Thank you for this page it is really a help. Im on my way to Seoul on the 23December and wanted to ask how do I bring over my money or can I access my Nedbank account.

  18. Hi Dawn

    I’m glad you found the information helpful.

    I found the easiest way to bring money over was to convert my Rands into US dollars (some cash, the rest in traveller’s cheques). It is possible to withdraw money from an international account, but 1) this gets expensive, 2) it is sometimes difficult to find ATMs that offer English options, and 3) it is sometimes difficult to find ATMs that offer access to international accounts.

    I brought about US$500 with me ($100 in cash, the rest in traveller’s cheques). I exchanged $100 at the airport when I arrived to have Korean cash on me, and I exchanged the rest in the town where I work as I needed it. Traveller’s cheques are safe, because you can replace them if they are stolen and they are easy to exchange.

    Hope that helps!


  19. Hi, just arrived in K! settling well , one question: how cheap is it to transfer money using internet banking?

  20. Dear fellow Saffas

    Iam actually looking for some South African
    or Canadians/ US/NZ english teachers to
    make contact with. I have been in in S.korea for just one month and would like to hear about
    your experiences teaching English and living in the country.

  21. Dear Dawn

    If you have a visa, master card, cirrus ( check card), you can use it at bus terminal at Hannet ATM’s.
    You can bring dollars, banks are willing to exchange this for Korean won.

    Make sure you do your blood/drug test asap. This cost about 150 Kwon. Apply for alien registration thereafter ( 10000 Kwon). Then you can open a bank account. Take about 1000 Kwon if you want a ATM card.

    Free TV
    For those teachers with no cable.
    Log onto on your computer. Click on watch free episodes, you can watch programmes like Ugly Betty, Lost, Extreme Makeover, Pushing Daisies, Brothers and Sisters. According to Jim etc. E on line for the latest hollywood gossip, Stylechannel/ HGTV network for realty shows. Disney
    for shows you can show your students in school

    I lived in the U.S. so I love these shows for free radio stations and all music genres.

    Until next time.

    Merry Xmas and a joyful New Year.


  22. Hi Tina

    Thanks for this info. I tried your tip to watch shows on, but it kept on saying these shows are only available to viewers in the US. How do you access these shows?


  23. Hi Tina

    You can get into contact with more South Africans through this facebook group: and through this new organisation:


  24. Hi Pris

    Welcome to Korea! The cost to transfer money home through internet banking depends on your bank, and some also don’t always allow you to do this. You’d have to speak to your bank to check these costs.


  25. Hi All,
    My family( wife & 3 daughters ) will be arriving in Korea between 15 Jan and 20 Feb. We ‘re not sure where we will be based as we are waiting for the contract to arrive. My wife will be teaching english and we are being placed by Teach korea.
    Would be great to connect with fellow south africans in korea already. I am not sure of what I will be doing yet although I am a qualified sports coach. Are there any born again believers, we would love to hear from you as God has called us to come to korea( as a base ) and serve the asian church, any suggestions
    John, Juliette and family

  26. Hi John

    There are a couple of places to try and connect with other South Africans. That’s if there aren’t a whole bunch already where you end up living. There are two others in my small town alone!

    You can try Sakornet here:

    And there’s a Facebook group here:

    There are also some other people here involved in church work. You should be able to get hold of them here:

    Good luck for the move over here!




    • Hi!

      I’m back in Korea now, so I can give you a decent response.

      Wow, it seems you are losing a lot on your transactions. What banks are you using (in Korea and SA)? Or what service are you using?

      I’m not sure about the cheapest, cheapest way to send home, but one that has worked well for me has been through the banks. I use Nonghyup in Korea and Standard Bank in South Africa. It does cost a bit of money, but not the amounts you seem to have lost on your transactions.

      Here’s an idea of the charges I pay each time I send money home:

      First you will lose some money on exchange rates. We can’t send KRW straight to SA. It has to be converted into US$ first. So we lose money twice on exchange rates. And the exchange rate goes up and down every day.

      Second, the banks will charge some a fee for sending money. For example, I sent 6 million won home and Nonghyup charged me 33,000 won for a remittance fee, and 8,000 won for a cable fee. In SA, Standard Bank charged me R185 to receive the money. But, all these charges added up to less than R500 altogether, not the thousands that you have been charged.

      Also, some of these charges are standard, and don’t change no matter how much you send. So the more money you send at one time, the cheaper the charges become percentage wise.

      If you can give me more detail about your situation (what services you use etc), and maybe I can give you some more detailed information.


  28. Hi, I have been in Korea for 1 month now and I realy need to send some money home. I read on one of the comments that I will need a SWIFT code, which I should have gotten back in SA, in order to do this. So I am getting quites worried that I wont be able to send my family some money. Is there a way that I can obtain the SWIFT code without being in SA or is there a way that I can wire the money without the SWIFT code?

    • Hi Lee

      Yes, you will need your SWIFT code, but it’s easy to get. It’s just an 8 digit international code for the banks in SA. A quick google search will usually produce these.

      I tracked down a few for you:

      Standard Bank: SBZAZAJJ

      Of course I’d recommend checking these codes on your bank’s website, but these should be correct.

      Hope that helps!


  29. Hi,
    I have been teaching at a middle school ina rural town for 8 and half months now – yesterday the principal send me a verbal message via my one co teacher that I must use the American accent. Needless to say I’m flabbergasted,. Can you guys comment on it

    • I’ve heard of that happening before. Luckily my school never tried it, though I did find my students sometimes understood words better if pronounced with an American accent. All their audio materials had dialogues with American accents. But, some of my teachers and students did tell me that they found the South African accent easier to understand.

      Some schools might want you to teach in an American accent because the students want to go to American universities, or they think it’s a “better” accent. Maybe you could try and convince them otherwise?

  30. Hi

    I looking for a agency to place me at a school in Korea, any suggestions? I’m planning on traveling on my own, where is the best places to go to, I don’t want to end up in a place where no South African has ever worked.
    Love the site, very nice idea!

    • There are quite a few agencies that you could work through. I would recommend avoiding South African-based recruiters. Few have good reputations.

      I worked through KorVia ( I found them very professional and helpful. I have also heard good things about Esl-Planet ( They have both placed many South Africans, and know how it works.

      There are many, many dodgy recruiters out there, so make sure you don’t pay any fees to anyone. At all. There’s more info here:

      Where to go and teach is another debate altogether. To be honest, many places in Korea are pretty much the same. Most people end up teaching near Seoul – it’s got the most jobs, and it’s always nice being able to head to the city if you need to do some shopping or to let your hair down. Suwon and surrounds would be a good bet.

      Another option is somewhere near Busan. I’ve heard good things about people’s experiences down there.

      What places have you looked at so far?

  31. Cheryl-Anne Smith

    Hi guys thanks for all the information, it is very helpful. However I have a bit of a problem I canot seem to acess my internet banking from my computer in South Korea. I bank with absa and every time they indicate that my authentication has failed. Can anyone assist, as i need to view my account back home because i will be transferring money to this account for loans. Another question. I noticed a lot of people have lost money when doing transfers. What is the best way to transfer my money back home. Should I exchange it first into dollars and then send it or what?


  32. Hi,i really like this site,i logged on for the first time and im so overwhelmed by TB’s advises.I am waiting for the response from Teach Travel ASia and should be there in February 2010.

    i can now say i do understand a lot of basic things in Korea n will never look like a banana when arriving there.please keep the advises coming as we need them
    Tell me,is Teach Travel Asia(TTA) the best agency to deal with,anybody to comment on this one?
    Enjoy your festive season that side,i want to enjoy Christmas wif fam. n friends and will mos def c u nex t year

  33. Hi there black ladies in Korea,please help me here ,are there any salons where you can do your hair,i mean relaxing,plaiting,waving and so on?

  34. lebogang, yes there are, dont worry

  35. great,how much do they cost?are they owned by Koreans or S.A.s?do they use the products we use her in S.A?

  36. lebohang, very expensive sisi, u can pay almost 700 rand for plaintings, bring your own extension

  37. when r u coming to korea?can u buy something for me there pls? i will pay u when u get here

  38. im not sure of the date,still busy with the application and i havt got my visa yet,just curious thats all.i dont even know where i will be working if everything goes well but i dont mind buying some for you,it will b great if you gimme your email address so that we can communicate

  39. Lebogang, is please Lebogang if u r coming, pls let me know, i need something that side, its not heavy, actually its perfume u can get it e edgars, i will pay u

  40. hi guys i am in Korea but looking for a salon to do my hair! I am coloured could u please give me a list of salons i would greatly appreaciate, i need a relaxer and a cut done, my hair is way to long and unbearable, although it keeps my kneck warm in this freezing weather


  41. Hi TB

    Just wanted to say thanks so much for this unbelievably helpful site. We thought we would just google ‘transfer money from Korea to SA’ and what do you know, we are going to give it a shot tomorrow! Thanks again.

  42. Hey evryone

    I am working on my application to Korea in August. Things are promissing with SMOE. I am at the moment out of the country till mid July and it makes things difficult. My sister is helping me with the documents for my visa. Can somebody advise me how does the apostille work? I have googled it but I find it complicated and not clear.
    I live in PE, this is how I got it…send documents to be notarized then after nonarization they could be sent to Pretoria to be legalized? Is this right? Where can I notarize in PE? How much does it cost?
    one last question…how much does it cost to send these documents through FEDEX to Korea. I tried to search but it gives me dodgy numbers.

    Hope you are willing to help

    • Hi Khuselwa. I’ve got info on the whole apostille thing on this website here:

      It’s basically just a very formal notarisation to prove the authenticity of a document. As such, you’re probably going to need original documents (esp in the case of your criminal record check), or an official copy of the document (in the case of your degree – the university will usually issue one for you). You can find out more on getting an apostille on the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (former DFA) website here:

      Personally, I got the apostille via post, using a self addressed envelope within the envelope I sent to the DFA. But this was a little stressful, especially as your docs may get lost in the post. I’d suggest trying to do it in person if possible, or use a courier, or contact Docs4Expats

      With regards to costs to send these docs to Korea, in early 2008 it cost about R325 to send via XPS (SA post office) or DHL. It took about 4 days to get to Korea.

  43. Hi Everyone,

    I need help with paying money from my bank account into my Virgin Money South Africa account.
    Does anyone know the SWIFT code for Virgin Money South Africa?
    Nobody can seem to tell me at all….

    • Hi Kurt

      I don’t know if they have their own SWIFT code, as they do a lot of their admin through ABSA. I would suggest phoning Virgin Money directly on +27 11 994 0000 and ask them what their SWIFT code is.

  44. thanks so much for the link to the guide for national pension for foreigners, REALLY helped in my school understanding this, they were perplexed when I brought it up – “but the last teacher paid pension” – yes she was American! Thanks. 🙂

  45. Hi TB
    Hey you have no idea how great it feels to get all the information i need on one page. Ausome page! I’ve really just had so many questions and i feel, most have been answered.

    So i didn’t see a response on that one question about which is cheaper to send money back home as wons first transferred to us dollars?
    Have you heard anything about the Footprints agency? That’s the one i am applying through.
    Do I have to pay for my airline ticket and the recruiting agencies if so how much in each case?
    Do i earn more if i have a teaching qualification(a post graduate certificate in education and not those esl english certificates.) and SOUTH AFRICAN teaching experience (as opposed to having taught in other countries), if so how much?

    Looking forward to the responses all the way in South Africa


  46. Cheers for well researched information in your page %BLOG TITLE%.

    Ok bye

  47. Hi,

    Has anyone got an update on the fees paid to transfer from Korea to South Africa both in Korea and in RSA.


  48. hi – can Safas apply for tax refunds in South Africans after about 4 or 5 years in S. Korea? If so, how do we do it? Any help?

  49. Earnings earned abroad is tax exempt in SA. Correct me if I’m wrong if you have new information.

  50. Hi everyone, i just moved to bucheon and currently struggling to use my card anywhere. I had to transfer all my money to my sis back home so she could try sending it to my new korean account. Here is the struggle now, i don’t know how she will be able to do this.. Can someone please assist? How do I transfer money from Siuth Africa to Korea? It’s urgent

  51. How does one transfer money from South Africa to Korea?

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