Recruiters – The Debate


Most people heading to Korea for the first time use recruiters. I used one, and it worked out fine (so far). However, the jury is still out on whether you need a recruiter and if they are helpful (see the “Teaching at public schools” section below). Let’s use a Q&A format to look at whether you need a recruiter or not.

1) Do I need to use a recruiter?

Essentially, no. A lot of people arrange work without using recruiters, and come out just fine. Others get screwed over like there’s no tomorrow. My personal opinion is that when you go to Korea for the first time, use a recruiter. They will help you through the application and visa processes. It is always nice to have someone to ask when you are not sure about something. The people on the forums are not always helpful.

2) Do I need to pay a recruiter?

NO! The schools in South Korea PAY the recruiters to find teachers for them. This is something like US$1,000 for each teacher. So if you pay a recruiter, they get money from both sides.

Recruiters in Korea DO NOT charge a fee to find you a job. There are a number of South African recruiters that do charge a fee. Their argument is that they look out for your interests instead of the schools’. However, the amount that they charge is (in my opinion) excessive. One recruiter asks for half of your first month’s salary. This is anywhere between R7,500 and R9,000 (other recruiters ask from R1,000 to R3,800). Eish. And I’m not convinced that they don’t also get paid by the schools.

There are pros and cons for both sides. A lot of South Africans have used South African-based recruiters and had great experiences. But personally, I have had a good experience with South Korean recruiters, and it didn’t cost me a cent. It all comes down to the level of support and assistance that you think you will need.

PS: I’d like to offer as balanced a view on this as possible. If you have used an SA recruiter and paid up front, and felt that it was more than worthwhile, please let me know.

3) Where do I find a good recruiter?

Tough one. All I can say is do some research. I found mine by surfing Dave’s ESL Café and reading reviews about recruiters. Then I searched for any comments and complaints about them. I then checked out who they are affiliated with (in my case, some of the major government education departments). Other people work directly through the government education departments (EPIK, GEPIK, SMOE) for jobs (if you want to teach at public schools –  see below). But remember:

i) If the recruiter has only an email address and no website, be wary (ie, if they can only be contacted at, or
ii) Recruiters are only as good as their staff. Some people may have an excellent experience with one staff member at a recruiter, while other people may have a terrible experience with another staff member at the same recruiter.
iii) The people who write reviews on the various forums tend to be unhappy (unhappy Americans at that), so take what they say with a pinch of salt.

Also keep an eye on the blacklists. These are not perfect, but if your recruiter is listed, think about using someone else.

Teaching at public schools

By Marie

It is important to note that if you want to teach in a public school in Seoul or Gyeonggi-do (Gyeonggi province), or any other city or province in Korea, you don’t need to use any recruiter, and you certainly don’t need to pay a recruiter. Public schools are the safest option there is in Korea. They won’t cheat you, refuse to pay you or fire you before you get your bonus. Yes, you can have many other problems, like the principal is on a power trip, or there is no one to speak to, or the kids drive you crazy, or the classes are too big etc, but these things recruiters can’t help you with anyway.

So if you want to teach in a public school then just go to the education websites of the area or city and apply directly. It’s that easy and simple. After deciding to hire you they will tell you step by step what you need to do or send to complete your visa and everything else to come to Korea. Otherwise there are many, many recruiters out there who will find you a public school job and help you with everything for free.

Thus don’t pay a recruiter EVER.

Click on the links below for more info:

Korea public school jobs (EPIK)

Seoul public school jobs (SMOE)

Gyeonggi-do public school jobs (Gyeonggi province) (GEPIK)


39 responses to “Recruiters

  1. Pingback: Recruiter scams « SafKorea - For South Africans in Korea

  2. Actually, the bit about public schools in Seoul isn’t entirely true.

    If you check out the SMOE website for English teachers: ( ) it specifically states to use one of their preselected recruiters who are listed on the site.

    The positions on the website under “Job Bank” are typically part-time and I have yet to see one that offered housing.

    That said, GEPIK and EPIK do handle their own recruiting so it’d be perfectly appropriate to contact them directly.

  3. Thanks for the clarification, t-hype.

  4. nice info on your site. thanks. keep it real

  5. Thanks for the positive comments. Much appreciated!

    • Kyomuhendo Emmanuel

      Hey tb I’m emmanuel a ugandan currently working in qatar as a security guard can you help me and connect me to a job there.

  6. Billy in Midrand

    I can choose between a job at SMOE and GEPIK. Which is better in your opinion?

    I was going to go with Gepik, ’til I read on the ESLcafe that GEPIK doesn’t honour the contract iro sick-leave and on this site it was also mentioned being misled with overtime.

  7. Hi Billy

    Sorry for the slow reply. I just got back from a trip to China today.

    Choosing between SMOE and GEPIK comes down to what you are looking to get out of your time in Korea. SMOE is good if you want to be in Seoul and enjoy the city life. I’ve also heard that the students are better and speak more English. But the pay isn’t as good, the vacations can be shorter, and you won’t save near as much money.

    GEPIK is good to have a quieter time in Korea. Pay is decent, so is vacation, and depending where you are you can save loads of money. But you can get placed in the bundus with nothing to do, and the students can be really good, or REALLY bad.

    I’m on GEPIK and having an ok time. BUT, GEPIK is not very well organised, and your experience will depend on your school and the principal you get. Here’s an example: my wife and I both work for GEPIK, at schools in the same town. She has no problems with pay, she has a really supportive work environment, and she only teaches one week of summer camp. I, on the other hand, have had problems with pay, have crappy co-teachers, and will be working during most of the summer vacation. Bit of a coin toss, really.

    People who say things like “GEPIK doesn’t honour the contract” aren’t telling the truth. Their SCHOOL doesn’t honour the contract. GEPIK has little influence over individual principals. And unfortunately it is really hard to choose a school, since many haven’t had a foreign teacher before, or the principal has changed, or the previous teacher was a lazy idiot.

    So basically don’t worry too much about the contract when working for SMOE or GEPIK. Odds are you will get what they promise, so rather base your decision on who to work for on where you would like to work.

    Hope that helps!


  8. I thought all Gepik jobs were near Seoul or in Seoul. How rural can Gepik jobs really be? I was under the impression that Epik was the rural area types of jobs.

    Thanks in advance.

  9. Hi Patricia

    The Gepik jobs can get pretty rural. Some people out here are several hours away from Seoul, and I’ve met people who have to teach at several different schools because the schools in their area are so small. Epik schools do tend to be more rural, but Gepik has its fair share of out of the way towns looking for native speakers.


  10. Thank God I found this page. I dont even know how i got here. I have with me R1000 that I was supposed to deposit to a certain recruiter in Durban, and I am supposed to pay another R5000 before I leave. I got suspicious when I read the indemnity form, you sign before they start(after you’ve paid) and it says their agency is not liable for anything that should happen after you’ve left and your family shouldn’t contact them after you’ve left. So I thought then why am I paying them that much money then?

    Thanks for the info guys. Its really helpful.

  11. Viwe,are you not talking about OVC.They recruit for Teach Travel Asia,Kevin being the manager.i also am awaiting response from OVC Pretoria,they told me once i get accepted in one of the schools in Korea i will have to pay them R1ooo and thereafter R5000 before leaving the country.dunno whether to trust them.

    please help.has anyone dealt with OVC?

  12. Yes, Lebogang I’m talking about OVC. I dont know if they are crooks or not, but I found that all the promises they made me are for things that the Department of Education there offers. And I just didn’t see why I should sign an indemnity form stipulating that they are not to be held liable for a long list of things that should happen once in Korea, when they tell you that they have someone there (in the form of Kevin) to look after us.
    I also do not know anyone who has dealt with them, but I have decided to do the application on my own.

  13. Hi guys

    Don’t pay a recruiter! They are ripping you off! Try these recruiters will help you for free:

  14. Hi there

    i decided not to deal with OVC anymore,i already contacted Juno from Korvia and he is great.i did my C.R.C on friday and it will ony be available after 40 days which is Jan.2010.i think you must also do that Viwe,

    good luck

  15. Hi
    I am wanting to teach in South Korea, have had an interview with Global Campus for GEPIK. I kept sayiing that I needed to be as near to Seoul as possible and in a big city. Starting to get nervous. Are they reputable?
    I really do not want to land up in a rural area or several hours from Seoul.
    I have also been wondering if it would not be better to apply for jobs at private language schools to make sure I am in Seoul, however I am very wary of doing this because I know a girl whose school refused to py her on time and insisted that she work far in excess of what her contract stated. HELP!
    Alao, after the first interview, how long should one wait to receive contracts/ further instructions?

    • Hi Nadine

      I’m afraid I don’t know if Global Campus for GEPIK is reputable. You’ll have to dig around a little on forums like and see what people have said about them, if anything. But if they are accredited to GEPIK , then they should be fine.

      Personally, I’d avoid working at a private language school as your first job in Korea. They have a bad reputation when it comes to working hours, pay and all sorts of other issues. Very hit and miss. At least at public schools you will get paid, and your hours are reasonably regular, and you get guaranteed leave.

      There are plenty of places near Seoul that fall under GEPIK. I specifically asked for a more rural area (big mistake), and I was still only an hour away by express bus from Seoul.

      The time between your interview and further instructions shouldn’t be too long. Bug the person you’ve been in contact with to find out what’s happening.


  16. Don’t use Teach Travel Asia – they are taking your money and giving you fake TEFL certificates that aren’t worth anything!

  17. One great recruiter myself (and all of our South Africans friends have used) to get here is TeachKorea:

    The guy in charge, Clifford Smith is extremely helpful!
    And most importantly, they don’t charge you a cent!

    They were very well organized, apparantly bringing in about 900 saffa’s with each intake (both feb and august!)

    If you need any more info check out my blog:


  18. Hi guys, I’ve been checking out recruiters and one of the prerequisite to become a teacher in Korea is that you have to be an English native. And I’m just interested in finding out whether is there no way for a Black lady, IsiZulu speaking and have a Degree in Journalism can make it as a teacher in Korea? I have a good understanding of the language, passionate about teaching and travelling. And I’d love to teach in Korea.

    Please help.


  19. Hi TB
    I’m not sure if this site is still functional. I would like to know If there are opportunities for non- whites to teach english in Korea? Much appreciation for this site, it has been really helpfull.

    • Hi Sabelo

      I don’t update this site anymore, but I still check in from time to time.

      To answer your question, yes there are opportunities for non-whites to teach English in Korea. Actually, I think more than 50% of the South Africans in the GEPIK programme while I was in Korea were non-white.

  20. Me and my friends went through Gone2Korea ( and they were quite good. Answered all our questions and helped the 3 of us secure jobs in the same city (Ulsan). They’re a Canadian company but they seem to have a lot of experience with South Africans…

  21. does anyone know of any 6 month contracts in Korea?

  22. Hey based in south africa and I would like to travel to korea for teaching..I have a diploma in teaching..which agency would u suggest can assist me in getting me a job as soon as possible?? Will appreciate ur response..thank u.

  23. Hi there,my name is Chantel and am a South African,I have all qualifications and exeprience as a teacher and I would love to go to South korea to teach english..the recruitments I found over here in S.A are changing fees to recruit and I found it so I would like to ask if you know of any genuine agency that can help me reach my dream please..

  24. All I need to know is what if someone wants to teach english in Korea and does not have the 4yrs diploma or degree but have TEFL,is there a specific recruiter that deals with such people?

    Thank you

  25. Thank. You have been of great help.

  26. Hi TB,

    Thank you for this useful information.

    Not sure if you still respond to this. I am looking for tax information for South African teaching in South Africa. I have called SARS and the person who answered was totally clueless! Any information around paying taxes while working in South Korea will be highly appreciated.

    Many thanks.

  27. Never mind, I saw your post on money! Thank you!

  28. Good evening

    I’ve finished my B.Sc Physiotherapy degree three years ago and have been working ever since. I’ve now gotten to a point where I want to approach something new and when I read about TEFL courses and teaching English in South Korea it sounded like a great idea,but I’m so weary about all the scams that are doing the rounds, so I want to find out through which legitimate recruiter can I go through that I know that my paper work is up to standard, I’ve done all the necessary courses and that when I get there I’ll have a job and accommodation.
    Kindest Regards
    Rudolph Krause

    • Juanita Fourie

      Hi Rudolph,

      Have you started with your application process already? I’m also considering going to South Korea after having completed my B.Com degree in 2006 already and having been in the workforce ever since.

      Have you had any luck with finding a suitable recruiter? I have been doing some intense research lately and–after having read that one should never be asked to pay a recruiter (not even a ‘registration fee’ like I was asked to do when I contacted Xplore Asia through STA Travel)–I came across Korvia ( and I have to say that they look like the real deal.

      Please let me know if you have had any luck since January. So far all the reviews on Korvia look pretty good to me and they don’t ask you a cent to assist with the entire process. I’m now seriously considering registering for their TEFL certificate which I will then get to complete via Global Training Academy. From there on it’s all systems go!

      Let me know how things are on your side.

      Kind Regards,


  29. La-Rochelle Fouche

    Good day, my name is La-Rochelle Fouche and I decided that I want to teach in Korea. I am a full time nanny and a part time student. I am busy doing my serteficate in Accounting. Do you need a BA degree to qualify for teaching in Korea or can you just do a few short courses?

  30. Hi! I’m currently applying to teach in Korea. I have teaching experience in Vietnam and remote teaching experience (Chinese, Taiwanese and currently a Korean company) mostly business English, IELTS and OPIc (in total over 1 year)…I have a degree, CRC and whatnot, yet people are still offering me only entry level salary which I could make with the public school program and feel more secure about my job, or more pay but nearly double the hours…Is it discrimination towards South Africans*? Where can I find a decent job? I’m currently using Dave’s ESL Cafe.

    *I know Koreans are racist – I’m white and a native speaker…Do they not like us? My current remote job said that I should lie to my students and say that I’m British as they don’t hire South Africans as Koreans don’t think we can speak English…

    • Hi Mickey. I don’t think it’s got that much to do with your nationality. Unless you have substantial English teaching experience and qualifications, most places will only offer entry level salaries. I recommend trying for a public school role – the hours are decent, the pay is good and reliable, and you can then scope around for a good-paying hagwon job for your second year. Also, Dave’s ESL is not a great place to find good jobs. Rather use a (reliable) recruiter. It doesn’t cost you anything, and you’re more likely to get a decent job without worrying about getting screwed over. I used KorVia ( or you can use a South African recruiter like GoldKey Education (based in Cape Town) ( Other things to consider: an entry-level public school salary is actually quite good, especially as it is tax free for the first two years. You’ll also get a settlement allowance, accommodation and a severance payment, and this all adds up. I found most hagwon positions, even the good paying ones, tended to place many costs on the teachers. You’ll probably take home more money in a public school role.

  31. Hello TB
    My English is very good but i don’t have a teaching qualification. I am interested in teaching Koreans children abroad. . Is a qualification a must have. Recently I have been seeing a few of our South African tv soapies raving about teaching abroad without qualifications

  32. Why do recruiters use a third party company to broker teachers to schools without making that clear to teachers and why is it illegal?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s