Private Tutoring in Korea 101

Private Tutoring in Korea 101

Do you feel guilty private tutoring in Korea?  If you do not download movies or songs illegally, then stop reading right here.  If you are the type who never jaywalks, then maybe check out the smiling baby post instead.  This is for those who looking for easy money to supplement their low paying contract teaching jobs. (Just to be clear, I am not advocating for this practice nor have I participated in it.)

This article is about the illegal, underground, under-the-table world of private tutoring in Korea a.k.a doing “privates”.  It exists and it is a big industry. How large? Well, I’m just going to pull a number out of my rear end, but I would guess that for foreigners there are at least 200,000 part-time company or private tutoring jobs out there every month.  I am not exaggerating here.  How did I get this number?  Well there are around 40,000 legal English teachers and a lot of illegal English teachers who only do “privates”.  Now a lot of teachers do not do any “private” classes whatsoever, but the majority do work on the side.  And the “side-work” ranges from 1  to 20+ private classes a week.  Nobody knows the real number, so it is purely speculation, but just from working as a recruiter, I know it is high.  There is an assumption that those who are married can legally do private lessons.  This is true, but they must be registered with the government. Most of them are not, however, which makes any sideline just as illegal as with any other foreigner.

Types of Korean Privates

1:1 Private Tutoring

This is a one on one class for anyone.  Children, businessmen, lonely housewives and just people who want an English friend.  These classes are usually an hour, once or twice a week.  For children, you usually study from a book, but for adults it is generally just “free talking” or free discussion.

1:1 Intensive Private Tutoring

Some students just need a native English speaker for a day or week to practice for a specific test, or presentation practice or whatever they have to do that requires English help in a short time.  These classes are usually 4 or 5 hours a day. Once the English event is over, the class is discontinued.

Company Classes

A lot of companies will sponsor an English class for their employees. These classes usually occur in the early morning before work, at lunchtime, or after work.  These classes usually have between 1-15 students.  Attendance is always a problem as people go on business trips, attend meetings, or opt to sleep in.

You may also have a 1:1 class with someone in a management position, an executive or CEO.  Expect this class to be cancelled a lot.

Part-time Hogwan Jobs

You can work part-time at the hagwon, but these are the most dangerous jobs for being caught if you are not married to a Korean.

Entertainment Jobs

These jobs are highly competitive and the pay, to be honest, sucks.  Many teachers chasing fame and fortune should stay away from TV gigs unless you truly have a skill and can speak Korean.  A pretty face only gets you so far.  Even real musicians and actors can achieve very little.  Just being an extra for a movie requires that you waste up to 20 hours  a day for a 100,000 won.  If your passion is entertainment, and want success there, then you should be ready to do demeaning work, act like a clown, and of course, most importantly, when you eat kimchi, you’d better fain that it is too spicy as you frantically grab a glass of water.

Odd Jobs

There are some odd jobs in Korea.  This may include helping companies interview new employees, editing, writing, market research, etc…  These jobs are, of course, temporary, but can certainly be fun and provide good experience.


Every winter and summer there are a lot of English camps for kids.  You can easily pick up a job at one of these camps.  They always need teachers and rarely examine a resume.  Legal or illegal, they will hire for camps lasting from 2 weeks to the entire vacation.  Be ready to spend all day stuck at the camp location and spending your mealtimes with kids.

Being an English Whore

This last category is for teachers who do anything for money.  I do not mean “whore” in the sexual sense (although the possibility can’t be entirely ruled out), but rather teachers who will just take about any job regardless of what is asked.  These are usually non-teaching jobs.  For example, a student may ask you to dress up as Santa for a family on Christmas, entertain foreign clients at a room salon, travel with their child, play golf with them, travel with them to some “famous place”, etc… We’ve all done it, we didn’t teach a thing, we did it just to make easy money and we all felt a little dirty after doing it.

The Young Blond Female / Blatant Discrimination

The young blond female is an almost fantasy ideal and heavily in demand among Korean students looking to hire a tutor.  Almost all clients, male and female, prefer a female teacher.  This does not mean that there is not enough for men, too, as the market is huge, though it does mean you will get passed over for a lot of jobs because you are not female.  Many job advertisements will be for “females only”.

The discrimination gets worse if you are non-white, kyopo or just plain ugly.  In an image crazed country, the photo you send with your resume is, sadly,  without a doubt more important than what is in your resume.

The Agents / Recruiters

“Agents” are sometimes a necessary evil.  Agents are usually Koreans who failed at finding any other job in Korean society, and are almost never on your side.  They represent the client (student) and will always favor and side with the client.  The client has the money, and the power to cause their business damage.  In their view, the teacher is just a shmuck who will be leaving soon.

Some agents will ask you to sign a contract or agreement page, but these documents are never legal. It is still important to have a clear understanding of what is expected of each party.

The agents do spend time and money to find company and tutoring jobs.  They set up the class and manage it, although mostly in a half-assed way, so they deserve some credit and appreciation.  I just wish they would respect us professional teachers more and stop treating us all like dumbasses.

I don’t blame the agents for all problems and understand a lot of their grief.  Here is a prime example of an agent’s dilemma:

An agent spends a lot of time and money to get a new company as a client.  The agent takes great care to scan resumes and interview people to find someone they think is the best teacher for the job.  They hire a “suitable” teacher, who works for the company for almost a month.  For the last 3 classes, the teacher is a no-show and notifies no one of their absence. For 3 classes, the students came early and waited, but no teacher showed up.  This company decides to cancel their dealing with the agency.  The agent just lost a lucrative contract because of some irresponsible teacher.  The teacher is demanding that he gets paid for the classes he did teach during the month. Well, a lot of recruiters in this case will tell that teacher to go away and refuse to compensate them.  Certainly in this case, the agent lost a lot of money (in the millions of won) because of this teacher.  The teacher usually feels he is the victim of a cheating recruiter and they squabble over the payment.

How Much Do Agents Make?

Well they make on average 5-15 million a month if they are independent.  Of course bigger companies like YMB or HiEnglish make a lot more.   They make millions of dollars each year connecting illegal teachers to companies.

How to Negotiate with an Agent

Never accept less than 40,000/hr for a 1:1 private tutoring job, 50,000/hr for a company job, and 100,000/hr for any legitimate TV gig.

For 1:1 private tutoring, agents usually get between 50,000-80,000won/hour from the client.

For company jobs, agents get between 85,000-250,000won/hour.  In a lot of cases, if the student cancels the class, they still get paid.

So, if you are asked to teach some CEO for 35,000hour, you should maybe hold out for more.  Never believe it when that tutor says “Really, I can’t go higher”. They invariably can.

Never pay tax, unless you work at a company.  The agent usually says they will deduct tax and pay on your behalf. If they are a legitimate company they will pay tax, but most don’t, especially for 1:1 classes.  1:1 Classes are always under-the-table even for an agent.  Just tell them you want 40,000won and no deductions if it is a 1:1 private tutoring class.  If it is a company, then accept you should pay tax. Companies are almost always properly accounted for in the books.

Don’t Be an Idiot

There are certain things teachers do that make agents treat us with suspicion and disrespect.  It just takes a few jackass teachers to create prejudice.

1) Show up to the classes you promised.

2) Notify the agent or student if you are going to be late or cancel a class.  No-shows are unprofessional in any business or country.

3) Don’t agree to a deal and then after a few classes try to squeeze for money. Negotiate before a contract and keep to it.

4) Be prepared for class.  Don’t show up for “free talk” every class.

5) Dress appropriately and conduct yourself in a professional manner.

If you follow the above, you will get more jobs from recruiters and clients will be less likely to fire you after a few classes.

Advanced Techniques For Making Money Private Tutoring in Korea

If you teach at a company under an agency, but the students like you, not the agency, then just move the agency.  When you ask the company you are teaching at to switch to a new agency of your choice, the new agency will almost always double your wage for that job.  It is a cheap and shady thing to do, but it puts more money in your pocket.

Getting Caught

If all of this is illegal, you’re probably wondering “won’t I get caught?” The only places you will be caught is at a hagwon or something related to entertainment . In the case of the former, a rival hagwon or nosy mother will almost always report you. As for entertainment jobs, you are a visible person which someone will invariably investigate.

For 1:1 private tutoring classes or company classes, you are safe.  If you don’t cause trouble, nobody cares what you do.

If you are caught private tutoring, you will be possibly or fined and deported.

Most people are in Korea to make money.  If you want to make a lot of money quickly, then doing private lessons is the way.  Many teachers fill up their schedule and make an extra 1-8 million extra a month.  If you act professionally and don’t cause any trouble, you will should have no difficulties acquiring jobs and avoiding detection.  Private tutoring in Korea is an excellent and fun way to make extra cash in Korea.

If you have any more information about private tutoring in Korea, please let us know in the comments below.

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  • Thanks for the great post! Love your frank attitude here. There was a teaching job offer through an agency that is owned by an acquaintance of my friend for 15k/hr to teach 4 ppl. People can get really ridiculous .

  • Is there any possibility that one of the big recruiters can simply call up your school and report you if they think you are asking to be compensated at a higher rate? They have your resume. What stops them from simply contacting your boss?

  • I understand this is only for native speakers but since I am a Filipino, (but teaching Koreans here in the Philippines for the longest time ever) is there a way I can have a piece of that action without going through an agency here in my country? I mean, through online / video classes? Any suggestions? Would really appreciate it. Thanks sir!

  • Hi so i know it is illegal for teachers to teach outside of their school but what about non-teachers or foreign students on visa. Can a student on visa tutor legally? Thanks

  • Hey there, thanks for the blog post! I want to work at a summer camp, but wow the requirements for getting a C4 visa look intimidating. You mentioned it briefly, but what would you recommend if wanting to find a summer camp job under the table? Should I just show up in Seoul and start getting to know people? Thanks! 🙂

  • Not all tutoring is illegal. Teaching adults if you have an f2 visa is not illegal. You just have to register your business first, which is really easy, takes less than10min and is free. You don't have to register with the education office either. There are ways to make money here without being imature/ just breaking the law because it's perceived as normal. As well, in my opinion, the price you charge depends on various factors including location, how long you want to keep students, and more.

  • Hi! Im not a licensed teacher but I’ve been teaching English to Koreans for about 3 months now. I’m just wondering if how much is the hourly rate for a private tutor in Korea (not a licensed teacher) ?

  • I am an older American female teacher with over 20 years experience teaching e.s.l. and have two teaching credentials. I am actually looking to stay with a Korean family that has members that would like to learn English in exchange for sharing their home, language and culture with me. Since it would an exchange rather than a paid position, how might I go about advertising for this?


  • Good day,

    We are looking for a tutor/teacher/coach who is capable of teaching our resource/employee with Korean language – speak/read and write.
    May we request for a proposal by sending them on the email above?


  • · Edit

    Hi I also looking for a part time job tutor. I am an ESL teacher and math if your interested pls. Contact my skype at malou.263

  • · Edit

    Hi… im trying to get a teaching job for English lessons. I am not a teacher but have some experience. I was wondering is it legal to do private tutoring or teaching English at a private school and just ask for room and board in exchange for lessons? as I really want to go to Korea but would never have enough money to do it otherwise…. but if somebody offered me room and board and possible food while I was there I could totally do it is this legal ?

    • I’m not sure if you are still interested or have found anything that fits this for you already, but you should check out!

  • Hi, guys

    I have been teaching English for a number of years and I’ve taught many Korean students online. I don’t live in Korea, but I have visited both Seoul and Busan. If you know of anyone who needs classes. I have slots available. My skype is: darren.wyles1

    I hope to speak with some of you soon!

  • My name is Han Yoo. I was born and raised in Texas.

    I am a Native English Speaking American with Korean blood. I am currently available for private English Speaking practice.

    What to expect from me:

    I charge by hour.
    I will come to your location of choice or home. (Near in/around Seoul)
    I expect the client to have a basic foundation of English so that a basic conversation can be carried out and practiced.
    I will call you again the same day and have an English speaking practice over the phone as a bonus lesson, free of charge.

    You can email me at:

    [email protected]

  • No, zapomenout asi nebude hned tak mozne, viz zvesti o tom, ze by ho chteli ruzovi, rudi a zeleni nacpat do dalsi volby aspon do Senatu.Zelezny to vystih v Uvolnete se, prosim presne: “Oni sou nam vazne uplne ukradeni.” A pokud de o dalsi novinare, co Nora, Tvoje oblibena Drtinova, Machalkova a ta slecna , co ma problem s dychanim v mrazu? Taky nemuzem zapomenout na Taberyho, Fendrycha a Koreckeho

  • hi there. i need private female korean tutor above 27 age in Yeungnam university area.
    I can read and write but not much speaking.So i need chatty tutor class. add my katok hunkye.

  • I’d like to teach ESL or English as a second language for Korean students. I have my Masters Degree in Business Administration and I live in USA. My skype ID is Sara.sara9215 pm or private message me for those who are only interested in learning English and conversational English Seriously.


  • · Edit

    Hey, you seem knowledgeable about this so hopefully you can help. I found a tutoring job through an agency but I am on an E2 visa. I told them my hagwon is fine with me taking a PT job (have not asked them yet). Would you recommend going through immigration and legitimizing this PT job? OR just hope no one finds out. What are the chances immigration flags me for receiving some extra money in my account once a month? Thanks a lot.


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