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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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