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Why Is English Not Taught in Korea?

Jason Park
Published by: Jason Park
Last updated:

A common myth is that English education is not taught in Korean schools. Learning English is compulsory for Korean students, however, it isn’t introduced to their curriculum until third grade.

In 2018, a law was passed banning English studies for students in South Korea below 3rd grade.

The reason for this is that Korean is the main language they focus on. When a second language is introduced to students too soon, it could deflect them from learning Korean properly.

Teachers want to make sure their students have a full understanding of proper Korean before they start to learn English.

It’s important for students to learn English in South Korea in order to be accepted into a good college. Most Korean students take their education and grades very seriously, and learning English is no exception. Let’s take a closer look at English language in the Korean school system.

Which High School Subjects Do Koreans Get?

Students in South Korea have a very heavy schedule once they enter high school. High school in Korea consists of year years, grade 10 through 12. During this time, students will be putting in their best effort to ensure they get good grades. Their main goal is to impress the top colleges in Korea for post-secondary education.

There are many vocational high schools in South Korea where students will be focused on a particular set of academic courses. Vocational students will have a school schedule that only consists of 40 % regular courses and 60 % vocational courses.

In Korean public high schools, students will take all of the required courses and then a set of electives. English education is a required course in Korean high schools because it’s the first second language introduced.

Which courses are required in Korean high school?

  • Korean language
  • Mathematics
  • English language
  • Science
  • Korean history
  • Social studies
  • Physical education

Which courses are electives in Korean high school?

  • Liberal arts
  • The arts
  • Second foreign language
  • Chinese characters
  • Technology
  • Home economics

Are English Teachers in Demand in Korea?

Currently, there is a very high demand for English teachers in Korea. There are many opportunities for ESL teachers to find positions working in private and public schools throughout South Korea. Anyone who has experience teaching English as a secondary language can find many opportunities to teach in Korea.

What type of teaching jobs are available for teaching English in Korea?

  • Public school system
  • Private language schools
  • Private tutoring
  • College and universities
  • In-house English teachers
  • Korean companies who want to strengthen employees’ English education

EPIK (English Program in Korea) and GEPIK (Gyeonggi English Program in Korea) and two programs that recruit English teachers for Korean public schools.

Why are English teachers in demand?

Koreans take their education very seriously. They want to have the best teachers to educate their students. The reason why they don’t have Korean teachers introducing the English language is that Koreans don’t speak English very well.

While many Koreans have a strong grasp of how to read and write English, they struggle when it comes to speaking English. English grammar is also very different from Korean grammar, which causes a lot of students to use improper grammar when they speak English.

For example, instead of saying “I don’t want any cheese on my sandwich.” they are likely to say “I no want no cheese in sandwich.”

In South Korea, a proper education is very important to the students. They want to hire English speaking teachers so their students are taught how to speak and use English language correctly from the start.

Is Teaching English in Korea Worth It?

A lot of English teachers are attracted to the idea of teaching in a foreign country. After all, what could be more exciting than being paid to travel? While there are opportunities to teach the English language all over the world, many people are drawn to the idea of teaching in South Korea. How come the Korean school system attracts so many English teachers?

Little requirements

Korea needs Enligh teachers so they aren’t overly strict on what qualifications and experience are needed. This gives recent graduates an opportunity to get hired fresh out of school. Teachers will need to have a Bachelors degree and a TESOL or TEFL certificate to verify that they are able to teach English as a second language.

Great way to save money

When working in Korea, English teachers usually earn 2.2 million Korean wan each month, which is roughly $2000 USD. Many teachers that come to Korea to teach ESL have many of their expenses covered, which includes their travel fees and housing. This is a great opportunity to save money.

Lighter workload

Many ESL teachers enjoyed their experience in Korea the most. The kids are very well behaved and always interested in the lessons being taught. Once an English teacher gets into their routine, they can plan their lessons in a short amount of time. This frees up their schedule to enjoy some downtime and see more of Korea.

Paid travel

Okay, so ESL teachers may not get paid to lounge around in the sun all day. However, they have a great opportunity to see another part of the world without having to spend a lot of money. Instead, they get to work in Korea and participate in their daily cultures. This allows them the chance to earn money while taking in a new experience.

How Long Can You Teach English in Korea?

Speaking English in Korea does have its advantages, especially if you want to stay in the country. When a teacher gets hired to teach English language in a Korean school or workplace, they will be required to commit to a one year contract. When this contract is up, they can choose to renew it again as many times as they would like.

In the past, 6 month contracts were offered. The system decided to change that to one year because it’s important for the children’s education.

These kids have a better time learning English as a second language when they have one figure they trust. It’s hard on the kids when they form a relationship with a teacher, only for them to be replaced in a couple of months.

Many English teachers have found a home in South Korea, and continue to renew their contracts annually.

Some English teachers have been teaching ESL for 15 plus years and have no plan of retiring any time soon. While some teachers thought they were taking a year abroad to work, they ended up finding a culture and lifestyle in Korea and decided to stay.


A lot of people were under the impression that English was not taught in Korean schools. ESL is taught in Korea, however, it’s not introduced until the third grade.

After that, kids begin to focus on ESL as a foreign language. Each student will need good grades in English education in order to get into a good college or university.

Grammar is different between the two languages, which is why the average Korean student has difficulties when trying to speak English.

However, most kids in Korea are good enough at reading and writing the language to understand it and receive a high grade. This helps them get into a better college or university.

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    About The Author

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    Jason Park

    Jason has been living in Seoul for over 4 years, and during that time, he has experienced many of the city's hidden stores. He loves to write about his experiences and share them with others. Jason has been quoted and referenced by different major media companies like Mashed, Distractify, ThePrint and TastingTable. In his free time, he likes to watch Korean dramas and learn more about Korean culture.

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