EPIK. SMO. GEPIK. Hagwon. JLP. Feeling confused yet? Don’t worry, we were too! It seems that the names and acronyms are endless when looking into various teaching jobs in Korea. When we first started looking into teaching in Korea we had no idea there would be so many job options out there, all with their very own set of pros and cons. After hours and hours of agonizing over these, we finally settled on teaching through the Jeollanamdo Language Program (JLP). We had never heard of it until we applied, so here’s hoping that this blog post will be useful to other newbies like our not so distant past selves.
Public Schools vs. Hagwons
If you’re new to the world of ESL in Korea, let us quickly explain the difference between public schools (i.e. EPIK, GEPIK, JLP, etc.) and hagwons (private academies). If you aren’t new to the job search, skip this section and head staright to the good stuff about JLP.
Public schools: By working at a public school you are essentially considered to be a public servant since you will be working for the office of education. This means that the schools you work at will be government-funded, with elementary, middle and high schools. You’ll be working 9-5, have lots of vacation time and a stable position.
Hagwons: These institutions are privately funded and run like businesses. Students attend hagwons in addition to their regular schools (i.e. public schools), meaning you will likely be required to work before/after regular school hours. Hagwons also tend to offer much less job security since they may shut down at any time (such is the qualm of working for a private company).
Jeollanamdo Language Program (JLP)
Much like EPIK/GEPIK/SMO, JLP is a government-run recruitment program for native English teachers in elementary, middle and high schools. JLP is run by the Jeollanamdo Office of Education which means that it only recruits teachers for schools in this province (note that Gwangju is not included). Unfortunately, JLP does not have a website like EPIK where applicants can directly apply to the program (as far as we know). We applied through our amazing recruiter, Canadian Connection and would highly recommend them to others. If you’d like more information about choosing a recruiter, check out this post.
The Perks of JLP
As we’ve mentioned before, working for a public school in Korea is (in our opinion) the best option. Here’s why:
- great colleagues and good working environment
- orientation week to help you prepare for your new job (and make a ton of new friends!)
- a return airfare stipend of 1.3 million won (each way)
- 300,000 won settlement allowance
- free housing (we have a 2 bedroom apartment with a balcony!)
- 50% health insurance coverage plan
- one month salary bonus upon completion of your contract
- a pension you can bring back to Canada
- 4 weeks of vacation + national holidays
JLP vs. EPIK
Since we didn’t know anything about JLP at first, we were extremely tempted to forgo applying to it and simply sticking with EPIK. We’re so glad we didn’t do that!! Though both programs are quite similar and have many of the same perks (i.e. airfare stipend, housing, salary, pension, health insurance, etc.), EPIK did not offer one key thing for us: a guarantee to be placed in the same city. The thing with EPIK that we absolutely could not get behind was the fact that teachers have absolutely no idea where they will be placed until after orientation. On top of that, unmarried couples have no guarantee that they will be placed in the same city and have no chance of living together. Since we already lived together in Canada, this was a huge deal breaker for us. Plus our inner control freaks hated the idea of not knowing where we would be living until the very last minute.
Another aspect that made our decision to go with JLP just that much easier was the fact that EPIK only offers teachers 3 weeks of vacation, whereas JLP offers 4 weeks.
The Downsides of JLP
We’ve been working as English teachers with JLP for about 3 months now and have very few complaints. That being said, every great thing does have a few downsides:
- JLP placements tend to be in rural locations, though the degree of how rural will depend. We got lucky and live only 30 minutes (by bus) away from Gwangju (Korea’s 6th largest city). That said, some of our friends did not get so lucky and live on small islands off of Korea’s southern coast. JLP does give teachers in extremely rural areas extra pay every month to make up for it though!
- Teachers may be required to teach at multiple schools. Again, this will depend on your situation. Katherine teaches at one very large middle school, whereas Jordon teaches at 2 small schools. However, JLP once again makes up for it by offering teachers who teach at multiple schools an extra bonus every month.
- Since you will likely be teaching in a rural area, your student’s (and even co-teacher’s) English level will likely be quite low. We were quite lucky that this wasn’t the case for us but many of our friends have had a lot of miscommunications with their colleagues due to language barriers.
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What did you think of your experience?
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