Friday, January 14, 2011

AAK! Wiki: Non-Teaching Jobs in Korea?

Dear Korean,

I am extremely interested in living and working in Korea but the only type of job listings I can find are teaching positions. Teaching wouldn't necessarily be a terrible occupation but I am wondering if it is possible to secure a job in any other field.


Dear Korean,

I see you've discussed jobs as an English teacher many times, but I was wondering, could you possibly enlighten me on the job prospects of a foreigner in Korea who is not looking to teach English? I was looking to (hopefully) live and work in Korea, but teaching really isn't my thing, and I was curious as to what your advice would be going about securing a job and eventually settling in.


In order for a non-Korean to have a job in Korea, s/he should have a particular advantage over the locals. Obviously, this includes English teaching, because many non-Koreans are essentially born with English speaking skills. It also includes low-paying jobs with harsh working conditions like a deckhand on a fishing boat, because many non-Koreans have a greater willingness to work at those jobs. But readers of this blog probably are not looking to be a deckhand.

In general, a non-Korean had better have a specialized skill to get a job in Korea, like a law degree or sophisticated engineering knowledge. Beyond this, you would be straight up competing with local Koreans on their terms. For this, language barrier alone might be too high to actually break through.

But then again, the Korean has never been a foreigner looking for a job in Korea. So have your say, readers. Do you have a non-teaching job in Korea? What is it, and how did you get that job?

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. I always joke that my real dream is to get a job as a squid fisherman on the east coast but I can't get a visa for it. I'm not even sure how you'd go about getting a low-paying job like in a factory, I don't think they're advertised on Monster.

    Other jobs I've seen are in media. I can't imagine that pays much better than teaching, at least to start, but I'm willing to be wrong.

    I think studying something like business in Korea would open up jobs in that field in business, wouldn't it? A Yonsei MBA would be reasonably marketable, wouldn't it?

  2. Most people I know who have broken out of the English teaching field have gone into translation or editing. But I haven't seen many job posting for those kind of jobs, you may have to know someone. And with translation, you obviously have to get your Korean skills up to an advanced level. It seems most foreigners who open buisness here seem to need a Korean partner to open the buisness with them.

    I agree with the Korean, you'd need a master's or PhD and a real specialty to get a good, non-teaching job here.

  3. I think you have to be a member of a country that signed an agreement with Korea for the Employment Permit System (EPS) to get a job such as working in the fishing industry, farming, etc. If you are of Korean descent and you are able to get a residency visa then maybe you could find a sponsor and start your own business.

    My husband has a culinary degree from Le Cordon Bleu (not the best, but it's still something) and has had years of experience cooking American food and he could not even get hired by an American restaurant or hotel in Korea. He actually did a probationary month at a pretty popular American Food restaurant chain in Incheon recently but in the end he was not hired; they let him go via text message, and when he asked for some feedback he received nothing. In the end, we can only guess that maybe a new employee with a residency visa (who, as it turned out, spoke even less Korean than my husband) was hired because he didn't require visa sponsorship.

    My husband didn't give up searching for restaurant employment, either. He has walked into various American hotel chains with his resume and has been told flat-out that they only hire Koreans. So, even though my husband has specialized education and experience in his field, it is still not good enough to get him a job in Korea. In fact, we have been here for a year and a half and he has yet to find a job in his field.

    Thus, this also plays a role in foreigners being able to work in Korea: how difficult is it for a company to sponsor your visa? Even if a company NEEDS a foreigner to work for them, they have a pretty wide selection nowadays, and many of them will be on F2 or F4 visas, which means they can work legally without sponsorship from the company. If you are eligible for an F2 or F4, you will still have lots of competition with other people in the same situation as you, and if the job does not require a foreign visa, then unless you have extremely high qualifications and excellent Korean speaking skills, you probably won't get the job. The only foreigners I've known in Korea who are successful outside of English teaching/editing/curriculum development, or who have jobs in corporate businesses, have extremely fluent Korean speaking skills.

    I think the best strategy for anyone who wants to work in Korea is to figure out what industry you'd like to work in, and then find out what requirements you have to have in order to get a visa to work in that field. Then you'll have an idea of what it will take to get where you're going. And while you're at it, learn as much Korean as you possibly can.

    For information on different kinds of employment visas, visit this site:

    For information on the Employment Permit System, check out this site:

  4. Strangely enough I know lots of Germans living in Seoul or there abouts not working as English teachers.

    The notable ones are:

    Felix works for the German consulate in Korea. He chose to do this for his 2 year service after he chose civilian instead of military service.

    Simon works for Daelem as an engineer. He got this job while out drinking in Sokcho.

    Phillip another German who designs meals for airlines.

    I know about 6 more. Only Felix secured his job before going to Korea. The others bumped into people in high places purely by accident. They went drinking a few times and jobs were offered. I'd note ALL of them have at least Masters degrees some have PhDs as well.

  5. There is a an existing contract between South Korea & the Philippine government that hires Filipino workers for factory jobs. My friend's husband currently works in the outskirts of Seoul. I heard the pay is decent ( about 60k PHP) but definitely a lot less than what English teachers get.

    All we Filipinos need to do is submit a CV to the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA), pass the EPS-KLT training & be certified, then wait for a prospective employer. The application is valid for 1 year so it takes diligence to follow up with POEA(who misplaced my application years ago..ggrrr!)on the status of your application. The contract with the employer is supposedly 3 years.

    But really, who would ever dream of being a factory worker?

  6. Lolimahro,

    When you are in a foreign country, it's to be expected that they will look for people who speak the native language. It's the same all over the world.

    1. itissaid,

      I live in Austria and know plenty of English people in high-profile jobs who cannot speak a sentence in German. Many Austrians know English and want to improve their English skills so it's not an issue. This is not the case in Korea.

    2. Doesnt make sense at all. Austrian companies offer english people in high profile jobs to learn english? Dude, wake up.
      I agree with itissaid 100%
      It's the same all over the world.

  7. In the IT field, there are some jobs advertised for foreigners, but they usually require more than 5 years of experience in a specific area of IT.

    For a younger person like me, there are still a few offers advertised on job websites for foreigners, but they would explicitely require that you speak Korean, or you would discover it later during the interview.

    The other experience I had was to find a company who had a position to offer but who never hired a foreigner before and was scared by the administration process and integration issues.

    In the end, a small company which has guts decided to hire me. However, I still don't understand why they chose a foreigner instead of a Korean. It took more than 3 months for me to actually start working since we agreed on the contract and I'm sure it cost them an arm and a leg. However I made them understand since the first interview that I intend to stay in Korea (and in the company) for several years.

    Anyway, for IT jobs, you should have a Master's degree, at least 2 years of experience, enough Korean skill to talk with colleagues, show dedication to Korea for several years, and finally find a company which likes challenges.

  8. itissaid ~ I agree. I have no bitter feelings about my husband not being able to find work in Korea. I just wanted to further the point that anyone who has a dream to come to Korea but doesn't know any Korean language and doesn't have any advanced qualifications might have a difficult time finding work here. It's still not impossible, just difficult. I just wanted to share my family's personal experience. But you are right, perhaps I was stating the obvious. ^_^;;

  9. It's pretty difficult to find a good non-teaching job unless you know someone that has the power to hire you. It's already a difficult market for the Korean locals that are college educated to find jobs, so I can't imagine that it's that easy for foreigners.

    Korea is all about networking. Unless you are lucky enough to know someone there already, I think the Chinese guy might have a good point: your best bet might be to go to Korea and try out your networking skills... that is assuming you are educated and qualified with a specific objective.

    Best of luck

  10. “ee-cha kal-ka?”

    Followed by:

    Repeat ad infinitum. I'm sure I did more liver damage in Seoul than in Siberia ;)

  11. I'll give the same advice I give to anyone who asks me how I got my fancy shmancy "sit behind a desk and occasionally fly on airplanes job based in Korea."

    1. You are no more attractive to an employer in Korea than you are to one in your own country outside of the English teaching field. So, you have to develop your skills first and be exceptional at what you do. Then, you can sell them on the fact that you are awesome, bring a different perspective to the company, have access to a network of people that existing employees may not and can be the ticket to going global.

    2. Forget the classifieds, you have to know someone to get a job here.

    There are some really great conversations about "How do I get a job in Korea even though I have no useful skills?" and "I have these specific skills, how do I get a job?" over at Korea Business Central:

    As a final note, I wonder what sort of work the two e-mailers are looking for outside of English teaching. I've never seen a company post an ad stating: "Generalist Wanted to do Stuff at our Office."

  12. It sort of irks me to see this kind of question on here. Not because I think it's unimportant, but if you are earnestly looking for a job, you should be doing your own homework. You need to figure out what you want to do and then, just go for it. Don't listen to people who say it can only be done a specific way. Yes, it REALLY helps if you have a high demand skill or speak fluent Korean. But if you have the will and initiative to find what you want, you can do it. Beyond this, I do not wish to give any further advice as I believe it is up to the individual job seeker to "hussle" and get what they want.

  13. itissaid,

    There is nothing wrong with soliciting and giving advice -- even with jobs. Quit your bellyache.

  14. itissaid - Looking back at my intentionally arrogant answer, I would probably change number two to read instead: "Forget the classifieds, you have to know someone or meet someone to get a job here. That means if you don't have existing connections you have to get out and network like a champ."

  15. I wrote about this back in 2009; sorry to say not much has changed since then. Some websites that I mentioned:

    # - The website of the Seoul Global Center, look on the home page for the link to 'all jobs' (or just go to
    # - there's the occasional job listed for non-teaching positions - keep digging
    # - not EVERY job on there is for an English teacher - you'll have to do some looking, though.
    # - while not a lot of jobs are posted here, it's certainly another place to look.
    # - typically Army civilian jobs in Korea.

    The line about networking is paramount. Also, what can you do that a local can't?

  16. Korean, to get job in korea and that too outside holy cow- English teaching, then one should have some nice experience of atleast 5 yrs in the fields of engineering like chemical, electrical, mechanical, ship building. In IT field one should have mobile platform design exp. or game developing skill. If one wants to be researcher, then its easy to get job also, its quite easy to get professor jobs.
    Aboveall, it will be lot easy if one finds out some contact here in industry or corporate arena.

    I am working here as Chemical engr and have professional diploma (which is not a helping tool to get job, min degree is required), I got this job due to my high level exp of @ 29 yrs in the field.
    I do not have much Korean skill even now :)Not too necessary, actually.
    One last info- its pretty good pay in engg field including IT.
    So now, the ppl who are inquiring should be well informed to get themselves armed with required things to secure some good job.
    Korea is pretty nice country if you are master in your field. I think its true for any country, NO?

  17. @Envy I have to disagree. In Asia Engineers are respected to a great degree. The entire PRC leadership are engineers (Prez Hu Jintao is a chemical engineer).

    While over here in the UK, engineers are treated with contempt. No no we prefer lawyers, estate agents (realtors) and talentless celebrities.

    Few of my highly skilled engineering friends are well paid. The one that works in F1 racing and British super bike is paid well. But the others nope (bar the oil industry)

  18. I moved to Korea with precisely this purpose: to find a non-teaching job. I had successfully done this before in Japan, so I knew what I was doing to some extent.

    Specifically, I was looking for English translating jobs, but I was willing to try a variety of things. I tried various job search sites (incruit, Seoul Global Center's job page, etc.) but ultimately found my current job through inter-personal networking.

    Ironically, the hard part started after I was hired. My research institute had never hired a foreigner before, and had little idea of how to go about it. I got bad advice from both the US embassy and the Seoul immigration hotline (1345), both of which were accustomed to dealing only with teachers. Because of this bad advice I ended up wasting a good deal of time applying for things that I did not actually need, and consequently it took over 6 months for me to complete the paperwork necessary to be hired and get health insurance, pension, etc. Were it not for the extreme patience an of my employers, I would probably have had to leave the country.

    From this experience I can offer this advice. To succeed in finding decent work in Korea that does not involve teaching, it is essential that you:
    A) have a strong mastery of the Korean language (this is essential not only for translators, but for anyone navigating the complex bureaucratic tangle of immigration procedures, where the officials in charge rarely speak English);
    B) have some good personal connections within a Korean company or institution (it can be difficult to get in the door otherwise); and
    C) have some special ability to offer to make it worth the time and expense the company will have to put in to negotiating with immigration on your behalf.

    Even with the above conditions met, the process of completing the paperwork will probably take quite some time. You should be prepared to live without a paycheck or health insurance for several months. Korea is just not yet accustomed to processing foreigners outside of the English teaching field, and their procedures are not as streamlined as Japan's.

  19. It is up to the employer to take care of the paperwork for visa holders and it should not take that long.

  20. I worked as an editor for an English hogwan for my year in Korea. I had 10 years experience editing, and got the job through a recruiter called Adventure Teaching. While there, aside from teachers, I met other editors, business people who were working for their employers' Korea branches, academics, and U.S. military personnel and civilians working for the U.S military. Without having any idea what kinds of experience the initial posters had, it's hard to be more specific with advice, but it's certainly possible to do something other than teaching.

  21. what are the employment prospects of a filipino with a law degree and no solid work experience (fresh graduate), in south korea?

    thanks in advance for your ideas :)

  22. My korean wife and I have been married and living in Denmark for the past 8 years. She is currently in the process of getting a PhD in engineering (renewable energy and biogas) and also has 6 years engineering work experience in the water purification field from Korea before coming to Denmark. I myself have 14 years experience in the graphic field and am currently working at a local advertising firm. Apart from my work experience I also speak german, english, danish and italian (italian because I am 50% italian and 50% danish).

    When we got married, she moved to Denmark, so I feel that it should soon be me to do the same thing, not just because it's the right thing to do, but also because I love Korea and its people.

    What would my chances be, if we decided to move to Korea? My wife told me that when she's obtained her PhD, it wouldn't present much of a problem to her to get a professor-job somewhere in Korea, but I being the cautious type, would like to be sure that we can survive. We also have a little 6 year old girl, who actually understands korean and also speaks it to some degree. I have taken a few korean classes here in Denmark, but they were not that well organized, so it was kind of limited, what I actually learned. Being married to a korean for 8 years, gave me some korean language skills, though... I can read hangul, but I can't speak the language well enough to have a conversation... of course this can be learned intensively.

    If I would like to work in the advertising industry in Korea, what would my chances be?

    1. I'm in a similar situation, although less experienced, and I would love to know the answer to your question as well. I know it's a long shot, but if you (or anyone else) would happen to read this reply, I'd very much like to hear all about your experiences. Not smart to publicly share an email address, I'm aware of it, but so far I haven't been able to find many answers to my questions and I'd really appreciate an insight on the advertising industry in Korea for foreigners > Thanks!

  23. Your chances might be good given Kpop seems to be a hit globally. I would go that route. Just an opinion. Married 8 years myself to my Korean wife. I'm at the same skill level as you. I am teaching at various private schools and make 5.0 mil after I lost my company job to cheaper outsourcing. I worked in the HRD department for a large ship builder.

  24. I guess I am about a year late to reply here but anyway. I am also interested in working in a role outside of the English-teaching realm. I can see how it would be difficult for a foreigner to compete in such a competitive jobmarket. However I'm still looking into the possibility, particularly regarding 무역회사's or multinationals. I spent last year in the country and studied the language up to level 6 at Sogang and Yonsei, so linguistically it's not so much a challenge, but rather being taken seriously as a Korean-speaking non-English-teaching foreigner is what I found difficult to overcome. I'm completing a Masters in International Law at present and what I found interesting is that Robert Harley worked in the same area in Busan before becoming a 방송인...

  25. I am a Canadian who moved here about 6 years ago. I started as an English teacher, invested about three years of my life into studying Korean, and with the right connections, got a job at a Korean marketing company. Timing was good because our company got a big project promoting an exhibition overseas. So I spend most of my time here in Korea but also go abroad periodically as well. My boss doesn't speak English so all office communication is in Korean.

    It is possible. But it takes time. And you may find yourself earning Korean wages if you are not occupying positions specifically made for foreigners. But once you build up a network in Korea, have proven that you are effective in a Korean work environment, the money will follow.

    1. I have a question! Since you need a teaching degree to be a teacher, how did you get a job at a marketing company? Did you have a double major in college? Or did you not need a degree to work in that company? I want to start as a teacher too and end up with another job in korea, but if i get a bachelor's degree in teaching I will only be able to get teaching jobs and I dont want to teach for my entire life... HELP ME PLEASE!!

    2. Hi! I have a question, I wish to start out as a teacher and end up working as something else in korea. My only question is with the degree. To be a teacher I need a bachelor's teaching degree, which means i will only be able to get teaching jobs, so how did you get a job at a marketing company with a teaching degree? did you have 2 majors in college? or how did you make it work? Cause as i said before, I want to start as a teacher and get another job afterwards but i would need a degree for whichever other job I get, but i have to major in teaching to be a teacher so it is confusing because i do not want to be a teacher my whole life!! please help me!!!

  26. Hi guys
    Can anyone suggest me for a non teaching job in Seoul anything but only 5 working days.
    I am perfect in English and Still learning Korean

  27. I recently built a job board that allows you to search and browse only the jobs that meet your criteria. You can search for only non-teaching jobs. Check it out at:

    We don't come across many non-teaching jobs for foreigners, but the ones we do find are posted on the website (at the time of this writing, there are 3). These are usually still English related, like editing work or test prep, but they don't involve teaching. Unless you're a specialist with some skill that's very rare in Korea, English is your greatest asset. Your best bet is finding a writing or editing job, and if that's not your cup of tea, you'd better start working on your Korean!

  28. would being a waitress at a restaurant or a seller at a shoe store also be impossible for a foreigner in Korea? how about being a guide for tourists? (who come from other countries that is) e.g. I know a lot of languages and am studying Korean, would I be able to sign up with some tourism agency to be a guide for Russians/Germans/any audience that knows English IN Korea?

    hopefully that's an understandable question O_O

    1. I worked in a cafe in Korea last year. A friend of my husband (my husband being a Korean national) was working there and so we visited often. The owner of the cafe felt it might be interesting to have a foreign employee and saw benefits such as- improving other staff's english skills, incorporating some western ideas about coffee/cafe culture/food, and providing easier service for the local English teachers, thus expanding the market.. It was definitely a huge benefit that I had some ability in Korean language to make my coworkers comfortable, and I definitely needed to improve my formal speaking abilities to deal with customers, but it was a great (low paid) experience and always amused me when customers would freak out amongst themselves over who could order in English (but luckily I could take their orders in Korean)

      In saying all of that, it was fairly obvious that I was a very rare case as generally a foreigner serving in a Korean cafe is unheard of and unimaginable.. I doubt that kind of thing would be advertised.. you have to just find a way to put your foot in the door.

    2. Hi .dot.

      I know your comment is from 2013, but I hope you can still get a notification for my comment here!

      I would like to know if any cafe can employ a foreigner, because I am a Brazilian dating a Korean girlfriend who owns a cafe in Seoul!

      Thanks a lot

  29. hi moving to Korea in may on a working holiday visa which allows me to work but i cannot teach english with this visa i was really looking to find some advice on the job market in korea as im finding it hard to find anything relative to what i can do.I am willing to do any sort of work.

  30. Perhaps being posted to Korea with a multinational with a Korean presence will present non-teaching job opportunities in Korea.

  31. To my understanding, the biggest issue is a legal working status while in Korea, meaning a working visa. Unless someone has gained residence by living in Korea for 5 years (or 2 years + marriage to a Korean citizen), there are only a handful of visas available, with even fewer jobs available due to some visas slated for those on holiday, looking for work or who are students. To see a list:

    From my experience, persons here who don't do anything related to English teaching are here through an agreement with the company they work for (in their home country) and the company receiving them (in Korea). Except for those stationed here in the US military and therefore on military visas, I have only ever met engineers who temporarily work here "on loan" from their companies.

    This is why "foreigner teaching English" is so commonplace in Korea: there are simply not that many jobs available to foreigners unless they want to become citizens, at which point they must compete with Koreans for a specific job. Considering that citizenship is gained through only specific means, the easiest of which include time spent in Korea, and that Koreans tend to enter a job field early and stay with it, foreigners who gain citizenship might be considered "too old" to enter a job field in Korea if they are over 30.

  32. I have worked as a software Engineer in Deagu. It was for a Dutch-Korean joint venture. Mostly unfortunately, the company brought the Koreans here, instead of the Dutch there. It was only for a short stay though. Explain and help a few people there, then back home. I advertised that I could go there too sometimes, instead of them coming here. I think I was too much of a rebel and a troublemaker though, and the Korean management did not like me.

  33. Greetings,

    So I've seen a number of people ask about how competitive they would be in Korea for a job if they don't have an advanced degree, know the language, and would prefer something other than teaching English.

    Since my situation is a little different, I thought I would ask: I have a PhD, I am interested in teaching (not necessarily just English, but I'm definitely ok with it), and I have basic-to-intermediate Korean skills.

    I understand that being in the country and the power of networking will play a huge part in landing a job, but beyond anecdotal assurances of "sure, you're competitive" or "you'll probably find something," can anyone speak to the competitiveness in the Korean job market for folks such as myself?

    Thank you in advance,


  34. Hi
    I am Tanzanian holding a bachelor degree in Human Nutrition, i would like to get detailed information about finding non teaching jobs in Korea, especially jobs related to nutrition
    and how good wages are there compared to America and other European countries? i am planning to come to Korea, please guys do help me

  35. I wish I had been "blessed" with the privilege of being born in an English speaking country. I'd be happy with a teaching job in Korea, but it doesn't look like there are lots of people looking to learn Portuguese there :P, and I can't teach English there (even if I improved mine, which I know I'd have to) legally...

    Time to change my plans...

  36. I am an 18 year old girl about to graduate from high school in Canada, without plans to get a degree here in Canada, and perhaps not even in Korea. I am not at all Korean in any way but have been studying the language for about a year and will continue to thoroughly study the language following my graduation. I'm hoping that within the next year or two I will be able to save enough to spend at least 6 months in Seoul in some sort of sharehouse.
    I was wondering, is it possible for someone like me to acquire a temporary (and hopefully later on permanent) job in Korea without a degree (not even with any big companies, just mundane things like working in a store or restaurant)? By the time I'm able to go, my Korean language skills will be about 2-3 years worth... is this enough to be considered a moderate Korean speaker to native Koreans and business owners? Is it enough for me to be able to find work in Korea?
    Also, what type of VISA would I need to get to be able to spend that much time there as a non-student while also working?
    One last thing... if I happened to decide to work towards some sort of degree while in Korea, what requirements would I need to be accepted somewhere? Are the requirements (high school grades beforehand and such) similar to the North American "acceptance system"? Just wondering... :)
    Hopefully someone will be able to get back to me. This is something that I have become very passionate about doing (a first for me, so that's why I'm so determined with it) and that I very desperately want to pursue. Am I getting my hopes up or anything? Setting high expectations for myself and my possible future there?

    1. Go get a working holidays visa and you can work part time jobs requiring no qualification while living in Korea for a year. From there you'll see, maybe you happen to meet someone who offers you a job with visa sponsorship, or you decide Korea isn't for you, you never know.


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