Should You Teach English In South Korea or Japan?

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Choosing the perfect destination for teaching English abroad can be an exciting yet challenging decision. Among the multitude of options, South Korea and Japan consistently rank as top choices for language enthusiasts seeking to immerse themselves in the rich cultural tapestries of Asia. Both countries offer unique experiences and captivating opportunities, but it’s crucial to consider various factors before embarking on this thrilling journey.

In this article, we will delve into key aspects such as job opportunities, requirements, salary, cost of living, safety, quality of life, language, culture, food, travel opportunities, and nature, to help you make an informed decision between South Korea and Japan.

Join us as we explore the enticing realms of these two nations, uncovering the aspects that set them apart and finding the perfect fit for your aspirations as an English teacher.

Teach in South Korea or Japan

Job Opportunities

Both South Korea and Japan present abundant job opportunities for English teachers, thanks to the high demand for language instruction in their respective education systems. However, there are a few noteworthy differences to consider.

South Korea boasts a robust public school system that actively recruits English teachers, offering numerous positions in elementary, middle, and high schools across the country. Additionally, private language institutes, known as hagwons, provide additional employment options. The demand for English education in South Korea remains consistently high, providing teachers with a wide range of opportunities to choose from.

In contrast, Japan predominantly relies on private language schools, known as Eikaiwas, for English instruction. These institutions cater to students of all ages, from young children to adults. English teachers in Japan typically find employment in urban areas, such as Tokyo and Osaka, where the demand for language learning is particularly strong.


When considering teaching English in South Korea or Japan, it’s important to understand the requirements and qualifications needed to pursue a teaching career in each country.

In South Korea, the primary requirement for English teaching positions is a bachelor’s degree in any field. This is a standard requirement for obtaining a work visa, known as an E-2 visa, which allows foreigners to work legally in the country. Additionally, having a TEFL or TESOL certification is highly beneficial and can make you a more competitive candidate. Proficiency in the Korean language is not a strict requirement for teaching English in South Korea, although learning some basic phrases can enhance your experience and facilitate cultural integration.

In Japan, the requirements for English teaching positions can vary. Most employers prefer candidates with a bachelor’s degree, and it is often a requirement for obtaining a work visa, known as a Instructor/Professor visa. Having a TEFL or TESOL certification is not a strict requirement in Japan, but it can significantly improve your prospects and salary potential.

In Asia, typically having a bachelor’s degree is the main requirement, while some countries might have additional requirements such as nationality and TEFL certifications. For teachers that don’t have a degree, the best place to work legally is Cambodia as it’s not a requirement there.


When comparing salaries for English teachers in South Korea and Japan, several factors come into play, including qualifications, experience, type of institution, and location.

In South Korea, English teachers can expect a competitive salary that provides a comfortable standard of living. Salaries for English teachers in public schools range from approximately 2.0 to 2.8 million Korean Won per month (equivalent to $1,700 to $2,400 USD). Private language institutes (hagwons) often offer higher salaries, ranging from 2.1 to 3.5 million Korean Won per month (equivalent to $1,800 to $3,000 USD). Additionally, some schools provide benefits such as housing allowances, airfare reimbursement, and health insurance, which further contribute to the overall compensation package.

In Japan, salaries for English teachers can vary depending on the institution and location. Generally, English teachers at private language schools (Eikaiwas) can expect to earn around 250,000 to 300,000 Japanese Yen per month (equivalent to $2,300 to $2,700 USD). Salaries for teaching positions in public schools can range from approximately 250,000 to 350,000 Japanese Yen per month (equivalent to $2,300 to $3,200 USD), with some positions offering higher salaries for experienced teachers or those with specialised qualifications. It’s important to note that living expenses in urban areas like Tokyo can be higher compared to other regions in Japan.

Cost of Living

The cost of living is an important factor to consider when comparing teaching English in South Korea and Japan. While both countries offer a high standard of living, there are some variations in expenses that should be taken into account.

In South Korea, the cost of living is generally considered to be affordable. Housing expenses, particularly for those living in provided accommodations or shared apartments, can be relatively low compared to other major cities around the world. The cost of groceries, dining out, transportation, and entertainment is also reasonable, allowing teachers to save a portion of their income. However, living expenses may vary depending on the city or region within South Korea, with larger metropolitan areas such as Seoul having higher costs compared to smaller cities.

In Japan, the cost of living is generally higher than in South Korea, especially in major cities like Tokyo and Osaka. Rent for apartments tends to be higher, although options for shared housing or company-provided accommodations can help reduce expenses. Grocery prices and dining out can also be relatively costly, especially in urban areas. However, Japan offers a wide range of options for different budgets, and with careful planning, it is possible to maintain a comfortable lifestyle while saving a portion of your income.

It’s also important to note that the cost of living is much higher in Japan and South Korea than in places such as Thailand. This means that teachers are typically required to work more hours to earn a good income and for teachers looking for a more comfortable lifestyle, teaching English in Thailand might be a better bet.

Language, Culture, and Food

Language, culture, and food are integral aspects of living and teaching English in Asia. Both South Korea and Japan have rich cultural heritages and offer unique experiences in these domains, although there are notable distinctions to explore.

In South Korea, the primary language spoken is Korean. While knowledge of the Korean language is not a strict requirement for teaching English, learning basic phrases and expressions can enhance your experience and help foster connections with locals. Korean culture is vibrant and deeply rooted in tradition, offering a blend of ancient customs and modern influences. From traditional hanbok clothing and historical palaces to K-pop music and modern fashion trends, South Korea provides a dynamic cultural landscape. Korean cuisine, renowned for its bold flavours and diverse dishes such as kimchi, bulgogi, and bibimbap, is an essential part of the cultural experience.

In Japan, the primary language spoken is Japanese. Unlike South Korea, Japanese language proficiency is often valued and can enhance your teaching experience, especially in public schools. Japanese culture is renowned for its unique customs, traditional arts such as tea ceremonies and kabuki theatre, and iconic landmarks like Mount Fuji and historic temples. The country seamlessly blends its rich cultural heritage with technological advancements, creating a fascinating juxtaposition of the old and the new. Japanese cuisine, featuring sushi, ramen, tempura, and other delightful delicacies, is celebrated worldwide for its precision and exquisite flavours.

The Verdict

Deciding whether to teach English in South Korea or Japan requires careful consideration of various factors, including job opportunities, requirements, salary, cost of living, safety and quality of life, language, culture, and food. Both countries offer unique and rewarding experiences for English teachers, but it ultimately boils down to individual preferences and priorities.

South Korea stands out for its abundant job opportunities, competitive salaries, and affordable cost of living. The emphasis on safety, well-developed infrastructure, and vibrant cultural scene make it an attractive destination for those seeking a dynamic teaching experience. Korean cuisine and the fusion of traditional and modern aspects of Korean culture further add to its charm.

On the other hand, Japan boasts a well-regarded education system, with a strong demand for English language instruction. While salaries may be higher, the cost of living can be slightly more expensive, especially in major cities. Japan’s rich cultural heritage, meticulous attention to detail, and renowned cuisine offer an immersive experience for those fascinated by traditional customs and modern innovations.

Regardless of the path chosen, teaching English in South Korea or Japan provides an enriching opportunity to connect with students, immerse oneself in a new culture, and embark on a transformative journey that will leave a lasting impact both personally and professionally.

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