I am not teaching English in Korea yet (2010), although I want to and I need some advice on where NOT to teach. I've read all the horror stories of people working in hogwans over at Dave's ESL Cafe, and some of my current Korean students have told me that their cram schools were terrible and I should never go there.
Has anyone had any success with or heard of a company called "Seoul Teaching" (seoulteaching.com)? Is the EPIK program good or should I be looking at specific recruiters? How about teaching in English Village? Or when I visit Korea in July should I have my students show me some places?
Hey there smorriskc. I know this topic is a little old and chances are you aren't even keeping up, but on the chance you will look back here I thought I'd post my two cents.
I'm currently teaching in a hagwon and it's really just like any other job. It's been my experience that the guys over in Dave's tend to be overly negative when it comes to hagwons. Sure you will work a little (or a lot, depending on how lucky you get with your public school posting) more in a hagwon, but you will also get paid better. Not a whole lot, mind you, but enough to offset the fact that you'll be working maybe anywhere from 5-10 hours more per week.
Most of the horror stories you here about people working in hagwons are people who didn't really do their research and went for an ad that said "3.0 million + housing!!" only to find out they are working for a small mom&pop school. This is a really risky situation, cause you are basically stuck when it comes to your pay/job security/hours. If you go with a larger company (like Pagoda/YBM) you will be very secure, have contracted working hours, breaks, and will be paid at a set time every month (in my case on the 7th of each month).
I've worked for my school for 8 months, and am already looking at renewing my contract for another year. I enjoy the ***CENSORED*** out of my work, and while I've had problems with my school they are all minor ones. You will run into problems working anywhere, that's just the nature of working any job, but you can easily get anything sorted out as long as you are level headed about it.
From what I hear EPIK is pretty sweet though. It all depends on what you want to do. If you want to work with kids you can go through EPIK or hagwons, but if you want to work with adults I think you are pretty much stuck with hagwons unless you want to take a shot at working in a uni. I'd be more than happy to help you with anything you may want to know about hagwons. I currently work for YBM ECC, so I teach kindergarten through 5th grade (with a focus on kindergarten). I can answer most knowledgably on the topic of elementart level hagwons, but I can at least give you what I've heard on anything else.
And really, like matthew254 said "the fewer surprises the better". If you narrow down your choices always ask to talk to someone at the school you are going to work for. If you are going with a hagwon there will always be at least one other foreign teacher there, try to get their email address. They will always be honest with you, and can even try to help you get set up!
I've been working in a Korean public school for more than 2 years and I agree with John it's just like any other job. I also agree with everything he said about Hagwons and what he said about guys at Dave's ESL being overly negative. A lot of people who come here are also 23 year-olds just fresh out of collage who have no other real work experience. They often come here without any research done at all and just go into the first job they are offered or with the biggest price tag.
I would recommend one of the bigger Hagwons for the first year or so and then maybe try and get a public school job (or even better a university job) if you plan on staying longer. Bear in mind that university jobs like you to have a masters. I have personality worked in a public school after school program which as been great because of the amount of freedom you have to teach the way you want to teach. Which is great if you have teaching experience but not so great if you are a newbie. Anyway, good luck with your job search m8.