Pete – Korea How The English teacher's guide to living, working, and traveling in Korea. Thu, 28 Nov 2013 13:24:19 +0000 en-US hourly 1 10 Secrets to Landing a Korean University Job Teaching English Mon, 10 Dec 2012 02:40:12 +0000

Kim Yu-na, the famous figure skater, at her class at Korea University.

Teaching English at a Korean university is one of the best ESL jobs on the planet. With almost 400 colleges in the country, why aren’t you working at one?


Do you want to teach at a Korean university?

Find work at Profs Abroad!


If you’ve spent any time at all in Korea then you know that teaching at a university is the Holy Grail of ESL jobs. Why? How does 4 months or more of paid vacation sound to you? Not enough? Most university lecturers teach around 14 hours per week and get one or two days off per week, and you don’t have to desk-warm between classes.

Having loads of free time isn’t the only thing university jobs have going for them. The students are pretty cool to work with as well. Yes, it’s true that many Korean university students kick back and relax once they’ve made it into college. However, they are easier to deal with and more respectful than a class of 40 screaming primary school students.

Next, you won’t have a co-teacher. The class is yours. Yes, you will have a director or foreign teacher supervisor to answer to, but generally you are left alone to run your class as you like.

The best part is you can use your extra free time to pursue a hobby, further your education, or make some extra money. Many university teachers double or even triple their salary by teaching private classes on the side. Of course this is illegal in Korea (unless you marry a Korean) but everyone does it.

Job Description

Keep in mind that all university jobs are different. There is no standard. In general you can expect the following:

Teaching hours: 10-20 per week (the standard is around 14-16).

Salary: 1.8 to 2.8 million per month (around $25k or more after taxes), which varies depending on qualifications, experience, and school location.

Housing: many universities provide housing or a stipend of around 300,000 won per month.

Bonus: public universities provide an end-of-year bonus equivalent to one month’s salary, private universities usually don’t.

Pension & Health Care: all universities are required by law to provide a pension (about 10% of your yearly salary) and health care.

Contract Duration: usually for one year but sometimes 2. A few universities will force you out after 3 years.

Airfare reimbursement: occasionally a university will pay for your roundtrip airfare but it is rare.


Don’t you need an MA to teach at a university? No. Korean universities ask for a minimum of 2-years teaching experience if you have a Master’s degree (in any subject – does not have to be in TESOL or English related) or 4 years teaching experience if you don’t have a MA.

You also need to have a passport from either the UK, US, Canada, South Africa, New Zealand or Australia. You can’t have a criminal record.

You’re Hired

As you can imagine these jobs are highly competitive. Just look at anyone who has lived in Korea for some time. You’ll see that almost every “lifer” works at a university. So how do you get one of these jobs? Here are a few tips:

1. Know the Right People

The number one key to getting a job at a Korean university is to know someone on the inside. Korean culture is all about circles: personal relationships are key.

The best university jobs are rarely advertised on the Internet job boards. For every university job posting there are 100 public school or academy job offers. Why? When a position opens up the university usually knows about it far in advance. Instead of posting an ad on the Internet, the university will ask the foreign teachers at that school to recommend their friends.

One university I worked at had almost 30 foreign teachers. If each teacher recommends the job to 10 of their friends that means the school already has 300 applicants. Why should the school advertise on an Internet job board?

2. Join Professional Associations

So how do you network in Korea? First, get to know as many university teachers as possible. Anytime you meet a university teacher you should “friend” them on Facebook. Ask them questions about where they teach and what it is like. Let them know you are looking for a job.

Next, join a teaching association. The largest in Korea is KOTESOL. Find your local chapter. Join it. Go to the meetings and conferences. This is your number one place in Korea to network with English teachers. More importantly, it is a fantastic resource for your own professional development…and it looks good on your résumé. Another association for English teachers in Korea is ATEK.

3. Be Proactive in Your Job Hunt

You have to go after these jobs. You won’t find them on Korean university job boards like Profs Abroad. First, decide what city you want to live in. For example, if you want to live in Busan, then visit the city and grab a tourist map. You will see there are over 20 universities in Busan alone. Next, look up the schools on the Internet or get a Korean friend to find the phone number of the English department. Call and ask who is in charge of hiring new teachers. Introduce yourself, find out if they are hiring, and send your résumé.

4. Get Some Experience In Korea

Although it is possible to get a university job before you come to Korea, it’s quite difficult. Most employers want to see that you have at least one year of teaching experience (it doesn’t have to be at a university) in Korea. It can be at a public school or private academy.

5. Know the Hiring Seasons

The Korean school year starts with the spring semester in March. More teachers tend to get hired during the spring semester. The fall semester starts in September. Therefore, there are two main hiring seasons: November-December and May-June.

It is true that some universities do things at the last-minute and hire teachers a few weeks before the semester starts. However, you want to get your job search going in full swing during those prime hiring months.

6. Get Qualified

If you have an MA in TESOL or Linguistics then you shouldn’t have much trouble finding work. There are no guarantees but more and more university teachers are getting their MA these days.

A second cheaper and quicker option is to get a CELTA or TEFL certification.  CELTA courses take about one month and cost around $2,000. There are also many TEFL certification courses online that will certify you for under $300. Just be sure your course is at least 100 hours and that it states the number of hours on your certificate.

7. Make Your MA Work For You

When most people think of teaching abroad they assume they can only teach English. This is absolutely not the case in Korea. There is a huge demand for university professors with Masters degrees that can teach major subjects in English. This is a trend that is not going away and will only continue to get bigger in the future.

For instance, if you have an MBA you can teach business – in English of course – to Korean university students. Try contacting the department related to your area of study and ask them if they are hiring. These jobs often pay double or more of what you would make teaching English.

8. Look the Part

Koreans are highly image conscious. Got gray hair? Dye it. Is your suit a little old or out of style? Buy a new one. Was your photo on your resume taken at home on your couch? Get photo taken professionally and have it photoshopped. If you don’t wear a suit and tie or your best dress to your interview you might as well not show up.

9. Pay Your Dues

Korea has 4 tiers of universities according to competitiveness. At the top-tier you have the SKY universities (Seoul National, Korea Univ., and Yonsei Univ.). They are like American Ivy league universities. The 4th tier universities are the least competitive and similar to community colleges in the US.

The secret to getting your first uni job in, especially if you don’t have any university teaching experience, is to aim for the lower tier universities. More importantly, look for universities outside of major cities.

Most people who have been in Korea for some time prefer to live in the major cities like Seoul, Busan, or Daegu. As a result, universities that are far from major cities have a more difficult time finding qualified applicants.

For instance, there are only a handful of universities left in Seoul that don’t require an MA. However, there are plenty of universities in other parts of the country that will hire you with just a BA.

10. Beware of the Unigwan

Usually the want ad says you will teach 20-30 hours per week and have 2 weeks or less of vacation. You will probably be working in the university’s private language academy and teach everything from primary school kids to adults. The only university students you teach are the ones who come after class for extra help.

These are by no means bad jobs, and can actually lead to full time work in another university or department. However, if you have the qualifications to get a true university gig then don’t waste your time at a unigwan.

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Travel Photo Tips: Seoul, Korea by Aaron Brown Fri, 14 Jan 2011 10:20:22 +0000 Learn about HDR from professional photographer and former Ilsan resident Aaron Brown.

Korea: Seoul Workers

Korea: Seoul Workers by Aaron Brown.

The story behind the pic: I nabbed this shot while out photo-walking with my girlfriend in Seoul. I was just getting into HDR photography at the time and had not really “mastered” my approach to it – that’s why the man up front is bending down behind himself – but it ended up looking kind of cool regardless.

The style: High Dynamic Range is a stylized method of photography I employ from time to time to allow me to capture a greater range of luminance within a particular scene. The tone mapping process usually involved with it tends to turn everything a little painterly and surreal, much like in this shot. Lately though, I’ve been approaching my HDR in a much more “realistic” way, lending to a look that’s achievable with filters and controlled lighting. I have fun working out ways to get a higher range of light that my camera couldn’t normally get on its own – whether combining multiple exposures of the same scene, or by simply introducing light to places that were previously dark. Thankfully, digital technology allows me to experiment so much on the cheap.

Life in Korea: I was living in Korea just a bit northwest of Seoul in the Juyeop Dong of Ilsan Gu, within Goyang Si from May 2008 to June 2010. It was a great neighborhood and I’d love to visit the area again sometime. Ilsan has a nice range of both city-life and countryside and allowed me the opportunity to shoot wildly different scenes that were only a 10 minute walk apart.

Life now: Since returning home to Crown Point, Indiana – which is just a bit southeast of Chicago, Illinois – I’ve been doing photographic work full-time. I’m looking to specialize in portraiture and real estate photography in 2011, but I’m including weddings and live events into the mix as well. Starting your own business and making it successful is tough, but being your own boss and doing work you truly love makes any of the struggles along the way worth it… so far, ha!

Favorite travel Quote: The Star Trek mission really says it all, “…boldly go where no one has gone before!” And remember the “boldly” part!

Travel Photo Tip: Take your camera everywhere you go and shoot everything you see. You’re bound to get at least one shot that will make you smile.


Photo of Aaron Brown courtesy of Dylan Goldby.

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Sumatra & Java, Indonesia | A Travel Photo Essay Sun, 26 Dec 2010 23:36:04 +0000 Photos and words by Shawn “Flash” Parker.

From sunrise over an active volcano on Java, to the rice paddies of Sumatra, join intrepid travel photojournalist Shawn “Flash” Parker in Indonesia as he shows you around his favorite county.

Indonesia is a complex land of scattered islands, epic landscapes, fascinating people, heartbreaking history and beguiling customs. At once we were frustrated by, and fell in love with, the pace of life and rugged countryside of Sumatra. The hustle and bustle and jumbled mass of humanity that is Java does not lack for charm or grace, though you have to dig a little to find it.

I used to tell people that Cambodia was my favourite country in the world; after a month in the fertile hills of Indo, there is a new champion.

Mount Penanjakan view of Mount Bromo, East Java, Indonesia.

Bright and early, just before the light shines bright view of Mount Bromo, Mount Semeru and Mount Batok, with ample rolling fog and an epic eruption for good measure.

We climbed Mount Penanjakan in our Toyota 4×4 pre-dawn in the headlights of some 1,200 other vehicles. Once at the viewpoint Megs and I decided against the same shooting vantage as everyone else – all 3,000 tourists, gah – and climbed down the hill for a better look (and a few square feet to dig in our tripods). As soon as the sun started to shine and illuminate the volcanoes in the distance, all the nuisance and discomfort of the day, all the pain and suffering associated with actually making the trip to Bromo, it vanished. We spent the next hour shooting one of the most incredible sunrises I have ever witnessed.

Ancient Stupas, Borobudur, Java, Indonesia.

I could have and should have done more with the morning mist at Borobudur. Instead, we raced to the monument’s zenith to take it in before the rest of the hordes clamored up. By the time we made our way back down to the 4th level the light and the mist had changed, leaving me with this single, hastily made frame.

Western Shore, Lake Maninjau, Sumatra, Indonesia.

Life slowed down while we were making these frames on the sparsely inhabited western shore. Here the karamba – floating net cages – are few and far between, the landscape is rugged, the roads rough and the water calm. This lone fisherman was the only person we saw during our time on the west side.

Highlands Lookout, Lake Maninjau, Sumatra, Indonesia.

The magnificent architectural designs of the Minangkabau. Touring Indonesia is a lesson in epic, ancient building styles. You can keep your gothic revival and Victorian and whatever else it is that the Europeans can dish out; for my money, Sumatra is more impressive.

Maninjau Village, Lake Maninjau, Sumatra, Indonesia.

This, my friends, is a Maninjau tako, and it is better than any taco you have had anywhere, at any time, in your life. It is stuffed to the brim with ground beef, grilled vegetables, eggs and spices. It is oven baked. It is succulent. It is savory. It is $1.25.

Long live the tako!

Basin Rice Paddies, Lake Maninjau, Sumatra, Indonesia.

I have had this frame in the back of my mind since the day I landed in Asia. It took me two and a half years and nearly a dozen new countries to find it.

I made hundreds of frames in the hour we trekked through these paddies yet it is this one, the first frame, that I return to. It captures so much of what I love about Sumatra without saying much at all beyond what is captured. I like that.

Tuk Tuk, Samosir Island, Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia.

This elderly lady was sorting her fruit and veggies when she spied Megs and I wandering about. She called me over to check out my camera and quiz me on goings on. She even decided to try her hand at shooting portraits of me. I was more than happy to return the favour.

I look back at these Indo portraits fondly; not once was I turned down when asking for photos and more often than not I was asked to shoot before throwing the question out myself. More importantly, I was able to share some genuinely fantastic moments with incredibly interesting people. It makes the experience of the road that much sweeter.

Tuk Tuk, Samosir Island, Lake Toba, Sumatra, Indonesia.

Like every other destination in the world (save maybe Iraq, I guess?) Lake Toba has a fair share of tourist traps and gift shops selling assorted mass-produced crap. Off the beaten path, however, there are some fantastic shops selling really beautiful stuff.

We stocked up on hand-carved masks, as we are prone to do in every country we stop. What I really wanted, though, was this chess set; pieces eight inches high and a game board, carved into the table, four feet squared. Sadly, with my underwater camera and flash equipment, my suitcase was already a little bulbous. Plus, I’m not much of a souvenir guy; I’ll collect a little sand, a little bottle of water and the aforementioned masks, but other than that I take nothing more than photographs.

Buddhist Statue, Borobudur, Java, Indonesia.

A Buddhist statue faces South on the cardinal compass (if my records are correct). My research indicates that this statue is in the Vara mudra group and represents benevolence and alms giving – as noted by the position of the hands. Mario might be able to tell us more about this. I, on the other hand, am a man of simple pleasures, and spend the days contemplating eternity in a position similar to this.

Mauro Beach, Lake Maninjau, Sumatra, Indonesia.

Another look at the gorgeous sunset over Lake Maninjau, one of the finest I have ever been witness to in my life. I can’t comment on sunrise, as each time I woke up prior to the 5:45am sunburst it was pouring down. So, for the sake of this argument, I will say that sunset is superior. Ha!

These karambas belong to the family that owned our villa and our wonderful hosts would head on down to the water each evening after we ordered dinner and pluck out a slippery footless delight for supper. I have a few frames of our fisherman/chef diving, spear in hand, after these fish. Not a bad way to get on.

Oh, the best part of all this, of course, is that I didn’t experience the Mudd Butt at Maninjau. Not at all!

Bromo Rim, Bromo-Tengger-Semeru National Park, East Java, Indonesia.

This wild stallion understands a little something about epicality, as you can plainly see. Rolling fog in a volcanic valley is the new softbox.

The Bird Market, Yogyakarta, Java, Indonesia.

I wonder if you can tell why Megan loved the Bird Market? It’s hard to imagine, really. Seems like such a brutal, viscous place, with multi-coloured chicks running amok and whatnot.

Alas, she left disappointed; I could not in good conscience let her buy a dozen of these. She hasn’t spoken to me since.


  • How to get there from Korea: A number of airlines make the 7 hour flight from Seoul’s Incheon Airport to Jakarta for around 700,000 – 900,000 won (depending on the time of year).
  • How to save money on your flight: China Southern Airlines has some of the most economical flights you will find to Jakarta from Korea. The flight time is longer since you have to transfer planes in China, but the cost reduction may make it worth your while. China Southern also offers service to/from six Korean cities.

*You might be wondering how Shawn got some of those dreamscape-like images. Learn how to add colors to your photos by reading Shawn’s Basic Filter Guide.

**You can also find more great tips in these articles by other photographers.


Shawn "Flash" Parker

Biography: Flash is a writer and photographer originally from Toronto, Canada, and spent two years living in Osan, Korea (2008-2010). He is a screenwriter (film credits include Wireless and I Hate Dating) and author (Night Has Fallen, 2008) and travels extensively on assignment as a photojournalist. In 2010 Flash has had articles and photographs published in Conde Nast Traveler, American Way Magazine, CNN Traveler Magazine, Groove Magazine, SE Asia Backpacker Magazine, Eloquence Magazine, 10 Magazine and more. He has been nominated for a 2011 PATA Gold Award in destination journalism.

Blog: Flash Parker: Love The Light

Flickr Photostream: Flash Parker

Book: The Ubiquitos Kimchi (Korean Food and Culture)

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Take Better Pictures: 5 Korean Photo Blogs You Should Follow Thu, 16 Dec 2010 15:55:51 +0000 Whether you want to become the next Ansel Adams, or just learn how to take better pictures to post on Facebook, these blogs will help you get there.

Photography in Korea is like a national sport. Photo by P. DeMarco

So you want to improve your photographic skills? Someone once said that success leaves clues. Given the load of photographic talent here in Korea, you don’t have to look far for hints.

There’s a large group of skilled foreign photographers living in Korea who are sharing their knowledge for free on the web. It is true that there are many amazing photography/travel blogs by foreigners in Korea. But only a few actually teach you how to get better as a photographer.

The following sites have the best tips, tricks, and stories about photography. And you might even see some amazing images of Korea and the world as well.

Here are the best of the best in no particular order:

The Information Specialist

Dylan’s site is a fantastic resource for photo tutorials and videos. One of my favorite features of his site is when he “deconstructs” some of his more complex and stylized (think Photoshop) images. Hopefully, he will hold another Strobist Seminar again so I can learn how to use my flash.

Two helpful posts:

1. Want to take pics of your friends playing in the snow but can’t figure out how to photography snowflakes? Check out Quick Tip: Flashing in the Snow.

2. Another helpful post is Shooting Portraits.

The Traveling Photojournalist

Are you dreaming about becoming a travel writer and/or photographer and looking for some inspiration? Shawn “Flash” Parker was working in Korea for some time and has since set out on a global tour shooting and writing about places from Brunei to New York. He is also a wedding, engagement, and portrait photographer. Check out his photo travel blog on Flickr as well.

Two helpful posts:

1. Learn how to use filters with the Basic Filter Guide.

2. So you just published some of your photos and you want to upload them to your blog/website. But alas, the editor sent you a PDF file of your published work and you can’t upload PDFs to your site. Check out Published! for learning about how to convert PDF files to JPEG files…for free!

The Connector

In addition to being a great writer and photographer, Gregory Curley is like the connector described in Malcom Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point; he links his readers to the world. His “Weekly Snapshots” posts always showcase the best of what is happening in the Korean photographic world and beyond. You can also find some informative photo tutorials and Korean travel articles.

Two helpful posts:

1. Go to Weekly Snapshots | 12.10.10. Next, click on the link “What Yeonpyeong looks like post-shelling” for some chilling images of the island bombared by North Korea.

2. Can you name one Korean photographer? You can’t. Check out this post: Kim Jung-man | Korea’s Ace Photographer.

The Learner

Jason Teale writes his blog from Ulsan, Korea. He’ll tell you that he is always learning, but he’s also always sharing some awesome information too. As his site says, his blog is full of stories, tips, and photos from around Korea. Jason has made a name for himself, especially in the realm of HDR photography. If you don’t know what HDR is or do and love it, then YOU GOTTA CHECK OUT Stuck In Customs.

Two helpful posts:

1. Can’t think of any new ideas? Check out the post Creativity.

2. Learn how to get your work in front of more eyes by reading Getting Published.

The Persistent Photographer

Jay Boyle is taking his photography to the next level and he is taking you along for the ride. Follow him as he tries to complete his 365 Project (taking 1 photo every day of the year for one year). Although Jay only recently started his blog and hasn’t published as much stuff as some of the other photographers on this list, he still has some good info to share. Not to mention his persistence is inspiring.

Two helpful posts:

1. Your photographs can make a difference in someone’s life. Yes, yours. Don’t believe me? Read Help Portrait 2010.

2. Check out Jay’s useful review of a recent photo workshop held in Seoul called Learning Curve: SPC Lighting Seminar.

The Columnist

Okay, I lied. There are actually 5 blogs AND 1 newspaper column that will help you improve your photographic skills. Even though it is not a blog, Aaron Raisey ran a column for the Korea Herald called “In Focus” that is worth mentioning. Aaron and other photographers living in Korea wrote the articles. Today you can still find over 20 articles that will help you improve your photographic skills. Aaron also runs the Seoul Photo Club on Flickr.

Two helpful posts:

1. Learn where to be and when to be there if you want take great pictures with Mario Taradan’s article Be at the right place, at the right time.

2. Or check out Aaron’s article on how to Improve Your Composition.

*This is not a complete list and I’m sure I left out some excellent blogs. However, shameless promotion of your photography blog is highly encouraged – be it based in Korea or abroad. Be sure to add a link in the comments section below.

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English Mania Grips World Tue, 07 Dec 2010 23:20:14 +0000


Like it or not, English is sweeping across the world. Some say English is a tool used by America and England to “colonize” the world. Others see it as the dawn of a new era when people from around the globe will have a common language to promote cultural understanding and solve some of the world’s biggest problems like poverty, disease, and war.

Either way the rise of English as the world’s lingua franca cannot be ignored. Today over 2 billion people are studying English from Algeria to Zimbabwe.

In this video Jay Walker, the founder of, describes the meteoric growth of “the world’s second language” and the effects it has on other people, countries, and languages. Furthermore, he focuses on English education in China.

Wait until you see how one man in China is teaching English to thousands of students – in one class!

Is English taking over the world? Is it good or bad thing?

Q&A With Dr. David Noonan at 2010 PAC-KOTESOL Conference Tue, 07 Dec 2010 04:55:44 +0000

Drs. Ken Beaty, David Nunan, Kathleen Bailey, moderator Alan Maley, Rod Ellis, and Martha Cummings.

This year KOTESOL (Korea Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) celebrated its 18th International Conference in Seoul. Under the slogan of “Advancing ELT in the Global Context,” over 1,500 English teachers from around the world visited the conference.

Among those attending were also a stellar list of presenters. This year was the first time there was a plenary panel discussion about the state of ELT in the world today. One of the members of the plenary panel was Dr. David Nunan.

The following are some follow-up questions to the plenary panel discussion:

What is your experience with KOTESOL and teaching English in Korea?

Dr. Nunan: I’ve been coming to Korea for conferences, consultancies and teacher education for the last twenty years. I have been a presenter at many KOTESOL conferences.

What was the most important topic/theme (related to ELT) you heard people talking about at this year’s conference? Why?

Dr. Nunan: The hot topics right now are globalization and the emergence of English as the global language, the teaching of English to younger learners and the use of technology to enhance the teaching of English. all these issues are interrelated. English has emerged as the international language of business, entertainment, education, and media because of the dominance of the USA as the largest economy in the world. Organizations, governments and individuals know they can increase their value by learning English. Middle-class parents believe that they can give their children an advantage at school and ultimately in the workplace by having them learn English. Because of the belief that the earlier you begin learning a language the better you will be at that language, educational systems around the world are lowering the age at which English is introduced as a compulsory subject. The insatiable demand for English is far outstripping the supply of adequately trained teachers. Technology has stepped in to supplement face-to-face instruction.

English in Korea (and the world) is quickly becoming a form of social and economic exclusion. Many Korean’s believe that forcing everyone to learn English is another way to separate the “haves” from the “have nots”. Do you think that is true? Do you have any suggestions as to how this can be prevented?

Dr. Nunan: I believe that a situation of “haves” and ‘have nots” is an unfortunate reality. One 25% of the world’s population have the opportunity to learn and use English and these are people who are already advantaged. The only solution has to be a political one – governments have to improve the quality of English language education in public schools.

Some people say teaching English is not a “real” job. It is something you do to save money for a backpacking trip around the world or a way to hold off being a corporate slave back home. Furthermore, many English teachers (even the ones with masters degrees in TESOL or Applied Linguistics) eventually leave the field because there just isn’t enough money in it. Is teaching English a job with a sustainable future or more of a short-term career move?

Dr. Nunan: Until the public perception that all you need in order to teach English is to be a native speaker is reversed, this will not change. It is up to us as teachers to argue the case for English as a profession, to demonstrate that well-trained non-native speakers of English with good English skills and appropriate training as just as effective, if not more effective than Native English teachers.

Many Koreans would prefer to learn English from a native speaker with little or no experience teaching English than from a certified Korean English teacher. However, David Graddol in his book English Next says that there is a trend that native-speaker norms and native speakers themselves are becoming irrelevant. Will we [native speakers] be out of a job in the near future?

Dr. Nunan: Absolutely not. I would like to see the first language status of the teacher become an irrelevance, and that employment and advancement be based on criteria other than first language status. Associations such as TESOL have developed performance standards for teachers, and these should be the criteria for deciding who gets to be employed as a teacher.

Where do you see the ELT industry in the next 10 years?

Dr. Nunan: I was asked this question ten years ago, and will give the same answer now as I gave then. “Technology will become increasingly significant, the teaching of English to young learners will become more effective through the development of age appropriate curriculum models, materials, teacher training, and (this is a wish rather than a prediction), government agencies will look to bodies such as The International Research Foundation for Language Education (TIRF) for data-based advice upon which to base policy decisions.

Do you have any advice on for current teachers or people interested in getting into the field?

Dr. Nunan: Teaching is a vocation. You have to love what you do and care for your students. If you’re doing this job simply for the money, or because you can’t think of anything else to do, then get out now.

Dr. David Noonan

Dr. David Nunan is the Academic President of Anaheim University based in Anaheim, California. Dr. Nunan serves in a concurrent role as Dean of the Graduate School of Education and Professor of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). He is also a best-selling author. In 2003, Business Review Weekly ranked him the 7th most influential Australian in Asia, and in 2005, he was named one of the top “50 Australians Who Matter.”  Dr. Nunan has this year authored “The Learner-Centred Curriculum: A Study in Second Language Teaching.”

English Teachers Reflect On Changing Role in Globalization Age Tue, 07 Dec 2010 04:15:38 +0000

English teachers at the KOTESOL conference in Seoul focus on their professional development.

[This article was previously published in The Korea Times on November 24, 2010.]

By Peter DeMarco

Is it possible that Korea will no longer hire native English teachers in the near future? Most would laugh at the idea. Today there are at least 23,000 foreigners teaching English here and the numbers keep rising.

However, in his book English Next, commissioned by The British Council, renowned linguist and researcher David Graddol says that native-speaker norms and native speakers themselves are becoming irrelevant.

As English becomes an international language used for business and tourism, the reasons for learning English change along with it. Unless a Korean is going to live or study in an English-speaking foreign country, it is more probable that they’ll speak English with a Chinese or Japanese person than an American or Brit.

Another trend  is that people who speak English as a second or foreign language are quickly outnumbering native speakers. English has become a world language, a lingua franca owned by every  country  .

This past weekend over 1,500 educators from 20 countries traveled to Sookmyung Women’s University in Seoul for the 18th annual KOTESOL (Korea Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages) International Conference, which this year included the PAC (Pan-Asia Conference). Although many topics were discussed, the focus was on English language education in the changing global context.

Improving English Language Teaching in Korea

KOTESOL is a not-for-profit foundation that was founded in 1992 to promote scholarship, disseminate information, and facilitate cross-cultural understanding among persons concerned with the teaching and learning of English in Korea. Its membership consists of both foreign and Korean English language teachers.

This year’s conference had more than a dozen world-renowned speakers and 140 presenters  who spoke on the future direction of the profession and provided insight, techniques, and theories that contribute to professional development.

A Call for Increased Training

Conference members also agreed the most important quality of 21st century English teachers is their skill set, not the country they come from. Yet you can still find Korean parents who would prefer to put their child in a class with an untrained native

Dr. David Noonan

speaker than a certified Korean teacher of English .

“Until the public perception that all you need in order to teach English is to be a native speaker is reversed, this will not change,”said Dr. David Nunan, Academic President of Anaheim University and an invited speaker at the conference.

He went on to say “It is up to us as teachers to argue the case for English as a profession, to demonstrate that well trained non-native speakers of English with good English skills and appropriate training are just as effective, if not more effective than Native English teachers.”

Lack of English Teaching Jobs for Koreans

Recently the Korean government endorsed a program that will create robot English teachers to alleviate the lack of  English teachers. One of the invited speakers to the conference, Dr. Andrew Finch, associate professor of English Education at Kyungpook National University disagrees emphatically with this move, “There is no shortage of teachers. The shortage is in the number of jobs. The country is full of highly-qualified Korean teachers of English who can’t find work.”

Dr. Andrew Finch

The test which prospective English teachers have to pass in order  to work in the public school system is highly competitive and the openings are few. This is not the case  for native English teachers who are in high-demand and are seen as the gold standard in Korea.

One policy change Dr. Finch suggests is  to lower the class size, on a par with Europe. But he says most importantly, “let’s make sure that English teachers in Korea – foreign or Korean – are qualified to teach.”

For further information about KOTESOL please visit

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Sex and The Island: Jeju Loveland Exposed Wed, 01 Dec 2010 20:15:33 +0000

The best time to visit Love Land is at night when the statues look uncannily real. It's also much easier to hide your face in the darkness. ~ Photo P. DeMarco

[View slideshow here.]

Take a peep inside Korea’s taboo busting erotic theme park where love oriented art and eroticism meet unabashed.

A statue of a fornicating faun, the half-human-half-goat creature from Greek mythology, holds a naked woman in the air by her hips. Their gravity-defying position looks like they are going for the gold medal in some sort of sexual Olympics.

Just beyond a massive green hand the size of an SUV reaches out from under the ground, as if a giant woman (or man) was buried just under the surface. The fingers are spread wide like the legs of spider. The middle one is pushed inside a heart-shaped vagina rising from the ground: covered in a ceramic tile mosaic a la Antonio Gaudi.

Looking around it’s easy to think you’re on a tour at Hugh Heffner’s Playboy Mansion. However, this erotic theme park is actually on a small island in conservative South Korea. How can it be?

Island Mentality

Jeju Loveland started in 2002 when 20 artists from Hongik University in Seoul were commissioned to create sculptures for the park. It eventually opened in 2004. According to the park’s website, this humorous love theme park is a place where visitors can appreciate the natural beauty of love.

The park is also the country’s ultimate cultural anomaly. Only just decades ago police walked the streets of Seoul with rulers to measure the length of women’s skirts, and kissing on TV or in the movies was taboo. Couples rarely held hands in the street then. Even today most Korean’s don’t kiss or hug in public.

The park now has over 140 sculptures representing sexual organs and positions, sex toys, “hands-on” exhibits, and much more. Jeju Island or “The Rock” as it is lovingly referred to by expats living here, is probably the only place in Korea something so taboo in this country’s Confucian culture could exist.

To understand why what happens in Jeju stays on Jeju, look no further than the most frequent visitors to the unofficial Hawaii of Korea – honeymooners. The island is hugely popular with Korean newly weds and the park is seen as a place to, umm, “grease the wheels” of many a honeymooning couple. Seeing that Korea has the lowest birthrate in the OECD, it is unlikely the park will be shut down anytime soon.

Just Smile and Say “Kimchi”

Walking through the park it’s hard not to feel awkward, especially when you make eye contact with Koreans getting their photo taken in front of a massive one-story tall ass while sitting on a cow-sized penis, saying “kimchi”, and making a V with their fingers. But then those are the oddly funny travel memories you take with you and cherish the rest of your life.

Whether you are on your honeymoon or just want to see the most un-Korean theme park in Korea, a visit to Loveland will undoubtedly be a memorable one. Be sure to bring some water though because you may find your temperature rising by the end of your visit. And if you forget to bring your own, you can always take a drink from the park’s water fountain. Just remember to hold up your fingers, make a V, and say “kimchi” for the camera when you take a sip!

Getting There: Jeju Loveland is only 10 minutes from Jeju International Airport. There is a map here.

Hours of Operation: 9:00am to midnight

Admission: 7,000 Won

Phone: +82 64 712-6988

Website: (English)

Date With an Exorcist: Korean Shamanism Unveiled Wed, 24 Nov 2010 10:51:45 +0000

A Korean shaman holds up a dead pig during a ceremony. Photo P. DeMarco


[View slide show here.]

I knew things were going to get out of control when the Shaman stuck a pitchfork in the belly of the dead pig. She picked it up with the help of two other shamans. The pig was resting limp and lifeless at the top of the pole. She started chanting while the other shaman poured a huge bowl of makoli, a fermented Korean rice wine, over the back of the pig.

Next they put over $100 in bills on the pig’s back. The wind blew through the dry fall leaves. Light from a full moon broke through the tree branches. More chanting ensued.

I looked over at Brian Jenkins, a buddy of mine who I’m making a short documentary about shamanism with, and he had this look of disbelief on his face. He shook his head and whispered “what?” We couldn’t believe what we were seeing. It was by far one of the strangest and most amazing things I have seen in Korea, or my travels for that matter.

First Encounter

Last August I was hiking down a mountain here in Busan with friend and photographer extraordinaire Simon Bond, when we came across the shamans. They were performing some ceremony in what looked like a small Buddhist temple. They were as curious about us as we were of them. They eventually invited us in.

Before we knew it, the shaman or ‘mudang’ in Korean wanted us to take part in the ceremony. First, she had me pull some different colored flags from her hand. She then read my future according to the color of the flags I picked. For instance, the gold flag represents money.

Next it was Simon’s turn. According to the shaman, he had the ghost of a dead relative inside him. It needed to be exorcised (see video). We were both caught off guard but couldn’t believe they let us in to see the ceremony or even take part in it.

Shamanism in Korea Today

Although Shamanism was Korea’s first “religion,” most Korean’s are not familiar with the practice. Moreover, many Korean’s won’t even tell their friends if they go to a shaman. When I told my Korean friends I went to a ceremony they all said they have never seen one and don’t know what happens during one. However, the Koreans we met at the shaman’s temple swear by them.

What I find most interesting is how shamans were an integral part of Korean society for millennium but now looked at almost like quacks and thieves by the masses. Even still, many Korean people such as politicians, businessman, the sick, and newly weds still visit shamans.

From Wikipedia:

Belief in a world inhabited by spirits is probably the oldest form of Korean religious life, dating back to prehistoric times.

Shamanism has its roots in ancient, land-based cultures, dating at least as far back as 40,000 years. The shaman was known as “magician, medicine man, psychopomp, mystic and poet” (Eliade, 1974). What set him apart from other healers or priests was his ability to move at will into trance states. During a trance, the shaman’s soul left his body and travelled to other realms, where helping spirits guided him in his work.

The shaman provided healing on many levels; physical, psychological and spiritual. The work of the shaman was based on the holistic model, which took into consideration, not only the whole person, but that person’s interaction with his world, both inner and outer. The soul was considered the place of life breath, where essence resided, and any physical illness was inextricably linked with sickness of the soul. Illness of the mind had to do with soul loss, intrusion, possession.

Photographing the Ceremony

Since then I have been to two different ceremonies. Each time we were allowed to take photos and video. The photos in the accompanying slide show are from a good luck ceremony or ‘gut’ in Korean. There is a woman in the photos wearing a black shirt and red vest. She came all the way from Seoul just to meet this shaman. We had her permission to take photos during the ceremony.

Many of the pics are out of focus – sometimes on purpose and sometimes by accident. There was a lot of movement in these ceremonies and I wanted to convey that. At times the shamans look like mystical whirling dervishes, jumping up and down, stabbing the air with their knives and swords. Many pictures were blurred to convey that sense of motion and mysticism.

On the other hand, I’m still learning about photography so some of the pics were too out of focus. Also, I had to go with a high ISO which made many of the pics even blurrier and caused some burning around the lights. I think I pushed my camera and lenses to the limit in a low-light situation, but I’m sure there is more I could learn to improve the quality. Any tips are appreciated.

For More Info About Korean Shamanism

Kim Soo-nam, a Korean press photographer, spent 30 years documenting Shamanistic rituals around Asia. He passed away in 2006. You can see some of his photos and read a great article about his life and work here.

Dirk Schlottmann, a German ethnologist and photojournalist currently living in South Korea did is doctoral thesis on Korean shamanism. He has some fantastic photos of shamanistic rituals on Flickr. He also has three galleries (1, 2, 3) on a German website.

The New York Times published a great article called Shamanism Enjoys Revival in Techo-Savvy South Korea.

Finally, if you have any information about the topic please post in the comments below.

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Foreign Brokered Brides Rethink Korea Fri, 19 Nov 2010 09:33:30 +0000

A Vietnamese bride is about to marry a Korean man 20 years older than him. They met through her older sister who also married a Korean. ~ Photo P. DeMarco

When couples say their wedding vows, “till death do us part” is not supposed to mean you stay married until one partner kills the other. Unfortunately, this past summer a schizophrenic Korean man murdered his Vietnamese wife [not the girl in the photo above].

Apart from the ghastly murder, what sent shock waves around the world was that he met his wife, a Vietnamese girl 27 years younger than him, through a bride brokerage service. It is common practice for older Korean men to travel to Southeast Asia to find brides.

Bride brokerage services are very popular in Korea. After the murder, the Korean authorities are cracking down on this poorly regulated practice. Obviously there are some happy marriages between Korean men and foreign brokered brides, but there are many challenges for them as well.