However that doesn't tell the whole story. Due to bonuses and the low cost of living, it's actually very possible to save way more than that!
A starting salary for an ESL teacher at an English academy in South Korea is ₩2,100,000, or about $1800. Though that should be the bare minimum. Most teachers in South Korea would be earning between ₩2,200,000 and 2,600,000 ($1850-2200) per month.
Any company that doesn't reimburse you for your flight is not worth working for. In fact, if you work for a public school, you'll get to keep the excess money you didn't spend!
Set up ₩85,000
Take about ₩1,000,000 with you. We'll split that cost across the 12 months you'll be in Korea, which works out to about ₩85,000 per month.You won't get paid until the end of your first month, so it's important to take money with you. It varies widely person to person. You'll also need to pay for things such as setting up gas in your apartment and maybe buying some furniture as well (though your apartment should come furnished).
Free. That's right! Almost every job will provide you with free accommodation. If you work for a public school, they'll even offer you a monthly payment of ₩400,000, of which you can keep what you don't spend. You can actually profit from renting!
Many countries have a tax-treaty with South Korea, meaning you won't have to pay any tax in South Korea for your first 2 years! That's right,₩0. If you stay longer, of are from a country that doesn't have a tax treaty, you'll be looking at around ₩ 60,000 per month in taxes.
South Korea heavily subsidises healthcare. While you'll pay around ₩50,000 of your salary towards your health insurance each month, you'll be glad to know that trips to the doctor and dentists rarely add up to over ₩20,000.
South Korean internet is somehow both the fastest in the world and also incredibly cheap. You should pay around ₩30,000 for fast, unlimited broadband. A steal.
Transportation ₩10,000 - 60,000
Bus and subway journeys across the city are very affordable at just ₩1,200 each way. Taxi fairs start at just under ₩3,000 and a 20 minute journey across town shouldn't cost more than around ₩12,000. Expect to pay about half of that on average.
The real money saver is to buy a second-hand bicycle(~₩100,000+) or motorbike (₩500,000+). You're going to be doing two journeys every day (to school and back), meaning 10 a week, or ₩12,000. Add to that weekend trips and you're looking at least ₩60,000 per month. After two months on a bicycle and about a year on a motorbike, they will have paid for themselves. Considering you can easily sell them to other English teachers when you're ready to live, buying a bicycle or motorbike is an incredibly smart decision.
Travelling inside Korea ₩0-50,000
Travelling around Korea is dirt cheap. Travelling to other cities is also safe, comfortable and affordable. High-speed trains and buses run all around the country. You should expect to pay around ₩20,000 per way.
There are plenty of jjimjilbangs (saunas) that you can spend the night in for as little as ₩7,000 a night. Not only is it cheap, but also one of the best ways to experience Korea. Love motels are also fairly inexpensive as is camping.
Travelling outside of Korea ₩0-170,000 put aside each month.
The great part of working in Korea is that you get vacations. In fact, many teachers take 2 trips abroad a year and still manage to save.During the humid summer of freezing winter, you're likely to want to escape to a beach somewhere in South East Asia. Surprisingly, it doesn't have to be too expensive.Return trip flights to Japan can be got for under ₩100,000 and return trips to The Philippines, Taiwan, China, Malaysia, Thailand and more are usually around ₩400,000. Keep in mind that the cost of living in those countries (aside from Japan) is even cheaper than in Korea and you can easily spend 10 days in one of those countries for around ₩1,000,000 including airfare.
Eating out in Korea is cheap. You can get a delicious, filling meal for ₩7,000. Of course, cooking is cheaper and if you're all about saving money, it's the way you should go.
School lunches cost around ₩3,000 per meal and are absolutely worth it. They are much better than my lunches on weekends and are insanely cheap. So you would be looking at around ₩10,000 per day on food.
Of course, if you're wanting to eat Western food, that will raise the price.
Don't buy a new phone! Once you arrive in Korea, there are a ton of almost new second hand phones available. You can buy a decent smartphone for around ₩150,000 and then sign up for a years worth of calls for ₩50,000 and 1GB of data for only ₩16,500 per month. The best part if that it's prepaid, so you're free at cancel at any time!
This is up to you. You could drop a weeks salary on a night out drinking in Seoul. You could buy that new designer bag or spend every night dating at expensive restaurants. Or you could live like a hermit and never venture outside except to go to work
Keep in mind that tons of activities in Korea are free or cheap. Hiking is a Korean favorite and entry to most national parks is free. There are a ton of beaches alone the costs that are free to swim at. A camping weekend away can be done for next to nothing.
You will spend around ₩640,000 living very frugally. You will save around ₩1,460,000 ($1,230)per month.
You will spend around ₩1,010,000 living an average lifestyle and not concerned about saving every penny. You will save around ₩1,090,000($920) per month.
It doesn't stop there. Depending on your contract, you will be entitles to even more. You'll pay 4.5% of your salary into a pension. The Korean government will match that money, effectively adding 4.5% onto your income! You're free to take this money once you leave Korea. After 1 year you should be sitting on around ₩2,200,000 in your pension account that you are free to collect at anytime. Unfortunately if you're from England, you have to pay into the pension, but don't get to collect it when they leave.
You will get paid an extra months wage for every year you work which will be paid when you quit your job. So you basically are getting paid 13 months for each year of work!
Total savings after 1 year
₩1,460,000 * 12 = ₩17,520,000
Bonuses = ₩4,300,000
Savings after 1 year = ₩21,820,000 ($18,440)!
₩1,090,000 * 12 = ₩13,080,000
Bonuses = ₩4,300,000
Savings after 1 year = ₩17,380,000 ($14,680)!
On top of that, if you re-sign for a 2nd year with a public school, you'll get a ₩2,000,000 re-signing bonus! This isn't included in the final total, as those working in private academies are unlikely to get it.