Guest Post: Mike – GOE

Happy December! The school year is almost over. One more month plus that weird week for graduation and then we’re done!

The following is a guest post by my friend Mike.* (Names have been changed.) Mike’s perspective is especially interesting in that he is a vegetarian and did not particularly enjoy his time in Korea. Since writing this post, Mike has completed his 1 year contract and moved on. If you’re looking to teach in Korea, it’s always nice to read as many different perspectives as you can.

This is Mike’s story:

Anyong Haseyo,

I’m Mike and I’ve lived in Korea for 10 and a half months now. No, this isn’t my opening statement for Korea Anonymous, but I do have some confessions before I get into this. Confession 1: I’ve never written a blog piece before so apologies for this. Confession 2: I am a (strict) vegetarian, and as such I am on the periphery of Korean social culture which invariably centres around food and restaurants. This has no doubt had some considerable effect on my ability to integrate into Korean society, and certainly affects my views of life in Korea. Confession 3: Before this, I wrote a 3 page rant about Korea… I was trying to write this blog post and it just developed into a looooong, rambly rant.

I consider myself somewhat well traveled. I’ve visited around 30 countries across 4 different continents so far, and I’ve liked all but two of the countries I’ve visited; Bulgaria and Korea.
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How to Apply for an F-4 Visa

This is information on how to apply for an F-4 visa for Korea as an adopted American citizen. This is information from my own experience.

To be eligible for an F-4 visa, you must meet the following requirements:
1. Born in Korea –or– a parent born in Korea
2. Be at least 22 years old
3. Not a Korean citizen*

*If you currently have Korean citizenship or dual citizenship, you will need to renounce your Korean citizenship before you are able to apply for an F-4 visa.

Step 1:
Contact your Korean adoption agency. Keep in mind that Holt International and Holt Children’s Services are two different agencies. If you do not know which agency you were adopted through, it would be better to send an email to both. Explain that you would like 2 copies of your adoption certificate (입양사실확인서). This is a different document than your adoption records. One will be used to apply for your visa, the other will be needed later when you apply for your Alien Registration Card (ARC). Give as much identifying information as possible.

Step 2:
Contact your local Korean Consulate. Explain you would like to apply for an F-4 visa and ask what documents are needed. Here are all the documents I had to turn in:

  • Passport
  • Visa application form
  • Korean registry application form
  • Adoption certificate
  • Original Certificate of Naturalization
  • Payment ($45.00 for visa plus $1.50 for family registration fee)
  • Self-addressed stamped envelope (since I couldn’t pick up in person)

It’s highly recommended to send with tracking to and from the Embassy. About 2-3 weeks later, you should get your Passport back with a shiny F-4 visa pasted in it. Oh and you’ll get your Certificate of Naturalization back, too.

Benefits of an F-4 Visa

  1. Unlimited entry
    This doesn’t really mean much if you have an ARC. If you don’t have a job in Korea but want to come and go as you please, an unlimited entry comes in handy.
  2. Valid for 2 Years
    Standard teaching work visas are E-2s and are only valid for a year. You will have to go to the immigration office if you want to renew your contract. Tourist visas are good for 30 days.
  3. More Employability
    Having an F-4 means your employer does not have to sponsor your visa, which makes them more willing to hire you. This is especially useful for some hagwons. Don’t want to work as a teacher? No problem! An F-4 also gives you the freedom to work anywhere as a Korean citizen would. 
  4. Notoriety
    Don’t like the new girl in school? Just hang a red card in her locker and let Goo Joon-Pyo do the rest. Don’t get the reference? Please watch more classic Korean dramas.

 

Why You Should Apply for GOE

EPIK, GEPIK, SMOE, GOE: These are the most common programs you can apply for to get a public school job in Korea. What’s the difference? So which one should you apply for ?

EPIK: Education Program in Korea
EPIK is a program sponsored by the Korean government to place native English speakers into their public schools. If you apply to EPIK, you can list your preference where you want to go. Keep in mind, just because you want to go there, doesn’t mean you’ll be placed there. Because EPIK covers all of South Korea, you may be placed in  GOE or SMOE areas.

SMOE: Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education

Map of South Korea with Seoul highlighted

Seoul image from: Wikipedia

For those who can’t risk living and working outside the big city, SMOE might be your best option. SMOE places native English teachers only in districts around Seoul. However, this does not include Gangnam. Sorry, no high-life for you. Since many candidates prefer Seoul, it is a highly competitive market.

 

 

 

 

 

GEPIK: Gyeonggi Education Program in Korea

Location of Gyeonggi Province

Gyeonggi-do image from: Wikipedia

Gyeonggi-do is the suburbs of Seoul. It is a little more difficult to get a job in Gyeonggi-do since they prefer to have teachers who already have teaching experience in Korea. The locations from Seoul can be as far as a 1-2 hour commute.

 

 

 

 

 

 

GOE: Gyeongsangnam Office of Education
I have worked for GOE for over a year, so I have a lot more experience and information on this area. Because of that, I’m a little biased. I think Gyeongsangnam-do is a great place to work and live. It’s a nice balance between experiencing modern-Korean city life and traditional life.

Location of South Gyeongsang Province

Gyeongsangnam-do image from: Wikipedia

Gyeongsangnam-do is a southern province in Korea. It includes cities such as Changwon and Jinju and islands Geoje and Namhae. When you apply with GOE, you have a better idea where you are going to be placed than if you were to apply with EPIK. Openings are also available year-round so you don’t have to wait for spring or fall to get placed.

Weather
Because it is in the southern part of Korea, the weather is warmer in the summer and has very little snow in the winter. When I say “very little snow,” I mean zero accumulation. My students freaked out when they saw the first snowfall last year. I had to squint my eyes to see the tiny flakes glimmer in the sunlight before they melted away. The winter is bitter cold; with wind that cuts through your clothes. I’ve never felt the need to wear leggings under my pants until I moved to Korea. And when I say “warmer,” I mean get ready to sweat your (proverbial) balls off. The humidity is no joke. I rarely stepped out during the summer at the risk of instantly turning into a pool of sweat the moment I did.

Location
I think what deters a lot of people from applying for GOE is the fear of getting placed in a rural location. There’s nothing wrong with being a city mouse, but the “country” life isn’t so bad, either. Gyeongsangnam-do may not have everything a large metropolitan city has, but it’s not the deep-woods, either. My city, Miryang, is kinda the sweet spot of Gyeongsangnam-do, if I do say so myself. It’s close to three major cities (Busan, Daegu, and Changwon), has the KTX train, and has a small town feel with a decent sized downtown. Keep in mind that I’m a small town girl, but even so, I think there is plenty of things to keep busy in this area.

Schools
When you apply to GOE, it is almost certain that you will have more than one school. This is a good thing and a bad thing. It’s bad because there is a possibility that you will have to make entirely different lessons for each school and/or you may even have to work with a range of grade levels. It’s good because you get to add on 100,000 won a month to your paycheck. Couple that with the likely addition of 100,000 won for working  in a rural location and BAM! you’re 2,400,000 won richer than the chump that took the city job. On top of the pay upgrade, I find the rural students to be more polite and the class sizes to be smaller. It’s so much fun to teach at my rural school that I sometimes wish I taught at all rural schools.

Support
Miryang has a fantastic Education Office. The MOE puts on a yearly cultural field trip for the Guest English Teachers (GET) in Miryang. They take us to another city in the Gyeongsangna-do province for two days and one night… during the weekday. ARE YOU HEARING THIS? I’m getting paid to travel, eat, and sleep in Korea. Last year, we went to some tourist sights, ate at a traditional restaurant, made pottery, stayed at a nice hotel; all 100% paid for by MOE. MOE has also been super supportive and helpful when we have questions that can’t be answered by our co-teachers.

Moving beyond the city education office, the GOE is rather supportive as well. Back when I first started, I didn’t feel like I had much connection with GOE. Now, there is a new coordinator who genuinely seems to want to help the GETs. He has set up a website (www.dowajo.org) to help GETs transition into Korean life and arranges some mildly entertaining/helpful workshops. He tries very hard to get the feedback of current GETs in order to improve the experience for the newbies.

Last Day in Changwon, First Day in Miryang

September 1, 2015
Woke up this morning to Cho Eun making me promise to visit again. Se Eun must have told her about my squishy chest because Cho Eun tried to discreetly poke and rub at it. Hee Jun wished me off well and Se Na drove me to the orientation site.

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Orientation
Why do they call this day orientation? It was more like a meeting. All of the new Guest English Teachers (GET) met up in a lobby where our interviewer, Daniel, told us the city we would be working in. By the way, Daniel was actually really personable contrary to his demeanor during the interview. A half hour later, we were called one-by-one into a conference room to meet our co-teachers. We were able to chat a little and work out some of the jitters. Then the co-teachers were informed in Korean about what they were supposed to do regarding our bank, housing, immigration, etc. Daniel translated in English. After an hour, the GETs split our separate ways to start our new lives in Korea. Continue reading