As the capital of one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, Seoul is a fast-paced, cutting-edge city with a highly desirable working environment. Working in Seoul can be difficult as competition for jobs in the city centre is fierce, but becomes a little less so in some of its outlying suburbs.
Despite occupying less than one percent of the country’s surface area, Seoul generates a huge proportion of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
Job market in Seoul
Many of the core industries in Seoul are concentrated in the manufacturing sector in fields such as information and communications technology, electronics, food and beverage production, and publishing. The city is home to the headquarters of major corporations such as Samsung, LG, the Hyundai Group and Jinro, which produces its own brand of soju, a local drink that has consistently ranked as the highest selling spirit alcohol in the world.
The majority of jobs available to English-speaking foreigners tend to involve either teaching English or working for the US Army. Expats who are interested in non-teaching jobs in South Korea generally need to have postgraduate education and experience in a highly specialised field to be seriously considered. Otherwise, they will directly be competing with the local workforce.
Outside of teaching, most expats with jobs in Seoul work in the service sector and the electronics, automobile, and chemical industries. More often than not, the difference between being employed and unemployed depends on who a candidate knows at least as much as their qualifications and experience.
For those that do find employment, many of the biggest companies in Seoul insist that their managerial staff be able to speak English. As a result, doing business in Seoul is fairly straightforward as the language is less of an impediment. However, there are certain rules of etiquette and social customs that should be researched before attempting to climb the Korean corporate ladder.
Finding a job in Seoul
Most expats find a job before relocating, as this is often a necessary condition of receiving a work visa and because Korean employers often provide key support, such as helping expats find accommodation.
Many expats find employment through the many job portals available online. The high number of expats wanting to teach in Korea has resulted in a large number of recruitment companies which organise placements on behalf of private schools, of which there are many in Seoul.
Teaching English in Seoul
A steady stream of English-speaking foreigners make their way to the country each year in search of financial, professional and cultural gain. By far the most popular source of income for these expats is teaching English in South Korea.
English teaching jobs have traditionally been fairly easy to obtain for expats from countries such as the UK, the USA, Canada and South Africa, as long as they meet a few basic requirements. However, in recent years the Korean government has been cracking down on those foreigners teaching English illegally or without the proper visa. Competition, especially for placements in schools based in Seoul, has also increased and requirements have become slightly more stringent.
Most expats secure a job in Seoul from overseas before they arrive, and often the employer applies for a work permit on their behalf.
Are you an expat living in Seoul?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Seoul. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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