Friday, July 30, 2010

How much does all this cost, anyway?

Although Korea is happy to pay your rent for a year, and defray your travel expenses, and provide you with health insurance and pension, and pay you a salary, etc., there are plenty of costs you have to cover before getting that far.  Here's a breakdown of my expenses before even getting on the plane:

  • Criminal background check.  $15.44
    • Korea doesn't want to import perverts, drug addicts, or other ne'er-do-wells to work in its schools, so a prospective teacher must produce a document attesting to his lack of a criminal past.  
    • My CBC was issued by my state of residence.  After I applied, an American teacher allegedly molested a student and consequently starting in 2011, all American applicants will be required to provide an FBI background check.  This takes much longer, requires fingerprinting, and costs more.
  • Apostille for CBC.  $10
    • Korea won't believe any old CBC you send them.  Maybe you forged it!  So they require it be apostilled.  An apostille is a fancy international notarization that costs you a tenner.
  • Two official university transcripts.  $10
  • Authenticated degree.  $20
    • Korea doesn't overlook the possibility of you being a master forger who forged the two official transcripts and a degree.  You must therefore have your degree authenticated by your university.  They photocopy it, print another official transcript, staple a cover letter to it that swears you graduated, and send the whole packet off to be apostilled.
  • TEFL certificate.  $171.55
    • You must have one of the following to teach for SMOE:
      • B.A. in English/English Literature/Linguistics
      • B.S.E. (any subject)
      • M.A. (any subject)
      • Teaching certification (valid in your country of residence)
      • 1 year of teaching experience in Korea
      • TEFL (easy) or CELTA (way hard) certificate
    • Never you mind the bizarre juxtapositions of incongruous qualifications.  You need something from that list and the easiest item by far is the TEFL certificate.  I hammered one out in one grueling no-fun week.
  • FedEx.  $47.52
    • All of the above must be sent to Korea.
  • IRS Form 8802.  $35.44 
    • American citizens can enjoy two years of exemption from Korean income tax if they provide a certificate of tax residency.  This is obtained by submitting form 8802 to the IRS.  The form itself is 3 pages long.  The instructions for completing it are 12 pages long and read like a parody of IRS instructions.  The IRS tacitly acknowledges the form's incomprehensibility in its estimate of the time an average person will require to complete it:  3-4 hours.
  • E2 visa.  $46.10
    • Money order only, because Korea is familiar with your tricky foreign tricks and won't take a check.
  • FedEx.  $60.65
    • If an unreasonable distance separates you from the nearest Korean consulate, you'll have to post your visa documents along with a self-addressed pre-paid envelope for the return of your passport.
  • Transportation to Incheon.  $945.90
  • Cold hard cash.  $800
    • First payday is 5 weeks after arrival and all expenses are your own.
  • TOTAL : $2162.60 
So you'd better get a job before trying to apply for this job.  SMOE pays a settlement allowance of 1,230,000 won with one's first paycheck, which is admittedly better than a $25 gift certificate or a card signed by everyone in the office, but at the current exchange rate it amounts to $1,038, less than half my expenses thus far and scarcely more than my transportation costs alone.

Oh well, you've got to spend money to make money, right?  $2162.60 is still cheaper for me than a round-trip ticket plus one week in a hotel, and I'm buying an item on my resume, an interesting experience, and one year of employment.  I'll let you know in 2011 if I want my money back.

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