Introduction to EPIK and SMOE

Introduction to EPIK and SMOE

UPDATED October 2021

Your introduction to EPIK and SMOE is a thorough introduction that takes you through every step in the process towards obtaining a position with EPIK and SMOE.

Part 1: Understanding EPIK/SMOE

  1. Overview of the EPIK & SMOE Steps
  2. Introduction to EPIK & SMOE

Part 2: The EPIK/SMOE Application

  1. EPIK & SMOE Application Form
  2. EPIK & SMOE Letters of Reference

Part 3: Required EPIK Documents

  1. Diplomas and Graduation Letters
  2. Criminal Record Checks
    1. United States
    2. United Kingdom
    3. Canada
    4. Australia
    5. Ireland
    6. New Zealand
    7. South Africa
  3. Apostille/Notarizations
    1. United States
    2. United Kingdom
    3. Canada
    4. Australia
    5. Ireland
    6. New Zealand
    7. South Africa
  4. University Transcripts
  5. Proof of Teaching Experience Letter
  6. Passport Photos
  7. Passport Photocopy
  8. Signed EPIK & SMOE Application Form
  9. Additional Documents

Introduction to EPIK & SMOE 

EPIK/SMOE is the English Program in Korea. They hire for almost all the public schools in Korea and offer a fantastic program. Reach to Teach and EPIK/SMOE have had a very successful partnership for many years now-we provide EPIK/SMOE hundreds of teachers every year!

Teachers get a wonderful and informative training and introduction to Korean culture, teaching and lesson preparation. EPIK/SMOE is very supportive of its teachers (as is Reach To Teach) and offers what is likely the best orientation of any teaching program in Korea. Each semester they hire hundreds of teachers for all different cities and provinces in Korea. Teachers continue to give us very positive comments on the whole program and their teaching experiences with EPIK/SMOE.

Start Dates

  • Every year at the end of August and the end of February are most common. Exact dates vary year to year. 

Salary with EPIK & SMOE

  • Range from 2.0 – 2.7 million KRW/month depending on experience, qualifications and location (see salary scale below).
  • Airfare reimbursement up to 1.3 million KRW each way.
  • 300,000 KRW settlement bonus paid after orientation. This is to help you settle in, pay for your medical check (about 50-70,000KRW), and any other incidental costs you may have when you first arrive.
  • Severance pay (equivalent to one month salary) upon completion of contract.
  • 2.0 million KRW renewal bonus (upon completion and renewal of contract at same school) as well as 2 weeks leave between contracts.
  • Other bonuses for rural provinces and towns as well as working at multiple schools.

For exact salary information visit the Reach To Teach EPIK page.

Training/Orientation with EPIK

One full week of training with other EPIK/SMOE teachers as soon as you arrive:

  • Cultural lessons, field trip & basic Korean language classes
  • Living in Korea orientation. 
  • Curriculum, teaching lessons, co-teaching tips, model lesson demonstrations.
  • On-site medical exams.
  • Cell phone & bank account set-up.
  • Room and board provided for training.

The EPIK/SMOE orientation is invaluable. The support and organization is astounding and the EPIK/SMOE staff are extremely committed to the teachers and the orientation. Everything is taken care of from the moment you step off the plane. You are brought to the orientation, fed, given a bed, meals for the week and you’ll meet hundreds (yes, hundreds!) of other teachers just like you starting out on their Korean adventure. You’ll have a chance to practice planning lessons, teach sample lessons and get feedback from your peers and the staff. Learn about Korean culture, language and even get a cell phone and bank account set up all within the first week! Afterwards you’ll be taken directly to your placement, meet your co-teacher and they will take you to your apartment and show you around the area and the school. 


  • 1.3 million KRW for each entrance and exit allowance (1.3m KRW for each flight to and from Korea- reimbursed within first month in Korea).


  • 18 day’s vacation (split between 8 working days during the summer break and 10 working days during the winter break).
  • 1.3 million KRW for each entrance and exit allowance (1.3m KRW for each flight to and from Korea- reimbursed within first month in Korea).

Medical Insurance

  • 50% monthly medical insurance premiums paid by employer
  • You will pay 4.48% of your monthly wage as your contribution to medical insurance. For more about the National Health Care plan in Korea here. 

Working Hours

  • Monday to Friday. Standard 40 hour work week
  • No weekends
  • 22 teaching (class) hours/week with the remaining 18 hours a week for prep and planning


  • Always single furnished housing.
  • Only married couples can apply for couples housing

Studio/bachelor style or ‘one room’ apartments are the norm for teachers. They will have basic furnishings including a bed, washing machine, TV, table, chairs, cutlery, basic pots and pans etc…

Housing is up to an individual school (not EPIK/SMOE). Each school has a budget to find appropriate housing for you. Sometimes you’ll be moving into a previous teacher’s apartment, sometimes you’ll be the first teacher in the apartment. Schools do their best to find a good place for you to live. Sometimes that means you are very close to the school (a short walk away), other times they will find you an apartment in a more desirable area to live (compared to where the school is located). This would mean a little commute to the school by bus, taxi or even bicycle if you like. 

Arrival in Korea 

EPIK/SMOE and Reach To Teach support continues once you arrive at the airport. There will be a booth at the airport for you to check in, and Reach To Teach will be there to greet you in person. You will then take you on their chartered buses to the orientation site (yet to be determined for the next semester). 

Other Advantages of EPIK/SMOE

Teaching in the public school system offers other opportunities that hagwons (private schools) can’t offer. Public schools have positions like teacher trainers at training centers, area leaders, MOE coordinators, orientation lecturers, and more all for native English teachers. EPIK/SMOE also hires a couple of native English speakers for their office each year. Working in a public school also gives you a great advantage in going back to your home country to teach as well. 

Cities and Provinces that EPIK/SMOE Hires Teachers For

Korea is divided into 16 distinct administrative zones. There are 7 Metropolitan cities (with over 1,000,000 residents) and 9 provinces. Each of the metropolitan cities has a Metropolitan Office of Education (MOE) and each province has a Provincial Office of Education (POE). The MOE’s and POE’s request teachers from EPIK/SMOE each semester. From time to time the MOE’s and POE’s also hire teachers on their own if EPIK/SMOE either can’t provide them with enough teachers or last minute positions become open.

(Not all areas are available all the time- popular cities will fill early. Contact us to see what’s available when you apply). 

Busan  – 3.6 million people: Southern Korea. Large port city with a very metropolitan feel. Very popular with foreigners and tourists.

Daegu  – 2.7 million people: In central Korea- easy access via high speed train (KTX) to Seoul, Busan  and other cities. Great ex-pat community.

Incheon  – 2.6 million people: Just west of Seoul- connected to Seoul by subway and home to Seoul’s international airport. Fast growing international city.

Daejeon  – 1.4 million people: Central Korea- known as the high-tech centre of Korea. 1 hour to Seoul and 2 hours to Busan on the high speed train (KTX). 

Gwangju  – 1.4 million people: South-western Korea- lots of history, not far from the highest mountain in South Korea (Jirisan) and the coast.

Ulsan  – 1.0 million people: Southern coastal city. Active foreign community, growing city. 

Seoul  – [Limited availability due to budget cutbacks] 

Provinces POE’s (slightly higher base salary)


  • Mountainous north eastern province
  • Home to many famous mountains for hiking and skiing
  • Cities include Chuncheon, Gangneung, Sokcho and others

Gyeongbuk – Large eastern coastal province. Home to famous Gyeongju as well as Pohang, Andong, many coastal mountains and surrounding Daegu.

Gyeongnam – Southern coastal with islands- Home to Masan, Changwon, Jinju and not far from Busan.

Chungbuk – Southeast of Seoul area- Inland/central Korea. Cheongju is one of the bigger cities.

Chungnam – South of Seoul area- On the western coast of Korea- surrounding the city of Daejeon and includes Cheonan, Asan (35 minutes to Seoul on KTX).

Jeonbuk – South-western coastal Korea- Home to some of Korea’s big mountains and medium sized cities- Jeonju, Gunsan, Iksan.

Jeonnam – Southern coastal area with many islands and fishing towns. Home to Mokpo and Yeosu (host of 2012 World Expo).

Jeju – Southern island. Popular vacation destination for domestic and international tourists.  

EPIK/SMOE Placements – Introduction to EPIK and SMOE

It’s important to know how placements with EPIK/SMOE work. When you are offered a position through EPIK/SMOE, you are invited to submit your documents location preferences noted on your application form. If there are positions available in your top choice, your documents will be submitted to that MOE or POE for approval. If your top choice has been filled, then you will be submitted to your second choice. It’s important to think about your choices and be prepared to accept a position in any of them if needed. The best way to obtain a job in your top choice is to apply as early as possible and send your completed documents as soon as possible. 

Placements within an MOE/POE

When you receive your notice of appointment and official contract, it will only show a city or a province- not a specific school or neighborhood. Each of the POE’s and MOE’s will work to match teachers and schools only once they’ve confirmed most of their teacher’s complete documents. You will be told of your placement (within the MOE or POE) on the second to last day of the orientation when you meet your MOE/POE supervisor. Be aware that many of the MOE’s (big cities) have large metropolitan areas that sprawl out beyond the downtown core areas. This means even if you are offered a position in Busan, it doesn’t mean you’ll be placed in downtown Busan. You could be placed on the outskirts (but within the city limits) of Busan (as an example). 

You will not be able to change schools after you find out your placement, and you can’t request a specific neighborhood of any city.

The same goes for school levels. You can make your request known of what age level you would prefer to teach (elementary / middle / high school), however your final placement is up to the MOE/POE. Sometimes an MOE/POE only has openings in a certain type of school (all elementary one semester or all middle school another semester). It just depends on what is available and what the other applicants request and are qualified for or have experience with. 

In the Schools

The Korean government has an initiative to place one native English speaking teacher in each public school in Korea. There are over 12,000 public schools in Korea, so this is a very ambitious task, but the government is moving swiftly to make this a reality. As an EPIK/SMOE teacher you will be the only native speaking English teacher in your school. You will be working closely with a Korean co-teacher who is an English speaker. English levels vary amongst Korean co-teachers.

You may work with a few co-teachers in one school depending how big the school is. EPIK/SMOE teachers are called either NET (Native English Teachers) or GET (Guest English Teachers). NETs/GETs and Korean teachers are equals in and out of the classroom. Neither you nor the co-teacher is superior. Your co-teacher is also your liaison between yourself and the school administration as well as EPIK/SMOE or the MOE/POE.

Dress Code

Teachers are expected to dress in ‘business casual’ for the most part. Shirts with a collar and respectable pants (not usually jeans). Each school is different though. The principal will set the standard, and some will be more casual than others. Be sure to have some formal clothes as well for special occasions (meeting your co-teacher and supervisor for the first time etc). The way you present yourself will reflect the respect you get from the students. Can’t hurt to dress to impress. 


Classes are typically 25 – 30 students, and their English levels will vary greatly. You are in the class with a co-teacher at all times. Classrooms in Korea are likely more technically advanced than you remember when you were in school. Huge flat screen TV’s linked to the internet are the norm these days in the classroom. Make use of multi­media lessons daily if you like with ease. 

Apply to EPIK/SMOE Program

  1. When applying to the EPIK/SMOE program you can only submit one application. In other words, you can’t apply to the EPIK/SMOE program through two different recruiters or agencies. If you do, there is the possibility that EPIK/SMOE will fail your application.
  2. Requirements for the program. You now need to have 1 of the following to qualify for EPIK/SMOE:
  • BA degree in Education with a major in Education
  • Teaching license in your home country
  • TEFL/TESOL/CELTA certificate 100 hours or more (EPIK will now give preference to applicants who have a 20 hour in-class component)
  • 1 year of full time teaching experience with the TALK program

*** Applicants who have a BA in any other discipline must have a TEFL/TESOL/CELTA certificate 100+ hours to be eligible for the program.

Required Documents

  1. The Korean government requires you to get an FBI background check or CRC in your home country in order for them to issue you a visa. If you have ever been arrested or charged with a crime this will more than likely disqualify your application. You will need to have the charge expunged, otherwise you will not be issued a visa to teach in Korea.
  2. For all of the applicants that will be graduating from university, it is very important that you know when your university will issue you your diploma. Some universities will issue it on graduation day, but some will send it to you in the mail up to two months after you graduate. You need to check with the registrar’s office at your university on the exact date you will receive your diploma.
  3. The EPIK/SMOE application process is long and time sensitive. Pay very close attention to the dates given to you during the process. EPIK/SMOE works on a first come first served basis based solely on when you are able to send all of your documentation to them. You will be provided with all of the information you’ll need along the way, but you need to be able to commit to the process.
  4. EPIK/SMOE is no longer accepting joint applicants who are not married. If you are applying with a friend or girlfriend or boyfriend, you must apply separately. There is still a chance that you may be placed close to each other, but EPIK/SMOE will no longer guarantee this unless you’re married to you joint applicant.

WANT TO LEARN MORE? Visit our Guide to Teaching for EPIK