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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Number of English teachers entering Korea drops to third of pre-pandemic levels

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A native English instructor teaches her students in Daegu, southern Korea. [YEUNGJIN UNIVERSITY]
The number of English teachers coming to Korea for jobs dropped to a third of pre-pandemic levels.

The statistics from the Korea Immigration Service show that 29,115 foreigners arrived to Korea in 2019 with an E-2 visa, or a long-term visa issued for foreign language instructors while just 10,515 E-2 visa carriers passed through Korean immigration last year.

The number had dropped to 11,326 in 2020 with the spread of Covid-19 and further down to 5,376 in 2021.

Foreign instructors are high in demand especially in hagwon, or private cram schools.

The number of native English instructors for elementary, middle and high schools across the country dropped 30 percent to 7,150 from 10,169 in 2019, according to the Korean Educational Development Institutie’s statistics.

“We had enough foreign instructors in 2019, but over 10 percent of open positions were left vacant in 2022,” said a spokesperson for the National Institute for International Education (NIED) under the Education Ministry. NIED recruits locals from overseas and assigns them to schools in Korea.

NIED is looking into a possible correlation between the reduced number of native-speaking instructors and the unemployment rate in the United States. The unemployment rate in the U.S. in December 2022 was 3.5 percent, which was the lowest since the 1960s, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Three Americans who were recently recruited by NIED decided not to come to Korea because they found jobs at the U.S.

“There are less motives for them to work overseas,” said Michael Kim, chief consultant of a recruiting agency for native English instructors.

BY LEE GA-RAM [sohn.dongjoo@joongang.co.kr]

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