When applying to teach English in Korea, one requirement that may seem surprising is the need for a photo. In fact, most Korean employers require a photo as part of the application process. This photo is used to create an overall impression of the candidate and is considered an important part of the screening process.

Korean culture places a high value on appearance, and employers often use physical attributes, such as age and appearance, to make judgments about a candidate’s suitability for a position. This is especially true for positions that involve teaching, as teachers are expected to be role models for their students. Employers may also use photos to check that the candidate matches their passport, as well as to ensure that they are suitable for the position based on their appearance.

Many people wonder why they need to submit an application photo to teach in Korea, as this is not something you would be required to submit when applying for a job in a Western country. However, as schools are not going to fly applicants to Korea for a face to face interview, your photo is the only way that a prospective school will know who they are considering inviting to their school for a year or more.

Why your photo is so important for your application

Your photo is the first impression that you will give to a school that is considering hiring you. As is the case with your ESL resume, you need to put your best foot forward to try and land that teaching job in Korea. Think of how you would present yourself in a face to face interview; provide a photo keeping this in mind.

Examples of acceptable application photos to teach in Korea

Portrait of happy office worker looking at camera

Why it’s good: 

A smiling, professional-looking photo tells the school that you are a nice person but serious about teaching.



good smiling with kids

Why it’s good: 

Any photos with kids always looks good to schools as they can picture you in the classroom as a teacher.



Portrait of handsome businessman looking at camera

Why it’s good: 

Professionally-dressed, close up (but not too close-up), smiling and friendly photos make you stand out among other applicants.



grad photos always good

Why it’s good: 

Graduation photos always look good to schools seeking new teachers, partly because you need to be a university graduate to teach in Korea and also because education is so important in Korea.


Examples of unacceptable application photos to teach in Korea

Another great portrait. Love the smile.

Why it’s not good: 

Out of focus photos look unprofessional and do not show your face clearly.




black and white + sunglasses no no

Why it’s not good: 

Photos should be in color, with you looking directly at the camera to show your face. Sunglasses are a no no.



too far can't see y our face

Why it’s not good: 

Photos need to be up-close, showing your face. Funny or gimmicky photos will not go over well with schools as they make you look unprofessional.



too serious

Why it’s not good: 

Being too serious in your photo – or in an interview – is a big turn off for schools as they are looking for friendly,  fun and active teachers to teach their students.



too small

           Why it’s not good: 

Photos need to be large enough to see your face clearly, not small and out of focus.


teach korea application photo

Why it’s not good: 

Photos that are too up-close are not good. Make sure you show your upper body in the picture. Also, remember to smile!!




Why it’s not good: 

Did you know that to Koreans, there are three reasons why a Korean man would have facial hair? They are: 1) because he is homeless 2) because he is sick or 3) because someone died. As funny as this sounds, as Korean men cannot really grow facial hair, Koreans look at one having facial hair in a negative way.



Why it’s not good: 

Korea is still very conservative, so piercings (other than earrings) are not looked at fondly, especially because you will be teaching kids. If you have any facial piercings, they shouldn’t be seen in your photo.


Now that you know why you need an application photo to teach in Korea and which ones are accepted. As this is your first impression to a new school, take a few minutes and take some appropriate shots of yourself on your phone. A little effort will go a long way!

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