Thinking about teaching English in Seoul?
Teaching English in Seoul is a fantastic experience that you don’t want to miss out on. Seoul, the capital city of Korea, is located in the Northwest part of the country and has a population of over 10 million people, making it not only the largest city in Korea, but also one of the largest cities in the world. Because of its size, Seoul is the center of the political, cultural and economical markets in Korea.
Surrounded by a number of mountains, Seoul was chosen as the best place for the capital city, as the mountains protect it from invasion.
Seoul boasts a few bustling downtown areas that are filled with bars, restaurants markets and entertainment for all ages, including those teaching English in Seoul. Green space and parks are also spread throughout the city. The major downside to living in Seoul, however, is the small size of the apartments as well as the high cost of living.
Landmarks in Seoul
Han River: This river is the 4th largest river in Korea, running through Seoul and flowing into the Yellow Sea. It meets the sea at the DMZ (the demilitarized zone) which is the 4 km dividing line that separates South and North Korea.
Insa-dong: One of the largest tourist sites in Seoul, Insa-dong is a district that has many different art galleries, antique and craft stores. It also has a lot of different restaurants that serve traditional Korean food. Parades and festivals are often held on the streets of Insa-dong on weekends, showing off Korean traditional dances and drumming.
Itaewon: Located pretty much in the center of Seoul, Itawon is known as ‘Little America’. There are plenty of stores and shops that carry clothing and items for westerners, in sizes much larger than can be found in the average Korean shops. Itaewon also boasts a variety of ethnic restaurants, such as Mexican, Indian, Thai, Pakistani, Turkish, etc. It is also home to the largest Mosque in Seoul, the Seoul Central Mosque
Other places of interest in Itaewon are the custom made suit shops and the many stores that sell counterfeit items for a cheap price.
The DMZ: The Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea makes Korea the only divided country in the entire world. After the Korean War took place from 1950-1953, the two Koreas agreed to an armistice, which stopped the fighting but did not officially end the war. The DMZ is a 4 km divide that splits the Korean peninsula roughly in half.
The DMZ is a safe destination for tourists and is a place that anyone who visits Korea should see, simply for its historical significance. Tours are offered that take people to an observatory that looks into North Korea, as well as to the infiltration tunnels that were secretly dug by the North Koreans years ago.
Myeong-dong: Myeong-dong is known as not only one of the best shopping areas in Seoul but also in all of Korea. Brand name clothing is sold in the hundreds of stores and shops in the area as well as in the three major department stores: Lotte Department Store, Shinsegae Department Store and Migliore, making this area a perfect spot to shop when teaching English in Seoul.
Myeongdong Cathedral in Myeong-dong is also worth checking out if you are teaching English in Seoul, as it is the oldest and most famous Catholic cathedral in South Korea.
Dongdaemun: Is another extremely popular shopping district in Korea, accessible through the Dongdaemun subway stop. There is 10 blocks of market area, in which you can find shoes, silks, clothing goods, electronics, sporting goods, household items, toys and just about anything that you might need.
There are also two main shopping towers, housing wholesalers who are open from 10:30a.m to 5:00a.m. Little shops are set up throughout the crowded floors where prices on clothing items can be haggled with the shop owners.
There are four UNESCO World Heritage Sites that can be found throughout Seoul. They are:
Changdeokgung (Royal Palace): In all of the palaces in Seoul, Changdeokgung is the oldest and most historic, having been built in 1405. Beside the palace is a beautiful garden where there are many trees and stonework that combine perfectly with the traditional Korean pagodas.
Jongmyo Shrine: Built in 1394, the Jongmyo Shrine is the oldest Confucian shrine which was constructed as a dedication to the kings of the Joseon Dynasty.
The Royal Tombs of the Joseon Dynasty: These tombs were built over 500 years from 1408 to 1966 in order to honor ancestors and royal authority as well as to protect against evil spirits.
Seodaemoon Prison: Built in 1907 during the time of the Japanese occupation in Korea (1910-1945), the prison now serves as a reminder of the hardships that Koreans had to endure from the hands of the Japanese.
Museums in Seoul
The National Folk Museum of Korea: Located between subway lines 3 and 5, the National Folk Museum is a tourist spot that is easily accessible for those living in or visiting Seoul. The museum has been opened since December of 2005 and has impeccably kept grounds and many unique exhibits (which have English translations), that will be sure to please visitors.
The museum has three different halls: 1) The Lifestyle of Koreans, 2) The Lifecycle of Koreans and 3) The History of Koreans, all worth checking out.
National Museum of Korea: First established in 1945, this museum has a collection of over 150,000 pieces and a floor space of 1,480,000 square feet, making it one of the largest museums in the world. The museum has six stories and the grounds are surrounded by beautiful gardens that contain indigenous plants.
National Palace Museum of Korea: This museum, which opened in 1908 was taken over by the Japanese during their invasion of Korea, but was later taken back in 1946 after Korea’s liberation. The museum holds over 40,000 pieces from the Joseon Dynasty and has 14 national treasures. Since 2005, the museum has been located in a modern building in Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul.
War Memorial Museum: The War Memorial Museum was created in order to commemorate the victims in the many wars that Koreans have endured throughout their history, which have all contributed to the state of Korea today. The museum displays over 13,000 pieces, which are mainly made up of military equipment.
Festivals in Seoul
Hi Seoul festival: This festival occurs annually every May and celebrates the birthday of the 600 year history of Korea’s capital city. The festival goes for a few days and is spread throughout a few different areas in Seoul, such as at the Seoul Plaza, World Cup Park, as well as in the areas of Insa-Dong, Sinchon and Hongdae. The festival includes a parade, performances by traditional Japanese dances, a bull fighting exhibition and even a pet competition. If you are teaching English in Seoul, this is a great way to get some Korean culture under your belt!
Hi Seoul! Winter Festival: Held in December each year, the Hi Seoul! Winter Festival is a celebration that rings in the New Year and says farewell to the previous year. The theme of ‘Lights of Hope’, has white lights strung around the city, for 31 days from the 19th of December through to the 18th of January. The lights act as a ‘cleaning’ of the city, in which the citizens of Seoul will be able to experience a new light.
Kimchi Love Festival: Started in 2008, the Kimchi Love Festival happens every October and aims to promote the country’s national dish to other countries in order to make it popular on an international level. The festival takes place at the Gyeonghuigung Seoul Museum of History and offers a variety of activities, including the chance to make your own kimchi. Kimchi is also available to buy for a price about half of what it normally costs.
Seoul International Fireworks Festival: Taking place at the Hangang River Park, this festival takes place for one night only each year in September. The fireworks show is put on by Korean and international teams and is a must see for those teaching English in Seoul.
Nightlife in Seoul
Due to the size of Seoul, there is more than one main downtown core to explore. Most people teaching English in Seoul usually hang out in the major districts close to their area, as each district is so vast with restaurants and bars, that there is always a lot to explore; however, due to the fantastic subway system, it is simple to travel to anywhere in the city, north to south, east to west.
Some areas to note:
Gangnam: A great district for nightclubs, bars and restaurants. Some places are a little bit upscale and can be a little more expensive, but there are plenty of hangouts that won’t break your bank.
Hongdae: Possibly one of the trendiest areas in all of Seoul, this is a happening district with plenty of bars, clubs and restaurants of many different varieties. Hongik University is in the heart of this district so there are plenty of young university students as well as English teachers and other expats filling the street on any given day or night.
Apgujeong: The ‘Hollywood’ of Korea. This is where the majority of actors and stars in Korea go to hang out. The bars and restaurants are more upscale in this area, but there are more than a few great spots that are worth checking out.
Itaewon: This district is a place where a lot of army soldiers flock, in addition to other expats such as those teaching English in Korea. There are plenty of trendy bars in the area, many of which are owned and operated by expats. There are also a few clubs worth checking out that usually have a cover charge of 10,000 Won, which includes a free drink.
Transportation in Seoul
For those teaching English in Seoul, the Seoul Subway system is the way to get around the entire city. It is the 3rd largest subway system in the world, having 12 lines that connect the massive city span. It is recognized internationally as one of the best planned subway systems in the world.
Seoul Train Station will get you to anywhere in Korea that you want to go. It is home to the KTX high speed train that travels at speeds up to 350km/hour. It also connects to the standard railways from around the country.
Seoul is connected to Incheon International Airport via AREX Seoul Bus Terminals