The Complete Guide to the SMOE Program in South Korea

by: Emma Searight ESL Authority Emma Searight | Last Updated November 9, 2019

SMOE Overview

SMOE (Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education) is an English teaching program that provides education to public school students in Seoul. It’s also referred to as EPIK-Seoul, as SMOE now recruits through EPIK.

SMOE places teachers directly into public schools in the bustling city of Seoul, making it one of the most competitive and popular teaching programs in South Korea. The majority of teachers are placed in Elementary school level positions.

Similar to EPIK, the SMOE program has strict requirements and an extensive application process, but it also has all the added perks like a competitive salary, free housing and reimbursed round trip flights. You apply through EPIK, specifying Seoul on your application.

Similar Programs:

Requirements to be  SMOE Teacher

The SMOE requirements are strict, and you must meet ALL the following in order to be eligible:

  • Native English speaker
  • Bachelor’s Degree or above (in any subject)
  • Clean criminal background check
  • Meet the requirements for a Korean E2 visa
  • Be in good mental and physical health
  • Be under the age of 62

On top of these requirements, you must also have ONE of the following teaching qualifications:

  • TEFL/TESOL or CELTA certificate of 100 hours or more
  • Bachelor’s degree or a Master’s degree in Education with a major in Teaching, TESOL, Second Language Studies, or Education
  • Teaching license in your home country
  • One year TaLK scholar experience

Native English Speaker

You must have citizenship from either Canada, USA, UK, Republic of Ireland, South Africa, Australia or New Zealand.

Bachelor’s Degree or Above

A Bachelor’s degree (3 or 4 years) or above, in any subject, is essential. If it’s your final year at university you can still apply to SMOE, but you must submit a letter of expected graduation.

Clean Criminal Background Check

You’ll be required to obtain an Apostille National Level Criminal Record Check (CRC). It must be completely clear with no criminal record being stated – misdemeanors and felonies will disqualify you.

Korean E2 Visa

In order to teach on the SMOE program, you’ll need a Korean E2 visa. This is granted after certain requirements are met. You can only apply for the E2 visa once your placement has been confirmed by SMOE. They’ll send you a Notification of Appointment (NOA) number which you’ll need when applying for the visa.

Related: Understanding the Korean E2 Visa Process for English Teachers

Good Mental and Physical Health

SMOE will only accept applicants who are in good health and have no major health problems. You’ll be required to fill out a self-medical check survey as part of the application process and complete a physical once in Korea.

Teaching Qualifications

On top of the above requirements, you must have a teaching qualification. If you hold a  Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in Education, a valid teacher’s certificate or have 1 year TaLK scholar experience then you qualify for SMOE. You don’t need a TEFL/TESOL or CELTA.

If you don’t have one of the above teaching qualifications, then you must have completed or be currently enrolled in a 100 hour or more TEFL/TESOL or CELTA program. Both online and offline certifications are accepted.

SMOE Salary and Benefits

Salary

Teaching for the SMOE program in South Korea will allow you to live comfortably and possibly save a bit money. The salary is competitive and dependent on your qualifications and experience. Teachers will earn between 2 and 3 million South Korean Won (KRW) a month (between $1,800 USD and $2,650 USD). You’ll also receive a pay rise every year you teach for the program.

The following table is a guide to the SMOE pay scale, courtesy of Reach to Teach Recruiting:

Benefits

Settlement Allowance

Within the first month of your contract you’ll receive a one-time payment of 300,000 KRW (approx $270 USD).

Accommodation

Free furnished housing is provided by the SMOE program. If your school can’t provide housing, you’ll receive a stipend of 500,000 KRW (approx $450 USD) a month. Utilities and maintenance fees aren’t provided for.

Reimbursed Flight Allowance

SMOE teachers receive a flight allowance of 1.3 million KRW ($1,162 USD) each way. Your Entrance Allowance is given to you in your first month, and the Exit Allowance is provided after completing your contract.

Paid Vacation Days

You’re entitled to 21 paid vacation days (3 more than other EPIK locations)! Typically, you’ll be expected to take vacation during the Summer and the Winter holidays.

Severance Pay

After completing your SMOE contract, the program will provide you with an additional month of extra salary as a bonus.

Medical Insurance

SMOE will pay 50% of your medical insurance premiums. The remaining 50% will automatically be deducted from your paycheck each month. This insurance covers your health, vision and dentistry.

Orientation and Training

Upon arrival, you’ll attend a compulsory 10 day orientation and training related to teaching and living in South Korea. This will take place prior to your contract start date and is unpaid. This is a great opportunity to meet other SMOE teachers.

Application Process, Timeline & Location

SMOE Application Process

The SMOE application process is extensive and you should only apply if you meet all the requirements. Any mistakes or missing documents will mean your application won’t be considered. You apply for SMOE through EPIK, specifying Seoul on your application.

It’s a competitive and popular program thanks to its location in Seoul and applicants are advised to apply as soon as doors open. SMOE hires in accordance to the public school calendar with contracts starting 1st March and 1st September.

You can apply directly with the EPIK offices in Korea or through recruiters. The EPIK website states that direct applications are accepted and processed earlier than applications sent through recruiters. Recruiters, on the other hand, will likely guide you through the process.

Download the EPIK application form and instructions for direct application or check out a recruiter from the list below. These recruiters are listed directly on the EPIK website:

Timeline

The EPIK website provides a timeline, breaking down the process of applying for both direct applications and those made through a recruiter. You can apply from February for the September start and August for the March start.

Location

If you’re successful and get on the SMOE program, you’re guaranteed to be placed in a public school in Seoul. The district and school within Seoul is decided by the program. The earlier you apply the better, as positions are highly sought after. If you aren’t accepted on to the program, you’ll be considered for other EPIK positions, which could be located anywhere in South Korea.

You’ll find out your exact location within Seoul after arriving in Korea and completing the mandatory orientation. You’ll also find out which school you have been placed in with the majority of teachers placed in Elementary schools.

What’s It Like Teaching for SMOE?

SMOE teachers are expected to work 8 hours a day, Monday to Friday, with 22 hours actual teaching time. You’ll work alongside a co-teacher (usually a Korean teacher), and your duties will range from teaching and preparing materials to extracurricular activities (like English camps).

The SMOE contract is one year, starting from the first day of employment. You won’t work weekends or National Public Holidays. You may be expected to work during the school holidays, either ‘desk warming’ or teaching at English Camp.

SMOE Reviews

“If you have your heart set on teaching in Seoul, then SMOE is for you. You’ll be placed in the city where you can kick it Gangnam-style as often as you want.”

The SMOE program is widely regarded as the most competitive teaching program in South Korea.  Apart from the location, it’s very similar to the other teaching programs – the perks, job expectations and duties are all pretty much the same. As SMOE (EPIK-Seoul) is part of EPIK, most of the reviews on EPIK are worth a read and will offer an insight into teaching in South Korea through a government sponsored program.

SMOE – English Teaching Program in Seoul, South Korea

“The staff were very friendly for the most part and tried to make me feel a part of the school.”

Gooverseas offers a couple of reviews on SMOE, where the teachers give a short breakdown of their own personal experiences of the program.

Everything you Need to Know About Teaching English in Seoul

“You won’t save as much money. The cost of living in Seoul is higher than other cities plus there are more things to spend your money on.”

Gone2korea provides an in depth guide into teaching and living in Seoul, with a pros and cons ‘shortlist’ at the end.  

Emma Searight ESL Authority

Emma Searight

Emma is a writer for ESL Authority and a former teacher. She lives down by the sea in Cornwall, and enjoys surfing, cold water swimming, and going on adventures.

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