South Korea as a Potential Expat Haven
Those who choose to expatriate to South Korea can take advantage of opportunities in the following areas: business and consulting, education and training, and, of course, the Internet.
Teachers, professors, or English consultants endure a minimal tax burden in South Korea. Working at a ‘Hak-won’ or language institute involves 7-10% income tax—with this amount usually being entirely refunded at the end of January every year. Some nationalities also can have 100% of their pension payments made in Korea refunded.
The people that usually come to South Korea and are involved with the business of English usually will get an E2 or E7 working visa. These visas do not legally allow for ‘other’ work done outside of an institute, but almost every foreign teacher in South Korea is doing these odd jobs. These odd jobs may include modeling, acting, proofreading and editing, writing, working as a business consultant, photography, working with or starting e-businesses. The pay for these ‘odd jobs’ is always untaxed.
The market that the English language has created in South Korea is huge. Companies often base promotions on English test scores. English is used by savvy Koreans as a sharp edge to eliminate competitors in almost every area. Therefore, expatriates who can speak English can translate their native language into economic success. People who have come to Korea as English teachers and who have stayed—have moved up quickly. One of my associates first came to Korea as a soldier, came back as a teacher for Samsung, and eventually ended up with an incredible office job as a liaison working with The Gap. Contrary to many locations, all kinds of people can have success in Korea.
I have met retired professionals and retired military personnel living quite happily here. Women may find some work situations difficult, but there are always other workplaces that are hiring. In South Korea, there are a lot of choices. You can work as much as you want. If you only want to work four hours a day and do something else for the rest of the time, you can still survive. With any master’s degree, you can work at a good university with wonderful vacation time and minimal work hours.
For those that want to start a small business, there are many challenges. Language is a big one, but offering an internship position in your company to a Korean is an affordable way around this. Government regulation of foreign owned businesses is also a problem. It may be easier to start a company in another country and get authorization to do business in Korea.
Those with computer programing skills would have the easiest time opening a small business. Restaurants are also an option for the well-heeled expatriate. I know three people from England who have had success involving restaurants or restaurant supply. One opened an excellent cigar and wine bar, another got a job as a promotions manager of a large international hotel chain, and the last supplies restaurants with condiments. All have an enviable lifestyle in Korea. Other brave foreign residents have become involved with the entertainment industry and promote the ‘raves’ or dance events they organize. All have had success in a place where the doomsayers say nothing ever gets done.
South Korea is not a cheap winter escape nor an island in the sun, but it can be an excellent choice for those who do not want to expatriate to a very basic country. Ample job opportunities, a decent health system, and cheap transportation all add up to make South Korea a perfect destination for those who have enormous student loans or for those who have retired but still wish to live in a dynamic place.
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