Things EPIK Doesn’t Tell You (or at least not straight away)


There are a few things that I wish I had known at the start of my EPIK application process. None of these things would have stopped me from applying to EPIK, and it shouldn’t stop you either. However, it would have been nice to know more about what to expect from the start so I could have gone a little less crazy! (I admit, I did not do a whole lot of research about the actual application process before applying.) Today, I am sharing some things I learned, in hopes that your application process goes smoothly and with less questions and less crazy panicking!


1. Applying to EPIK is a little expensive

I had no idea how expensive applying to EPIK would be. I decided to add up all my receipts to see how much it all totaled out to.
Note: Prices will differ by state and country. These are for the USA.

$    8.50  2 Passport photos
$    5.00  Fingerprinting
$  45.00  CRC through channeler
$  23.41  CRC postage w/ tracking, both ways
$    8.00  CRC Apostille
$  10.00  Transcript
$  80.00  Diploma Apostilles (2)
$    7.60  Copies of all documents
$  83.60  Send all docs to Korea w/ tracking
$  45.00  Visa Application
$316.11  TOTAL

I actually ended up spending a total of $465 because I had to re-send a document that went missing. This total also does not include any transportation fees. For example, it cost me $30 to take the train into New York City to drop off my visa application, and then another $30 to pick it up the following week. (Yes, I could have mailed my application, but I didn’t want to take the risk of it getting lost in the mail which did happen to someone!)

If you plan on applying to EPIK, make sure you have some money saved up for the application process. I would suggest about $500, this way you have some room in the event that something does go wrong and you need to pay for something extra.

While we are talking about money, EPIK also says that you should bring about $1,000  to Korea as you will not receive your first paycheck until a little more than a month after you first arrive. For my intake (Fall 2015) we did not receive our first paycheck until September 25th and we arrived in Korea August 18th. So, that is over 1 month of expenses you will need to have the money for. If you know that you are a big spender or plan on arriving in Korea before orientation to do a little sightseeing, bring more than $1000.

2. You can only request one MOE/POE, and it is NOT guaranteed

Section 13 of the EPIK application is Placement Preference. This sections asks you to “List one specific preferred Office of Education”. The follow up question to this is:

“If you are unable to be recommended to the above location, would you like to be recommended to a different location or would you withdraw from EPIK?  “

The Offices of Education (MOE/POEs) that EPIK services can be found here. (It says that they do not service Jeonnam, however this was untrue for the Fall 2015 intake.) Even if an Office of Education is listed on this site, it does not necessarily mean they are hiring for your intake. For example, Daegu and Incheon were not hiring for Fall 2015. We did not find about this until mid-June when EPIK posted a list of the Offices of Education on the Facebook group.

If you are not selected by the Office of Education that you requested and you marked on your application that you would like to be recommended to another location, EPIK will NOT have a conversation with you about another MOE/POE. They will not contact you and say, “Well we can’t get you a placement in Seoul, how do you feel about Busan or Daegu?” You will find out if you got the location you requested or not when you receive your placement e-mail.

If you are unhappy with your placement, you can decline. However, you will not be able to reapply for 2 whole application periods.

3. You don’t know how many placements each MOE/POE has or when they are filled.

In mid-June, EPIK posted a list of the MOE/POEs that were accepting new teachers for Fall 2015 on the Facebook group. As I said, not all the MOE/POEs listed on their website are necessarily accepting new teachers that intake. This has nothing to do with EPIK itself. It has to do with the MOE/POEs individually and if they can afford hosting a Guest English Teacher. EPIK cannot tell you at the beginning of the application period which MOE/POEs are not accepting new teachers because the MOE/POEs themselves don’t know yet. I heard that for fall intakes the MOE/POEs do not start having their meetings about hosting new GETs and other financial discussions until June.

EPIK will not answer any questions about how many positions each MOE/POE has to offer. Additionally, they will not tell you when a MOE/POE has filled all their open positions.

4. There is a LOTTTT of waiting between each step, and no exact time frames.

The process for Fall intake begins in February. Be understanding that it can take weeks between each step of the process.  See my EPIK Application Timeline in my Applying to EPIK Guide.

Also, be understanding that EPIK does not have control over when placements are given out. Each MOE/POE does this on their own schedule. From my own experience working in my university’s office and dealing with the university’s finances, the process of determining how many staff are needed and how many staff the school can financially support can take a while. Hosting an EPIK teacher isn’t cheap!

As you can see in my timeline, most MOE/POEs began giving out placements towards the end of June. Busan did not start until the beginning of July. Chungnam gave it’s first placement in mid-July.

(Note: I can only go by what I see on the Facebook group. Some people may not have Facebook or may not wish to share their placement.)

5. Most People will get their placement about a month before orientation, some even less than that

Once placements start coming in, EPIK sets up an editable document on the Facebook group. This document will list each of the MOE/POEs hiring EPIK teacher’s that term. Once you receive your placement, EPIK asks that you add your name under your MOE/POE.

The Facebook placement document is nice because you can start to meet other people who will be teaching in the same city or province as you. However, it also causes a lot of panic because it will drive you crazy seeing the list grow and not being able to add your own name. Some people did not join the Facebook group until they received their placement. However, I suggest joining the group as soon as possible because you can learn a lot of valuable information.  Just try not to check that document too much.

Lastly, If you applied through a recruiter, it can take an extra day (or more especially if it’s the weekend) for you to be notified of your placement.

6. Once you get your placement you will only know the MOE/POE, not the school or exact location

You will receive an e-mail from your EPIK coordinator with an attachment.  Within the attachment is your placement:

Dear EPIK applicant,

Congratulations and welcome to the [Term / Year] English Program in Korea (EPIK)! You have passed the final evaluation and have been offered a position with the [Name of MOE/POE] Office of Education.

Please be reminded that applicants who withdraw from the program after receiving this letter will not be eligible to apply for the subsequent two terms.

We are going to send you the Notice of Appointment, Contract and Important Notice for Successful Applicants soon. Upon receiving the package, you will apply for a visa at the nearest Korean Embassy/Consulate.



7. You will not find out the exact location of your school(s) until the last day of EPIK orientation.

If you are placed in a city (MOE), researching your new home is easy because you are narrowed down into a much smaller area. However, if you are placed in a province (POE), it is harder to research your potential living area because some of the POEs are hugeeeeee. For example, take a look at Gangwon Province, it is about 1/4 the size of the entire country. On the plus side, at least you’re able to narrow down your YouTube searches from “EPIK Apartment” to “Gangwon EPIK Apartment”.

I have heard of situations where a current EPIK teacher contacts the new EPIK teacher that will take their place. I don’t think this is very common, but you’re lucky if you do! There’s a lot you can learn from that person.

You will find out the school (or schools) you will be teaching  at on the last day of orientation in your meeting with your MOE/POE. Some people also found out information about the location of their apartments, which isn’t necessarily close to your school.

8. You are advised not to purchase your plane ticket until you receive your visa

Once you get the email with your placement, you have to wait for the package of documents to arrive at your house from EPIK. This package will include your Notice of Appointment (NOA) and contract which you need in order to apply for your visa. Only when you receive your visa is it safe for you to buy your plane ticket. You never know what could go wrong.

Some people do go ahead and book their flights ahead of receiving their visa. This is a risk you can take. If something does go wrong with your visa application and you’re unable to receive your visa in time, EPIK will not help with any costs for changing your airline ticket. I did hear about one person in our intake who’s passport was lost in the mail by UPS.

9. You cannot have a grade level preference

At no point are you asked which grade level(s) you would prefer teaching. You will find out your schools(s) and the grade level(s) on the last day of EPIK Orientation.

10. for JEJU placements: You will need to pay for your excess baggage on your flight from orientation to Jeju

Teachers going to Jeju Island after orientation will fly from somewhere in Korea (this intake they flew out of Seoul) to Jeju Island. My orientation class was made up of teachers going to Busan and Jeju. In our last lecture about EPIK Duties and Regulations, the Jeju teachers were shocked to find out that they would have to pay for any excess or overweight baggage fees. It was explained to them that this was considered to be covered by their Entrance Allowance.  I think we were all just upset that this was’t ever mentioned to them prior to leaving for Korea. They weren’t prepared for it.

11. You don’t get the full salary every month.

Just because your contract says ₩2,100,000 per month, that doesn’t mean you get it.

Multiple things are taken from your monthly salary each month: school lunch fees, national pension (which is returned to you when you leave the country), taxes (unless you submit your residence certificate…only from some countries), teacher fees. Additionally, from your first two paychecks, you must transfer ₩250,000 back to your school (so a total of ₩500,000). I believe this is for if you have any outstanding payments after you leave Korea (unpaid bills, parking tickets, housing damage costs).

Update 11/25/2015: I have finally received my first paycheck of my normal salary amount (my first two paychecks were not my normally salary amounts because of paperwork issues). Since I teach in Busan and I am level 2+, my monthly salary is ₩2,100,000.  (Click here to see the levels and salaries per city/area.) The total that I received this month was ₩1,937,600. Besides the ₩163,400 that was taken out automatically, I will also have to pay my school about ₩60,000 for school lunch.  It’s really not as bad as I thought it would be 😀

12. Your School Situation Can Change

Halfway through my first contract I got suprised with a second school. I knew a second, or even third, school was possible. But I did not know that it was possible for them to add a school halfway through my contract.  Click HERE to read my blog post dedicated to this.

It’s also possible for your second school to change. At the end of teaching a full year at my terrible second school, I was moved to a different school. Thankfully it was a much better experience and atmosphere.


Again, knowing these things prior to applying would NOT have stopped me and it shouldn’t stop you. I just want current and future applicants to be prepared for the waiting and other surprises that might come so that the process is smoother and less stressful.

If you are (or were) in EPIK and have anything I should add to the list, please let me know!


8 thoughts on “Things EPIK Doesn’t Tell You (or at least not straight away)

  1. Annemone says:

    Thanks for updating with the specific numbers once you got your paycheck situation sorted! 🙂 Even though I know that these things can vary, it’s helpful to be able to see an example.

    • Seth B Patrick says:

      If you don’t have a passport, also plan on spending (in the United States) about $140 to get your passport, and plan on about 4 weeks for processing.
      Also, getting your residency tax certificate is $85 in the U.S. and takes 45 days. If you don’t do it, you will end up paying taxes in Korea (from what I have gathered – I’m coming in February 2017). $85 seems like the lesser of two evils.
      For a lot of people, making excess copies and color copies (some have to be in color) will also be a hardship, so be prepared for that as well.

  2. AlyB says:

    This has a lot of really useful info, thanks! I was accepted into the Spring 2016 intake, but I don’t have a placement yet. My first choice is Seoul (of course), but I listed my second choice (Daegu), because I know the chances of me being placed in Seoul aren’t very good. I really wish we were told our exact schools before orientation so that I could research the area.

  3. brittanyvarano says:

    Thanks so much for sharing! I am in the process of applying myself and this is great info. I have a question about the entrance allowance – is it a process where you submit your airline receipts for exact reimbursement or is everyone allotted the same ‘bonus’ to help cover those types of travel expenses? Just curious of whether or not I should use my airline miles or not to buy my plane ticket 🙂

    • Natasha in South Korea says:

      You’re welcome!!! For the airfare reimbursement you don’t have to submit any receipts or proof. Depending on what city/province you’re in, you’ll get the full amount when you’re due to get it. Everyone gets the same amount. In Busan, we got ours 6-months into the contracts. They do this to make sure you don’tget the money and then flee back home. Good luck applying!! Don’t stress too much!

  4. iripolish says:

    In regard to not having a choice in grade level preference, I’ve seen that many times people who aim their sample lesson in the EPIK application at the middle school or high school ages get placed in a middle school or high school. Of course, less and less MSs and HSs are hiring teachers these days compared to elementary schools, but I’ve never heard of a person who submitted a lesson plan aimed at elementary schoolers get a MS or HS placement. This isn’t confirmed, but it’s something to keep in mind when completing your application!

    • Natasha in South Korea says:

      I just checked my EPIK application, and I submitted an elementary sample lesson but was still placed in middle school. But what you said is still possible … Maybe they think that if you submit a MS/HS lesson then you are interested in teaching MS/HS? I’ll have to ask my other middle school friends and see what level samples they made. Thanks for sharing!! ^^

      • iripolish says:

        Interesting! It’s a theory I just heard recently from another teacher I know, so who knows! When I applied for Spring ’17, I prepared a MS lesson and was placed in a MS, and others I know from my province said it was the same for them too. It very well could be a coincidence, but maybe there are a few factors at play. 🙂

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