From Korea with Love

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‘Manwon’ Food Budget a Day

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Recently a blogger from the Philippines shared her expenses in touring Korea, and her post drew flak for claiming that in her 5-days-and-4-nights of stay here, she spent only 12,000 pesos (around 235 dollars). She was able to purchase a 3,000-peso roundtrip ticket (around 59 dollars) from Jeju Air, paid 3,120 (around 61 dollars) for her 5D4N stay at a guesthouse and survived with a ‘manwon’ budget on food everyday (That’s barely 450 pesos or 9 dollars!).

The price of the ticket may come as a shock to many of us who know how expensive it can be to travel overseas, but this extremely tight budget is possible for travelers who wait patiently for promo tickets from airlines such as Cebu Pacific, Jeju Air and Philippine Airlines and are lucky to get that most coveted ticket. A couple of years ago, I was able to buy an inexpensive roundtrip ticket in Cebu Pacific, but the cheapest I got was about 6,000 pesos (117 dollars).

Guesthouses, on the other hand, can be low-priced if the room is shared by a group.

What stupefied readers the most was the blogger’s budget on food. I feel kinda sorry for all the bashing she got from those who have lived in Korea for years and know how much the food really costs here, but I’m not siding with her either. Personally, I think she should have given more details of her budget or at least tried to explain what the ‘manwon’ lunch and dinner included since she was encouraging Filipino travelers to visit Korea with minimal budget. On the contrary, I think bashing someone for sharing a memorable experience is a bit out of hand.

Now, is it really possible to survive a day with that ‘manwon’ food budget? As someone who has lived in Korea for years and has eaten almost every Korean food there is (except poshintang or dog soup), I’m telling you it is possible… but only if you don’t eat like a horse!

If you’re on a ‘manwon’ budget in Korea, what can you eat for lunch and dinner?

I’m going to name a few:

Street food ~ PRICE: from 500 to 3,000 won (23 to 137 pesos)

Everybody knows that street food is cheap anywhere in the world, but here in Korea, there are tons of mouth-watering and satiating street food to try. Some can be healthy, too. Two or three sticks of hot odeng or fish cake, for example, can squelch your hunger for more or less 3,000 won, like what my tourist friend did when he was starving from his walks around Seoul. There’s barbecue and sausage that you can buy for 2,000 – 2,500 won a stick. Pig-blood sausage may sound disgusting, but sunde is a must-try. An order will not cost you more than 3,000 won. Heck, there’s even tteokbokki you can enjoy for 500 won a cup!

Kimbop (rice rolls) and other bunsik food ~ PRICE: 1,500 – 5,500 won (68 – 250 pesos)

Inexpensive Korean food like kimbop, ramyon, tteokbokki, twigim, etc. can be bought in bunsik or bunsik jib (snack restaurants). Kimbop may be considered street food, but this is a common snack for Koreans when they go on a picnic or a meal for Koreans who are always on the go. The country is teeming with kimbop restaurants that sell various kinds of rice rolls: tuna, kimchi, cheese, bulgogi, even tonkatsu! Don’t waste your money on cheap kimbop from convenience stores though, because they’re nasty! If you go to a kimbop restaurant, you can have soup and side dish, usually yellow radish, for free. Some kimbop restaurants have kimbop and udon set for 5,000 to 5,500 won.

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The two dishes I’m going to mention next can be found in the same restaurant.

Pyohejang guk (beef bone stew) ~ PRICE: 7,000 to 8,000 won (319 – 363 pesos)

This spicy version of nilagang baka, short ribs and vegetable stew in the Philippines, has everything you need in a meal: lots of meat, vegetables and steamed rice which is served separately. You will also get two or three side dishes which is a common thing in Korea when you order a meal.

sundae guk (blood sausage soup) ~ PRICE: 5,000 – 8,000 won (227 to 363 pesos)

In the Philippines, we have dinuguan (pork blood stew). In Korea, they have sundae guk (blood sausage soup). The first time my husband ordered sundae guk for me, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like it, but I ended up finishing the whole bowl! When you eat sundae kuk, you won’t even know you’re eating soup with blood sausage in it, unless someone tells you. The blood sausage is prepared so well that you won’t even smell anything out-of-the-ordinary and there’s no rancid aftertaste. Just like pyeohejang guk, sundae guk is served with steamed rice and side dishes. If you like exotic and spicy food, you will enjoy sundae guk.

Not-so-spicy sundae guk for 5,000 won

Spicy sundae guk for 7,000 won

Noodles are quite affordable, too, and they are delicious. Besides, ramyon and jjampong which are popular in the Philippines, you may want to try…

Jjajangmyeon (black noodles) ~ PRICE: 3,500 to 5,500 won (159 to 250 pesos)

This noodle is actually Chinese food, but since it is widely popular in Korea, you can find it anywhere. They even have a day called “Black noodles’ Day” for single men and women. Jjajangmyeon is tasty and filling. The sauce has got bits of pork and onion, and it’s topped with thinly-sliced cucumber. This one is served with yellow radish and some onions as side dishes.

Naengmyon (cold noodles) ~ PRICE: 5,000 to 7,000 won (227 to 319 pesos)

Another filling dish that is popular in Korea is naengmyeon. It’s basically thin, chewy noodles served with icy soup, sweet chilli pepper paste, a slice of egg and some radish or cucumber. There are two kinds of naengmyeon. If you’re not into spicy noodles, go for mul naengmyeon, the one that is served with icy broth. If you like it spicier, go for bibim naengmyeon, same ingredients but served with no broth.

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This is how you sip your neangmyeon broth. ^^

(Cheap) Hansik buffet PRICE: 5,000 (227 pesos)

Yup, you heard me right, buffet for 5,000 won… but this isn’t the kind of buffet that has it all. The food served in these kinds of buffet are Korean food that you can find in a typical Korean home. I’ve been to two cheap hansik buffets, one in my area in Namyangju and the other in Guri. I didn’t fancy the food, but for the price of 5,000 won, what can one expect? The food, however, was enough to sate my hunger. These types of buffet are frequented by workers and students.

Convenience store doshirak or bento (lunchbox) PRICE: 4,000 to 6,000 won (182 to 272 pesos)

When my husband stayed at the hospital with me, he survived for three days on bento meals from the covenience store. I have also tried them. These bentos are not that bad. Most convenience stores in Korea have a microwave oven where you can heat up your bento.

bento

These are just some of the food you can budget your manwon with here in Korea. There are plenty of meals you can actually have for 450 pesos (9 dollars) or less, but you’ll be missing out on all the delectable dishes Korea has to offer if you will tour this country on a very tight budget. My advise, as a former tourist in Korea, is to save enough money to enjoy Korean cuisine. You don’t have to spend much. A 20 to 25 dollar food budget a day will be enough. With that kind of budget, you’ll get to enjoy grilled meat, drinks, authentic traditional Korean food and more.

 

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Questions Frequently Asked about Teaching in Korea

When I started this blog a couple of years ago, I vowed to myself that I will never ever abandon it no matter how busy I am… but I couldn’t keep that promise. Now that I’m back to blogging, I feel like I’m in zombie apocalypse. Everything has come to a standstill. My brain refuses to function when I try to organize my thoughts. I can’t figure out how to reply to all the messages and comments that have piled up from last year. My dear readers, I owe you an apology. Here’s a big ghost hug!

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This time, I’m going to try to answer SOME of the most frequently asked questions in my blog about teaching in Korea.

Let’s start!

  1. Can a Filipino teacher work as an English instructor in Korea? 
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My 5th graders performing a role-play

Yes, but if you’re applying for a teaching job here and you’re currently in the Philippines, there is only one way to obtain a teaching visa. It’s known as the E-1 visa, one that is given to lecturers and university professors. The other teaching visa, the easiest to obtain, which is the E-2 visa, is only given to citizens of one of the following English speaking countries: Australia, Britain, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa or United States. No matter how fluent you are in English and how impressive your resume is, if you’re not from any of the countries mentioned, you won’t be given an E2. Yes, the requirement is racial bias and it’s BS… but this is Korea where getting a teaching job is not as easy as pie if you’re not Caucasian-looking.

 

There are also Filipinos who come here with a student visa (D-2) or training visa (D-4) and teach part-time. This is legal ONLY if you get a written permission from your school or one of your professors.

Other Filipinos who are in Korea under a missionary or religious worker visa (D6) try their luck on teaching, and they succeed; however, the D-6 visa is NOT a teaching visa. This means that if you teach here with a D-6, you’re not teaching legally. Some hagwons may hire you, but only as a part-timer. This is somewhat risky and temporary. I had a colleague who taught English in an academy while she was on a D-6. Eventually, they had to let her go, because she couldn’t be registered as a legal employee.

The easiest way for a Filipino teacher to teach legally in Korea is through the F-6 visa or the F-5 visa. This means that you’ll have to come to Korea as a spouse and/or attain permanent residency here. Most of the Filipinos married to Koreans I know teach in private institutions like hagwons (academies) or public schools. Some of them don’t even have teaching degrees. (They are graduates of other courses.)

I’ve written about this topic five years ago, and the rules haven’t changed. You can read more about it here.

2. How much is the salary?

In hagwons, monthly salaries range from 1.8 to 2.3 million won (around 1,589 to 2,031 USD) if you work full-time. A full-time teacher in Korea should work for at least 30 hours a week. The normal workload is 6 hours a day, 5 times a week. Note, however, that there are private institutions who require teachers to work from Monday to Saturday (for example, hagwons that have more middle school students). If this is the case, you should not work for more than 5 hours a day. Other private institutions will offer non-native speakers lower salaries, but do yourself a favor… don’t settle for less than what you deserve just to have a job. You can always find a hagwon that will treat you fairly.

In public schools, the average monthly salaries for teachers range from 1.5 to 2.6 million won (1,324 to 2,296 USD) depending on credentials. Those with no teaching experience can expect to get somewhere between 2 to 2.3 million won (1,766 to 2,031 USD) . Education majors or licensed teachers can make somewhere between 2.2 to 2.6 million won (1,942 to 2,296 USD). There are some foreigners who claim (or boast) that they are making 3 million won or more, but this is kind of hard to believe, because public schools have a certain budget for foreign teachers. They can’t just offer higher salaries. Universities offer the highest salaries starting from 2.3 to 3.5 million won (1,766 to 3,091 USD). There are even reports that university professors with outstanding credentials can get up to 5 million won (4415 USD).

Private tutors are usually paid per hour. The rate depends on you, of course, but just to give you an idea of what is acceptable, 30,000 to 35,000 won (26 to 31 USD) is good enough. In affluent areas in Korea, you can ask for 40,000 won (35 USD) per hour, 50,000 won (44 USD) for business English classes. I had a college student who agreed to 40, but I taught her for just a couple of months before she flew to London.

3. Is private tutoring legal?

If you’re on E-2 visa, NO. You can take your chances and do it secretly, but if you get caught, you might end up getting fined or deported. It is illegal for an E-2 visa holder to work as a tutor… unless his employer allows it and submits a written permission to the immigration. Also, the income from tutoring should be declared to the tax office, so that the tutor can pay the appropriate taxes.

On the other hand, it is good news for F-6 and F-5 visa holders. Being on a spouse visa or a permanent residence visa gives one more leeway to work any jobs in Korea, including tutoring; however, it is mandatory to report the income, just like with the E-2, and pay taxes.

For D-6 visa holders, there is NO legal way to teach privately.

I’m going to answer more questions next time and share with you how I manage to earn more as a teacher in Korea.

HAVE A HAPPY WEEK! ^^