The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

English: Teaching English as a Second Language: M.A.




College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

James Robinson

Second Advisor

Kim Choonkyoung

Third Advisor

Monica Devers

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

hagwon, South Korea, native English teachers, careers


Few research studies have been published in the Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL) research literature concerning the work environment and career paths for Native English Speaking Teachers (NESTs) in private schools or academies in South Korea. Termed in Korean as “hagwons” these schools, unlike the publicly funded program English Program in Korea (EPIK), operate with profit as their primary goal. Hagwons involve several work place risks, such as contract violations, conflicts with Korean employers and staff, and exhaustingly long teaching hours.

Although at times a difficult work environment, some have spent several years teaching English in a hagwon, and a few have pursued more certified TESL careers. The current research primarily documents the personal and professional experiences of hagwon NESTs who have taught in that system for two years or more, and asks what type(s) of experiences support a continued or discontinued career in TESL.

Qualitative results from 15 demographic surveys and open question interviews indicated that the majority of these teachers discontinued their TESL career after their experiences. Instead, participants either entered other careers within the field of education, or discovered different career goals as a result of their individual experiences. All 15 participants viewed living and working in South Korea as valuable for financial gain, cultural immersion, establishment of close interpersonal relationships, or as a time of self-reflection after graduating from university and before pursuing a career path.