Public School Programs in Korea: Decoding the Acronyms

So you’ve decided to work in a Korean public school – congratulations! – but which of the three major programs should you choose? After all, SMOE, GEPIK, and EPIK may be as foreign to you as 한글. So here goes:

SMOE, GEPIK, and EPIK are region-based acronyms
SMOE: Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education
GEPIK: Gyeonggi English Program in Korea
EPIK: English Program in Korea

and as their full names, imply, there are significant differences between them.

SSMOE positions are concentrated in Korea’s capital, Seoul. As one of the largest cities in the world, this makes it either incredibly exciting or incredibly intimidating but, also the most desirable. Teaching English in Korea for SMOE is considerable more attractive to most than other public school positions in country.

GEPIK positions are in Gyeonggi province, the most populous province in Korea, which completely surrounds Seoul. Largely urban and suburban, it is nevertheless possible to have a rural teaching position in the extremities of the province.

EPIK positions, by contrast, cover a much wider geographic area. Because the program covers every other province in Korea besides Seoul and Gyeonggi you will want to think carefully about whether you prefer to work/live in an urban or rural location. Korea has some impressive secondary cities like Busan, Daegu, and Ulsan, but public school teachers are necessary in rural areas. If you think a smaller city or even a rural setting – and a truly Korea experience – is for you, EPIK is the program for you.

All that having been said, three programs have vastly different acceptance rates. As we indicated earlier, SMOE positions are much more competitive. Because of this, SMOE can pick and choose among its applicants and traditionally only hires people with either a year of teaching experience, or a TEFL certification. By contrast, GEPIK and EPIK will both consider recent graduates or those seeking a career change. In either case, however, their pay rates are established by experience, meaning a TEFL certification automatically translates into higher pay bracket. Of course, your soon-to-be students will appreciate it, too!