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Korea ranks second on the global education index

Notorious for the amount spent on higher education, Korea reaps the rewards ranking second out of 50 countries by Pearson Education on a new global education index called the Learning Curve.


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The official currency in Korea is the Korean Won (KRW). Notes come in denominations of 1,000, 5,000, 10,000 and 50,000. Coins come in denominations of 10, 50, 100 and 500 won.

Currency Converter

Hopefully after a few months you’ll be thinking about sending some of your savings home. Ideally the government would like you to spend all of your earnings in Korea for obvious economic reasons so you may find that some banks put a restriction on the amount you can send home, usually around 60% of your salary. If this is the case they will this by put a stamp in your passport to record how much you send during each transaction. However, there are a lot of banks that don’t implement the policy and will let you send as much money home as you want.

The first time you send money home give yourself an hour or as the process of registering your home country bank can be quite lengthy. Once your bank is in the system it usually just takes 10 minutes to send money thereafter.  

The exchange rate and fees are usually negotiable and being a foreigner, certainly in the medium sized and smaller cities, you can get the best rates by putting on the charm and dressing the part. You’ll find that if you frequent the bank often enough you’ll use the same clerk so build up a rapport with them. When I send money home the clerk sometimes advises me whether to wait a couple of days for the best exchange rate and even sends a text message when she feel is the best time to send money. Be careful as you may find that your bank in your home country will charge you to receive a foreign transfer so check before you come out to Korea.    

Remember, check the exchange rate to make sure you are getting the best deal as rates fluctuates and you want to get the most out of your hard earned cash.

Cash machines are everywhere in Korea but be aware that the machines provided by high street banks usually close at 11pm so make sure you take cash our before to avoid paying extra charges at cash machines in convenience stores. Your bank will allow you take out cash from a machine for free during banking hours 9-6pm but will charge a small fee (500 won) if you use any of your own bank’s machines out of hours. You will pay a slightly higher fee if you use another bank’s cash machine (1,000-1,500 KRW) to take out or transfer cash.

Be aware that not all cash machines will accept foreign cards, especially in smaller cities so ask around to find out which will take your card. Also, inform your bank before you leave your home country that you will be using the card to avid them blocking any transactions

Banking in Korea

How much do I need to Bring?

Opening a Korean account

Sending money home

Cash Machines

You will have to open a Korean bank account in order to receive your monthly salary and transfer money back home. Before you can open an account you’ll need to have your Alien Registration Card (ARC) which is issued from the immigration and takes around 2-3 weeks to obtain (see arrival in Korea for more information).

It is really easy to open an account and just involves filling out an application form and showing your ARC and passport. The whole process can usually be completed within 10 minutes. Banks in the large and medium size cities will no doubt have English speaking clerks who’ll be able to open your account for you but if you are located in a smaller city we suggest you ask a Korean co-worker or your director to help you during a free class. You’ll be given a bank book and card but for a one off fee of around 1,000-2,000 won, most banks will allow you upgrade and get a debit card allowing you to purchase items without the need for cash. It is also possible to set up Internet banking but you’ll need to inquire at the individual bank when you go.

One of the most common questions we are asked is how much money you’ll need to bring out with you.  We strongly recommend you have a minimum of 700,000 Korean won spending money. You can leave the money in your bank account and access it with an international cash card in Korea but make sure you bring at least 200,000 won in cash for the first few days until you find an ATM that accepts international cards. If you put money in an account, inform your bank before you leave that you’ll be using it to withdraw money in Korea so they don’t freeze your card after the first time you use it. We do not recommend bringing travellers' cheques as they can be difficult to exchange.

You will receive your flight money (around 800,000 won–1,000,000 won) once you have opened a Korean bank account. To open an account in Korea you need to have an Alien Registration Card which takes 2-4 weeks to process.

In some schools you receive your first month’s salary on completion of your first month’s work. So for example, if you start working on April 6th you will receive your pay on May 6th. In other schools all employees receive their salary on a set date, for example on the 15th of every month. In this case you will be paid for the days you have worked in that particular financial month. Details about your salary day will be included in your contract.

NOTE – If you are struggling for cash you may be able to get an advance on your first payment but that would be at the discretion of your employer.