They happen. If you dig deep enough you can find bad news on just about anything. But this post is going to focus on the good news. It's going to focus on the benefits of teaching in a hagwon.
I have taught in both hagwons and public schools in Korea as well as in Taiwan and China.
Let's take a look at benefit number 1.
Hagwons often tend to pay more than public schools do. Public schools have a set pay rate based on experience, qualifications, location and hagwons don't.
As a first time teacher in a public school you could start off with 1.8-2 million Korean Won. In a hagwon you may start off with 1.9-2.1. It's possible to make a couple of hundred dollars more a month.
It does depend on the hagwon of course. There is more variance among hagwons, but salaries tend to be higher and it's possible to negotiate.
Hagwon hours are often shorter
If you teach in a public school you're going to work from about 8:30-4:30. In a hagwon it's possible to work from about 2-8pm on the low end and 2-9+ on the higher end. There are of course hagwons that will make you work 8 hours a day, but I never worked much more than 6.
You can also work a day time shift in a kindergarten that's close to 8 hours, but there are hagwons out there with shorter work hours.
Teaching hours are basically close to 30 a week. At some schools though it might be 30, 40 or 50 minute classes so then the actual teaching hours would be less than 30.
At others they could make you work literally closer to 30 actual teaching hours.
Some hagwons make require office hours too and others not so much.
These are all questions you can ask when you interview.
You usually get more autonomy
In my opinion this is the best reason to teach in a hagwon. If you teach for a public school you are just an assistant teacher. Your job is usually limited to a certain role and you do what the Korean teacher says.
But if you teach in a hagwon you usually teach by yourself. You don't teach classes with another teacher.
The other thing is that with a hagwon you have the option to choose which hagwon you will work in. If you teach with EPIK or another program they choose the public school not you.
So if you like autonomy and less hand holding then working in a hagwon might be better.
When I taught in a public school in Changwon I thought their materials (books) were pretty poor. They were published in Korea. They had a few mistakes in them and they were just old and boring looking.
In my experience hagwons and most private schools tend to have newer and better materials to work with. Again it does depend on the hagwon. They are not the same, but in terms of numbers they tend to be better here.
Teaching can be stressful especially when you have large classes. Public school classes tend to be larger. The classes that I had in a public school ranged from about 25-35 students.
My classes in hagwons ranged from about 1-16 students.
Public school positions in Korea have been cut, so that there are fewer jobs than there used to be. But hagwon positions are numerous. In Seoul alone there are over 13,000 hagwons. Now all hagwons aren't just for studying English.
There are hagwons for most other subjects too like math, music, etc. Getting into a hagwon is easier simply because there are more of them.
If you teach in a public school you'll have to wait. There are only 2 hiring times per year. Hagwons on the other hand hire all year around. There are no semesters and the hiring process is shorter too.
If you teach for EPIK or in a public school then you are likely to be placed in a more suburban or rural location. You can voice your preference, but you don't choose the location they do.
Hagwons on the other hand are all over, but many are in central busy areas. So if you want to be in the heart of Seoul then it's more likely to find a hagwon there then it is a public school position.
Seoul of course is in demand so if you really want to be there then you might consider just going over there to look first.
If you teach in a public school you are usually the only foreign teacher there. However, if you teach in a hagwon there will usually be other expat teachers. This can be good as they can help you to adjust to Korea.
Students in hagwons tend to have a higher level of English
One of the first things that I noticed when I started teaching in a public school was that many of the students in the 4th and 5th grade had a lower English level than many of the 3rd graders that I taught in a hagwon.
That's because all Korean children don't go to hagwons to study English, but the ones that do tend to have better English. Practice makes perfect.
But don't forget... some people have bad experiences with hagwons.
If you want to have a good experience teaching in a hagwon then here's a guide that I wrote called, "How To Kill It Teaching English In A Hagwon In Korea".