Living in Korea

Queen of the Side Hustle: Gigs in Korea

Studying abroad is everyone’s dream. But life as a student abroad is not always rainbows and unicorns. I arrived in Korea without adequate funds as my scholarship only covered tuition. My living expenses were supposedly funded by my workplace at home but it was delayed for several months. My budget was so tight I tried to spend only KRW 10,000 per day to save money. So, I had no choice but to become the queen of the side hustle.

Introduction to the Side Hustle Queen

So I was trying to find a part-time job in Korea. My first mistake was to think that it would be as easy as it was in Taipei. It wasn’t. I could not do any work legally as easily as I used to since Korea has a different working system permit.

Both in Korea and Taipei, I experienced working multiple jobs to sustain my living expenses (my stipends were never big enough T_T). I just thought it was pretty normal, especially in Taiwan where many students worked part-time anyway. But when I told my story to my now husband, he called me ‘Queen of Side Hustle.’

Working Part-Time as Student in Taiwan vs Korea

In the post above, I already mentioned the difference in working part-time as a student in Taipei and Seoul. Besides the working permit issue, I feel like working in Taipei was more comfortable despite the language barrier.

Though I arrived in Taipei with some basic proficiency in Chinese, working informal jobs required a higher level of Chinese. Fortunately, Taiwan hosted the most number of Indonesian migrant workers after Hongkong (more than 200,000). So most part-time jobs I had were related to Indonesian workers and did not need Chinese. 

Indonesian migrant workers at the atrium of Taipei Station. I used to work in some stores nearby. (Source: Kumparan)

In Korea, though there are many migrant workers, they mostly work in small cities where the factories are like Ansan or somewhere south of the peninsula. So there has been fewer opportunities for me to get part-time jobs like in Taiwan. Instead, I worked for some side hustles.

Side Hustling in Korea

After going through some loops and hoops, I did have some experience ‘working’ part-time in Korea. Though they are just side hustles, I did earn some additional money and experience.

Cleaning Hostels

Korea’s tourism industry has been blooming so hotels, hostels, and AirBnB are everywhere in Seoul. This isn’t an official job where I can get a permit from the university, so I just did it once in a while. 

Source: Freepik

A disclaimer, though, please do not try applying for ‘hostel jobs’ that promise you free accommodation. It is too risky for foreign residents, and tourists, to do this. Also, there is a big possibility of getting overworked for very low pay (aka modern slavery) with this kind of job.

For this kind of job, I got it from a friend, because mostly it’s just to substitute for her. In Korea, most part-time jobs will pay based on hourly rates. I think there are some ads about it on Facebook, too, but it’s better to check whether it’s legit before applying. 

Hajj Agent

Hajj is the Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca (and surrounding). In Islamic teachings, it is one of the five pillars of Islam, and we are required to go at least once in our lifetime if we can afford it.

There are billions of Muslims around the world, so the Saudi government regulates how many people can come for pilgrimage each year by quota. The quota system is supposedly per the proportion of Muslims in a country.

Here’s the catch. Indonesia is not an Islamic country, as believed by many people, but we have the largest Muslim population in the world. Consequently, we get one of the biggest quotas to perform hajj but it’s never enough. Our government always asks the Saudis to increase the quota because people literally queue for 30 years to go to hajj in my country.

Now, here are the pro tips – Korea has a tiny percentage of Muslims so we can actually go on hajj through the Korean quota, as long as we have ARC. Hajj is performed once a year and I came across this side hustle during a hajj season (before Covid-19). I found out about this fact from this ‘job’.

Hajj from Korea

There are some travel agents in Itaewon that can take care of your hajj application. Based on my experience, you’ll need a passport, ARC, and some amount of money. If you are a woman without a spouse or a guardian, you can still go through a ‘woman group.’ 

My job in this agency was to take care of the administrative documents and submit them to the Saudi embassy. The process did not take very long and I did witness it myself when the hajj participants walked together prior to the departure. It was a very touching moment. 

Tour Guide

Guide jobs require certification in Korea. Foreigners, with specific visas, can apply to the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO)by Clicking Here. The applicants will need to take and pass an examination covering history, tourism laws, tourism studies, etc. You only have to pay KRW 20,000. Of course, the exam will be conducted in Korean.

The guiding job I had was not at the certified level. Mostly, it’s accompanying friends of friends, or family of friends, who came to Korea for sightseeing. Since I’ve been living in Korea for a while and am familiar with its history, some friends asked me to guide their friends or family around during their visit.

For the payment, I usually get the hourly-based rate just like a usual part-time job. I find that this side hustle is fun. Granted, it’s quite tiring as it can last more than 10 hours per day, but I do enjoy traveling. In fact, I went to some new tourist destinations because of this ‘job.’ 

Tourism Promotional Activities

I told all about it in this article. I should say that this ‘part-time’ job is my favorite. Again, this is not a real job, so I do not get a ‘salary.’ Only some fees for posting photos and transportation fees to get to the place. Still, it’s a good opportunity for a student like me! Some of these are also ‘free tours’ that require me to upload travel content. 

One of the free tours

Since I could not travel so much in Taiwan, I am really happy that I have covered almost all provinces in Korea (except Jeju!) while I am studying here. By now, I have joined tourism programs from Seoul, Gangwondo, and a foreigner-friendly tour agency. These activities have brought me to stunning places that are not listed on Korean travel brochures, like Hadong and Gurye. 

Traveling activities also teach me more about the long history of this country. Sometimes, I also pay to join a guided tour myself if I’m not traveling to make content. I went on a tour to Gongju and Buyeo, and also a DMZ tour to Panmunjom. Just keep scouring the internet, and sometimes you can find the cheapest tour package or promotional offer!

Conclusion

Working part-time in Korea is not as easy as it was in Taipei. The scope is very limited, as well, because we aren’t allowed to legally work outside our ‘field’. But it is not impossible to find some side hustle that can help you earn some additional money! 

If you would like some tips on how to travel within Korea for free, Click Here!