The most important benefit to taking on the challenge of raising your child in Korea, for at least a year, is the undeniable fact that you will have more time to spend with your child, and your significant other. This extra time is amazing for both the parents and the child for much needed bonding and nurturing. Working in Korea, I would leave for work at 2:45 or 4:30pm, 5 days a week. This left me plenty of free time to spend with my wife and son. I was so much happier than if I had to leave him every morning, only to return just in time to help put him to bed.
Since the total work hours each week are likely at least ten hours a week less than your current situation, it can also reduce a lot of stress between the two parents as well. The work load of parenting can be more easily shared, which makes life easier for everyone. If the second parent decides to work, it is because it is realized that in Korea, a few extra hours a day can have huge benefits for the family income. (This wasn’t the case for us in Canada) Not only is the available income potential much higher in Korea, for most people, the related expenses of going to work, such as babysitting or transportation costs, are dramatically reduced as well.
***On the job hunt – many schools already own their apartments for their teachers. So, finding schools willing to arrange a larger apartment, especially if only one person would be working for them is not as easy as I wish it was.
First, I must say that it took both my wife and I awhile to get comfortable with the idea of leaving our son with a person we did not know, and that maybe did not even speak any English! After a bit of networking we were able to find babysitters that loved to take care of Jordan. They’d take him to the local playground a few houses from our house and he made lots of friends.
In Gwangju, and most places in Korea, you can hire a trained, clean and reliable babysitter through a Korean agency. The sitter will likely be an older Korean lady. The cost (with our company and others we have talked to) is $15 for the first three hours, and $3/hr after that. We think its excellent value. Our sitter also folds any laundry that may be drying, or cleans a few dishes that may have been left behind when we left for work. If our normal sitter is unavailable, the company arranges for another babysitter to come to our house.
You can also try and find a native English speaker to watch your child. This has also worked very well for us. The cost is usually around $5 or $6 per hour.
We have not used daycare, mainly because we do not have a car so transportation is not as easy. Great friends we know use a full-time daycare which costs $275 for a month. There are many options available.
Many Korean people let their children ride in the car without car seats or even without using seat belts. Because you will likely be using a taxi or the bus for transportation, I suggest a comfortable carrying device for your child. I suspect that if you wanted to start strapping in a car seat into a taxi, it would be allowed, but they may be confused. We do bring our car seat for any bus trips outside city limits, or of course when we are in a friends’ car.
Korea is a very safe country when it comes to crime. As always, keep your child close to make sure they are safe. Koreans will be very forward when it comes to wanting to touch your child. To them, they are just showing you that you have a cute baby. Some of the structures at the local playgrounds may not be considered totally safe such as the monkey bars.
The hospital system in Korea is excellent. You can get quick local service in your neighborhood, or you can go to a larger university hospital for more thorough examinations.