Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Daycare and Childcare in Korea

Updated: 19 October 2017

I wrote a post about nannies, babysitters, and maids in Korea that has lots of useful info. There's a Facebook group called Daycare centers in Korea (Orinijib) that can help as well. You might also want to read about kindergartens in Korea. The book, Child Care, has loads of info on how to choose the best child care provider. The foreigner helpline for daycares is 1566-0223.

Some of the information below was taken from AFIK and EPK!

Childcare at work 
If you work at a kindergarten, they might let you enroll your child for free or give you a discount. Some universities might have daycares or kindergartens attached and often gives their employees discounts. It's usually just a kindergarten, not a daycare, so your child will usually have to be 4 or 5.

Tips for Finding a Daycare 
Start Early! Daycare is now basically free for Koreans so there can be huge waiting lists. The good news is that there are a lot of daycares. Usually there are a couple of daycares per apartment complex and there are also bigger, stand-alone daycares.

Be persistent! Some places will refuse to take your child because you or your child don't speak Korean. I was rejected by about 2 dozen daycares because of this. It can be hard and I was in tears as I went daycare to daycare with a letter in Korean asking them to take my daughter. I finally found a fantastic daycare that didn't care that we didn't speak Korean.

Honestly, in this day and age with smart phones and live translators at the touch of a button having a daycare tell you that you need to speak Korean is idiotic. I gave them a number of a friend who speaks Korean in case of emergencies. All the info they send home is in Korean, except they use their phones to translate and write in English in my daughter's take home book that says what she does every day. I, in turn, use my phone to write in Korean when necessary. A lot of places are starting to use apps instead of books. Mine uses KidsNote (키즈노트). It's great! They can upload photos, videos, handouts, etc.

Go in person! Walk around the neighborhood and visit daycares. See if you like what they have to offer. Mine is a small daycare inside an apartment complex, but there are 3 middle aged women there who are great with kids and no more than 10 kids there.

What to Expect from Daycares 
  • Calendar "red days" usually mean no daycare.There may be other holidays the daycare closes (Labor Day, for example). They will send a notice so keep an eye out.
  • If your child is in diapers you will need to send wipes and diapers. They'll probably send you a notice when they are running low. 
  • You will have to provide things such as an extra change of clothes, tissues, toothbrush, towel, etc. 
  • Extra "classes" like P.E., English, Cooking, Music, Art, Paper Folding, Hangeul, Science, Math Games (such as Gabe), Morphun (a really cool Lego-like block), ballet, taekwondo, etc. Fees are usually charged twice a year. Mandatory "English" classes, which is usually about 20,000 a month.
  • They will wear their uniform (제복) on designated days, plus all field trips. 
  • Many places may have a website and a daily report of some sort to track eating/pooping for the day. Ours has a booklet with spots for snack 1, lunch, snack 2, temperature, pee/poop and if they are given medicine and how much. Be clear with them on your personal policies about giving medicine. 
  • Monthly birthday parties. If your child's classmate has a birthday send a small gift on the day. They'll send a notice prior about 생일 (saeng il) birthday, 선물 (seonmul) gift and price limits (1,000-2,000). Stickers are good gifts. 
  • Try to learn the phrases they will need. 이리와 (illyowa) come here. 정리주세요(cheongri juseyo) please clean up. 앉으세요(anchu seyo) please sit down.
Types of Daycares
  • There are special nurseries called nori bang (놀이방) for babies. Some will accept babies as young as one month. 
  • Olini jip (어린이집) usually accept kids as young as 100 days, though many want the baby to be at least a year. These can go up to 3 or 5 years (Western). Ask your daycare/nursery what their cut-off is.
  • Yuchiwon (유치원) is what we'd call a full-time pre-school or kindergarten. Yuchiwons may be hard to get into. The popular ones have a raffle to see who will get in. Some places have 8 spots and 100 kids who want to get in.Some yuchiwons start later and finish earlier than olini jips and you may have to pay extra if you want your child to stay longer.
  • Byeongseol yuchiwon (병설 유치원) are kindergartens attached to elementary schools. Kids are usually 4-5 years old (Western).
Since you're a foreigner you will get extra points and should jump to the top of the list (though some yuchiwons don't so this). The waiting list isn't first come first serve, it's due to points. You get something like 100 extra points if you're a foreigner. If both parents work or if you can prove you're a single parent (divorce cert or letter from your ex) you get more points.

There are different types. Some may be accredited by the Korean Childcare Accreditation Association. Others might just be accredited by the gu it's in. Trust your gut and look around, don't just go by awards.

What to Look For
Baby Center has info about signs of a good daycare and signs of a bad daycare, as well as how to find a good daycare. There are also a number of books on how to choose a good daycare. Here are some questions you might want to ask.
  • Are there any openings? Can I be put on a waiting list?
  • How many kids are in the daycare? In my child's class?
  • How many teachers are there? Are they full-time teachers?
  • What do I have to bring? ex. extra clothes, towel, etc.
  • Can I bring my child if she has a slight fever, runny nose, cough, etc? Will you give her medicine if she's sick? Many places will give a child medicine without asking you. I personally don't mind, but let the daycare know if you do.
  • What kind of discipline is used?
  • What do you open and close?
  • Are there any vacations or holidays?
  • Are there any special classes on top of the regular fee?

Other Things to Look for When You Visit
  • You should also see that the teachers are presentable (many wear aprons) and happy. They shouldn't clean up after them or yell at them. 
  • The kids should be happy as well. Check to see if the kids are sick or not, though keep in mind that they are kids and kids seem to get sick a lot. I know that other parents at my daycare send their kids if they've got a runny nose, so I do the same!
  • See if it's clean and that the toys are clean. Each child should have their own towel and tooth brush. They should have signs about hand washing. There should be soap.
  • Make sure it's safe: the kitchen should be blocked off, there should be fire extinguishers, a fire escape (usually a slide) if it's not on the first floor, gates should be put up if there are stairs, a screen should be placed on the door, school buses should have seat belts which kids should actually wear, etc.
  • Ask for the menu to see if they're eating healthily and aren't given choking hazards. Some places give out candy, so let them know if you don't want them to give your kid candy.
  • Do NOT go to a daycare that states that you have to pay a foreigner price! The government covers part of the fees for everyone who is in Korea legally! That means Koreans and people who have ARCs. Check the fees and do not pay more that when you are legally required to pay. When in doubt call the gu office, Seoul Global Center, Legal Aid, etc.
Drop-Off Daycare
This is available on Saturdays as well. Actually, they said 24/7, so your child could sleep there. It's a Russian kindergarten, so it's European style and not Asian style. They cook porridge and sleep in beds rather than on mats on the floor. Yongsan-gu, Itaewon-dong 75-11, near the gu office. 5000 won an hour. They serve breakfast, lunch, and dinner. They say that they have an English speaker three days a week. 02-454-3418

Registration fee (varies from 50,000 - 250,000) which includes uniform (worn on field trips), backpack and lunch box. 

The government pays most of the fees for Korean children. For children under 12 months, the total fees are 394,000. If she were Korean, the government would pay 361,000 and you'd only have to pay 33,000. Many daycares don't realise that non-Korean children don't get this money from the government and will insist you get an Ai-ee-rang card. You can't get it. Don't even try. Have a Korean explain this to them if they don't understand. You will have to pay the whole fee a couple days before the end of the month. Most places will accept credit cards or bank transfers.

Some places give discounts if your child is only there for half the day. Most daycares are open 10-12 hours. Ask your daycare what their hours are.

Fees stay the same from the whole school year. So whatever you're paying in March that's what you'll pay until the end of next February. So, if your child was born in the spring, you might want them to "skip" a grade so that you can pay less. The ages below are Western.
  • 12 months and under: 394,000 a month 
  • 13-23 months: 347,000 a month 
  • 24-35 months: 246,000 a month
  • Yuchiwons and byeongseol yuchiwon range from 50,000-500,000 a month

Places that Can Help You 
  • baby sitters and nannies. 
  • Childcare Korea: has a list of all the daycares and openings.
  • Craigslist: Lots of Filipina nannies available.
  • Family Care: (use Internet Explorer) There's a small annual fee to join and you have to speak Korean to use it.
  • iSeoul: has a list of all the daycares and openings.
  • GenieMom: (use Internet Explorer) In Korean.
  • Gwangju and Jeollanamdo Nanny, Babysitter and Domestic Help Group: FB group designed to connect families with English speaking nannies, baby-sitters, maids, domestic helpers, etc. 
  • KIN (Korea International Nanny) Service: FB group to connect families with English speaking nannies, baby-sitters, maids, domestic helpers, etc. 
  • Naver Maps: Make sure you search in Korean.
  • Nanny Job: All in Korean, but all the nannies who contacted me through it were Filipina. 
  • Seoul Global Center (02-2075-4138) 
  • Y Care Help: nannies
  • YWCA: They offer a variety of services. One is cleaning for 4 hours for 35,000 won. They also have nannies.
  • 아기 동보미서비스 aka idolbom. (Use Internet Explorer) This is a government babysitting service. The Seoul Global Center should help you with it. It cost 5,000 won during weekdays and 6,000 won on weekends, holidays, and overnight.
  • Local Migrant Centers 
  • Local Community Centers 

Tender Embrace Birthing offers childbirth, breastfeeding, and newborn care classes and support.


  1. Wow, This is such a great help. If I would have known all this I most likely would not have chosen to leave Korea for a year, although since I am a BF advocate I probably would have still left to make sure I get in 1 year of feeding. I am glad to know that there are a ton of options for foreigners and I will gladly point others I come across in this direction.

    1. Yep, it's great to have all the support. Natural childbirth and breastfeeding have really taken off these past few years here in Korea.

  2. Thank you for taking the time to write this. Very informative.

  3. Must be good/fluent in english? I think they've priority to the English speaker


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