If a person who is not a South Korean national wants to work in South Korea, he/she will need to have a work visa sponsored by an entity in South Korea. In South Korea, there is no separate work permit and the foreigner who wishes to work needs to obtain a proper work visa. There are several types of work visa depending on the nature of work, the classification of the sponsoring entity etc. and the application of such work visa will be carefully worked out from the beginning.
A visa & immigration specialist’s assistance will be a good way to avoid any mistake or denial from the immigration office. Normally the time line to obtain a work visa would be 8 to 10 weeks from scratch but depending on case by case, it may take much longer and preparation ahead of time is always recommended.
Dependents (wives, children of work visa holder) are not allowed to work in South Korea without having proper separate work visas of their own except some volunteer works which do not involve any monetary compensation. It is hard to find an employer who would be willing to sponsor or who would be eligible to sponsor in the first place and practically it is very rare for a spouse of an expat to find a job after the family has been relocated into South Korea.
So, if it is critical that the expat and the spouse both work in South Korea, then the job has to be found before the family are relocated and the work visas for both have to be applied before they come to South Korea. This may make some frustration to the spouse and may lead to departure of the family or spouse before the expat’s work term is completed.
Volunteer works are mostly school related works and some of the spouses are very active. Or many spouses focus on hobbies or children’s school activities being members of parents’ association. International Woman’s clubs are places where spouses can network.
It is getting more and more strict for foreigners to work in South Korea, like elsewhere in the world, and even for renewal of work visas are strictly screened. It is not “automatic” to renew even if all the elements are met in paper. Here again, a visa & immigration specialist’s help counts a lot.