Korean moms are well known around the country for being some of the strictest and fiercest when it comes to their children’s education. Parent’s participation is not only expected, it is feared among teachers and school administrators in South Korea. With that being said, there is no such thing as “too much participation” in Korea. You are expected to be there for every step of the way, educationally. In fact, most private schools and academies create curriculum with the moms in mind, and will change it upon request from even just one doubting mother. If there is something that you don’t agree with, don’t be afraid to make a suggestion. If you feel that your child is not getting enough homework (or too much) contact the school and schedule a meeting. I can assure you that they will be more than accommodating.
There are not many volunteer opportunities at schools for parents for extracurricular activities, like there may be in your home country. For example, on field trips or during in-school activities, the school will use teachers or other members of the administrative staff to fill these extra positions.
As far as transportation is concerned, most schools and after school academies provide shuttle buses, so you will not be responsible for getting your child to and from classes. If you live within walking distance of a the public school that your child will attend, then he or she will be expected to walk to school. However, do not worry, Seoul is an extremely safe place. There are heaps of crossing guards and, respectfully, school zones are just about the only place where Koreans will drive slowly.
Usually every four to six months public schools and after school academies with have parent/teacher days, where the parents can have an opportunity to meet the teachers. If it is a foreign school, and all of the teachers and staff speak English then this will not be a problem for you. Also, at an English after school academy you will be able to communicate with all of the teachers and staff. However, at a Korean public school there are generally only one or two teachers who speak English, so this type of meeting may not be so productive for a non-Korean speaker.
One additional way that parents can participate is on “Teacher’s Day”. This is a holiday that changes each year but is always sometime in mid-May. This is just like Mother’s Day or Father’s Day in that it is a day to celebrate teachers. Your child will be expected to take a small gift to each and every one of their teachers. Since this is the one change when Korean moms have the opportunity to truly ” influence” the teachers, they will try to “out-do” the other moms by lavishing the teachers with fine gifts. In Korean culture if a teacher receives an expensive gift from a mother then this is “supposed” to ensure that the child will receive a good mark. However, a small bottle of hand lotion or a piece of chocolate is the most common gift given to teachers. You won’t be expected to give much more than that, especially as a westerner.