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Introducing the Housing System

When you first move to Korea, unless you have pre-arranged housing through an employer or otherwise, you will need a place to stay while you get settled. There are many options available but there are certain things you should keep in mind.

The Korean housing system may be very different from what you are used to in your home country. Within Korea, there are a variety of housing options each with their own set of pros and cons.

You may have heard that Korea is known for having very large security deposits when leasing housing. Many people are surprised when they have to put down five, ten, or even twenty million won for a security deposit. Others may contract via jeonse which means one may have to pay even more money upfront. Depending on the type of building and the terms of the lease, utilities and management fees may or may not be included in the monthly rent.

However, besides the above leasing system, there are also many housing options available which require no formal lease agreement and no security deposit between the landlord and tenant. Next we will explore some starting options for housing as you get settled in Korea.

Starting Housing Options in Korea

While hotels are a short term option, they will normally be priced above the below list as temporary housing solutions when you first arrive in Korea.

Guest houses (게스트 하우스)
Gateway Korea Guest House

Guest houses are numerous and are mainly located around high traffic tourist areas. There are also a variety of guest houses specifically created for adoptees coming back to Korea. Three adoption agencies have guest houses (Eastern Social Welfare Society, Social Welfare Society, and Holt) as well as InKAS and KoRoot. Other options include BoA travel house which offers discounts to G.O.A.’L members as well as Gateway Korea Guesthouse which is run by an adoptee.

  • Daily fee/monthly fee: Dormitory style rooms start around KRW 15,000+. Private or family rooms start around KRW 50,000+. Utilities are normally included.

  • Rental Period: Daily; some offer monthly rental periods.

  • Room Size(s): Typically single, double, family rooms, and dormitory rooms are available depending on the guest house.

  • Required Security Deposit: Not required for daily rates but if you are paying monthly they may require a deposit depending on the guest house.

  • Shared Facilities: Kitchen and laundry facilities are normally shared. Bathrooms are shared unless your room has a private bathroom.

  • In-room furnishings: Private rooms can come with a desk, private bathroom, TV, air conditioning, bed, chair, etc. Shared dormitory style rooms may come with a locker or cabinet to store personal belongings but are typically furnished with just beds and air conditioning/heating.

  • Benefits: Most guest houses offer Internet access for free. Typically basic breakfast items and, if there are laundry facilities available, detergent are also provided free of charge.

University Dormitory (기숙사)
Gonzaga Dormitory

If you are studying at a local university, foreign students are often given priority when applying for dormitory housing. However, this is not always guaranteed. Also consider the rules and regulations you have to abide by if you live on campus. For example, some dormitories will lock you out until the next morning if you are not back by curfew.

  • Term/monthly fee: Varies by university, one term is typically over KRW 1,000,000 for double occupancy. Utilities are normally included.

  • Rental Period: Usually offered per term but some offer longer periods (e.g. 6 months).

  • Room Size: Usually double occupancy style dormitory rooms, some offer singles.

  • Required Security Deposit: Typically a small holding deposit that is returned when you move out.

  • Shared Facilities: University facilities - Dining Halls, bathrooms, common study areas, laundry facilities, elevators, etc.

  • In-room furnishings: Can include a bed, desk, chair, wardrobe, small refrigerator, air conditioning, shelves for books.

  • Benefits: Close proximity to classrooms. Meal plans offered for on-campus students. Possibly other on-campus benefits for students living in dormitories.

Goshiwon/Goshitel (고시원/고시텔)
Goshitel

This accommodation type is mainly located around universities. The rent can vary greatly. I have heard rooms going for as low as KRW 250,000 and as high as KRW 500,000+. Having some basic Korean skills can help. It is recommended to tour the facilities and available rooms. In women’s university areas women-only goshiwons are common. Some goshiwons will separate sexes by floor. Goshiwons frown upon having guests, especially guests spending the night. The goshiwon may even try to charge you extra fees if overnight guests are found.

  • Monthly Rent: Usually varies between KRW 300,000 ~ KRW 500,000+ depending on the facilities. Utilities are normally included.

  • Rental Period: Month to month as needed but they may need advanced notice before you move out. Some may have a minimum stay requirement (e.g. 3 months).

  • Room Size: Smaller rooms may be 6.6 sqm or less (2평), larger rooms may be as large as 13.2 sqm or bigger (4평).

  • Required Security Deposit: Usually not required.

  • Shared Facilities: Typically the bathroom, kitchen, and laundry facilities are shared. Sometimes you will find goshiwon rooms with their own bathroom.

  • In-room furnishings: Typically a bed, desk, chair, small refrigerator, some storage. Others may include a TV or personal A/C unit. Some rooms may not have any window. Some may only have central air conditioning and heating which is controlled by the owner.

  • Benefits: Typically rice, eggs, kimchi, or other small food items are available in the common kitchen area. Washing detergent may also be provided.
     

Hasukjib (하숙집)
Hasukjib Streets

Hasukjibs are targeted at students and are common around university areas. Hasukjibs are basically private boarding houses operated by the homeowner. Finding them is usually not difficult as many have a sign outside their building with a phone number. Having some basic Korean skills can help. Some hasukjibs are for women only, as shown in this window ad:
Women Only Hasukjib

  • Monthly Rent: Varies between KRW 300,000 ~ KRW 500,000+ depending on facilities. Utilities are normally included.

  • Rental Period: Month to month as needed but they may need ample notice before you move out. Some may have a minimum stay requirement (e.g. 3 months).

  • Room Size: Smaller rooms may be 6.6 sqm or less (2평), larger rooms may be as large as 13.2 sqm or bigger (4평).

  • Required Security Deposit: Usually not required.

  • Shared Facilities: Typically the bathroom, kitchen, and laundry facilities are shared. Sometimes you will find hasukjib rooms with their own bathroom.

  • In-room furnishings: Typically a bed, desk, chair, small refrigerator, and some storage. It may include a TV and/or personal A/C unit. Some rooms may not have any windows. Some rooms may not have air conditioning.

  • Benefits: Breakfast and dinner are usually included in the rent and are provided at a set time of day. Washing detergent may also be provided free of charge.

Why choose one over the other? It depends on what facilities you prefer and how long you may need accommodations. Are you comfortable in a dormitory style room? Do you want a private bathroom? Are you comfortable around Korean speakers? If you are studying at a university, do you want to stay on campus so you are close to class or off campus where there are less rules and regulations. There are pros and cons to the options presented above, choose what fits your needs, schedule, and budget.

Useful Terms When Searching for Housing

After you have gotten settled, you may explore the possibility of leasing housing in Korea. The next post about Korean housing will address visiting real estate agencies and contracting housing in Korea. In preparation for the next post, let’s review some helpful terms when searching for housing in Korea.

  • Full-option/Fully Furnished (풀옵션)

  • Management Fee (관리비)

  • House Owner (집주인)

  • Jeonse [No direct English translation] (전세) - This term is unique to Korea, a large deposit, upwards of 80% of the property’s market value, is made in exchange for no monthly rent payments.

  • Half-Jeonse (반전세) - 50% market value deposit made in exchange for low or no monthly rent.

  • Monthly rent (월세)

  • Key Money/Security Deposit (보증금)

  • Water rate (수도요금)

  • Electricity rate (전기요금)

  • Gas rate (가스요금)

  • Internet/TV fee (인터넷/TV 비)

  • Real Estate Agent Commission (복비)

  • Contract (계약)

  • To contract (계약하다)

  • Pyeong [1 pyeong = 3.3 square meters] (평)

We will revisit these terms in the next post about housing in Korea, until then, stay tuned to the G.O.A.’L blog!

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Need help or advice on housing when you first arrive in Korea? Contact the Community Mentor here.

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