Life in Korea

Cost of Living

The cost of living in Korea is very reasonable.  Korea is the kind of country where you can save a lot of money to pay debts or get a car or house when you go back home.  Korea is also the kind of country where you can spend your entire salary on a single night out, so it’s up to you to control your spending or enjoy yourself, as you see fit.  As a base line, someone who controls their spending can have a comfortable life using only around half of their salary on expenses.  Obviously the choice of how much you spend and how much you save is up to you.  The following chart will you give you the basic idea of what it can cost for the basic expenses in your life here.

Cost of Living Case Studies

ExpensesMinimum (won)Maximum (won)
Accommodation – Housing Rent300,000600,000
Utilities – Hydro, Water, Gas100,000200,000
Mobile Phone20,00080,000
Train Pass20,000100,000
Total Cost of Living840,0002,030,000

Shopping in Korea

Ipark Mall

Korea is one of the best countries in the world for shopping.  It is the major economic driving force of the country and every possible convenience has been applied to it.  One of the major benefits to shopping in Korea is the point system.  Korean women often have dozens of point cards in their wallets for every store, restaurant or entertainment hub you can find here.  The point systems offer discounts, rewards and coupons for a wide range of free stuff.

Korea Pass Point Card

There are also many shopping meccas in Seoul where you find multiple vendors all selling related products, such Dongdaemun Flea Market, Myeongdong Fashion District, Insadong Traditional Market, Techno Mart Electronics, the Apgujeondong Boutiques and many more specialty areas across the city and even across the country.

Dongdaemun Market

Myeongdong Fashion District

Insadong Traditional Market

Itaewon Foreigner’s District

Specialty Markets in Seoul

Shopping Areas in Korea

Shopping in Seoul

Shopping in Busan

Children’s Products

Korean Shopping Culture

There are some cultural differences when shopping in Korea that you should be aware of.  It is possible to haggle when shopping in Korea, but this usually requires a fluency in Korean.  Korean wives are expert hagglers.  Otherwise you should not be too offended if you end up paying a little more for something than a Korean would.  You can try asking for a discount and might get one.  It is good etiquette that if you ask for a discount and get it, then you are obligated to buy the item.  It’s insulting to be granted a discount and then walk away. 

If you are having trouble understanding the Korean number system when shopping then bring along a calculator, use your smart phone or have some paper and a pen handy.  Shopkeepers don’t mind going back and forth writing down numbers to make a sale. 

Store staff or shopkeepers will follow you closely and although this can be considered bothersome in Western culture, it is quite normal in Korea, so try not be aggravated by it.  Be careful about touching or pointing to items because it can indicate a wish to buy. 

Receiving free “service” items is very common in Korea.  These are usually small gifts that are added to the initial purchase.  Delivery service is very common in Korea and is not expensive, so take advantage of this convenience. 

The Internet is quickly out-pacing markets and department stores for competitive selection and pricing.  Some common Internet markets are listed here.

Gmarket (English)

11th Street (English)

Auction (Korean)

Foreigner Markets

Some of the best places to get a lot of good products in Korea can actually be the foreigner markets.  Foreigners are always coming and going from Korea.  Someone leaving Korea can have something that you want at a very affordable price and in very good condition.  Itaewon has an annual Foreigner Flea Market and there is a very good online community of foreigners who buy, sell and trade.  The following are some of the more common online boards used in Korea.

Craig’s List (Seoul),9.0.html

Recycling & Second Hand Outlets

Shopping Areas in Seoul






Summer & Winter Vacation

If you work in a school, then you will always have some form of both winter and summer vacation.  The length on that vacation and any special duties you might have to perform during that vacation will vary from school to school and the type of educational environment you work in.  If you teach in the public school system, then you will have at least three weeks for each period, but you will often be asked to do some English camps for one or two of those weeks.  In an academy or “hagwon”, you might only get one or two weeks total, but not have to do any camps.  In other private schools you may get longer.  Check with your employment details with your recruiter before you start working, or ask one of your co-teachers if you aren’t sure of the exact dates involved.

Teachers often use their vacation time as an opportunity to do some traveling around Asia or to visit family back home.  One thing you should always remember is that you must have a re-entry permit if you leave Korea and plan to return.  Otherwise your visa status will be void and you will have a big disaster when you try to return.

Click the links below for information on re-entry permits and a directory of English-speaking travel agents if you plan to travel outside of Korea during your summer or winter vacation.

Korean Immigration Re-Entry Permits (English)

Travel Agencies (English)