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Housing in Korea - Where do international students stay in Korea?

South Korea's education system has been rapidly expanding, providing an opportunity to engage with one of the most dynamic and fast-paced educational systems worldwide.

As a student, you may have various considerations, such as housing options, living costs, tuition fees, and available facilities.


Starting life as a student abroad can be a challenging task. If studying abroad is your dream, no obstacle will be insurmountable. South Korea has emerged as a popular destination for international students due to its excellent educational system, the promising future of its technology sector, and the global influence of the Korean Wave (Hallyu). Nonetheless, it's important to acknowledge that Seoul, the capital city, is one of the most expensive cities in the world, with a higher cost of living compared to places like Tokyo or London.


However, don't let this discourage you. In this blog, we will provide you with a small survival guide to help you navigate one of the biggest challenges you'll face: finding accommodation. In Korea, there are several types of student housing available, including dormitories, goshiwons, shared houses or guesthouses, one-rooms, and officetels. Contact us as we explore these options to determine which one would best suit your needs and budget.


Accommodation

South Korea offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit different budgets. Universities assist international students in finding suitable housing in the country.


Dormitories (On-Campus dormitory)

If you're enrolled as a student, it's highly likely that your university provides both on-campus and off-campus housing options, including dormitories.


Many universities and colleges in South Korea provide dormitories for students. These dormitories vary in terms of amenities, such as rooms only, room and food, or cooking facilities. University dormitories often include sports and library facilities, study rooms, computer access, and more. The cost of dormitories depends on factors like facilities, room types, and the number of occupants.


Pros:

  • Cost – Typically, the price per semester falls within the range of 600,000 KRW.

  • Convenience – Residing on campus offers the advantage of never missing a class! You'll swiftly adapt to your new lifestyle and have easy access to assistance whenever necessary.

  • Safety – This can provide a sense of comfort, particularly if you're not accustomed to living independently and are not entirely at ease in Korea.

Cons:

  • Regulations and limitations – Compliance with curfew and restrictions on inviting guests over, among others, are expected.

  • Limitations - Dormitory application is closed soon, so it can't receive many people

  • Shared living areas – You'll likely be sharing most facilities, leaving little to no time for personal solitude.

  • Room size – Typically, the dormitory rooms are compact in size.


Note: Korean Language Courses - Korean language courses dormitories cost approximately $1,000 - $1,400 for a 10-week program and around $800 for a 3-week program.

For a 4-person room, accommodation costs approximately $300 - $800 per semester. For a 2-person room, the cost ranges from $600 to $1,000 per semester.

*Prices may vary depending on whether meals are included.


One-Room (원룸)

This type of accommodation is quite prevalent in Korea, where individuals live independently.

It resembles a standard studio apartment, complete with a private kitchen and bathroom. Opting for this option provides a great deal of freedom, but the significant deposit amount can pose challenges for students.


However, HeyKorea we strive to make studio apartments accessible to all by requesting a deposit equivalent to just one month's rent! This approach aims to ensure affordability for our tenants.


Pros

  • Private space – Having a studio apartment with an attached bathroom and kitchen provides you with complete privacy and the entire living space to yourself.

  • Diversities – Renting an apartment allows you to find precisely what you're looking for in terms of price, size, interior design, location, and other preferences, which are the reasons why most popular from students.


Cons

  • Cost – Depending on the location, studio apartments can be quite expensive for students, typically starting from around 500,000 KRW per month.

  • Deposit – Studio apartments often require a high deposit, usually ranging from 3,000,000 KRW to 20,000,000 KRW.



Officetel (오피스텔)

This upgraded version of the one-room, commonly referred to as "officetel", is typically found in high-rise buildings that incorporate both residential and office spaces.

It offers the convenience of white-collar workers living just upstairs from their workplaces. These apartments come with a private kitchen and bathroom and are equipped with more appliances compared to a regular one-room unit.


Pros:

  • Private space - Enjoy the privacy of a studio apartment with a dedicated bathroom, kitchen, and a variety of appliances.

  • Quality - These upgraded studios typically feature well-designed and modern interiors, providing a comfortable living environment.

Cons:

  • Price - Compared to regular one-room apartments, the upgraded studios tend to be more expensive.

  • High deposit - Similar to other rental options, these apartments often require a substantial deposit, typically ranging from 5,000,000 KRW to 20,000,000 KRW.

  • Office proximity - Living and working in the same building can sometimes be overwhelming, blurring the boundaries between personal and professional life.


Sharehouse

A sharehouse in Korea operates similarly to those found abroad. It offers both private and shared rooms based on individual preferences, while the bathroom and other communal areas are shared among the housemates.

Sharehouses are often more cost-effective compared to studio apartments, particularly because they do not require a significant deposit. Additionally, they provide a wonderful opportunity to forge new friendships with people from various parts of the world. Whether you prefer to live independently, seek freedom, or desire a social environment, a sharehouse can be an ideal choice for you.


Pros:

  • Price - Sharehouses typically offer cheaper price than one-room, with private room rentals ranging from around 400,000 to 700,000 KRW.

  • Deposit - The deposit for a sharehouse is usually equivalent to two months' rent, which is relatively lower compared to other housing options.

  • Space - Sharehouses generally provide more spacious living arrangements, including larger individual rooms compared to other types of accommodation.

  • Language - Living with people from different countries in a sharehouse offers an excellent opportunity to improve language and communication skills, regardless of whether you speak Korean or not.

Cons:

  • Shared common spaces - The kitchen, bathroom, and living room are shared among the housemates, which may require adjusting to shared living and coordinating schedules for using these areas.

  • Roommate selection - When living in a sharehouse, you may not always have control over choosing your roommates. Sharing communal spaces increases the possibility of conflicts and disagreements. However, this can be mitigated by selecting a sharehouse that carefully screens and matches residents based on compatibility.


Terms in Korea Housing


Key Money Deposit (전세)


In the past, there was a rental style in Korea known as "free rent with key money deposit." This arrangement involved the tenant paying a significant upfront deposit to the landlord, and in return, the monthly rent was waived. However, the tenant was still responsible for paying the monthly utilities and maintenance fees. At the end of the rental period, the key money deposit would be returned to the tenant.

While this rental style was more prevalent in the past, it has become increasingly rare in modern times. The changing housing market and evolving rental practices have led to a decrease in the availability of such arrangements. Nowadays, most rental agreements in Korea involve regular monthly rent payments without the requirement of a substantial upfront deposit.


Monthly Rent + Deposit (월세)


In South Korea, the style of renting you described is indeed more common. In this type of arrangement, tenants pay a deposit, which is typically a smaller amount compared to the "free rent with key money deposit" style. Additionally, tenants are responsible for paying monthly rent and utilities.

One advantage of this style is that you have the flexibility to negotiate both the deposit amount and the duration of your stay with the landlord. Depending on your preferences and financial situation, you can choose to offer a higher deposit in exchange for lower monthly rent or vice versa. The terms of the rental agreement can be discussed and negotiated between you and the owner.

It's important to note that your deposit is protected, and you can expect to receive it back when you move out, provided there are no damages to the property beyond normal wear and tear. This system helps to ensure the return of your deposit and provides financial security for tenants.


Monthly Maintenance Fee (관리비)


When renting a property in South Korea, in addition to the monthly rent, tenants are also responsible for paying the monthly maintenance fees to the building's maintenance office. The amount of these fees can vary depending on the building and its location. Some buildings have lower maintenance fees, starting from around 20,000 won, while others may have higher fees of 250,000 won or more.

It's important to note that the maintenance fee typically covers the upkeep and maintenance of the common areas and facilities within the building, such as elevators, corridors, and shared amenities. However, it's crucial to carefully review and confirm what is included in the monthly maintenance fee. Additional services like internet, TV, electricity, heat, and water may or may not be included in the maintenance fee. Each building may have different arrangements, so it's advisable to triple check with the landlord or building management to clarify what is covered by the maintenance fee and what additional costs you may be responsible for.

Understanding the breakdown of the maintenance fees and any additional utilities or services not included will help you budget and plan your monthly expenses accordingly.


Brokerage Fee (중개비)


In South Korea, when renting a property, it is common to pay a brokerage fee, also known as "중개비" (jung-gae-bi), to the real estate agent or broker who facilitated the rental process. The brokerage fee is a one-time payment and is typically equivalent to a certain percentage of the monthly rent.

The specific percentage can vary, but it is often around 50% of one month's rent. For example, if the monthly rent is 1,000,000 won, the brokerage fee would be approximately 500,000 won. It's important to note that the brokerage fee is separate from the security deposit and monthly rent payments.

The brokerage fee covers the services provided by the real estate agent or broker, such as finding suitable rental properties, arranging property viewings, negotiating lease terms, and handling the necessary paperwork. It is typically paid by the tenant upon signing the rental contract.

When searching for a rental property in South Korea, it's advisable to inquire about the brokerage fee upfront to understand the potential additional cost involved in the rental process.

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