Seoul was recently named the 8th most expensive city in the world to live in, and with skyrocketing costs it can be hard to image studying here as a student. But cheap student housing may be easier than you think!
Housing in Seoul is either very cheap or very expensive depending on where you are from. For me, it was incredibly cheap, but I have heard so many people complain about how expensive it is. This really surprised me! In Seoul, one-room apartments can be found for as cheap as 300,000KRW a month. That’s 75,000 ($75) per week! However, whether or not you think it is cheap there are a few things that you should be aware of.
Before I begin I would like to add that if you are interested in the overall student costs of living in Seoul, I have written another article here. This article covers all of the different costs that aren’t related to housing.
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Types of student housing in Korea
Goshiwons are not really true housing but are more similar to a dormitory off of campus. Gohsiwons are normally buildings in busy areas that have multiple floors, joint kitchens, and a joint lobby. Goshiwons are the cheapest housing available in Korea and are available from around $300. Depending on the location though you will be able to find these rooms even cheaper! Unfortunately I have never lived in a Goshiwon and can’t provide any images. However, this article here is written by an international student who stayed at one while in Korea.
A communal area in a share house in Seoul.
Goshiwons are great for a few reasons. They are cheap and easy to manage as utilities, internet, and water are all usually covered in your monthly costs. Goshiwons are also very easy to accommodate and leave and often you can find a room the same day you started looking. Goshiwons are fully furnished and will usually contain things such as a bed, desk, and shelves. Sometimes they will also come with bathrooms and a fridge, but this depends.
The downside is that goshiwons usually have strict rules such as no visitors, be quiet, and sometimes no food in the rooms. However, all of these vary depending on the particular goshiwon in question.
The price and ease of goshiwons make them one of the best types of student housing in Korea. If you are interested in checking more prices and information on goshiwons then check out this website.
In short a goshiwon is essentially an off campus dormitory. They are small, cheap, and usually have shared facilities. However, they are also easy to manage and great perfect for many students. Further, since goshiwons often share buildings with other businesses, some goshiwons are in fantastic locations.
If you are interested in looking for a goshiwon there are many different websites and resources that you can use. Goshipages, Goshitel, and Craigslist all have multiple listings for goshiwons that may be perfect for you. Otherwise, you can simply search the words 고시원 and 고시텔 on Google maps. Usually talking directly to the owner is your best option in getting a room at a goshiwon, and this means you don’t have to involve (a sometimes costly) third party.
Single Room Apartments
Next up we have single room apartments. These are often the preferred option for many as they are bigger than goshiwons and they also have more privacy and freedom. The cost of these apartments starts at about the same cost as goshiwons except that the cost is usually exclusive of the utility, water, internet and electricity costs. It’s hard to group all apartments under one category, as each one differs.
Apartments can come in a variety of flavours, from villas to officetels to actual apartments (with multiple rooms, usually for families). Villas are common in Seoul and are usually older, smaller (often 3-5 floors tall) buildings. These are popular with students as they are cheaper than officetels but they have all of the other benefits of an apartment.
All images are provided by SSH42Share student housing in Seoul.
Usually, there won’t be strict rules for single room apartments as long as you are reasonable. This means don’t be too loud at night, keep shared areas (like passages and lobby areas) clean, etc. Otherwise, you are usually allowed visitors and they can usually even stay a few nights if you discuss with your landlord first.
The catch? Any kind of apartment will usually involve a deposit. The deposit can range wildly, but usually, a higher deposit will mean less monthly rent. This means that you will often come across places that have a 5,000,000KRW deposit with 350,000 monthly, and places that have a 3,000,000KRW deposit and are 500,000 monthly. Usually the higher the deposit (also called key money), the more expensive the monthly rent. Further, there are usually contracts involved, meaning that you are bound to pay for rent for 12, 18, 24, or more months.
Finding an apartment is usually the challenge as a foreigner visiting Korea. Unless your Korean is totally fluent I would NEVER recommend doing this process without a native Korean friend (or you can even pay someone to help). When it comes to signing contracts and discussing complicated terms it’s always worth being certain. You can either visit local realtors (budongsan – 부동산) to find apartments or use the internet.
However, there are many services out there to help foreigners with their transition to Seoul. My favourite of these services is SSH42Share (Seoul Student Housing 42 Share). They offer great rates for student housing in the form of both studios and share houses. Read more about apartment shopping down below!
On the other hand, are the newer, taller buildings that you will see around Seoul. Usually, they have a door that requires a passcode to enter (although many villas have been updated to include these). Officetels are usually very similar to villas except that they are more costly and usually more modern.
Both villas and officetels in Korea usually come either partly or fully furnished. Furniture such as a fridge, desk, bed, washing machine, and often AC is usually provided which makes it great for students.
Share house communal kitchen and private bedroom.
Finally, there are share houses. I don’t personally have any experience with them, but I have heard from friends what they are like. Usually, you will get either a private or semi-private room and the rest of the house will be communal. This can be great if you have just come to Korea and are feeling homesick or lonely, as there will always be people around you can talk to. Often 4-8 people will live in these houses and you will share facilities. These are often cheaper than apartments but also come with the possible upsides or downsides of living with others. How you will enjoy the housing is unfortunately highly dependent on whom you live with. A great site that provides share houses without the language barrier is SSH42Share.
Something to remember with both officetels and one-rooms is that you will also be expected to pay for utilities. Monthly utility costs include electricity, water, and gas, all of which are cheap. Depending on the month, gas can be as low as $0 and as high as $100 in winter. Korean apartments usually have ondols, which is underfloor heating. Considering that it is around $100 for constant heating throughout the winter months, that’s not a bad price at all. Electricity is the same. In winter it is usually a minimal cost of under $20, but in summer (with AC and fans) it can go up to $100-$200 easily. However, if you are conservative with your use of AC then summer doesn’t have to cost much either.
Something to keep in mind with Korean electricity costs is that they are exponentially increasing. This means that while using X amount of power might cost $5, using double that amount of power may cost $25, and double that might be $150. This is usually great for students as it means the costs are very low. But in summer you should always be wary.
The final cost of utilities if you are a student living in Seoul is water. I’ve found that even when using a large amount of water that your costs will barely be $15 per month. Overall, utilities in Korea are very affordable as long as you manage them well.
When visiting a 부동산 make sure that you are in the area you want to live in. Each 부동산 will usually only be selling houses in their close proximity. Remember to shop around also, 부동산 are incredibly common and usually, you can find 5+ that overlap in an area and each will have different listings.
Keep in mind that sometimes the price is negotiable. Not always, but since the landlords are only human it is definitely possible. I’ve managed to drop my monthly rent by 100,000 because I discussed with the landlord and my 부동산.
The second option to find an apartment is to use the internet. Craigslist always has options, but I wouldn’t use it myself. Often the information is incorrect and sometimes the sellers won’t even reply. Rather, I would use proper housing websites such as this site or the apps Dabang and Zigbang (my preference). This will involve talking to the 부동산 or landlord who listed the house though, so be ready with your Korean or Korean friend! Unless the listing mentions English of course.
Finding and moving houses in Korea is a far easier and faster process than what I expected. The biggest hurdle is the initial language barrier (at least if you want an apartment). However, once you cross this barrier everything is usually straightforward and fast. I once moved out of an apartment and into a new one of the same day! With no planning at all.
If you have any questions or need assistance with any part of the housing process please do let me know. I will do my best to help you and I will answer any questions you may have!
This post has affiliate links. These clicks provide me with a percentage profit and come and no extra cost to you. Everything I have said in this post is representative of my true opinion.
Other useful resources
Just visiting Korea? If you are just planning to visit rather than live here, you can also check out guest houses.