Seoul was recently named the 8th most expensive city in the world. With skyrocketing costs, it can be hard to imagine studying here as a student.
However, finding cheap student housing in Korea may be easier than you think!
Housing in Seoul can seem cheap or expensive depending on where you are from. Compared to my home country for example (New Zealand), the housing is very cheap!
Yet, I know many people find Seoul housing very expensive. This surprised me! In Seoul, one-room rent can be as low as 300,000KRW per month. That’s 75,000 ($75) per week!
If you are planning to move to Korea and are wondering about the overall cost as a student, I recently wrote this post. It covers not only housing but also all the other costs that you can expect to incur as a student studying in Seoul.
Cost of Living in Seoul
Guide to Housing in Korea
Things to Know Before Coming to Seoul
Is Seoul the City for You?
Things to do on Arrival
Table of Contents
- 1 Types of student housing in Korea
- 1.1 Goshiwons
- 1.2 One-Room Apartments
- 1.3 Officetels
- 1.4 Share Houses
- 2 Utilities
- 3 Apartment Shopping
Types of student housing in Korea
If you prefer a video format, feel free to watch the video. It covers most of what is written in the article as well as a few extras.
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Goshiwons are not true ‘housing’ but are more like an off-campus dormitory. Often called goshitels, gohsiwons are buildings usually located around universities. They have many rooms, joint kitchens, and a joint lobby.
Goshiwons are the cheapest housing available in Korea. A Seoul Goshiwon usually begins at around $250 per month. Depending on the location though you may be able to find these rooms even cheaper!
I have never lived in a Goshiwon and can’t provide any of my own images. But, this article here is written by an international student who stayed at one while in Korea. The post covers many different aspects of living in a goshiwon, and I recommenced reading it.
When looking for Goshiwons you may also come across the term ‘Hasuk Jib’ (하숙집). While these aren’t very common anymore, they are another possible housing option. Hasuk jibs are similar to goshiwons in that they are small, and have shared facilities.
The difference between a hasuk jib and a goshiwon is that hasuk jibs also offer meals included in the rent payment. This usually means that you will get two free meals per day. However, hasuk jibs are a less common option for two reasons. They are quite rare these days, and they often have little to no advertising. This means you will rarely (if ever) be able to find them online.
One-room in Seoul. Images provided by Seoul Student Housing.
Benefits And Downsides
Goshiwons are great for a few reasons, primarily because they are cheap and easy to manage. This is because utilities such as internet, and water are usually covered in your rent. Goshiwons are also very easy to move in and out of. Often you can find a room (and move in) all in the same day.
Further, goshiwons come furnished and will usually contain furniture such as a bed, desk, and shelves. Sometimes they will also come with a fridge, but this depends on the particular goshiwon.
The biggest downside is that goshiwons usually have strict rules. Rules such as no visitors, being quiet, and not allowing food in the rooms. Everything depends on the specific goshiwon, but, commonly, they will have many rules to ensure the comfort of everyone in the building.
Another factor to consider is that goshiwons can be quiet dirty at times. This is definitely not the case for every goshiwon, but there are dirty rooms out there. Due to this, it is important to ALWAYS view the room before signing a contract. This is the same for all housing but is particularly important for goshiwons.
My single biggest piece of advice for those moving to Korea is to inspect the housing before signing a contract.
The price and ease of goshiwons make them one of the best types of student housing in Korea. Generally, goshiwons can be found for around 300,000-500,000KRW per month. The best part is that you often don’t have to manage any utilities, and they are usually included in the cost.
Further, goshiwons usually need no deposit money. This makes them a great option for many students. On top of this, goshiwons in Korea will usually also provide free WiFi to the residents.
Seoul one-room apartment.
Finding a Goshiwon
Otherwise, you can search the words 고시원 (goshiwon) and 고시텔 (goshitel) on Google maps. Usually talking to the owner is your best option in getting a room at a goshiwon. This means you don’t have to involve (a sometimes costly) third party.
Finding a goshiwon on arrival in Seoul is the most common practice. There are some great websites listing goshiwons. However, there are a few possible downsides.
Firstly, they can charge more than goshiwons found locally. These extra costs usually occur due to one of two reasons. Either because they involve a third party, or because the goshiwons have paid to advertise online. Due to this, you may pay more if you find a goshiwon online.
While coming to Seoul with no place to stay may seem like a bad idea, usually goshiwons are not hard to find and move into. Often you will be able to move on the same day that you find a suitable place! As such, it’s possible to move to Seoul, find, and move into a goshiwon within a few days.
My best advice is to get an Airbnb for a day or two and in that time find the ideal goshiwon to live in. I once had a friend move into a goshiwon near Korea University the same day that he started looking! The benefit of this is that you will have no hidden surprises. Having the comfort of knowing that you already have housing sorted is great. But, the flip side is that often you don’t know what you are getting into.
Coming to Seoul and browsing goshiwons before moving means no hidden surprises. It is for this reason that I usually recommend this plan of action.
However, if you want to browse your options online or are insistent on getting a goshiwon in Seoul before arrival, there are a few options!
Goshiwons and share houses usually have a shared kitchen like the one above.
The best place to find a comfortable and cheap goshiwon in Seoul is Goshiwon Pages.
The website has a lot of options around all the popular universities. There are a lot of options available. Browsing through options near Korea University, there are some as low as 180,000KRW per month. That’s about $160USD! Most options sit between 250,000 and 400,000. If you are looking in a more popular area (such as Hongdae), the options begin at around 250,000KRW per month. The average is about 350,000 – 500,000.
Another option is Goshitel. This site also has many options for nearly all of the universities in Seoul. From Korea University goshiwons to Sogang University, Chungang University, Sookmyung Women’s University and more. Choose your preferred location and price-range and send them a message. They will do their best to set you up with something that fits your requirements.
A third website for finding goshiwons in Seoul is Gosiwonstory. This website is similar to both Goshitel and Goshiwon Pages in that it provides many different goshiwon options around the major universities.
Using these three options you should have ample choices for finding a goshiwon in Seoul!
However, all the sites above list their goshiwons by the closest university. Since they are usually aimed at students, this makes sense. But what if you want an Itaewon goshiwon, or a goshiwon in another place further from a university?
If that’s the case, Craigslist is often the best option. Whether you are trying to find a goshiwon or a one-room in Seoul, Craigslist is always a good place to look. Unfortunately, there tends to be a lack of English websites to find housing in Korea. Due to this, many of the options end up advertised there instead.
But a word of warning: Craiglist can be a great resource for finding housing in Korea. However, it is also home to some scams. For this reason, make sure to be careful when finding housing there.
In short, a goshiwon is an off-campus dormitory. They are small, cheap, and usually have shared facilities. They are also easy to manage and great for many students. Since goshiwons often share buildings with other businesses, goshiwons are often in fantastic locations. This is made even better by the fact that goshiwons are aimed at students. Meaning they are often located close to universities. In these areas, one-room rent can be much more expensive.
A Goshiwon is Great If:
- You don’t mind living in a small space.
- You are looking for cheap housing.
- You don’t mind sharing some facilities. Such as the kitchen, washing machines, and lobby area.
- You are looking for somewhere close to your university.
- You don’t want the extra effort/cost of managing utilities separately.
A Goshiwon Isn’t so Great If:
- You don’t like small spaces, or find them uncomfortable.
- You don’t want to share facilities.
- You want to manage your utilities. For example, if you want a particular internet plan.
- You want more freedom. For example, to have friends over, or to cook inside.
Another option for student housing in Seoul is shared housing.
Next up we have one-room apartments. These are the preferred option for many students as they are bigger and also have more privacy and freedom.
The cost of a one-room in Seoul starts at about the same cost as a goshiwon (300,000KRW). But, the cost is usually exclusive of utilities such as electricity and gas.
Apartments can come in a variety of forms. From villas to officetels, to actual apartments (usually meant for families). Villa one-rooms are common in Seoul and are usually older, smaller buildings that are 3-5 floors high. These are popular with students as they are cheaper than officetels. Yet, they have all the other benefits of an apartment.
Benefits and Downsides
Usually, there won’t be strict rules for single room apartments as long as you are reasonable. This means not being too loud at night and keeping shared areas clean. Otherwise, you are usually allowed visitors and guests. They can usually even stay a few nights if you discuss with your landlord first!
Some studios will have a monthly (fixed) utility cost, while others will make you manage all of your utilities separately. Studio apartments are located everywhere, and it is always possible to find one in the location you desire.
Furthermore, studio apartments (often referred to as ‘one rooms’) are nearly always furnished. Usually, they offer medium furnishing (bed, fridge, washing machine, and other essentials). However, some come fully furnished with all the essentials. Often including air conditioning, a desk, and other helpful items.
The catch? Any kind of apartment will usually involve a deposit (also called key money). A deposit is a fee that you must pay when moving into the house, but that you will receive back when you move out. For example, you will have to pay 3,000,000KRW when you sign the contract. Once you move out though, the landlord will give you the money back. This money is usually intended for the landlord to invest while you are living in their building.
The deposit can range wildly, but usually, a higher deposit will mean less monthly rent. This means that you can choose between a higher initial deposit or higher monthly rent.
Further, there are usually contracts involved. This means that you are bound to pay for rent for 12, 18, 24, or more months. The biggest downside of studio apartments and officetels is that they need a contract to be signed. While this is usual with housing in all countries, it can be a big obstacle if you don’t speak Korean.
No matter how trustworthy a realtor or landlord seems, NEVER sign a contract by yourself. Make sure to have someone fluent in Korean (and on your side), review it first. If you don’t know anyone fluent in Korean, or need assistance, please feel free to contact me. I will be happy to provide you with some affordable translation options.
Despite the name, one-rooms usually have two rooms., a bathroom and main room.
As I mentioned above, rent for a one-room in Seoul can vary greatly. Usually, you will be looking at 300,000KRW+ per month and 3,000,000KRW+ for a deposit. It is possible to find places cheaper than this though, so don’t feel discouraged. However, the options are limited and the furnishings may also be lacking.
The price of a one-room in Seoul is very dependent on location. Often you can save a lot of money by looking at one-rooms that are a ten-minute walk away from your university.
For example, one-rooms around Anam (Korea University), are often more expensive than one-rooms in Sungshin area. An area that is only a 10-15 minute walk from Anam. Since university areas are in high demand, my biggest piece of advice is to not only look in the direct vicinity, but also in nearby suburbs.
In a recent survey I did, the average one-room rent in Seoul was 550,000KRW per month. This survey was answered primarily by students attending Korea University.
Finding an Apartment
Finding an apartment is usually the biggest challenge as a foreigner coming to Korea. Unless your Korean is fluent I would NEVER recommend doing this process alone. Ask a native Korean friend (or you can even pay someone) to help. When it comes to signing contracts it’s always worth being certain.
You can either visit local realtors (budongsan – 부동산) to find apartments or use the internet.
Unfortunately, finding a one-room in Seoul has similar difficulties to finding a goshiwon. There aren’t that many options available for finding housing online. Often the best variety and budget-friendly options can only be found locally. Also similarly to finding goshiwon accommodation is that one-rooms in Seoul are very fast to move into.
Many of the websites charge extra fees (or have a higher rent cost). Due to this, I again recommend arriving in Seoul a few days early and visiting some local options. Since the whole moving process often takes less than two days, it is possible to stay in an Airbnb while you browse.
However, there are some 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. They offer both one-rooms and share housing, and they have quality rooms on offer. All of the images used in this post are of their rooms!
Seoul Homes offers some great options for rooms in Seoul. They have more expensive, family-orientated options. But, they also have a few options for students. While they don’t have the largest range, it is definitely a good website to browse.
Another option is Eden Realty. The website doesn’t look like much, but this site actually has some of the best options for student housing. The apartments listed are often more budget-orientated. As such, they are more suitable than many of the other options out there. The owner is also very friendly and kind!
Lastly, another popular option is Urseoul. While the one-rooms offered by them tend to be more expensive, they are a good website to browse and consider.
There are of course other websites out there, however, these are the most common sites that I hear about. Craiglist is another option that many foreigners use. Generally, though, the options above are safer as they are all run by official agents within Korea.
A one-room is a fantastic option for students who want a little more freedom and privacy. While they are generally more expensive than goshiwons, it is possible to find one-rooms cheaper than goshiwons.
The biggest difficulties of living in a studio apartment are managing the utilities and signing the contract. Thankfully though, the contract only needs to be signed once. After this, it’s all straightforward!
A Studio Apartment is Great If:
- You want the freedom to live (relatively) how you want.
- You want more room to live in.
- You want more privacy.
- You don’t want to share some facilities.
- You want to be able to cook food and eat at home.
A Studio Apartment isn’t Great If:
- You don’t want to spend more money.
- You don’t want to have to worry about managing utility bills (although this depends on the apartment)
- You are in Korea for a shorter period of time than one year.
Officetels 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. Conveniently, many villas have been updated to include these also.
Officetels are similar to villas except that they are more costly and more modern. The key difference of an officetel is that they usually aren’t purely residential. Rather, they are shared buildings that have businesses on the lower floors.
While this has downsides, it also can have some great upsides. Officetels often have cafes or restaurants located below.
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.
Share House Bedroom
Officetels have similar positive and negative aspects to one-room apartments. The biggest difference with officetels is that they usually cost more than villa apartments. This is because they are more modern. On top of that, the buildings are often nicer, and this drives the price up further.
Officetels are like one-room apartments in that they involve a deposit on top of the monthly rent. This is also similar to one-room apartments in that the higher the deposit, the lower the monthly rent. The biggest difference is that officetels usually start at about 600,000KRW.
Finally, there are share houses. I don’t personally have any experience with them, but I have heard from friends about 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. 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 upsides and 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.
42Share Student Housing communal area.
Luckily, share houses have a strong online presence. As many of them try to attract foreign students, they recognise that it is vital to advertise online. As such, there are a few great services out there for finding a share house in Seoul.
Firstly, borderless-house offers some great options. They have a large variety of choices located all around the city. From Hongdae share houses to Korea University share houses, they have it all. The monthly price depends on the room, but you can expect to pay around 450,000KRW per month. Their most unique feature though is the mix of Korean/foreign students.
They promise that there will be a 1:1 ratio of Korean to foreign students in the share house. This is a fantastic opportunity to learn about and experience Korean culture. It also allows you to meet locals.
Another option is Come & Stay. Currently, they are working on adding a house matching function which will allow visitors to specify their requirements and Come & Stay will find them suitable housing. In the meantime, they also offer a large variety of different share houses in Seoul. They often have 30+ options with many price-ranges included.
Finally, if you are looking for a sharehouse in Hongdae, HouseKorea has some options. While they don’t have the variety of the two sites mentioned above, they offer quality share houses around Hongdae. This is perfect for anyone looking for a share house around Yonsei University! Most notably is that they offer accommodation from 12,000 per night (with a minimum stay of 30 days). This is a great option if you need some medium-term accommodation.
Something to remember with both officetels and one-rooms is that you have 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 $50 in winter. Korean apartments usually have ondols, which is underfloor heating. Considering that it is around $50 for constant heating throughout the winter months, that’s not a bad price.
Electricity is the same. In winter it is usually a minimal cost of under $15, but in summer (with AC and fans) it can go up to $50 easily.
These costs sound far more expensive than it usually is. If you use AC constantly throughout the summer you will probably be faced with an electricity bill costing over $100. The same goes for the heating – if you keep it on a high temperature all winter you can expect to pay a lot for gas. But
But, if you are conservative and keep the heating at 24 degrees (or less) your winter gas bill will usually be less than $40. Similarly, I keep my AC on for about 6 hours per day in summer and have never paid more than $30.
I have found that my utility cost is usually around $80 per month. On average, I pay $35 for internet, $20 for electricity, $10 for gas, and $10 for water. In winter, the gas cost will increase and the electricity cost will decrease, and vice versa in summer. Further, if you don’t mind using blankets and fans instead of heating and AC, you can keep utility costs low all year.
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 (realtor) make sure that you are in the area you want to live in. Each 부동산 will usually only be selling houses in their proximity. Remember to shop around also, 부동산 are incredibly common. 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. This will involve talking to the 부동산 or landlord who listed the house though, so be ready with your Korean or Korean friend!
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!
Don’t Speak Korean?
If you need assistance with the contract signing/house finding process, there are a few options. Gowonderfully offers translation services for nearly anything you can imagine. It is more than capable of helping you with student housing.
If this is out of your price range or isn’t suitable for another reason, feel free to contact me and I will be happy to provide more options.