Living in Seoul?
Living in Seoul
At a Glance:
- Seoul has flourished into a vibrant business hub since the Korean war.
- There is a variety of different and stylish accommodation to suit your needs.
- Seoul has plenty of thriving international and expatriate neighborhoods.
The locals in Seoul like to refer to their city as “the miracle of Han”. After having survived the Korean War without sustaining major damage, the historic city of Seoul has grown and developed exponentially, becoming the booming 21st century metropolis that it is today. The government has invested heavily into making Seoul the attractive and wonderful place that it is today. Some of this money has gone towards designated green zones, in the form of parks and other recreational areas, adding to the existing green areas in the city. Between 2012 and 2016, 197 new green spaces have been created in downtown Seoul, with the total area amounting to 1,880,000 ㎡ , Furthermore, Seoul currently has 2,278 green spaces (146.22 ㎢), approximately a quarter of the city’s total area.
Despite this, plans for the construction of green zones show no sign of letting up. In 2017 alone, the Seoullo 7017 and Culture Depot Base parks were opened to the public. The Gyeongchun Line (Railroad) Forest Park was also opened, in the second half of 2017. The SMG claims it will construct a further seven “ green passageways” by the end of 2019, as well as investing money in camping sites across the city. The Choansan family camping site was opened in June 2017.
Finding a Place to Live
- When looking for accommodation in Seoul, it is important to know that, housing space is often measured in pyeong (1 pyeong = 3.3 m²). Please note that the total area listed often includes common areas such as the hallway in front of the apartment, the elevator, the parking garage, etc. These common areas are added up and divided by the number of apartments in the building, meaning that your actual living space may be smaller than what is advertised. Luckily, there are many options when it comes to house-hunting in Seoul. Serviced apartments are furnished and come with hotel-like services and facilities. In addition, they are often located within close proximity to public transportation and tourist attractions. They are a convenient option for expatriates who come to Seoul on short-term assignments. A serviced apartment is usually more expensive than a regular apartment.
- Regular apartments are the most popular housing option among Koreans. They are often located near postal or district offices, schools, and stores. As expected, rents vary depending on the apartment’s location and size. The units in apartment complexes are often smaller than what Westerners might be accustomed to.
- Another option is to rent space in an officetel. An officetel is a high-rise building which offers both offices and residential units for residents of Seoul. Officetels are particularly popular with students and singles in Seoul, as they offer contracts of 1–2 years and come fully furnished.
- Private houses are particularly attractive for families. They are easier to find in the older neighborhoods north of the river. The majority of expats in Seoul who rent private houses reside in the areas of Itaewon, Ichon-dong, and Pyeongchang-dong.
- Multi-family houses and terraced houses usually offer less space than apartments and are home to at least two families. However, they are also cheaper than most apartments of equal size.
- One-room and studio apartments are most popular among students and young foreign employees living in Seoul. On average, these apartments are about 27 m² and come with basic furnishing. They are cheaper than officetels.
- If you want to experience the traditional side of life in Seoul, a hanok may be more to your liking. These can be seen in the old part of Seoul, north of Hangang. However, not only Bukchon Hanok Village offers traditional homes to people living in Seoul. Remodeled hanoks appear all over the city. Modern amenities have been added to their historical exterior, to bring them up to the level needed to support the fast paced, high quality life in Seoul.
Popular and International Neighborhoods
There are several districts in Korea’s capital which are particularly popular among expatriates. Some of them offer nice and quiet areas which are ideal for families, while others are within easy reach of public transportation and important business facilities.
The most popular international neighborhoods and districts are:
- Itaewon-dong (Yongsan-gu)
- Hannam-dong (Yongsan-gu)
- Ichon-dong (Yongsan-gu)
- The Greater Gangnam Area (Gangnam-gu, Seocho-gu, and Songpa-gu)
All of these districts have something different to offer, ranging from parks and green spaces, to clubs and restaurants. Please refer to our article on moving to Seoul to learn more about the various international districts.
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