If deciding that living in a dormitory is not for you (and that’s okay!) but are unsure of the housing options Korea has or how to start your search, you have come to the right place!
Dictionary and Helpful Terminology
Listed below are words/phrases what you will come across that are important for you to know:
Key Money (Jeonse 전세)
- A system/agreement used where the tenant pays a large sum of money as a deposit (either no monthly rental fee or as a first installment)
- The housing security deposit used for jeonse and wolse, it is a fee in order to retrieve the key to the place and is returned when the tenant moves out
- You may be hesitant when thinking of offering a huge amount of money to a stranger, but you get the full deposit back after your stay, or whenever your contract will end
- Also, in the case where you may fail to pay rent or are faced with property damage, they will take from the deposit to cover the charges
⇒ Tip: It is possible to negotiate the contract for lower rent, if you offer to pay a higher deposit
Monthly Rental (Wolse 월세)
- A housing contract where the tenant pays a key money deposit plus a monthly rental fee
- Commonly used for those who do not have a huge amount of money/cash to offer all at once
Maintenance Fee (Gwanlibi 관리비)
- The building maintenance fee, usually paid monthly
Listed below are some student-friendly accommodations typically found in Korea. They are organized from lower to higher value and pricing options. Find one that suits your interest and needs!
Small Box Room (Goshiwon 고시원)
- In its own entirety a Korean concept in the housing industry. It was originally meant for students who wanted to find temporary lodging when studying for an important test or exam
- It is the most inexpensive option, as they do not usually require a deposit (except key deposit)
- Essentially, provides renters the bare minimum living accommodations such as:
- Private small living area
- Bed, desk, chair, drawers and small refrigerator
- Internet connection/WIFI, cable television
- Bathrooms and showers could be private or communal (cheaper option)
- Utilities such as water, electricity and heating are usually included
- In terms of security and safety, they normally have smoke detectors, fire alarms, fire extinguishers and emergency flashlights. The hallways and public areas are monitored (CCTVs) with locks on rooms, floors and entrances. Also, depending on the landlord or type, the building may or may not be separated by gender
- Sometimes referred to as “goshitel” (고시텔). Being more costly, they are more established, kept cleaner and has a brighter appeal
- Approx. 100,000 won – 200,000 won for confirmation and/or it goes towards your first month’s rent upon arrival
⇒ Tip: Discount can be given if you can pay for several month’s rent in advance
- Approx. 15,000 won – 50,000 won per night
- Approx. 250,000 won – 600,000 won per month
- Free food such as rice, noodles, eggs and kimchi are usually offered
- Found along student populated areas: Hongdae, Ehwa, Shinchon, etc.
- Located near subway stations or bus stops (5-15 min. walking distance)
- Some goshiwons have an older, dingy character, having thin walls and sometimes don’t have windows (to the outside) – Ask to make sure!
Reference: Goshipages (Search: ex. Chung-Ang University Seoul Campus/Sangdo Station)
Homestay (Hasuk 하숙)/(Hasukjip 하숙집)
- A homestay is a form of hospitality and lodging where the tenant usually stays in the home of a local family. Whereas, a hasuk (하숙) would have other students living with you, like a boarding house. Typically, an older Korean woman (ajumma) would care for your needs
- Being a similar concept, both offers:
- A private home/room where facilities are shared like a communal dining room (may have a communal bathroom in a hasuk)
- Floors are usually separated by gender
- This type of accommodation is a great opportunity for meeting new people as well as experiencing Korean culture and lifestyle at first hand (ex. improving your language skills)
- Approx. 25,000 won – 40,000 won per night
- Prices similar to goshiwon wolse per month
⇒ Tip: Cheaper rates are available for long-term stay (30+ days)
- Prices similar to goshiwon jeonse
- Mostly, homemade breakfast (and dinner) is included
- House rules may or may not apply to some (ex. curfew, no smoking or having house guests). Be respectful of them and remember you have the comfort of a home!
Sharehouse (셰어 하우스)
- Just like in the name, you are living in a shared space with other people, where the living and kitchen area are communal. Other facilities include: bathroom, utilities, internet connection/WIFI
- Those living with you could either be local or foreign, again, giving you a chance to meet new people
- This option is cost efficient since overall rent is evenly split amongst tenants, having each paying a percentage
Guesthouse (게스트 하우스)
- Similar to a dormitory, they are a good option for exchange students and visitors, typically staying short-term
- They provide basic living accommodations such as:
- Bed, desk, cable television
- Internet connection/WIFI, showers
- Bathrooms and common space are typically shared, but modern guesthouses do have private rooms
- Free laundry and meals are usually provided!
- Villas (빌라) are smaller than the average apartment and usually two to five stories high. They are typically older buildings, known for not having elevators yet having more character. Also, bathrooms do not have separate shower stalls
- Overall, they provide tenants with the greatest value as they offer different types in quality, size and furnishing
- Approx. 350,000 won – 6,000,000 won per month
- Located in residential areas which are quiet
- Walls are usually thin, meaning neighbours are more likely to hear everything
- Some villas may be unfurnished, meaning you would need to provide your own refrigerator, washing machine, gas burner, drawers, etc.
One Room (원룸)/Studio or Livingtel (리빙텔)
- These are single unit apartments with one room and bathroom. They are space efficient and clean. Quality wise, they can range from being dingy and small (rooftop or basement) to modern.
- In terms of security, they may or may not have a security guard or a maintenance fee (included in the rent price)
- Sometimes referred to “livingtel” (리빙텔). Being more costly, they are more established than goshitels, have more room than one rooms and overall are cleaner
- Facilities include:
- Pantry-kitchen, bed and mattress, desk, chair
- Refrigerator, air conditioner and “heated” wooden floors
- Internet connection/WIFI, sometimes television
- Approx. 3,000,000 won – 20,000,000 won (to the landlord)
- Approx. 300,000 won to 700,000 won
- Found along busy areas, especially near offices and universities
- Higher priced options are located in popular and central spots: Itaewon, Gangnam, etc.
Subway Line/Station and Area Guide
→ One of the more denser and busier areas in Seoul where you can find a lot of student housing options
→ Sinchon Station, Sindorim Station, Dangsan Station (transfer Line 2 and 9), Hapjeong Station and Hongik University Station
→ Heukseok Station (Chung-Ang University: front gate)
→ Dangsan Station (transfer Line 2 and 9) and Dongjak-gu Station (transfer Line 4 and 9)
→ Offers a lot of cheaper housing options where some women-only goshiwon can be found
→ Sangdo Station (Chung-Ang University: back gate)
→ Jangseungbaegi Station and Soongsil University Station
→ Itaewon Station and Nokspyeong Station
→ The Myeongdong area has a higher cost of living as it is in a central location
→ Dongjak-gu Station (transfer Line 4 and 9)
→ Line 1 is a big subway commuter line and the Gangnam area has pricier housing options
→ Yongsan Station
- The closer your housing is to a subway station, the more costly it will be
- University districts/areas are your friend!
- You will feel more comfortable being in a neighbourhood surrounded with other students
- Local, student-friendly places to eat, drink and shop (ex. convenience store)
- Housing near university back-gates and bus stops are ideal
- Mind the party and club scene areas since they may cause nuisances for being too loud for your convenience
Additional Tips and Resources
- Always do your research and check their (landlords) credibility!!
- Better to go see and check the room and facilities before you pay the deposit (or anything!!)
- Sample pictures give you an idea, but it is not always an actual representation
- Don’t be shy to ask for a discount!! Ask a Korean friend or someone who knows how to speak the language well to help you
- English accessibility is usually limited
- Still unsure? Stay in a hotel or hostel for a night or two and scope and compare around the areas to find a living space that is right for you
BEST OF LUCK!! ♡
- Budget Travel 2 Korea – Goshiwon: My Personal Review
- Eat Your Kimchi – International Students in Korea
- Electrow – Housing in Korea
- Goshi Pages – Housing FAQ
- Look Korea – What is Goshiwon
- Seoulistic – Living in Korea (1) and (2)
- The Arrival Store – Rent Apartment in Korea
- WorknPlay – Types of Housing in Korea
When student’s who lived off campus in 2019 were surveyed most off campus students used Airbnb, BorderlessHouse, and Goshipages. Its important not to underestimate the amount of students who have success finding housing on popular sites. Just as a reminder, these sites include: Craigslist, Airbnb, and BorderlessHouse, Reddit, Facebook and even Instagram.
When it comes to specific advice on how early you should go about booking accommodation, when surveyed in 2019 students seemed to be split between
1.) Booking over the internet or with a Korean friend extremely early (4 weeks before the semester)
2.) Coming to Korea about 2 weeks earlier and living in a hotel before you pick accommodation so you can visually “apartment hunt” and meet your landlords personally.
Some students unfortunately don’t have the financial luxury to be able to stay in a hotel or separate accommodation before picking a more permanent home. If you are a student who is more apprehensive about finding a comfortable accommodation Airbnb & Goshipages seems to be the safest choice as you can easily reach English speaking help online and refunds/ re-housing for scams is easier with bigger companies.