One of the biggest concerns I hear from people deciding to come to teach in Korea is about their new apartment. They are most concerned with how to get one, where to get one, the size, and if it will be clean or not. While all concerns are understandable, I would like to clear up some information about apartments in Korea.
The first thing you should know is that Chungdahm provides apartments with two situations. Most Chungdahm branches have their own apartments. If this is your situation, you would move in when the current teacher occupying the apartment leaves. In some situations, if the branch doesn’t have their own apartments, you would then pick one out with the branch manager. In this situation, Chungdahm gives you a 0% loan on the key money for the apartment, you don’t even see this money as it goes straight to the owner of the apartment and when finished straight back to Chungdahm.
What does key money mean? Korea runs on a system of low monthly costs for apartments, but a high deposit. The deposit, or key money, is usually around W5,000,000, or $5000. The higher you are able to pay, the lower the monthly costs significantly. For example, paying $5000 for key money, you might be having to pay from $500-$800 a month. However, if you are able to put $10,000 down you might only have to pay $300-$600 a month. The hardest part is that getting that kind of money is extremely difficult. So, in those cases, Chungdahm puts the $5,000 key money in the apartment for you. However, after one year, if you decide to stay, you have to put your own key money down, or find a cheaper place to live.
The condition of the apartment you will get is what I want to talk about next. While the situation will change constantly, it is always good to buy a broom and some simple cleaners. The one place it’s always best to clean first is the bathroom. Generally, bathrooms are known for being harbors of bacteria, so cleaning the bathroom would be priority number one. I also advise buying a new toilet seat. As far as the rest of the apartment, it is good to clean the kitchen because of the oil used from frying. The rest of the apartment, will most likely need to just be swept. Make sure though to check everything in the apartment, to ensure that everything is functional. If something isn’t working, tell your branch manager as soon as possible so that someone can help you get it fixed.
If your apartment has been owned by the branch, it will most likely come with furniture, such as a bed, and desk. However, if you have to get an apartment it will come with no furniture. That means you will need a bed, and a place to put your clothes. For these things, I advise looking on Craigslist, or Gmarket. Gmarket is similar to Amazon, but for Korea and it has a lot of cheap furniture. If you need help, definitely ask someone you work with to help you sort things out. It can be very difficult to figure out on your own, especially the address. For Craigslist, please use your common sense, and also meet people in public places during the day time.
Having already used my 1 year of key money, I chose to live in a goshiwon for the past 7 months. A goshiwon is a small room, usually with its own bathroom, that is connected to other rooms. It is kind of like a dormitory. The one that I am staying at has a shared kitchen and washing machine, provided bed, furniture, TV, and internet all for the price of about $500 per month. I didn’t have to put any key money down, however having a shared kitchen and washing machine is proving itself difficult, as well as some of the noisy neighbors.
Other options are available though too. While a $5000 key deposit is the standard, there is also housing available for $1000 and $3000. I found that using the app 직방, or zigbang.
If you are not provided key money, your branch will have housing already set up for you. It will most likely already have furniture too, which can be an added bonus for sure. If you don’t like your furniture, make sure to talk with someone at your branch about it, before you replace anything.
My first year living in Yeongtong, I had a single room, and paid around $400 per month. The apartment was fairly large compared with a lot of my coworkers. The only thing I didn’t like was that the kitchen was connected to the main room, and the window didn’t let a lot of light in. I purchased no furniture the entire year, except for a toaster and a blender. Everything else I got from teachers leaving. My location was around 10 to 15 minutes of walking from the Yeongtong branch.
My second year, at Ilsan branch, I had the most gorgeous apartment. It was very spacious, and had a loft upstairs where I could have my bedroom. I often invited a lot of my coworkers over for board-game nights, and watching tv. This apartment came with no furniture, and because it was my second year, I bought a lot to try to make it feel like home. It felt like home, but it cost quite a bit. When I moved away, I had to consider what to do with all of the furniture and sold it all for much lower prices than I had purchased it. My apartment was a bit further by bus, or walking, to the Ilsan Chungdahm branch. I eventually bought a bike though, which I found to be really relaxing after work.
This year, I am in the goshiwon and haven’t had to purchase any furniture. It is very small, but very convenient. Also, I am within 4 minutes walking distance from my Chungdahm location.
I hope I answered some of your questions! Please realize that there are hundreds of branches of Chungdahm and every one is a bit different. As long as you are kind and honest, if you have a problem, just talk with your branch manager and they will try their best to help you out.
Neil Frazer has been teaching with Chungdahm for a little over two years. He comes from a small town in Wisconsin, named Spooner and graduated from Olivet Nazarene University with a Bachelor's of Social Work. After traveling to Korea in college he quickly fell in love the culture, food, and quality of life that Korea has to offer and immediately knew he wanted to come back. He looks forward to sharing his experiences of living in Korea and working at the Pyeongchon branch, near Seoul.