Before looking for a place in Korea, you should consider your options as to which types of Korean apartments work best for you. In Seoul, you’ll have the freedom to choose between a wide variety of apartments. But making the right decision could be the most difficult part of house hunting. We’ll give you complete rundown of the pros and cons of every type of apartment you can rent in Korea.
What is a Pyeong (평)?
When you set out to rent an apartment in Korea, you’ll come across a term called Pyeong. This is a Korean measurement unit for area or floor space that is equal to 36 Korean feet or around 3.4 square meters. This term originated in Korea during the Japanese occupation, it is used as a standard unit of measurement when it comes to real estate.
To give you a better idea, most single-family apartments in Korea are measured around 25-32 pyeong. Whereas an studio apartment (one-room) for a single person would be around 8-12 pyeong. You’ll want to familiarize yourself with this terminology when working with a real estate agent. In addition, expect your apartment to be smaller than what your landlord tells you. If your house is advertised as 10 pyeong, then it may be around 8 pyeong.
Apartments in Korea are usually 4 bedroom 2 bathroom units for a single family. An apartment in Seoul can be potentially be one of the most expensive accommodations in the entire country. As a result, you may be paying around 4,000,000 to 7,000,000 won ($10-20k USD) per month to rent a single family home. Korean apartments can go from 10 pyeong to 35 pyeong.
Seoul apartments are located on high-rise buildings that have a great view of the city. The neighborhoods are quite residential. In fact, they have parks, gyms, sporting facilities, restaurants, dry cleaners and shops nearby or within the vicinity of the apartment complex. In addition, these luxury apartments come with garbage disposal, parking space, elevators, a building caretaker and even a security guard.
On top of your monthly rent, you’ll have to pay electricity, gas, water and a mandatory maintenance fee (관리비). All these may add up to a hefty amount, so you’ll want to take that into consideration before renting a Korean apartment in Seoul.
If you’re renting an apartment in Korea, you’ll have to keep in mind that you’re renting from someone who has private ownership of the unit. They will be either be collecting a key deposit (Bojeunggeum 보증금 ) or a large lump sum deposit (Jeonse 전세), any damages to the property incurred during your stay will be deducted from your deposit before being given back to you at the end of your contract.
Possible PROS of living in Korean Apartments:
- Very big living space enough to house a family
- Modern and convenient
- Residential neighborhood with parks
- On a high-rise building with a great view
- Luxury amenities within the vicinity
Possible CONS of living in Korean Apartments:
- Exorbitantly high rent in populated areas like Seoul
- Inconveniently located far away from lively areas
- Very difficult to find apartments for short term visits
- Requires a large key deposit
Officetels are very popular among Koreans and foreigners. Just like apartments, they’re located on high-rise buildings complete with convenient stores, gyms, dry cleaners and restaurants nearby or within the same building. Among all the different types of apartments out there, a Korean officetel is the most modern housing in Korea. It includes all the amenities perfect for a single individual to enjoy living in Seoul.
An officetel can also be registered as an office space, meaning you can conduct business at home with clients coming in and out of your apartment unit. Officetels are very diverse in size as you can get a small unit the size of a studio apartment (10 pyeong) or a full size office (100 pyeong or more). Officetels come equipped with bathrooms, kitchens, heating, air conditioning and even some furnishing like a bed.
Similar to Korean apartments, you’ll have to pay large key deposit to the private owner of the unit. You’ll be able to receive your deposit once your contract is complete. However, damages incurred will be deducted from your deposit.
Possible PROS of living in an Officetel
- A comfortable modern living space for a single person or single family
- Very good security system
- Can register your home as a place of work
- Conveniently located in the most lively areas of Seoul
- Great view of the city
- Shops, restaurants and other services nearby the building
- Near to a subway station or bus terminal
Possible Cons of living in an Officetel
- Very expensive to rent
- Could get very loud and noisy
- Very difficult to find a suitable Officetel
- You have to pay a premium for parking
- Requires a large key deposit
Korean villas are among the most common types of apartments in Seoul as you can find them almost anywhere. They are low-rise buildings (4-5 floors) that can include either a few single family apartment units (25 pyeong) or many studio apartments (10 pyeong).
Unlike apartments or officetels, villas normally don’t come equipped with an elevator. Parking space is also very limited, you’ll need to discuss with your landlord if they have any parking spaces available. In addition, you’ll have to pay a monthly premium to access a parking spot.
In regards to utility bills, you’ll have to pay the standard electricity, water, gas and maintenance fee on top of your monthly rent. It’s possible that your monthly management/maintenance fee will cover your internet and cable bills. You can clarify with your real estate agent if your villa supports internet service.
Some villas are privately owned by multiple parties, whereas others are owned by a single landlord that rents out each unit to different families. It’s the landlords job to help you with any problems that may arise during your stay in your apartment. You’ll want to contact your landlord if your heating, air conditioning or water isn’t working. You may also want to report any damages you see in the apartment, so that you won’t be held liable for the at the end of your stay.
Possible PROS of living in Villas
- Reasonably priced
- Residential neighborhoods that are quiet
- Variety of design and styles of apartment units
- A nice landlord could be very pleasant
- Good for short term or long term visits
Possible CONS of living in Villas
- Thin walls – your neighbor can hear everything you do
- Lax security
- Paid Parking
- Could be far from the nearest subway or bus terminal
- A bad landlord could be a nightmare
The Goshiwon is like a hidden gem for foreign backpackers looking to stay in Korea for a few days or weeks. It is by far one of the most affordable and cheapest accommodation in Korea. You can get away with your very own place to stay for as low as 200,000 won ($200 USD) a month! However, the downside is that you get what you pay for.
Goshiwons are very small living spaces (1.5 to 3 pyeong) that’s literally the size of a closet. You’ll also want to note that the walls in Goshiwon are very very thin. You’ll be able to hear almost everything your neighbor does.
They normally come furnished with a bed, desk, TV and a small fridge. You’ll have to share the kitchen and bathroom with other people on the same floor.
The heating in a Goshiwon is operated by the manager, and you won’t be able to control how hot or how cold it would be during winter. However, you will have control over your own air conditioning.
Possible PROS of living in a Goshiwon
- Very low rent housing
- No large key deposit required
- All utility fees like water, electricity, gas and internet are included in the low rent
- All basic necessities are included such as kitchen and bathroom
- Located in the most bustling parts of Seoul such as Hongdae and Gangnam
Possible CONS of living in a Goshiwon
- Extremely small in space (bad for people with claustrophobia)
- Need to share Kitchen and Bathroom with others
- Lack of privacy – could get very noisy
- No Parking
- Poor ventilation
- Lax security
No matter what type of apartment you’re looking to buy, you’ll want to know what your options are. If it’s your first time renting an apartment or any housing in Korea, you’ll want to check this guide out to learn all about the Korean rental system.