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So you want to move to Seoul.  Welcome to the club!  Many people want to move to the Republic of Korea and live a glamorous life.  To make this a reality, a number of people try to teach English in South Korea.  They do this because they hear about a life where you don’t have to work all day, and you have your apartment paid for you.  However, many people cannot/do not want to teach English in Korea for a variety of reasons.  This normally means that they will have to pay for their apartment.  But you may have heard that there are 2 systems for paying for an apartment in Korea.  What are they?  And what will be the best option for you?  Let’s review them and see what will work for you.


전세 (Jeonse)

Jeonse is a concept that many people in the Western world have never heard of.  But this is the system that people refer to when they talk about living in an apartment in South Korea for free.  How is this possible?  Is it truly rent free living?  Yes and No.  The reason?  To do this, you have to pay a large lump sum of money to the landlord at the time of the lease.  Some stories say that people will pay around $100,000 USD to do this type of lease.  The landlord will invest the money and keep all of the interest he makes from it.  After the lease period is up, you are to get the money back in full as long as you don’t owe for any damages to the apartment.  That means you can give a landlord $100,000 for a 2-3 year lease and get it all back at the end.

You will have to pay for your own utilities and other bills associated with living in the apartment.  You will also have to watch out for shady landlords who may try to keep some, if not all of your deposit, for different “violations” that you have committed.  For those who can afford this arrangement, it is a perfect way to change apartments every few years without, in theory, paying for the apartment.  If you do chose this method, make sure you contact a good realtor before signing or giving anything. But what if you are like most people and can’t afford to pay a large sum of money up front for your lease?

월세 (Wolse)

Wolse is a more traditional method of paying for an apartment.  You put down your deposit, or key money, for your apartment.  After that, you pay your rent on a monthly basis for the lease apartment.  The amount of key money and rent will depend on the area and location of the apartment in the building.  For example, apartments near subway stations or bus terminals tend to cost more money than apartments that are further away from public transportation hubs. Also, rooftop apartments tend to cost less money since they tend to leak during the monsoon season or when snow is melting.  So just because something is cheaper, it may not be a better deal for you.

No matter what system you chose to look for a place to live in Korea, there are pros and cons to look out for.  But it’s better to know about the two systems before you go to Korea.  Hopefully this will help you to make a good choice, or to see what you will be able to afford when moving to Korea.  And as always, if you have any questions, #askthewaygookin.