Living in Korea
Cost of Living
The average cost of living in South Korea is reasonable. In general, the most expensive living costs in the country will be found in the capital, Seoul. Everywhere else, expatriates can expect to earn a decent wage and save a good bit of it without having to pinch pennies or live on a stringent budget.
As is typical in most countries, the largest living expense in South Korea will be your housing. While prices are not astronomical, especially when compared to other popular expat destinations, expats should be prepared to pay 30 to 40% of their monthly salary for a nice place.
Average Monthly Living Expenses for one person (including rent):
• Seoul - 711,000 KRW / 600 USD
• Incheon - 665,500 KRW / 560 USD
• Jeju Islands - 540,000 KRW / 460 USD
• Busan - 690,000 KRW / 590 USD
Average Monthly Living Expenses for a Family of Four (excluding rent):
• Seoul - 2,700,000 KRW / 2,300 USD
• Incheon - 1,900,000 KRW / 1,600 USD
• Jeju Islands - 1,200,000 KRW / 1000 USD
• Busan - 3,345,000 KRW / 2900 USD
Utilities in South Korea will not add too much expense to your rent. Please keep in mind that, with the exception of the internet, most utilities such as gas, electricity, and water are provided through the government.
Average utilities will generally cost a little over 100,000 KRW / 84 USD per month.
Food and Alcohol Prices in South Korea
Grocery prices in the country are fairly reasonable. One may be surprised to find that one of the most expensive items to buy is a bottle of wine.
Dinner at a cheap restaurant for two people will cost an average of 20,000 KRW / 17 USD. Dinner at a nice restaurant will be around 56,000 KRW / 50 USD.
Cost of Education
The cost of education in South Korea varies dependent on where you live in the country and what type of school your children prefer. Foreigners are able to attend every type of school in South Korea, from public schools to private, religious, and international. International schools will be the most expensive option. Public schools are free even for foreign students but be aware that your children will need to know Korean in order to attend.
Annual tuition for private education will range between 15,000,000 to 42,000,000 KRW (12,600 to 35,300 USD). International schools will start around 24,000,000 KRW (20,100 USD). As daycare is not mandatory in the country, you can expect to pay around 250,000–500,000 KRW (210–430 USD) per month if you wish to enroll your child. The younger your child is, the more you should be prepared to spend.
If you are moving to the country to attend university, the tuition for an undergraduate degree will be between 2,000,000 to 5,900,000 KRW. For postgraduate, tuition will be between 2,500,000 to 7,000,000 KRW. Both KRW amounts average to about 2,100 to 5,900 USD.
South Korea has an excellent public healthcare system. Everyone must pay into the scheme. The amount you pay each month will be dependent on your gross salary. On average, you can expect to pay about 30% of your salary per month towards the National Health Insurance (NHI). On a national level, this is about 120,000 KRW (100 USD) per month. In return, the NHI will pay about 50-80% of your medical costs.
If you opt for private health insurance, it will run about the same amount per month as the public health insurance scheme: 114,000 KRW (100 USD). Although not as widely used at the country’s public health insurance, many Korean residents opt for private insurance to supplement the costs that the public insurance does not cover.
Travel and Transportation Costs
Public transport, travel between cities in South Korea will range between 17,860—60,000 KRW one-way (15—50 USD). Subways within cities will be about 2,300 per ride (2 USD). Taxis start at a base fare of 3,500 KRW (3 USD) and can go upwards of 24,000 KRW (20 USD) for a thirty-minute ride.
• Emergency Numbers:
- 119 – fire and medical emergencies that require an ambulance
- 112 – police
- 1339 – Korean Help Center for Disease Control (foreigner helpline that provides information about first aid and diseases in English, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Mongolian)
- 1345 – Immigration (for simple immigration-related questions)
- 1331 – National Human Rights Commission of Korea (for questions related to human rights law and social justice in Korea)
• Public Holidays
- New Year's Day - January 1
- Lunar New Year's Day - January 31
- Korean New Year - February 1
- Independence Movement Day - March 1
- Children's Day - May 5
- Buddha's Birthday - May 9
- Memorial Day - June 6
- National Liberation Day of Korea - August 15
- Chuseok - September
- National Foundation Day - October 3
- Hangeul Day - October 9
- Christmas Day - December 25
*a three-day-long celebration takes place on the second new moon after the winter solstice. The date is adjusted every year according to the lunar calendar.
*Note that if a public holiday falls on a Sunday, you will get a day off on the following Monday.