Cost of living in Seoul

Written by admin on May 31, 2008 – 10:37 pm -

According to a recent survey, Seoul is now in the number 3 spot of the 50 Most Expensive Cities to live in with Moscow taking the number one spot and Japan taking the fourth.

So how much will an expat expect to spend in Korea? Everyone has different lifestyles and spending habits so what I’m going to have listed below might not hit the spot but at least you’ll have an idea of how much you’ll need to survive in Seoul.

First thing on the list would be accomodations and more often than not the most expensive. There are basically three types of dwellings, villa, apartment and a house. I’m assuming that the typical expat is not a CEO of some multinational corporation  so I’m just going to look into a villa or apartment. The interior of a typical villa or apartment do not differ signigicantly. They differ in the way that they are managed, a villa does not typically offer security, garbage collection and other maintenance services while apartments offer weekly garbage collection, pest control, security. For villas you manage your own utility bills while apartments usually have a monthly bill which includes electricity, gas, garbage and other maintenance fees. The closest thing I can think of is a typical western apartment vs. a condo. I lived mostly in Kangnam-gu which is considered one of the most expensive areas in Seoul to live in, fortunately the company I work for shoulders the cost of my accomodation and utilies. Expect to pay around USD 800-1000 for a 40-45 sqm. studio in Kangnam.

Groceries and meals are a bit difficult to compute so I what I’ve got is based on my own personal shopping habits. For my groceries I’ve got the usual mix of beef, fish, prawns and chicken and veggies the biggest chunk of my grocery budget goes to junk food which sometimes cost more than the essentials. Minus the junk my groceries usually cost around USD100-150 per week and that’s because I only eat dinner at home. I also do most of my shopping at a nearby E-Mart which is your equivalent of Target or Shopwise. I occasionally go to Costco for my foreign needs such as Eggo Waffles, Snapple, Cereals and their bakery goodies. Expect to spend another USD 50-150 on a typical shopping trip. 

If you’re living alone like me, cooking for one sometimes seems impractical so eating out might seem more appealing. I personally eat out during weekdays and cook during the weekends. A typical Korean meal will cost between USD 5 to 10, while eating at a western restaurant like Outback, Sizzler or TGI Fridays will cost you between USD 20-35 depending on what you order.

Now that we’ve got a roof on our heads and food, lets take on the cost of keeping ourselves in touch with loved ones and also entertained. Broadband connections in Korea in my opinion are relatively cheap especially if compared to countries like New Zealand or Australia. A fiber optic based with unlimited time and data internet connection costs about USD 50.

Mobile phone service in Korea is a tad expensive if you ask me especially if compared to U.S. calling plans where you are free call minutes per month and more importantly being able to rollover those unused minutes. Anyway mobile phone service in Korea will put you back USD 50-80 depending on your calling habits, take note that these do not include international calls. I would suggest leveraging on Korea’s fast internet speeds by using VOiP services such as Skpe, Yahoo Voice etc… to call home. I’ve not used a phone card for the past 8 years but it’s another option too.

Last but not least we need to move around especially since we need to commute to work everyday to pay for those bills and hopefully save enough to make all our sacrifices working abroad worthwhile. The good thing is that South Korea has a fairly good public transportation system. Spending between USD 1 – 2 is usually sufficient to get you to your destination on either the bus or subway. Taxis although convinient might prove to be really expensive especially if you do it on a daily basis. For more information on transportation in Korea click here.

Below is a breakdown of what you can expect for you monthly living allowance in Seoul.

Housing USD 1000
Utilies USD 350
Food and groceries USD 600
Internet and communications USD 150
Transportation USD 120

Total of USD 2,220

A list of useful Korean websites in English :

Real Estate – Nice Rent

Mobile phone – SK Telecom

Mobile phone – KTF

Wireless Broadband – KT Wibro

Broadband Internet – Hanaro Telecom


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Posted in Seoul | 8 Comments »

Irresponsible driver…

Written by admin on May 28, 2008 – 11:06 am -

I was just surfing YouTube trying to find videos of Pinoys living in Seoul when I chanced upon this video of a Pinoy wannabe streetracer recklessly driving on the westbound 88 (Olympic Expressway). Fortunately the driver did not get into any accident. I just feel that we should be a little bit more responsible when we are overseas as our actions affect how we are seen as a nation by our host country.

If an accident did happen then I’m sure the local newspapers would probably read ‘Filipino driver driving recklessly injures family on the Olympic Expressway’, that would probably result in future Filipino expats having a more difficult time in obtaining a drivers license in South Korea. The vehicle may not have been traveling fast but weaving in and out of the lanes is still a reckless thing to do if you ask me.

Filipino’s have some pretty good traits such as being hard workers, generous and loyal, lets try not to add more some of the bad stereotypes we already have.

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Posted in Philippines, Seoul | No Comments »

Odusan 오두산 Unification Observatory

Written by admin on May 26, 2008 – 1:47 am -

I’ve been getting information about places to visit in South Korea from the numerous bloggers .  This time I’m going to give something back to the community and write about our visit to the Odusan Unification Observatory. 

Built in 1999 this facility was to commemorate the efforts in unifying North and South Korea. To this date the Korean War has not yet ended and is the only divided country in the world even after the end of the Cold War.

Getting there from Seoul is fairly easy, just get on the westbound Gangbyeon expressway and you won’t miss the signs as you get closer After parking the car at the Paju City public parking lot the kids and I  took a free shuttle bus to get to the observatory. There is an admission fee of W 2,500 for adults and W 1,700 for kids. Upon entering there are various exhibit halls and an A/V presentation in english describes the propaganda village to the north and it’s surrounding geography. Binoculars are available in two outdoor viewing decks that afford an excellent view of the area. Restaurants, souvenir shops and snack kiosks are available. 

I’ve always been fascinated about North Korea and have watched almost every documentary that’s been shown on the Discovery and NatGeo, and can’t believe that just across that river bank are people who are hungry, oppressed, and have been brainwashed into thinking that their ‘Dear Leader’ is looking after their best interests. 

The top half of the photo is the North Korean propaganda village, Kim Il-sung Historiacal Monument Hall, Primary School, People’s Cultural Assembly Hall and the Anti-South Media Propaganda Base while the bottom part shows the riverbank on the South Korean side. Take note of the heavily barbed fence which is guarded 24/7.

The expressway which runs alongside the riverbank is heavily fenced with barbed wire with watch towers every 1000 meters. 

For more info click here

More photos here.


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Posted in Seoul, South Korea, Travel | 4 Comments »

Surprise gift

Written by admin on May 23, 2008 – 7:49 am -

It was my birthday a few weeks ago and my kids surprised me with a gift today. After arriving home from watching Indiana Jones today I proceeded straight to my desk and there I found a gift wrapped box. The funny thing is that I called my kids about noon telling them to meet me at the COEX where we would watch Indiana Jones 4. What I didn’t know at the time was that my son was already at the COEX buying me the gift, so he rush back home to pick his younger brother up to return to the COEX to meet me. 

When my kids arrived here about a month ago they noticed that I was using my mobile phone as an alarm clock and that there were no clocks at home so they both decided to get me an iPod speaker alarm clock. The Ozaki iMini functions as an FM radio, iPod speaker and charger, and alarm clock. You can set the alarm to trigger a bell, FM radio or your play your iPod at a preset time. Sound quality from its two speakers on both sides of the cube are decent but don’t expect any chest thumping bass from it. The best thing I like about this speaker is that I don’t have to take my iPod out of its case to hook it up.

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Posted in Randomness, Shopping, Tech | No Comments »

O.E.C. woes

Written by admin on May 22, 2008 – 7:03 pm -

For some reason I really hate the term OFW, maybe it’s because of all the hassles associated with it. When my family was living with me, we seldom went back to visit the Philippines. More often that not, we’d go someplace else to spend our vacation such as Singapore, Japan or the United States. Why? Because I always found it so troublesome for me to get the paperwork or clearance to leave Manila as an OFW.

I’m sure pretty sure not one single OFW looks forward to spending almost half a day at the POEA office in Ortigas just to get a piece of paper called an Overseas Employment Certificate (O.E.C) that will allow he or she to leave the country. Personally I don’t know why you need to get an O.E.C, isn’t a valid work visa enough? I get it, it’s a revenue source for the government. So why not have an OFW Card, that has the same validity as your current work visa? That way you only renew once a year. Oh wait! We do have that card, the one with the useless magnetic stripe and all. While in line at the POEA office last year, someone told me that for a brief moment that magnetic stripe did work and the holder did not have to fill out endless forms since once swipe of the card yielded all the personal information of the card holder. Well that was for a brief moment, now it’s back to all the paperwork that has to filled up.

I really envy the OFW’s from Singapore, they can just go to Lucky Plaza (a place where most Filipino’s hang out) and buy their OEC’s from most shops there. A few years back the Philippine Embassy in Seoul issued OEC’s but for some reason they don’t do it anymore. I just don’t get it. OEC from a store at Lucky Plaza but not from the Philippine Embassy, go figure??? After calling the Filipino Workers Resource Center at the Embassy here in Seoul I was told that I can go straight to the POEA office at the airport an apply for the OEC there. A bit scary if you ask me, especially if you’re leaving that day and they tell you that you can’t get your OEC at the airport, that leaves you where?

I know that there are improvements such as fast track delivery, presenting the OEC at airline counter instead of getting a stamp at the airport etc…, but for me spending the better part of a short vacation at the POEA just to get a piece of paper that says I’m allow to leave the country is not cool.

There is a silverlining in the clouds, the POEA in conjuction with Globe and SMART (I have no idea why Globe or SMART but I’ll leave that for a seperate post) are developing a card that will replace the current OEC system. This one is what I call B.W.I.S.I.T, Believe It When I See It.

Anybody out there who’s got a better way please chime in…

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Posted in Philippines, Travel | 2 Comments »