La Casa: Seoul, Korea

Where: Gangnam Co-op Residences (aka Stay 7 Serviced Residences or Seocho Co-op Residence), Seoul, Korea

When: April – June, 2014

Why: Our good friend, Marie, has been living in Seoul for a couple of years.  We couldn’t be this close and not spend time near her!

Where within Seoul: Seocho (near Gangnam District ,the new-money, posh neighborhood mocked in the song)

Street address: 1679-1 Seocho-dong, Seocho-gu 301, Seoul, 137-071   South Korea

How we found it: Airbnb, although in retrospect I’ve gotten a bit lazy in my housing searches and hopefully we can save someone else a few dollars.  I’ll add some other ideas at the bottom.**

How much: USD $1,500/month (after some negotiating) for a 285 sq. ft. studio with a loft.

Pros:

  • Location.  We’re smack dab between 2 subway stations, so depending on which direction we’re headed, we can get to numerous tracks by walking 650 m in either direction.  It’s great being in the heart of downtown, especially in a city like Seoul where we have a coffee shop, beauty salon, and billiards bar in the building, a 2-3 km beautiful wooded trail immediately beside our building, a 20-minute walk to the riverfront, and everything from free museums to multiple national parks all accessible directly off the subway lines.
  • Storage.  This little place has more storage than any other apartment we’ve rented!  Koreans know how to live in small spaces, and not a nook nor cranny is wasted.  We aren’t using half of the cupboards.

Cons:

  • Water.  As best as I can tell (our landlord doesn’t speak much English), they turn the hot water heater off during the day when everyone is at work and it doesn’t come back on until 7 pm.  This is somewhat inconvenient and resulted in some uncomfortable showers until we figured it out.
  • Kitchen supplies. Our landlord appears to be a bachelor in his 20’s, and it would appear that he furnished the kitchen personally.  There are 2 plates, 2 spoons, 2 forks, 2 sets of chopsticks… you get the idea.  If we use a utensil to cook we have to wash it before we can eat!  We had to buy a few necessities like vegetable peeler, and we’re doing without a colander and a grater.  On the other hand, it’s a good Korean kitchen with a huge rice cooker!

**Seoul is a difficult town to find housing, even if you’re a permanent resident.  The standard rental agreement requires a huge (and I mean huge: in the neighborhood of $20,000) deposit called Key Money, so going through the usual channels isn’t an option for us.

We did, however, find a few alternatives once we’d arrived and looked around a bit.

  1. Craingslist has a lot of summer sublets right now so that students who will travel or go home for the summer can cover their rent while they’re gone.  The ads are almost all in English – but as we’ve found, that doesn’t mean your potential landlord speaks English!
  2. Once you arrive, there are a ton of realtor offices.  Someone told me 10% of Seoul’s populace is made of expats (hard to believe, but maybe…), so there’s a thriving real estate industry which caters to short-term housing for expats while they look for more permanent housing.  This free translation service, offered by the Korea Tourism Board, may be of some assistance if you need help calling around.  I hear they’re very helpful.
  3. Depending on your budget, there are numerous executive apartments (more expensive, luxury short-term flats) and a few apartment services.  Try www.seoul-apartment.com, which has short-term apartments (178 – 1,000 sq. ft) from $600 – $3,200 / month and the deposit is only one month’s rent. (I have no experience with them myself – best to do your due diligence!)
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9 comments

  1. I want to see you two do the Gangman dance when you are back!

    1. This is one time when I’m happy to say I can’t dance! :o)

  2. Hey guys! Your description totally reminds me of our apartments in Japan! It’s amazing how much utility there is in tiny spaces. One thing we found helpful were the ubiquitous 100 yen stores – that’s where we got all our extra kitchen stuff – is there something like that in Korea? Also, curious if the toilets are high tech with heaters and sprayers? Enjoy!

    1. No dollar/yen/won/euro stores here, but I’ve seen them in other countries and bought some lousy knives to get us through when we’ve only been stocked with butter knives and the like. But yes, our toilet is very high tech: it has a blow dryer, too! Sadly, I pushed some buttons and the seat isn’t heated any more…

      >

      1. Ha! What fun trying out the random buttons on the toilet 😉 Now, one more toilet-related question… in contrast to the nifty high-tech ones in homes and some hotels, are the public ones holes in the floor? Could never quite get used to that….

  3. Sally · · Reply

    Expensive digs, but what nice surroundings and so much to see and do in a city. Thanks for including Gangman Style. I think I’ll watch it again!

    1. Last year, when that video went viral, people were suddenly wearing “Gangnam Style” t-shirts in Rome and on Facebook, friends began posting about their kids and Gangnam style… I had to ask what it was! Funny that we’ve ended up there.

  4. Denise · · Reply

    Cute apartment! How many times has Ken bumped his head? 🙂

    1. A few times, both of us! :o)

      On Sat, May 24, 2014 at 11:44 AM, Goal 42 wrote:

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