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Expat guide to life in South Korea

Expat guide to life in South Korea

Living in South Korea

Home of modern Tech Giants and one of the most delicious BBQ dishes in world, South Korea’s sprint towards the future includes its precious heritage in tow. Expats relocating to here will find an international community from ELS teachers, to business executives. If you’ve found a place within the densely populated metropolis of Seoul, be sure to have read our handy guide.

South Korea

Expat Clubs

All-Female Hash Group
The Seoul PMS Hash House Harriettes was established on February 5, 2000, by Free To Lay. They are a Women's Running/Walking/Drinking/Social Club. We meet once a month, usually on the 4th Saturday @ 4pm.
Website: https://www.facebook.com/groups/22618938994/
Association des Francophones de Corée (AFC)
Association des Francophones de Corée (AFC) is open to both men and women. The AFC organizes social events throughout the year for French speakers in Korea. Membership includes a free subscription to their bi-monthly cultural magazine Le Petit Echotier.
Email: afcoree.contact@gmail.com
FB:  www.facebook.com/FrancophonesdeCoree
Australian & New Zealand Association of South Korea
Australian and New Zealand Association of Korea (ANZA) holds its monthly Coffee Morning at 10:00 a.m. every third Tuesday at the Paris Bar and Grill, Grand Hyatt Hotel. ANZA organizes various events including the Melbourne Cup Ball.
Email: info@anzakorea.com
FB:  www.facebook.com/ANZAKorea
Website:  www.anzakorea.com
Busan International Women's Association (BIWA)
The Busan International Women's Association is a charitable social and cultural organization open to women living in the Busan and Kyungsang Namdo area of South Korea. As a non-profit organization we raise money to help those in the local Korean community who are in need. At BIWA we encourage friendship, support, and cultural exchange between our international and Korean members by organizing a wide variety of social and cultural activities.
Email: sarah.hannevik@gmail.com
Website:  www.biwa-korea.com/
Seoul International Women's Association
Seoul International Women's association (SIWA) was created in 1962 as a group of women from different nationalities including Koreans in order to enhance the expatriate life in Korea as well as to support those in need in this country. Very rapidly this initial small group of women grew in popularity and over the years membership rose continuously to a peak of 1,000 women from 80 different countries.
Address: 28 Changuimun-ro 5ga-gil, Jongno-gu, Seoul 110-819
Email: socialmedia@siwapage.com
FB:  www.facebook.com/SIWAkorea
Website:  www.siwapage.com
Swedish Women's Educational Association
Swedish Women's Educational Association is open to Swedish women in Seoul.
Email: seoul@swea.org
Website:  www.chapters-swea.org/

International Schools 

Asia Pacific International School
Asia Pacific International School is a K-12 private, nonprofit college preparatory school fully accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). APIS strives to educate its students, in a loving and caring Christian environment, to become globally enlightened citizens who are able to bridge the gap between the East and the West and are ready to welcome the exciting challenges of the New Pacific Century. The school maintains a 5:1 student-to-teacher ratio and emphasizes personalized learning.
Curriculum: APIS follows a U.S.-based curriculum with emphases on East Asian competencies; performing and visual arts; science, technology and math; and spiritual growth.
Address:  57 Wolgye-ro 45ga-gil, Nowon-gu, Seoul, 139-852, Korea
Tel: +82-(0)2-907-2747
Fax: +82-(0)2-907-2742
Website: www.apis.seoul.kr

Seoul Foreign School
Seoul Foreign School is a non-profit, K-12 IB World School, founded in 1912.
Curriculum: American, British
Address: 39 Yeonhui-ro 22-gil, Seodaemun-Gu
Seoul, Republic of Korea 
Tel: (82-2)330-3100
Fax: (82-2)330-1857
Email: sfsoffice@seoulforeign.org
Website:  www.sfs.or.kr/
Seoul International School
Seoul International School is a K-12 private academic institution. Admission to SIS is a selective process based on a variety of criteria, including, but not limited to, academic achievement and commitment to personal growth. Final admission to SIS, once all criteria have been met, is determined by space availability.
Address: 15, Seongnam-daero 1518beon-gil, Sujeong-gu,
Seongnam-si, Gyeonggi-do,
South Korea 461-830
Tel: (82-031) 750 - 1200
Fax: (82-031) 759 – 5133
Email: info@siskorea.org
Website:  www.sis-korea.org/

Local News in English

Country Information 

Location: Asia
Capital City: Seoul
Other Important Cities:
Currency: South Korean won
Language: Korean
Calling Code: +82
Internet TLD: .kr
Electricity: South Korea runs on 220V 60Hz. Several companies provide electricity in South Korea:
Posco Energy
Website:  www.poscopower.co.kr/
Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power KHNP
Website: khnp.co.kr/
Korea Electric Power Corporation KEPC
Website:  www.kepco.co.kr/eng/
Emergency Numbers:   
Ambulance: 119
Fire: 119
Police: 112
Country Information
Country Study

Embassy Information


Residents Visa and Work Permit information

Nationals from certain countries including the US, the EU, Australia, some of Asia and South America may enter and stay in South Korea for a limited period between 30 to 180 days, depending on which country. Other nationals will have to apply for a visa at a South Korean embassy or consulate. The e-Government site Hi Korea has a list of countries and their respective exemptions and visa regulations: www.hikorea.go.kr/pt/InfoDetailR_en.pt?categoryId=2&parentId=385&catSeq=401&showMenuId=375
There two types of visas: Single Entry, valid for 3 months, and Multiple Entry which is valid for 3 years.

Documents required:
  • Valid Passport
  • Visa Issuance Application Form
  • Other documents required according to visa status.
Expats wishing for an extended stay beyond 90 days in the country for a specific purpose like employment, they will need to obtain a visa that will allow them to do that prior to travel. There are different types of working visas:
  • Short-term employment C-4 – for temporary work for 90 days
  • Professorship E-1 – for academics
  • Foreign Language Instructor E-2 – for teachers who wish to teach their native language
  • Research E-3 – for research and development activities
  • Technology transfer E-4 – for technical experts invited to South Korea
  • Professional employment E-5 – for international employees with credentials recognized by the South Korean government
  • Arts and performances E-6
  • Special Occupations E-7
  • Vessel Crew E-10 – for crews and staff onboard ships
  • Working Holiday H-1 – short term work, applies to travelers between 18 and 25
The employing South Korean company is often responsible to apply for working visas for expats. Apart from the visa, expats must also obtain a work permit.

Documents required:
  • Passport photos
  • Copy of passport details
  • Applicant’s CV
  • Original copies of academic transcripts / credentials
  • Certified criminal / background check
  • Original offer or assignment letter
  • Proposed job description
In addition, expats residing in South Korea must apply for a Foreign Registration Card at the immigration offices. This is important to secure accommodation, driving licenses and other transactions that will require identification as a foreign resident.

Documents required:
  • Completed application form
  • Valid Passport
  • Color photo, 3.5 x 4.5cm
  • Other documents depending on visa type and status (Please visit hikorea.go.kr, under ‘Foreigner Sojourn’ select ‘Foreigner Registration’) 


Expats will find that acquiring accommodations in South Korea is a difficult task; the population is heavily dense especially in major areas. Foreigners will have to settle for what they can find in the least amount of time than go in circles looking for units that match their requirements. Additionally, prices can be steep. A three bedroom apartment in the city centers starts at $2,300 per month. However for expat employees, their accommodations would’ve been arranged by their employers. For those who will be looking for housing on their own, here are some general information.

There are three types of accommodations available. Houses, which are scarce and expensive; villas with several independent housing units; and apartments in high-rise buildings. The standards are adequate and good; they usually come furnished with basic necessities and appliances. However for the living spaces are smaller than what expats from the west would be used to. Gas, electricity, Internet and other utilities do not come under the rent.
Expats looking for accommodations normally head to online listings and forums. Real estate agents, classifieds are also good way to find listings.

The three types of rental/deposit systems in South Korea are Jeonsei or ‘key money’ and two Wolse systems. The Jeonsei system will have the would-be tenant pay from 25% to 80% of the property value to the landlord as a deposit, after which they do not pay for anything else other than utility bills. The deposit is returned in full at the end of the contract, provided no damages were incurred in the unit.

Wolse system works like any regular rental/deposit system. Tenants will have to pay a deposit, a couple of times larger than the monthly rent. And based on this amount, the landlord charges them less or more rent monthly. The other Wolse system requires tenants to pay the rent for the entire lease; no deposit is required. The rent may not be given back should the tenant moves out earlier than agreed. This should be clarified and clearly stipulated in the contract.

A large proportion of expats reside in Seoul. Gangnam-gu has a number of residential complexes and a large foreign community. It can be expensive in this area as prominent commercial industries are situated here. Daechi-dong is a quieter area in Gangnam-gu, which is not too far from expats working in the major area of the city.

On the other side of the Han River, Itaewon-dong also houses some expat families and individuals. Close to the US Army base, the area is full of Western style amenities like restaurants and shopping complexes. It’s a little more affordable to live in this Itaewon-dong, perhaps why expats take to this area. The public transport system and schools are also within close proximity.

Driving License

Expats may use an international license to drive legally in South Korea for one year. But for residents with a Foreign Registration Card or ARC, they can exchange their domestic license, provided it is recognized, for a local one. For a list of recognized countries: http://dl.koroad.or.kr/htm/popup/english.html

Documents required:
  • Original domestic license
  • Letter from the embassy (the domestic license’s country of origin) confirming the license’s validity and authenticity. It should be translated to Korean and notarized.
  • Original passport
  • ARC card
  • Three 3 x 4 cm color photos
Expats with non-recognized licenses may also exchange their license provided they pass an aptitude and written test, which is in English.


The medical services and facilities in South Korea are high standard and adequate. Western and Eastern medical practices are available. There’s also a public and a private healthcare sector. Hospitals are kept to a high standard, although sanitation varies. Most doctors speak English. There ‘international clinics’ dedicated to expats, but these can be costlier.

The National Health Insurance NHI is compulsory for anyone living in the country, citizen or expatriate. This is funded by employers and employee 50/50 contribution to the system. It covers routine medical treatments, including emergencies. Normally expats would only pay a fraction of the cost of services or medications. The ARC card is required to enroll in the system. Private healthcare is used by residents for specific specialist illnesses, like chronic cases. As these are costly, many opt to take out private health insurances to cover what NHI will not.

Insurance Companies
Bupa International
All Bupa Global Worldwide Health Options members are covered for essential hospital treatment. This means that if you are admitted in an emergency or for planned treatment, you have the reassurance of knowing your cover includes consultation fees, surgery, diagnostic tests, cancer treatment and emergency dental treatment, as well as accommodation costs for your stay in hospital.
Tel: +44 1273 936 360
Website: https://www.bupaglobal.com/en
Seoul National University Hospital – International Healthcare Center
The Seoul National University Hospital International Healthcare Center (IHC) was founded on June 1st, 1999 with the aim of increasing convenience and enhancing the efficiency of medical services for international patients. We work to help international patients with medical appointments, payments, examinations, and prescribed medications.
Address: 101 DAEHAK-RO JONGNO-GU, SEOUL 110-744, KOREA
Tel: 82-2-2072-0505
Mobile: 82-10-8831-2890
Website:  www.snuh.org/english/ihc/ihc01/sub01/
Seoul Sky Hospital
Seoul SKY Hospital is an internationally-accredited, multi-disciplinary hospital conveniently located in Seoul, South Korea.
Address: 191, Jungdae-ro, Songpa-gu, Seoul, 138-160
Tel: 10-4732-7582
Fax: 02-3401-1048
Email: skyakp@hotmail.com
Website:  www.seoulskyhospital.com/
Soon Chun Hyang University Hospital – International Clinic
Built in 1974 and organized as a University Hospital in 1980, the hospital has 800 beds with 11 operating rooms. They employ 350 doctors and 470 nurses. Of the 350 doctors, 100 are specialists with 60% of them having studied abroad in the United States, Canada, Japan and the United Kingdom.
Address: Hannam-dong, Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Korea
Website:  www.schmc.ac.kr/seoul/international/clinic/clinic.do?type=history
Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital – International Healthcare Center
Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital has a comprehensive health care system composed of 41 clinical departments with 183 special clinics and 23 special clinical centers.
Address: 222 Banpo-Daero, Seocho-gu, Seoul 137-701, Korea
Tel: +82 2 2258 5745 6
Website:  www.cmcseoul.or.kr/global/eng/front?cmd=international
Asan Medical Center
ASAN Medical Center(AMC) is the largest medical institution in Korea with a total of 2,700 beds.Having performed 57,000 highly sophisticated surgeries per year, AMC ranks No. 1 in the number of surgeries of thirty(30) major diseases as well as in the number for six(6) most common cancers and organ transplantation.
Address: 88, OLYMPIC-RO 43-GIL, SONGPA-GU, SEOUL 138-736, KOREA
Tel (Registration): 82-2-3010-5001
Tel (Billing): 82-2-3010-7537
Fax: 82-2-3010-8115
Email: int@amc.seoul.kr
Website: eng.amc.seoul.kr/asan/lang/eng/main.do
Inje University Seoul Paik Hospital
Inje University Paik Hospital, which is located in Jeo-dong, Jung-Gu of Seoul, opened in 1932 and marks its 80 anniversary this year. The hospital is the first non-profit organization of its kind and is one of the front runners of private medical corporations in Korea.
Address: Marreunnae-ro 9, Jung-gu, Seoul, Korea
Tel: +82 2 2270 0114
Website:  www.paik.ac.kr/seoul/eng/01/01.asp


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