Unique Things About Korean Housing

This afternoon as I was looking up possible housing options online for next year, I started thinking about all the differences between Korean housing (houses, townhouses, apartments) and those back home in the states. Quite frankly, some of these differences are also unlike other places I’ve lived (China, Albania, Thailand, and Indonesia).

First off, the rental pricing structure and high costs would put most Americans off. The prices are quoted in yearly rental prices, and must be paid in one-year increments before you move in. My budget, allocated by my school, is 18 million Korean won per year (~14,600 USD). Many places I found online today were in the 24 – 60 million range (19,400 – 48,500 USD). I wonder if there are other, more affordable options to be found. Navigating the site in Korean was really tricky, so hopefully I can get a Korean friend to help me. In addition to paying a year’s rent up front, you also have to pay a hefty deposit in advance. The deposit is at least the yearly rent, but many of the rentals I saw online had larger deposits. For example, a place I liked was 30 million won a year plus a 48 million won deposit. That means you’d be paying 63,000 USD up front!

All Korean houses are unlocked by a keypad on the front door rather than a key. My door also talks to me in a British accent, which cracks up everyone who comes over. I love not having to carry keys, but it’s a pain when I come home and the batteries on my door have run out. It’s only happened twice, but it’s weird that there’s no warning that the battery is low before it runs out. The only way to get back in is to “jump” the battery with a 9-volt. I’ve taken to carrying one around in my car just in case.

One of the nicest things about Korean houses is the under floor heating in the winter. Under floor heating is a radiant kind of heat, much different than the heating systems that blow out hot air. The only thing that’s tough is trying to find the right temperature at night, as your bed can get too hot from the floor heating.

As you may know, it’s customary to remove your shoes in Asian homes, a tradition I fully embrace now. The entryway is lower than the rest of the floor in the house and tiled in a different material. There are also cupboards in the entryway to store our shoes away, which is really convenient.

The windows are versatile. They are double-glazed and open two different ways. You can open them completely (inward like a door opens) or just a crack them a little at an angle (from the top) to let the breeze in and keep the rain mostly out. There are screens on each window that can be pulled up or down. With the spring and fall weather being so perfect, I utilize the angled windows often.

Lastly, due to the smaller size of the houses/apartments, there are a few appliances that do double-duty and save space. We have washer/dryer combos, which you can find in some smaller places in other countries too. The microwave and oven are one machine, which always confuses me since I can put metal in the microwave; it feels so wrong to do that. I sure wish we had dishwashers, because I despise doing dishes, but the large, deep sink with a removable drying rack is a compromise (I guess!).

Is there anything unique about homes where you live?

20 thoughts on “Unique Things About Korean Housing

  1. Amy

    This was fascinating! You brought me right there with you and I could imagine every detail. I could read about Asian homes for hours, so I’m so delighted you treated us to this very engaging and charming post. Thanks!

    Reply
  2. Terje

    The floor heating sounds nice. “My door also talks to me in a British accent” might take some getting used to.

    Reply
    1. aggiekesler Post author

      You’d love the floor heating in Estonia…I’m sure it’d be nice in the cold winter months. lol…I’m used to it now, and am only reminded of the humorousness of it when I have visitors.

      Reply
  3. glenda funk

    This is interesting, especially the rental payment being up front. It would shock many Americans, I live in Idaho where most houses have basements and huge garages (ours has three bays w/ one extra deep for a shop area). We have keyless entry, and some top up/bottom down shades, which I’m in the process of replacing. I’ve traveled to all 50 states and notice regional differences in style, etc. among homes. I love thinking about the various ways folks live and see value in most. Good luck w/ the search.

    Reply
    1. aggiekesler Post author

      Thanks for reading, Glenda! All 50 states!?! Wow…that’s an accomplishment. I think I’m only at 27. We have such a unique country that you can find differences in many things (food, houses, accents/words) wherever you go. I haven’t heard of any basements here, but it’s probably because we live on an island and are too close to sea level.

      Reply
  4. mschiubookawrites

    I really liked learning about your housing situation. Instead of keys, you carry a battery recharger! Just wow. Love the heated floors and versatile windows. I remember having a washer but no dryer in HK, but there was a clothesline in the kitchen (where the washer was). My memory is fuzzy; I wish I had written it down.

    Reply
    1. aggiekesler Post author

      haha…I sure do! I just always keep a 9 volt in the car. I’ve gotten used to line drying clothes while living abroad. The only things I dry are towels and sheets. I HATE the stiffness of line dried towels. So scratchy!

      Reply
  5. Fran Haley

    Fascinating post – I am in awe of all the places you have lived! Unique pros and cons everywhere, no doubt. Carrying around a battery so you can get in your house if the one in the keypad dies without warning (!!). When I was a baby my family lived in a house with radiant heating in the floor… my dad said he thought it would be nice and warm for a baby to crawl on. So happens that this house was originally the hospital morgue in a WWII camp.

    Reply
    1. aggiekesler Post author

      Thanks Fran! There are definitely pros and cons everywhere…no place is perfect. What a unique house…a hospital morgue!?! Now that’s a slice I’d read!

      Reply
  6. Fran McCrackin

    I always enjoy learning about where you live, thanks for this focus on housing. We all love to “shop” for a place vicariously!!! And so many ideas could be used here in the states- the shoe cupboards, the windows, the streamlined appliances. Not the paying a year upfront, though- gosh!

    Reply
    1. aggiekesler Post author

      I love learning about other places, too! 🙂 Glad you stopped by. We could definitely take some of these ideas, but the rent up front is not one I’d choose!

      Reply
  7. kimhaynesjohnson

    What a neat post! I need to take my shoes off when I enter my own house but don’t…..and I want a door that talks to me in a British accent. We’ve been considering the combination lock as well. This makes me want to make the leap.

    Reply
    1. aggiekesler Post author

      Thanks! Once I realized how we track all kinds of shit (literally sometimes) into our homes, I just can’t wear shoes in the house ever again. It used to annoy me at first, and now it annoys me when people wear shoes in the house (like when I go home). Haha…I can totally repeat the phrases in a near perfect accent since I’ve heard it so many times. The lock thing is a game changer!

      Reply
  8. Book Dragon

    I wonder if the increased cost of housing is a global phenomenon or just region specific? In Vancouver, a one bedroom rental is at minimum $2,000 per month.

    Reply
    1. aggiekesler Post author

      I’m not sure, but in the last year, the rental hike here has been astronomical. I don’t know how they can raise the prices that much in such a short time. Some places have literally almost doubled in less than 12 months (from 15 million to 28 million per year). That’s a crazy price in Vancouver!!

      Reply
  9. livinglife816287820

    I love your description of Korean housing, so informative and so, so, so different from India. The places sound nice and convenient overall, but the cost is unbelievable! Having to pay in advance sounds very offputting. Underfloor heating sounds great, some apartments in Vietnam are like that.
    Where we live in Meghalaya most students live in a hut or a room of a concrete building, usually with one bedroom, a tiny kitchen area where they cook over charcoal or wood, probably they eat on the floor and usually wash outside if there’s a verandah and the toilet….somewhere out there!!

    Reply
    1. aggiekesler Post author

      Thank you! It’s always interesting to learn about life in other places. Your city/town sounds VERY different than mine. I can’t imagine living in a hut. Puts things in perspective!

      Reply

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