Where is the curiosity? The best places to live in South Korea are there
It’s no secret that the cost of living in many parts of the Western world is extremely high right now. However, several countries in the east offer a low standard of living due to poor infrastructure, slow economic development or lack of modern facilities.
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One Asian country that has a comfortable standard of living at an affordable price is South Korea, and the proof of this can be seen in the country’s popularity among expats. However, the cities and towns here are very diverse and all have their pros and cons.
So if you’re thinking of moving to this part of Asia, you’ll be happy to hear what we’ve researched for you. Below are six of the best places to live in South Korea to help you choose the city that suits you best.
Daegu is the country’s third largest city and is easily one of the best places to live in South Korea for expats. It has a vibrant nightlife, lots of things to do and plenty of job opportunities for foreigners too.
Plus, there’s a good mix of Korean and Western-style bars and cafes, and a large expat community, so you’ll never feel too far from home living in Daegu.
Another great advantage of living in Daegu is the affordable cost of living. Monthly rental costs are less than half the price in Seoul, averaging between $200 and $350 for a one-bedroom apartment.
Consumer prices, including food and dining, are also much lower here, making living in Daegu both enjoyable and comfortable.
Due to the low cost of living, digital nomads and non-local expats are more likely to choose Daegu over the capital city. In addition, you can reach Seoul in 650 minutes by bullet train, and there is easy access to other places in South Korea.
Here, in terms of jobs, the electronics industry, production and science are developing. However, there are also many vacancies for English teachers and the teaching industry is less competitive than in Seoul.
One disadvantage of Daegu is that it is the most conservative city in South Korea, where traditional values are still widely held. So, if you choose to live here, you need to learn the culture well and respect it.
The major port city of Busan on the southeast coast is another popular choice among expats. Although the city is full of tall buildings, the surrounding nature and beaches give Busan the perfect balance between urban life and tranquility.
Foreign expats living and working in South Korea love Busan because it has many outdoor activities, mild winters, and a great and welcoming community. This is especially popular among English teachers as the education sector continues to grow.
In addition to job availability, wages are competitive and the cost of living is affordable. However, nowhere is perfect, so Busan also has its downsides.
For example, the locals are not as friendly as in other parts of the country and summer can be very busy with tourists.
The capital, Seoul, is one of the best cities to live in South Korea due to its eclectic nightlife, diverse cuisine and large expat community. In addition, foreigners love the contrast between modern and old in Seoul, from the high-tech subways and pop culture to the many temples and palaces dotted around the city.
There is always something to do in the capital and there are frequent concerts and festivals. As one of the most important financial and technological centers in East Asia, there are also many jobs.
There are many international companies here, including Samsung, Amazon and IBM.
Seoul is constantly changing and developing, so it’s the place to be if you like innovation. However, life is fast-paced in this bustling metropolis, so if you prefer small towns, you might want to give Seoul a miss.
Aside from being noisy and busy, living in Seoul has a number of downsides. Unlike other Asian capital cities, English is not widely spoken here, so it helps to learn a few basic Korean phrases.
Moreover, the air pollution is very high and the traffic is constantly getting worse.
It is also an expensive place to live, with a much higher cost of living than many other top cities in South Korea. For example, renting a one-room apartment in Seoul costs between 550 and 850 dollars.
South Korea isn’t usually the first country that comes to mind when you think of island living. However, Jeju Island, located off the south coast, is so happy that it is often compared to Hawaii.
Jeju’s southern location means that the climate here is much more pleasant than other major cities in South Korea. Moreover, the beaches are beautiful and there are many places to explore nature, including the World Heritage Natural Site of Jeju Volcanic Island and Lava Tubes.
Therefore, Jeju is a popular vacation destination for local Korean and Asian tourists and is especially popular with honeymooners. As a result, life is peaceful and enjoyable. However, being a small island, the expat community is not large and most of the locals do not speak English.
Thus, knowing the basic Korean language is very important to get along with the local people.
Another downside to Jeju is that the cost of living can be quite high. Housing, in particular, is not as cheap as other parts of South Korea, with one-bedroom apartments ranging from $700 to $1,000.
Also, there are few jobs available for foreigners, including English language teaching vacancies. Therefore, Jeju suits digital nomads and remote workers who want to enjoy the beach life.
If you want to live in the city but don’t like the idea of dealing with crowds and traffic, head to Incheon. The coastal city is only an hour from Seoul by train, but it feels like another world.
In terms of area, Incheon is twice as big as Seoul. However, there are only 3 million residents in the capital, compared to about 10 million.
Incheon is home to the country’s largest international airport, a seaport, various green spaces, shopping centers and markets. From here you can easily take a boat and visit one of the beautiful nearby islands such as Yongheungdo.
There are many English teacher jobs and many business and investment opportunities in Incheon. It is also an affordable place to live; you can rent a one-bedroom apartment for $250 to $500 a month.
However, one bad thing about Incheon is the air pollution. You’d think it’s much better than Seoul, but unfortunately it’s not because of the nearby factories and ports.
Located in the southwestern corner of South Korea, Gwangju is a smart little city with a rich history. There isn’t much western influence here, so it’s one of the best cities in South Korea if you’re after a real cultural immersion.
There are many places to explore and learn about the history of Gwangju, such as the Asian Cultural Center, Bosong Tea Fields, Mt. Mudeung National Park, and May 18 Memorial Park. There is also some fantastic local food, but one thing you won’t find much of here is western food.
Although this Asian city has not become too westernized, there is still a vibrant English-speaking expat community. That way, if you choose to move to Gwangju, you won’t feel out of your depth.
Teaching jobs are relatively easy to find here, but there are few other jobs for foreigners. However, if you can find a job or work remotely, you will benefit from a lower cost of living.
For example, you can find a one-bedroom apartment in Gwangju for less than $300.
Final thoughts on the best places to live in South Korea
If you’re looking to get ahead of the fast-paced lifestyle and excel in your career, you may find the big northern cities like Seoul and Incheon just what you need.
However, if you want to avoid the crowds, pollution and cold winters, opt for southern coastal cities and islands like Jeju or Busan.
Not sure if South Korea is the right place for you? Read one of the foreign guides: