A to Z Guide to Renting and Housing for International Students

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Living in Korea is a dream for many. There are not only a lot of things to see and do in South Korea, but it is also a great study abroad destination for many students. In 2021 alone, there were approximately 152,000 international students pursuing their higher education in this compact yet fascinating country.

house for 23 QS ranked institutions, its capital city ranked first in the QS Best Student Cities in Asia 2023 list and second in the world, tied with Munich. Seoul is home to the most prestigious “SKY” universities in South Korea: Seoul National University, Korea Universityand Yonsei University.

However, Seoul is also infamous for its the high cost of living. International students who have chosen to study in this great metropolis must prepare a large part of their monthly allowance and allocate it to rent, especially if they plan to rent a room or an apartment outside the university.

Lee Yong-Chan, a 23-year-old student, poses outside Korea University in Seoul. Source: Park Ji-Hwan/AFP

Your A-Z guide to living in Korea

There’s both good and bad news for those looking to spend less on rent and opt for on-campus housing. Living in dorms is a convenient option, but it can be difficult to get a place. For example, Korea University notes on its website that it “is unable to guarantee all international students on-campus accommodation”.

A study in Korea notes that dormitory fees can cost around US$420 to US$1,550 per semester, while off-campus rent can cost around US$300 per month, plus a security deposit. guarantee of 3000 to 5000 US dollars. Prices vary depending on your university and location.

At Korea University, for example, prices can range from KRW400,000 to KRW2,000,000 (~US$300 to US$1500) per term.

rental in korea

Each semester, local and international students compete to rent dormitories at Korean universities. Credit: Sam Wasson/Getty Images North America/Getty Images via AFP

Types of accommodation in Korea

Besides dorms, students can also look for these accommodation options when living in Korea:

  • Apartments: In South Korea, apartments are high-rise complexes. The height and number of buildings may differ in smaller towns, but typically they are owned by a company that has its own brand (like Hyundai or Lotte), notes InterNations. The apartments themselves are often larger, with more than one room.
  • Officetels: This is a combination of an office and a hotel. These studio type rentals have everything you need in one room.
  • Villas: Villas in South Korea are actually apartment buildings, usually located further from the center and have fewer than six floors. They are usually privately owned, so the owners may live near you or in the same building. There’s no elevator, though, if that’s a deal breaker for you.
  • Houses: One-story houses tend to be very expensive and located farther from town. If you’re bringing your family with you, that might be an option. Keep in mind that you will have to pay a substantial amount for your deposit and monthly rent, InterNations notes.
rental in korea

An aerial view of high-rise apartment buildings in Andong, South Korea. Credit: Ed Jones/AFP

Rental contracts in Korea

There are three types of rental contracts in South Korea:

  • Weolse: The Seoul Metropolitan Government notes that Weolse refers to the payment of a small deposit after a one- to two-year rental agreement and the payment of a monthly usage fee (monthly rent). The deposit is usually 10 to 20 times the monthly rent. InterNation notes that tThe particularity of this type of rental agreement is that you can negotiate a lower monthly rent if you increase the door step.
  • Jeonse: There have been cases when a huge sum of money has been paid to the landlord, which has allowed tenants to not have to pay rent at all. This is called a Jeonse contract, which obliges the tenant to deposit an amount of money equivalent to the price of the property. No rent payment is necessary as the landlord will collect the interest rate for the deposit for the duration of your stay (usually two years). This is less popular among international students as they cannot afford bank loans in Korea.
  • Banjeonse: InterNations notes that Banjeonse is a mixture of Weolse and Jeonse, where the tenant must post a large deposit and pay rent each month. This also means that the door step and the monthly rent will be lower. In this case, the deposit could be around 100 million KRW (~76,000 USD). Asia Society notes that in Seoul, jeonse accounts for about 70% of lease/rent contracts.
rental in korea

Living in Korea can be expensive, but not if you share a room with one or two other friends. Source: François-Xavier Marit/AFP

Rules for renting and living in Korea

Most contracts in Korea usually last at least two years. Although there are options for short-term stays, the average price for temporary rentals is usually higher than what you would pay for a home with a long-term lease, notes InterNation. However, if you want sign a one-year lease, you may be able to negotiate this with your landlord. You are allowed to break your lease if you want to leave earlier than planned. However, how you go about it is highly dependent on the owner.

When it comes to documentation, you usually need a passport, a visa and an “alien registration card”. The documents you need to present depend on the type of rental agreement you sign. For example, if you chose to take the jeonse route when renting in Korea, you will not need to prove your employment. However, if you sign a weolse lease, your landlord will most likely ask for your Employment contract.

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