Moving in Korea

by Mike Still
Moving in Korea

Moving to a foreign country can be tough and somehow moving within that country can be even harder.  I’ve moved apartments twice and this weekend picked up furniture for the second time in one of the strangest Korean experiences I’ve ever had.  The full story is below but I’m gonna give you some of the basics of moving to help you in case you come to Korea in the future.

The first step in moving is of course finding a new apartment.  Depending on your desires, Korean language abilities and Korean friends this can go a handful of ways.  The best thing to do is head to a realtor (부동산) but I’ll get into that in a bit.  I’m gonna cue you in on getting a moving truck first since that’s what his weekend was and you might need one even without changing apartments.

(Scroll past this advice for my weekend debacle and save by E-Mark)

Renting a moving truck/van
E-Mark Logistics – 
E-Mark came to our rescue this weekend.  He is the only native English speaker to do moves and has a huge van!  He’ll arrange a price ahead of time and stick to it.  Plus he’s got soft spot for foreigners that get screwed by Koreans.
Call E-Mark: 010-2399-2926 or find him on Facebook
Bongo Trucks –
  These are basically big pickups that specialize in moving.
I’ve had some success with them being inexpensive (50-200,000 won per trip) but will be sticking with E-Mark from now on.  If you need a Bongo truck you can find a number to call through any of the expat Facebook groups.
WARNING: The Korean men that run Bongo Trucks usually don’t speak English, often arrive late and try to upcharge you!
Full Service Movers – These guys will show up at your apartment, pack everything into boxes, put it in the truck, move it and then unpack it at our new apartment.  I’ve seen quotes from 450,000 to 1,500,000won depending on the move.  You can find them on Google or Facebook but I’ve only seen people who had a 3rd party pay for their move use these guys.

Finding a new apartment

Step 1: Find your price range
 The first thing to know is that rent and security deposits work different in Korea.  You will pay a LARGE deposit known as key money with a lower monthly rent.  Typical Key money is 5,000,000won and the sky is the limit on a negotiable scale with the rent.  Here are some examples of prices I’ve seen.

  • Studio apartments 5-10 mil key money with 300-700,000won monthly rent
  • Studio apartment 50 mil key money NO RENT
  • 2 BR 1 bathroom 10-20 mil key money with 700-1,200,000won monthly rent
  • 3 BR 2 bathroom 25-75 mil key money with 1-2 mil monthly rent
  • 3 BR 2 bathroom 300 mil key money NO RENT

Get idea for what you want to spend and then head to a realtor!

NOTE: Key money is guaranteed up to a certain amount (I think 75mil) by the banks.  Unfortunately its common practice to wait until a new tenant pays the key money for you to receive yours.  Landlords can talk to each other if your in a pinch.

Step 2: Pick a location and find a realtor (부동산)
Realtors are a dime a dozen in Korea.  Walk down any street you’ll see a handful.  Keep walking and you’ll see more.  Take a look at a map and decide where you wanna go then walk into the first realtor you see.  If you speak a little Korean you can tell them the numbers or just write it down.  Tell them the rooms & bathrooms you’re looking for then wait.

NOTE: Koreans write these prices shorthand in 10,000 increments
 500,000 rent with 5 mil Key money would be 50/5,000.  1.2 mil rent with 35 mil key money would be 120/3500
Useful words:
Room = 방 (bong)
Bathroom = 화장실 (hwa-jang-shil)
Square Area Measurement = 평 (pyeong) 1 pyeong is about 3.3 square meters.  Average studio is 8-12 pyeong

You can get away with a more Western style of renting in Itaewon and will find English-speaking realtors/landlords but I prefer to live in more traditional areas.

Step 3: See an apartment
If you’ve gotten this far than your Korean is as good as mine.  If not then go find a Korean friend!  When you’re in the apartment be sure to ask about FEES.  All rooms I’ve seen have had housing fees ranging from 50-300,000won per month.  This is standard and pays for things like an elevator & building maintenance but sometimes they will wait to tell you!

Do your walk around, take pictures but realize that if there is a current tenant they are NOT responsible for cleaning up after themselves.

Step 4: Get a Korean friend to help with the paperwork
Once you pick a place head back to the realtor with a Korean friend and review the lease.  Realtor commission is based of the pyeong and I found it o be about 100,000 per bedroom.  Get excited because you almost have a new apartment!
Note:When you pay for the key money landlords are often willing to take it in installments with an initial deposit.  Negotiate this as needed but also understand that they may take that liberty when repaying you too.

Step 5: Call E-Mark and move in!

Enjoy your new apartment!  Feel free to comment below with other suggestions or anecdotes about moving in Korea!

E-Mark Logistics

So back to this weekend’s adventure picking up some new furniture.  I had reserved  Mr. Kim, a highly recommended Bongo truck driver on Facebook, for 12 noon at 60,000won for a 1 way trip.  He called in the morning to move it to 1pm and arrived around 1:15 immediately telling me “my truck is broke just now. I will call friend for you.”

Bewilderingly I responded “How much?”

“We see what move and discuss when he arrives” Mr. Kim told me as we got in the elevator.  Inside I pointed out a sofa, lounge chair, air conditioner, massive wardrobe, desk, office chair and dresser.  He nodded and focused on the wardrobe saying it would be hard and he needs 2 people to help.  I told him “we have 5 people here and 3 at my apartment.  We will do the wardrobe.  We don’t want to pay an extra person to help move.”  Grunting and nodding he walked off to phone his friend.

In the next 2 hours we waited unknowingly and opted to dismantle the air conditioner and begin bringing stuff to the curb when finally Mr. Kim’s friends arrive.  2 people (which we explicitly said we don’t need) stroll in with zero English and zoom to the wardrobe.  I hear them talking and they say 250,000won in Korean so I chime in.  A little back and forth negotiation got them down to 100,000 won and even though I said we’d move everything they get started right away on the wardrobe.

30 minutes later the wardrobe is almost stuck in the entryway with a few new scratches when they give up and say it won’t fit.  We need a window lift.  Lucky for us all this furniture is a gift from a friend departing Korea and he says he can just leave the wardrobe if we don’t want it.  We agree to take an extra dresser instead, tell the movers we don’t want the wardrobe and start moving the other items downstairs.

Strangely the movers are no longer moving furniture but we figure they must be at the curb loading what we already brought down.  Perhaps they went to go get a lift truck even though we said we didn’t want one.  On my second trip down with furniture I decide to call Mr. Kim because we haven’t seen them.

90 minutes later I’ve called Mr. Kim a half-dozen times with no responses and all of our furniture is now sitting idle on the curb.  Flabbergasted I reach out to Facebook and am luckily put in touch with E-Mark!  Surprisingly he’s a native Canadian and can be here in an hour but is worried it might take 2 trips at 65,000won each since he has a panel van instead of a Bongo truck.  I hastily agree and the rest is history.  E-Mark saved the day and we even fit everything into 1 trip giving him a hefty tip as a thank you!

E-Mark Logistics


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Mike Still
Mike is a travel enthusiast, photographer and teacher. He loves adventure travel, meeting the locals and exploring new culture. As an outdoor enthusiast you can often find him hiking mountains or exploring forests trying to capture the beauty of mother nature. In 2013 he founded as he left his home in America and has been teaching or traveling around the world ever since!

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