Cost of Living in Rural South Korea
The cost of living outside of major cities in Korea varies from region to region.
Some products and services are very inexpensive, while others are far more expensive in comparison to your home country.
One of the difficulties of living in rural Korea is the lack of bargain/thrift stores. If you want something simple, temporary, and used, you will be out of luck. It seems that it is unheard of to recycle products here. I have found no stores similar to: Goodwill, Salvation Army, or other thrift department stores. Due to this, if you want something simple and cheap, you have to buy a new simple and cheap product or you need to raid the garbages and take what Koreans are throwing away. There is a whole sub-culture that could exist on these castaway items.
Generally speaking, food and some services are offered at a low cost, especially if you can buy it from a market. (Beware: some vendors will not hesitate to crank up their prices for foreigners when you ask them how much something is.)
Eating out in rural Korea is relatively cheap. A good meal can be purchased anywhere from 3000-5000 Won.
Transportation within the rural town is also quite cheap. Taxis and buses are both inexpensive means for getting from point A to point B. Taxis in rural towns are far more efficient and convenient than larger cities because there is less traffic congestion. Therefore, your money goes towards actual movement in the taxi rather than sitting in traffic.
If you plan on spending most of your time within the rural area where you are teaching, then it is quite inexpensive to live in smaller towns. However, the lack of excitement, English speakers, and high cost of assembled products will cause one to travel to larger cities such as Seoul to receive these products and services and to get a taste of the big city excitement. This is where the cost comes in.
Transportation from rural Korea to larger cities can be a pain in the butt, both financially and the time spent in traffic jams. Many of the products found in rural Korea are much more expensive than what you’d expect to find in Seoul. The dilemma that arises is whether the time and transportation costs to get to these larger cities are worth the cost difference. My first time to a Seoul market after spending a few months in rural Korea was an eye-opening experience. I couldn’t believe how cheap everything was! This has enticed me to do much of my product purchasing in larger cities.
Of course, the cost of living is only as accurately described as the person doing the spending. If you like to shop and buy material things, then rural Korea is not the ideal place to do this. If, on the other hand, you are not a big spender, rural Korea is a good place to reside if you like the quiet life. All in all, I am living quite comfortably in rural Korea by spending between 400,000 and 600,000 Won a month.
However, after a few months in rural Korea, you might be feeling the itch to be somewhere a little more exciting. The cost for going places where this excitement occurs is where the cost of living begins to increase. Traveling around Korea when your home is outside of a metro area is quite inconvenient and expensive. The little transportation costs begin to add up, and it’s easy to find yourself wishing you lived nearer to major bus and train stations than an hour or two away.
In conclusion, the cost of living in rural Korea is going to depend on the person and what they want. Pay will be less outside of major cities, both in terms of salary and private lessons. It is still possible to save up a good deal of money in rural Korea, but the temptation to be entertained will make the transportation costs to larger cities go up. There are fewer products and services offered in rural Korea, so it can be easy to start spending wildly in order to keep you sane and entertained.