Your Name (if you would like it to appear):
S. Korea, Seoul
How long have you been here? (give years please, ex. 2003-present)
2008 – 2010 Command Sponsored
What is housing like? On-post? (waiting list, conditions, etc.) Off-post? Any areas to stay away from? Average price to rent or buy?
Lower Enlisted and Junior NCO’s are in High Rise Housing at Hannam Village, which is about a 15 minute walk to post but shuttles run hourly. The housing is based on rank and family size. There is a waiting list and it will depend on when you get here as it changes all the time. The housing is small and a little cramped. AC is provided by individual units in each room. The heat is controlled by the post and usually runs from October-April. No pets are allowed at Hannam Village so do not bring them with you if you plan to live on post.\
Senior Enlisted and Officers have several areas that are open to them. Hannam, South Post, Black Hawk Village, Burke Tower and Itaewon Acres. Type of housing that you receive does depend on where you live. It is best to research at the Housing One Stop once you know what you qualify for. Pets are allowed on South Post.
There are several different types of apartments here in Seoul. High Rise, Villa and Single Family Home. The single family homes are VERY hard to find and super expensive so don’t even try it.
Villas are usually in 4-8 story buildings and some don’t have elevators. The villa is large and comfortable and the price is comparable to the highrise. Most of the time utilities are not included in the price of rent. So please be aware of this when you are making your choice of where to live. Rent is usually 2000-4000 dollars a month. You are paid OHA and a deposit
I live in a high rise. My rent is almost 3500 a month and that includes utilities. What we don’t use out of our utilities it is given back to us at the end of the contract year. In the winter it is roughly 400 dollars and in the summer 600. The amount you get for utilities does change. So don’t count on it until you get your housing contract.
I do have in floor heating or ondul. This is my FAVORITE thing about our apartment. Our heating bill is usually 80 bucks in the winter and that is keeping the house at 72 degrees all day long. The toasty warm floors do come with a price. You feet will dry out faster so make sure to keep them moisturized!
Summer is HOT here so make sure to plan ahead of the AC costs. We went hog wild with AC last year and we paid for it later. Our electricity bill for July and August was 1000 dollars. Only use it when you have to. Buy lots of 220 fans. We didn’t use the AC at all in June and our bill was 150. In Seoul you are given a certain amount for eletricity and each unit you use over that amount they can double and even triple. So make sure you talk to your realtor about the rates in your building.
Video Link to my apartment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ub26Msz4Hxs
Housing does provide nice furniture but I would bring your own bed and couch. You only get 50% of your move allowance for the states so please be aware of that amount when moving here. There isn’t always a lot of storage areas in some places.
When choosing a place to live look at traffic, bus and subway accessibility and how far it is from post. Most people either live in Itaewon, Park Towers or CJNine Park. If you are wanting to truly absorb the culture living off post is the best way to do so! I like the high rises but others want the larger SQ footage of the villa. It is all about personal preference. Make sure to check for mold, since it gets extremely humid here in the summer mold is often found everywhere. Do not rent a place that has mold.
Rate the PX & Commissary.
PX: It is okay. I am not a fan of the clothing selection. Unless you are a size 0 or a 90 year old Korean lady, you will not care for the women’s clothing. There is barely a maternity section and the shoes are not that great. It will be a good resource when you have no other option and need something that day.
Commissary is great for frozen or prepackaged items on the shelf. I do not recommend their produce at all, it goes rotten after a day and frankly poor quality. Buy it off post and wash it with produce wash.
Activities on base?
Movie theater, bowling alley, a couple bars and nice restaurants of course. There is a family fun center, a driving range, several pools and one indoor pool. There is a decent Arts and Craft shop that has classes and plenty of things you can do on your own. The children’s clubs are very active during the summer and has something going on at least once a week.
Since we are in a foreign country, we limit our time on base. We spend a majority of our time off post and exploring.
Active Spouses Club?
Yes! There is the American Forces Spouses Club! I love this organization and have volunteered through them since I got here. They always have something planned and have monthly luncheons. You also have volunteer opportunities and the ability to work in the Chosun Gift Shop. I would highly recommend joining!
Things to do in area?
What isn’t there to do!?! Seoul is a large wonderful city that always has something for everyone.
Itaewon, Nandaemun, Dondaemun, and Insadong are just a few of the shopping districts here. Seoul is a large city and shopping is one of the favored activities here. You won’t find as many “American” style malls but there are a couple great open air markets like The ones I mentioned above. Insadong and Dondaemun are my favorites.
Insadong is the most fun in the summer on Saturdays. There are traditional tea houses, antique stores, restaurants, and demonstrations everywhere. I love the homemade jewelry and pottery that you can get here. Plus it is much cheaper than Itaewon for souvenirs and the vendors are always willing to bargain.
Dondaemun is where some of the best shopping is found. There is a fashion district, a fabric market, a toy center, and book and craft alley. It is one big open air market and it is best to go on a Saturday. Sundays are slower and not as many of the shops are open. I have gotten some great deals on fabric, clothing and pet supplies here.
Beef and Leaf/BBQ places are the best to enjoy. The meat is cooked in front of you and you get unlimited side dishes to fill you up. Do not be afraid of trying everything in the little bowls. Kimchi is the staple of Korean food, while it can be spicy it is something you can not come to Korea and not try!
I love trying all the little hole in the wall restaurants. They are small with one or two tables but the food is homecooked and amazing. My favorite dish is Cheesy Ramen with gimbap.
Stay away from “American” type resturants like Outback. It is very expensive and the portions are smaller and they do not taste the same.
One thing you will see everywhere are food stands. Korean Street food is everywhere and very yummy! I love dokbokii and gimaree. I eat it exclusively in the winter time.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GzjajL1lOh0 : introduction to street food.
This is something new to Korea. The parks are not always the same as the ones in the states but they can be a lot of fun. They are a little expensive but still have the basic slides and wave pools. It is worth going to if you love waterparks!
Everland and Lotte World are the largest ones in Korea. I would suggest going to both.
I like Lotte World but only if you have small children and love long waits in line. The park is inside so avoid going in the summer or during Korean holidays. I went on a Tuesday and found it wasn’t as crowded. It is a popular date spot. There is a great museum that is also included in the price of admission. I would compare the rides to a decent state fair.
Everland is more a long the lines of Disney World. There are more rides and shows than Lotte World and it is completely outside. But the rides are not as exciting as some of the parks we have in the states. Do not expect large roller coasters. They do have a sledding hill there in the winter and a smallish zoo. I went in the winter and found it to be not crowded and I was able to ride almost anything we wanted more than once.
I love them. I have gone a couple times and found them to be a wonderful relaxing atmosphere. Since I can’t comment on all I will just recommend the one I went to. The Dragon Hill Spa(not affiliated with the Dragon Hill Lodge on post) is clean and hygienic. It is located next to the Ipark mall in Yongsan and close to the Electronics Market. It wasn’t expensive, about 12000 won, for one person to go swimming and enjoy the baths, steam rooms and sweat rooms. Bring your own towel and cleaning products. Also, this is a naked area, so be aware that many of the people in your bath area will be naked. I got over it rather quickly, just as much as you aren’t looking at them, they aren’t looking at you.
They do have several packages but I would skip the massage. The Asian massage is very different then in the states and you will feel like they are beating you up. I have gotten bruises before, so I recommend skipping it.
Osan: I love Osan, they have the best purses off post and their BX is a little better. This is an AF base so IMHO the facilities are nicer. They also have a Chili’s on post. Also this is the best place to purchase Mink blankets. Do not get them in Itaewaon.
Sokcho: Quite possible my favorite place in Korea. It is a smallish seaside village that has beautiful mountains for hiking and camping and the Sea of Japan for swimming and fishing. Mt Soraksan is here and is one of the most beautiful areas in all of Korea. It is about 2 hours drive from Seoul with no traffic and is a little on the expensive side, but very worth going to. We love the Seafood market where you can get fresh(like just off the boat) fish and crab. I had a crab that they just got off the boat and it was steamed right then and there. It was amazingly good.
This is just a small slice of things to do. There are tons of museums, historical sites and even folk villages(think Williamsburg VA) that you can go to as well. I could write a book about all the places we have been to. Do not be afraid to get lost here! You often find the best stuff when you are, I know we did!
No children. There is an elementary, middle school and high school on post.
Any colleges in area?
There is an education center on post that has some classes and offers online classes as well. It is the typical online schools of UMCC and Central Texas. There are tons of wonderful local colleges off post but I am not sure of the requirements for enrollment.
Jobs? (on post and off)
Off Post: If you are planning to teach English, get the proper visa, talk with the US Embassy for this. Do not do so without it. You can get deported, fined and your spouse will get in trouble. Is it worth it? There are several schools that will hire you if you have a college degree. I loved teaching here off post and one family has become so special to me. They have even planned a visit to us in Germany(our next duty station). If you speak Korean and English there will always be companies that would love to hire you. There is also the US Embassy as well.
On Post: Just like in the states it is who you know. There are jobs at the commissary and the PX but those are usually taken by Korean Nationals. It is getting better for spouses here to get jobs but the process is slow. If you are a teacher, in the medical profession or childcare you will find a job easily.
Favorite aspect of this base/surrounding city?
Being in such a large city. There is a great public transportation system and there is always something going on.
Least favorite aspect?
Nothing. Korea is a wonderful tour. It does suck to be away from family and you can make any situation negative, but Korea is one of the best overseas tours available.
Any other tips?
There are tons of little booths that say “Tourist Info” all over Seoul. Do not be afraid to go in one! They have maps, magazines, tourist pamphlets and discount coupons.
Links to help you on your journey to the Land of the Morning Calm.
http://www.eatyourkimchi.com – a foreingers guide to Korea
http://www.facebook.com/youryongsan – Yongsan FB page
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Yongsan-South-Korea/US-Forces-Korea-Official-Page/425064710222 – USFK page
http://yongsan.korea.army.mil/ Yongsan Main page
http://www.army.mil/-news/2008/06/26/10400-planning-your-move-to-korea/index.html plan your move
http://www.army.mil/-news/2008/07/24/11206-what-to-expect-when-you-arrive-at-incheon-airport/index.html Airport FAQ
http://www.army.mil/-news/2008/06/26/10406-shopping-with-a-ration-control-card/index.html Ration Control
http://www.army.mil/-news/2008/07/23/11109-yongsan-readiness-center-adjusts-newcomer-orientation-program/index.html – Newcomer info
http://www.army.mil/-news/2008/07/02/10551-acs-explains-sofa-stamp-a3-visa-procedures/index.html Visa info
http://www.army.mil/-news/2008/06/26/10398-bringing-a-pet-to-korea/index.html Pet Info