Working and Business > Teaching in Korea

Housing for Teachers

The employer may provide housing for teachers, pay a housing allowance and/or cover the ‘rental’ deposit. Since housing is quite expensive in Korea, your accommodations may be more modest than what you may be used to in your home country. However, your housing should not be less than what was promised (and hopefully described) in your contract.
If your employer is not providing housing, you want to be aware of the rental system in Korea:

a. Key money (jonsei) is a fraction of the unit’s value or one year’s rent (anywhere from 30 million won on up) paid in advance, with no monthly rent payment.  At the end of the contract period, the owner returns the money in full, but without interest.  When possible, it is best if the employer pays the jonsei . Getting the key money back can be risky for the foreign teacher because property ownership may change in the middle of the contract period, or an unscrupulous owner may simply decide that the foreign tenant is in no position to take the necessary legal steps to get it back.
b. Wolse is a combination of deposit and monthly rent. The initial deposit will run from W3 million on up. The higher it is, the lower the monthly rent. Because interest rates are not so generous these days, many owners prefer this system, especially in areas where there are a lot of foreign tenants. The deposit is supposed to be returned when the tenant leaves, but some owners will do their best to hold on to the money.
c. Pre-paid rent involves paying the full rent in advance for the 12-24 months of the lease. Not surprisingly, this is the system most owners prefer, but the disadvantages for the tenant are obvious.

Housing options for teachers:

Shared apartment in a large apartment complex where the units are usually quite modern and roomy but it does involve sharing with 2-4 other people. The apartment may or may not be ‘furnished’. Often when Koreans say a unit is furnished, they generally mean that there is a one or two plate burner, a small fridge and possibly a mat or mattress for sleeping. You may want to get a list of what you will need to bring or purchase for yourself and what is actually provided spelled out in your contract. Apartments in these complexes usually have a bathtub, albeit maybe shorter than what you might have at home.

Small apartment building/flat can vary from one small room in which you can barely fit a mattress to one or two rooms. Note that some Koreans talk about 2-3 bedroom apartments when the unit only has 2 or 3 rooms in all. This type of housing generally does not have a bathtub, but rather a kind of shower with no shower stall (wet floor/walls, etc.). See above for the definition of furnished.

Officetels are combination home and office space. Many young professional, who are living on their own (a relatively new phenomenon in Korea) live in these one room studio-style units. Officetels are usually quite modern and attractively furnished. Most are equipped only with showers.

Dormitories are where some universities lodge their foreign teachers. Some have special buildings for foreign teachers/faculty that may have single studio-type rooms or in some case, actual 2-3 room apartments.

Homestay, which means living with a local family, is another option. This can be an excellent opportunity to experience Korean life and culture, but again, the lack of privacy can be a disadvantage. Some employers will try to place their teachers in the homes of their friends, often in exchange for ‘free’ English lessons, as the instructor later discovers. Despite the positive aspects of the home stay option, the majority of teachers eventually prefer to find more private accommodations within a relatively short period of time.

Rooming/Lodging Houses (hasuk) and Inns/Motels (yogwan) are options some employers may suggest. Although the former are popular with Korean college students, they are not a good option for most foreign teachers. The same applies to yogwans. The lack of privacy in both can be problematic. Teachers who stay in yogwans are often seen as not being quite respectable because of the perceptions regarding those who normally stay there.

K4E Editor: tries to ensure that the information we provide is accurate and complete, so should you notice any errors or omissions in the content above please contact us at


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