Daily Life in Korea
Everything you need to know about living in Korea.
Foreign embassies in Korea
You can find a list of foreign embassies in South-Korea here (http://embassy.goabroad.com/embassies-in/south-korea).
Korea Post (http://www.epost.co.kr) is the national postal service of South Korea and in charge of postal service, postal banking and insurance services. It offers basic postal services like handling and delivering mail and parcels, additional postal services like registered mail, customer pickup, sales of local products by mail order and postal errand service, postal savings, money orders and postal giro, as well as postal insurance.
Registration at the Immigration Office
Foreigners staying in South-Korea for more than 90 days have to register themselves at the Immigration Office to obtain a visa and an alien registration card.
Traffic and transportation
The subway in South-Korea is one of the most convenient ways to get around. The Metropolitan Subway in Seoul among others is one of the most heavily used rapid transit systems in the world and extends to Incheon, Gyeonggi-do, northern Chungcheongnam-do, and western Gangwon-do. Fares differ slightly depending on age and distances. Tickets are administered as cards for either a single journey or multiple journeys. Multiple journey ticket cards are called T-Money cards and are conveniently re-chargeable at one of the many multi-lingual ticket automats all around the stations or at the counter of convenience stores. For visitors, there is also the option of obtaining a Metropolitan Pass, or M-Pass in short, allowing passengers a limited number of rides.
Transferring between different trains or lines does not usually require multiple single-journey tickets or the exiting out of security gates. There are, however, stations that do, like Seoul Station, Noryangjin Station and Gyeyang Station.
Busses in South-Korea are another very convenient way to get around the city. The very extensive network ensures that even areas that are not covered by subway are easily reachable by bus.
Enter the bus in the front where you can pay your fare in cash or with your T-Money card. If you pay in cash, however, it is recommended to prepare the exact amount. Shortly before your station, signal the bus driver that you want to get off by pushing the red button found inside the bus and disembark through the back door.
Another convenient way of transportation is hailing a taxi. Common taxis are usually gray or yellow and finding one will not be difficult anywhere at any time in any Korean city. Basic fare hovers around \2.400 and covers the first two kilometers of the ride. The fare increases by increments of \100 depending either on time or distance. Please be aware that between midnight and 4 o’clock a.m. the basic fare of taxis is \2.880.
Deluxe taxis or “mobeom” meanwhile, easily recognizable thanks to their black color and yellow sign on top, offer rides at a basic fare of \4.500 for the first three kilometer and increase by \200. Deluxe Taxi drivers have been specially trained in special customer care and need to have had 10 years accident free experience driving a standard taxi.
Getting around the South-Korean peninsula is likewise convenient by KTX operated by Korail. The top speed for its trains in regular service is currently 305 km/h or 190 mph, though the train systems were originally constructed to reach 350 km/h.
High-technology entertainment systems, vending machines and other amenities inside the trains have all been designed with comfort of the traveler in mind. Traveling with the KTX therefore is convenient and affordable to anyone while able to bring you to your destination in a very short time.
Opening a bank account
To open a bank account, please bring your passport and alien registration card. You will be required to fill out a form, ask for English assistance if needed, the bank will be happy to help you. Opening an account is free, as are maintenance, administration and withdrawal from ATMs of your bank. Additional services, however, like obtaining an ATM card at some banks, will be charged. Account owners will not be able to use ATMs the first three months after opening the account. In the meanwhile, you will receive an account book with which you can manage your banking over the counter. Telephone banking or internet banking need to be applied for separately when opening your account.
Banks in South-Korea
Keep to the big, established banks since they will surely have at least one person who is able to assist you in English. These banks include KBStar (http://www.kbstar.com), Woori Bank (http://www.wooribank.com/), Hana Bank (http://www.hanabank/) and Shinhan Bank (http://www.shinhan.com).
Hospitals and clinics
There are a number of international hospitals in South-Korea to which you can turn in case of sickness or accidents. While the staff might not speak English the doctors will be able to consult you in English. However, doctors or staff members in many not-international hospitals often also speak sufficient English so do check with your local hospital or clinic.
The National Medical Insurance Plan covers everyone residing in Korea which includes foreigners. It is a co-pay system priced at a percentage of about 5% of one’s salary while employer and employee each pay 50% of the premium, which is calculated from the first date of employment and deducted monthly. Benefits for Koreans and foreigners alike is 20% to 50% of the treatment received at a hospital or medical clinic and 30% of the charge for prescription drugs. Enrollment in the National Medical Insurance Plan is also required for those that self-employed. For more information, refer to the website: http://www.nhic.or.kr/english/main.html.
Cell phone rental
You can rent a mobile phone from one of three mobile phone and network providers in Korea, KT, SK and S-roaming, directly when arriving at the airport.
Prepaid and pay-as-you-go
Prepaid SIM cards are available at SK or KTF cell phone stores. You can use them for used or new phones. New phones can, for example, be purchased at the Yongsan Digital Complex or other electronics outlets. Many cell phone stores throughout South-Korea offer used phones for purchase. While receiving calls and text messages is free and sending text messages comes at reasonable pricing, the per-minute call rate can come in quite expensive. LG Telecom also offers an additional pay-as-you-go plan that requires you to recharge your balance as you go. Again, calling rates are steep but this option may be attractive for visitors who do not plan on staying on for long.
Cell phone contract
For visitors deciding to stay in South-Korea for longer, it is possible to sign up for a cell phone contract with the help of a Korean friend acting as co-signer. In this way you are also able to receive a brand new phone for little to no money. You will need a credit card and an alien registration card. The contract will be set up so that the bill will initially be settled through your co-signer’s account but you can easily change this so you can settle the bill yourself directly. From then on, the only help you will need from your co-signer is if you want to change service options or cancel the contract because these require his or her ID number.
Electricity and voltage
The standard voltage in South-Korea is 220 volts. Electrical sockets or outlets are one of the two European standard electrical socket types with two round plug holes, "Type C" Europlug and "Type E" and "Type F" Schuko. Plug adapters are available in convenient stores across the country.
Tap water in South-Korea is very clean and generally consumable. It passed in all 145 requirements for good water quality by the World Health Organization which has found zero bacteria, cadmium or lead in its probes in 2009. However, due to the strong smell and taste of the tap water Koreans still prefer purified bottled water.
Showers are normally not sealed, which means that the shower water will flood the entire bathroom floor and leave through a big drain let into it. Bathtubs are not the norm; however, there will be apartments and houses that include one.
While Western style toilets with a toilet bowl to sit on prevail throughout South-Korea you can oftentimes still find traditional style toilets in public places. They will be let into the ground and require you to squat to use. For Western visitors this may be unusual but it actually is more hygienic.
Air conditioning and heating
The summers in South-Korea can get pretty hot while the winters can be very cold. Most apartments and houses, public buildings and transportation are sufficiently equipped with air conditioners. Modern air conditioners also serve as heaters in the winter but many apartments or houses are also equipped with floor heating.
The South-Korean Standard time is UTC +9, usually abbreviated as KST. South-Korea does not have a daylight saving time system.