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How much money do you need to live comfortably in South Korea?


Living comfortably in South Korea is a dream shared by many expats. However, the cost of living can vary widely depending on your lifestyle, location and personal preferences. In this article, we will explore what it takes to live comfortably in South Korea and how much money you need to achieve this.

Housing Costs

Housing is one of the most significant expenses in South Korea. Renting an apartment in a desirable location can cost anywhere between ₩500,000 to ₩1,500,000 per month. If you are looking for a spacious apartment with modern amenities, it may cost even more. However, if you are willing to live outside of the city center or share a flat with roommates, you can save quite a bit of money.

Food and Drink Costs

South Korea is known for its delicious cuisine and affordable street food. A meal at a local restaurant may cost around ₩10,000 to ₩15,000 per person. However, if you prefer western-style restaurants or imported ingredients, expect to pay more. Drinking alcohol can be expensive in South Korea, with prices for beer and soju ranging from ₩3,000 to ₩10,000 per drink.

Transportation Costs

Public transportation in South Korea is efficient and affordable. A single journey on the subway or bus can cost as little as ₩1,250. Taxis are also relatively cheap compared to other countries. If you plan on driving a car, be prepared to pay for gas and tolls.

Healthcare Costs

South Korea has an excellent healthcare system that is both affordable and accessible. Most foreigners choose to enroll in the National Health Insurance program, which costs around ₩100,000 per month. However, if you require specialized medical attention, the costs can add up quickly.

Education Costs

If you have children, education costs can be a significant expense. International schools can be expensive, with fees ranging from ₩20,000,000 to ₩30,000,000 per year. However, public schools are free and offer a high-quality education.

Entertainment Costs

South Korea has a vibrant entertainment scene, with plenty of options for nightlife and cultural events. Concert tickets can cost anywhere from ₩50,000 to ₩200,000, depending on the artist. Movie tickets are relatively cheap, costing around ₩10,000 per person.

Internet and Phone Costs

South Korea is known for having some of the fastest internet speeds in the world. Internet and phone plans can vary widely depending on your usage and provider. You can expect to pay around ₩30,000 to ₩50,000 per month for a basic plan.

Clothing Costs

Clothing prices in South Korea are generally affordable. However, if you prefer designer brands or imported clothing, expect to pay more. If you are on a budget, shopping at local markets or second-hand stores can save you quite a bit of money.

Utilities Costs

Utility costs in South Korea can vary depending on your usage and location. Average monthly costs for electricity, gas and water can range from ₩100,000 to ₩150,000 per month.

Taxes and Other Expenses

As an expat living in South Korea, you may be subject to certain taxes such as income tax or value-added tax (VAT). Other expenses to consider include visa fees and travel costs for trips back home.


Living comfortably in South Korea is achievable, but it comes at a cost. Depending on your lifestyle and location, you will need to budget anywhere from ₩2,000,000 to ₩5,000,000 per month to live comfortably. However, if you are willing to make some compromises and live within your means, you can enjoy all that South Korea has to offer without breaking the bank.

Is it expensive to live in South Korea?

South Korea is known for being a costly country with Seoul, the capital, often listed as one of the most expensive cities to reside in worldwide. According to the Mercer Cost of Living Survey in 2022, Seoul was ranked 14th out of 227 cities.

Is living in Korea cheaper than the US?

The cost of living in South Korea is 17.5% lower than in the United States.

How long can a US citizen stay in South Korea?

US citizens traveling to Korea for tourism or business purposes do not need a Korean Electronic Travel Authorization (K-ETA) for stays of 90 days or less between April 1, 2023 and December 31, 2024. However, a visa is required for all other purposes, including employment, teaching English, and stays longer than 90 days.

Is it hard to live in Korea as a foreigner?

If you are well-prepared before moving to South Korea, the process is generally straightforward. Despite a history of being cautious about foreign migration, the country is now more welcoming towards international companies, and attitudes towards foreigners have shifted accordingly.

Is it cheaper to live in Japan or Korea?

The cost of living in South Korea is moderate, falling between the low-cost options of countries like Laos and China and the high-cost options of Japan and Singapore. The highest expenses can typically be found in the capital city of Seoul.

How much is a house in South Korea in US dollars?

Typically, a small apartment or studio in Korea will cost between 1.5-2.5 million KRW (130,000-215,000 USD). For larger living spaces, prices start at around 4 million KRW (340,000 USD).

Saving Money in South Korea

While the cost of living in South Korea can be high, there are ways to save money. One option is to take advantage of the country’s excellent public transportation system instead of owning a car. Another way to save money is to shop at local markets and grocery stores instead of pricey western-style supermarkets. Additionally, many tourist attractions and cultural events are free or have low admission fees.

Salary Expectations

The average salary in South Korea varies widely depending on your profession and experience level. English teachers can expect to earn around ₩2,000,000 to ₩3,000,000 per month, while professionals in fields such as IT or finance can earn significantly more. It’s important to research salary expectations for your specific field before moving to South Korea.

Cultural Differences

Living in South Korea as an expat can be a rewarding experience, but it’s important to be aware of cultural differences. The country has a strong emphasis on hierarchy and respect for elders, and social norms may differ from what you’re used to. It’s important to be open-minded and respectful of local customs and traditions.

Visa Requirements

Before moving to South Korea, it’s important to research the visa requirements for your specific situation. Most foreigners will need a work visa or student visa to live in the country legally. The process can be time-consuming, so it’s important to start early and gather all necessary documents.


Living comfortably in South Korea requires careful budgeting and planning, but it’s possible to enjoy all that the country has to offer without breaking the bank. By being mindful of expenses and taking advantage of cost-saving opportunities, expats can live comfortably and enjoy their time in this fascinating country.

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