Living Costs in South Korea

One of the biggest considerations when moving abroad is the finances. If you’ve thought about teaching English in Korea, you’ve probably wondered about the salaries and general costs of living. How much can you save? How much can you send home to pay off student loans? How much will you have in your pocket to spend on traveling? No worries! We’ve got you covered.

The average starting salary for a 1st year teacher in Korea is around 2.0 – 2.1m KRW per month ($1,800 – $1,900 USD). Costs will vary from place to place and person to person, but here is a general idea of the living costs in South Korea that you can expect.

living costs in south korea

Monthly Living Expenses

Tax : $60+

  • 3.3% of your monthly income

Utilities: $70-$200

  • Electricity, gas, water, etc. Bills are higher in the winter (heating) and summer (air con). The more air con and heating you use, the higher your bill will be!

Pension: $85

  • You pay 4.5% of your monthly income, and your employer matches the 4.5%.
  • Canadian and American citizens can get then total 9% pension amount back when they leave Korea. South Africans have the right to opt out of paying pension, as they do not qualify for getting pension back. Australian, New Zealand, British and Irish employees are required to pay into the pension plan, but unfortunately won’t be able to get it back.

An overview on Tax, Utilities and Pension

Health care: $50-60           

Internet: $30-50

  • It depends on the internet plan you purchase, but prices for the fastest internet in the world are actually quite reasonable!

Transportation $50-200  

  • If you stay in the country, you may or may not want to travel to bigger cities. Inter-city bus travel is between $15-35 per bus ticket. In bigger cities, the subway/bus fare is around $1-2 per ride. Cabs charge a starting rate of $3 when you hop in, and a 20-30 min cab ride will be around $12-20.

Food: $300-500  

living costs in south korea food

Cell phone plan: $40-100

  • You’ll have 4 options in Korea:

    • Rental Phone
    • Two Year Phone Contract with a Korean phone company
    • Korean SIM card
    • 6-month phone lease from The Arrival Store
    • For more on phones, check out the Phone Info in our Guide to South Korea (about halfway down the page).

Accommodation: $0

  • Your employer pays the rent. Woo hoo!
  • If you’re living with a friend/spouse/partner, you’ll be able to apply for a housing allowance in lieu of your rent (between $300-500 USD).

Additional Expenses

Gym: $50 – $100

  • You may find a cheap gym close to your apartment, or you might want to go all out and start doing CrossFit for $170 a month. It’s up to you!

Shopping: $0 – and up!                

  • It depends how much you shop, and where you shop!

Nightlife: $0 – and up!

  • Soju (Korean vodka) and Mekju (beer) are cheap. It just depends on how hard (and how often) you get out and experience that amazing Korean nightlife!

cost of living korea nightlife

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Total: ~$600 – ~$1400+ (depending on your spending habits)

When your income is around $1,800 – 1,900 USD/month, you can see how easy it is to save in South Korea! Don’t believe us? Check out the super helpful blog from a fellow Korea-aficionado, Coleen Monroe, who writes about saving money in South Korea.

Last updated: May 2017

Ready to Start your Adventure in Korea?

Now you’ve got an idea about salaries and living costs in Korea, so what are you waiting for? Start your application to teach English in Korea today! You should probably do this.

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