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AStudent'sGuidetoLivinginKorea
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A Student's Guide to Living in South Korea


byMarkBennett
SouthKoreaisgeographicallycentraltoEastAsiaandhasplayedanimportantroleintheregion'scontinuingtechnologicalandeconomicrise.
RenownedforitshitechindustriesandtheinternationalsuccessofcompaniessuchasSamsung,Hyundai,KiaandLG,thecountryisalsorich
inhistoryandpossessesarangeofstrikinggeographicalfeatures.AsaPhDstudentinSouthKoreayou'llhavetheopportunitytoliveandstudy
inhitechmegacitieslikeSeoulfeaturingtheworld'slargestsubwaynetworkanditsfastestinternetspeedswhilstalsovisitingbeautifulworld
heritagesiteslikethevolcanicislandofJejuorthearchitecturalremainspreservedinGyeonggiProvince:thecapitaloftheancientSilla
kingdom.

Key facts:
SouthKoreahasapopulationofaround50million,roughlyhalfofwhichisconcentratedaroundthegreatermetropolitanareaofthecapital,
Seoul.
Thecountryisgovernedasaliberaldemocracy,withanelectedPresidentandNationalAssembly.
Theclimateisseasonalandpartlysubtropical,withamonsoonperiodinsummer,awarmautumnandsubstantialtemperaturedropsduring
wintermonths.
SouthKoreaisanincreasinglypopulartouristdestination,withvisitornumbersrisingatroughly10%yearonyear.
ThecurrencyistheSouthKoreanWon().1isroughlyequivalentto$0.001.
Variousfaiths(includingChristianityandBuddhism)arepopularinSouthKorea,butthecountryhasnostatereligionandmanyofits
populationexpressnoreligiousbeliefs.
TheofficiallanguageisKorean.EnglishisalsospokenbyalargenumberofSouthKoreansandtaughtfromanearlystageinallschools.

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Culture, leisure and everyday life


AsaresidentPhDstudentyou'llprobablyfindyourselflivinginoneofSouthKorea'smajorcities.TheseincludeSeoul(thecapital,locatedinthe
northwestofthecountry),Daejeon(locatedcentrallyandfeaturingalargescienceparkwitha90fthighIMAXcinema!),Pohang(avibrant
seaportontheeasterncoast)andBusan(situatedonthesoutherncoastandfamousasahuboftraditionalKoreanculture).Whereveryou
choosetostudy,SouthKorea'sexcellentadvancedtransportsystemwillprovideeasyaccesstotouristhotspotsincludingancienttemplesites,
beautifulbeachesandmountainskiresorts.

South Korean customs


Despiteitsrapidmodernisation,SouthKoreacontinuestovaluemanyofitstraditionalcustoms.Someofthesearereservedforfestivalsand
specialoccasionsandarewellworthexperiencing.Othersconcerneverydayetiquetteandknowledgeofthesewillbevaluableinpreparation
foryourtimeinthecountry.
BodylanguageandassociatedbehaviourcanbeparticularlyimportantininteractionswithSouthKoreans.Peoplewillprobablybeforgivingof
mistakeswhenyoufirstarriveinthecountryparticularlyinauniversitycontextbutacquaintingyourselfwithsomekeypointsofetiquettein
advancewilldemonstraterespectandgoodwill.
Formalacknowledgementsusuallyconsistofabowandahandshakebetweenmenandapolitenodbetweenwomen(thoughnonKorean
womenmayoffertoshakehandswithKoreanmen).Whenshakinghands,respectisconferredbysupportingtherightforearmwiththeleft
hand.Otherformsofphysicalcontactshouldberefrainedfrom,exceptinsituationsinvolvingclosefriendsorrelatives.Unlessotherwise
indicated,superiorstaffatyourinstitution(suchasyourPhDsupervisor)shouldbetreatedwithrespectfortheirseniority:addressthemwiththe
correcttitleandavoidusingfirstnameswithoutinvitation.Ingeneral,pointingtosomeonewithanextendedindexfingerorbeckoningthemwith
yourpalmupwardmaycauseoffence.TheRoughGuidestravelwebsiteoffersusefulinformation
(http://www.roughguides.com/destinations/asia/southkorea/cultureetiquette/)ongeneralSouthKoreancustomsandetiquetteoutsidethe
university.

South Korean sports and leisure

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South Korean sports and leisure
MartialartssuchastaekwondooriginatedinancientKoreaandcontinuetobepopulartoday.Westernsportsarealsowellestablished,withthe
SouthKoreanfootballteamenjoyinginternationalandOlympicsuccess.Iftraditionalsportsaren'tyourthing,don'tworry:inkeepingwithits
traditionoftechnologicalinnovation,SouthKoreaisalsoattheforefrontoftheriseinesportsandvideogamessuchastheStarcraftfranchise
areplayedbymanyataprofessionallevel.
ArtistsdrawinguponandadaptingwesternpopularmusichavebecomeespeciallypopularinSouthKoreaandtheresultingsubgenreof'K
Pop'hasenjoyedsubstantialinternationalsuccess.Noraebang(Kareokebooths)arealsocommon,soyou'llhaveplentyofopportunitytotake
abreakfromresearchandpracticeyourown'GangnamStyle!'

Food and dining


SouthKoreanfoodisparticularlyvaried,withsomedishesthatyoumayrecognisefromotherAsiancuisinesandmanythatyouwon't.Classic
SouthKoreancookingemphasisesaphilosophicalharmonybetweenvariedandbalancedingredients,withrice(or'bap')playingacentralrole.
Dishesaretraditionallyservedandsampledsimultaneouslyratherthanincourses.SouthKoreaalsohasitsowntraditionof'Yasik':convenient
takeawayfood,perfectforlatenightsinthelibraryorlab.Thisoriginatedinthesaleoffoodbystreetvendors,butisnowoperatedmainly
throughrestaurantswithawidevarietyofmenusavailable.Ifyou'dliketowhetyourappetiteforSouthKoreancuisineyoucancheckoutthe
guides(http://english.visitkorea.or.kr/enu/AK/AK_EN_1_4_9_3.jsp)offeredonthecountry'sofficialtourismwebsite.Westernstylerestaurants
andcuisinesarealsobecomingestablishedinthecountry,soyou'llhaveplentyofoptionstochoosefrom,whateveryourtastes.

Immigration
Aswithalloptionsforoverseasstudy,youshouldgetintouchwithyourinstitution'sinternationalofficeasearlyaspossibleandtakeadvantage
oftheirservicesandguidance.CertainstagesofSouthKorea'simmigrationsystemmaybenefitfromsponsorshiporrepresentationbya
residentnationalandyouruniversitywillbeabletoassistwiththisifrelevantinyourcase.

Visa requirements
AsaninternationalstudentstudyingaPhDinSouthKoreayouwilltypicallyneedtoacquireaVisaforRegularEducationalProgram(D2).In
certaincircumstances(usuallywhereyourcourseisfocussedupontechnicaltrainingand/ordoesnottakeplaceatanacademicresearch
institute)youmayneedaVisaforGeneralTraining(D4).Ifindoubt,youruniversity'sinternationalofficewillbeabletoadviseyou.
ApplicationforaVisashouldbeinitiatedbycontactingaSouthKoreanembassyinyourhomecountry.Youwillnormallyberequiredtosubmit
thefollowingdocuments:
APassport,validforthedurationofyourintendedstayinSouthKorea.
Acompletedvisaapplicationform.
Aprocessingfee,equivalentto$50forsingleentryor$80foramultipleentryvisa.
Confirmationofadmissiontoyourprogrammeofstudy,providedbyyourinstitutionandrecognisingyouraptitudeandfinancialcapability.
Certificationofyoureducationalrecordandqualifications.
Financialverification,demonstratingthatyouhaveresourcesequivalenttoatleast$12,000($13,000forresidencyinSeoul)availablefor
yourstudies.Thiscantaketheformofacurrentbankbalanceand/orconfirmationoffundingorotherfinancialsupport.
InsomecasesyoumaybeabletoapplyforaCertificateforConfirmationofVisaIssuancetosimplifyandspeedupyourapplicationprocess.
Thiscanbesubmittedinplaceofdocumentsconfirmingadmission,educationalrecordandfinancialverification,butrequiressponsorshipby
someonewithinSouthKorea.CertificatesareissuedbyKoreanimmigrationofficesandarevalidforthreemonths.

Registration
Within90daysofarrivalinSouthKoreayou(oranapprovedrepresentativefromyouruniversity)willneedtovisittheimmigrationofficethat
overseesyourregioninordertoreceiveanAlienRegistrationCard,whichyouwillberequiredtocarryatalltimesduringyourstay.Thefeefor
thisis10,000(roughly$10)andyouwillneedtopresentacertificateofenrolmentatyouruniversity,yourpassportandapassportsized
photoaspartofyourapplication.Atthispointyoushouldalsonotifyyourcountry'sembassyinSouthKoreaofyourarrival.
IfyouwishtoleaveandreenterSouthKoreaduringyourstudiesyouwillneedtosubmitareportformthroughyouruniversity,confirmingyour
temporarydeparture.Absenceduringtheperiodofyourvisashouldnotnormallyexceed30days,butexceptionswillbemadefortravel
requiredtocarryoutresearchaspartofyourPhDorpresentworkatinternationalconferences.Inthesecasesyouwillneedtosubmit
confirmationofthepurposeoftheseabsencestogetherwithacoveringletterfromyoursupervisor.

Health insurance
YouwillneedtoregisterforhealthinsuranceatanofficeoftheNationalHealthInsuranceCorporation,providingdocumentsconfirming
residency,visaapprovalandstudentstatus.ThiswillentitleyoutomedicaltreatmentatallofSouthKorea'shospitalsandcostsaround
21,000($20permonth)thoughthepricemayvarydependinguponemploymentstatus.

Accommodation and living costs


AccommodationinauniversitydormitorywillusuallybethemostaffordableoptionavailabletoyouasaPhDstudentinSouthKorea.The
governmentestimatescostsatbetween320,000and1,075,000(roughlyequivalenttobetween$300and$1000)persemester,varying
dependingonthenumberofindividualssharingadormitoryandtheprovisionofotherservicessuchascatering.
Privateaccommodationdesignedforstudentswillbeavailableinandaroundmostuniversityregions.Thecostforthisissubstantiallyhigher
thanmostuniversityaccommodation,however.Inexpensiveregionsrentcanbeasmuchas20,000,000($18,000)pertermandsubstantial
personaldepositsmayalsoberequiredbysomelandlords.OnealternativeformofprivateaccommodationistheHasukJip,aformofboarding
house.Thesecancostaslittleas800,000($750)amonth,butpricesandfacilitiesareveryvariable.

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Youruniversityshouldbeabletoofferyousomeinformationandadviceonthearrangementsforitsownaccommodationaswellasthecost
andqualityofnearbyHasukandotherprivateoptions.Youshouldcontactthemearlyasyoumayneedadvanceconfirmationof
accommodationtodemonstratethatyouhavesufficientfinancialmeanstosupportyourselfduringyourstudies.

General living costs


ThemajorityofSouthKoreaisrelativelyinexpensivetolivein,thoughpricesinSeoulcanbesubstantiallyhigherthaninotherregions.
Mostuniversitieswillofferaffordablecateringontheircampusesandamealfromthesefacilitiescancostaslittleas2,600($2.50).Ingeneral,
SouthKorea'snativecuisinewillcostlessthanfoodfromwesternrestaurantfranchises,buteithershouldbeaffordable.TheSouthKorean
governmentestimatesthecostoffoodatroughly300,000($300)permonthforstudentsusinguniversitycatering.
AccesstoSouthKorea'sworldleadinghighspeedinternetserviceswillusuallycostaround420,000($30)permonth.

Banking
PersonalbankinginSouthKoreaisavailabletostudentsandisusuallyfree.Inordertoopenanaccountyouwillneedtopresentyourpassport,
togetherwithyourresidencydocuments.Largerbusinesseswillusuallyacceptmajorinternationalcreditanddebitcards,aswillsomeATM
machines.

Employment
Onceyouhavebeenenrolledforonesemester(sixmonths)youwillbeeligibletoworkparttime(upto20hoursperweek).Applicationsfor
employmentwillneedtobesupportedbyaletterofrecommendationfromyouruniversityandthepresentationofyourstudentvisa.Youshould
contactyourinstitutionforadviceonlocalemploymentopportunitiesandsupportingdocuments.

Travel and transportation


SouthKoreahasseveralinternationalanddomesticairports.ThelargestisIncheonInternationalAirport,notfarfromSeoul.Travelwithinthe
countrybenefitsfromaworldleadinghighspeedrailservice,aswellasarangeofbus,subwayandferryroutes.PublictransportinSouth
Koreaisveryaffordableso,whereveryouchoosetostudy,you'llbeabletotakefulladvantageofallthecountryhastooffer.

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