Living in Korea by the Numbers

August 5, 2011

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Having just completed one year in Korea, I thought I’d give prospective expats an idea of how much one can pocket and live on in a year here. You hear stories all the time about how Korea is the country to go teach EFL if you want to make money, but has anyone actually run the numbers by you? Well, I will. No commentary. Just income and expenses. Rounded for your benefit, and given in KRW, South Korean Won. I also excluded my consistent monthly expenses: TV, 6600; Internet ~30000; prepaid phone, 10000; water 1-2000; insurance, 35000.

August
Arrive in Korea with 2000USD. Everyone should bring at least 1000USD, as your first salary might not be paid until 4-6 weeks after arrival. I arrived August 7th and was first paid September 15th.

September
Income:

  • 2,100,00 (after taxes)

Expenses:

October
Income:

  • 2,100,000

Expenses:

  • Wired home: 1,100,000
  • Power: 10,000
  • Gas: 20,000
  • Major Travel: None

November
Income:

  • 2,100,000

Expenses:

  • Wired home: 800,000
  • Power: 80,000 (heat lamp)
  • Gas: 35,000
  • Major Travel: Busan and Seoul (imported Thanksgiving dinner)

December
Income:

  • 2,100,000

Expenses:

  • Wired home: 1,000,000
  • Power: 135,000 (heat lamp)
  • Gas: 60,000 (began using floor heat, ondol)
  • Major Travel: Busan (xmas party) and Seoul (New Year’s)

January
Income:

  • 2,100,000

Expenses:

  • Wired home: 0 (used for xmas gifts, food)
  • Power: 35,000
  • Gas: 180,000 (way too much floor heat)
  • Major Travel: Daegu

February
Income:

  • 2,100,000

Expenses:

  • Wired home: 650,000
  • Power: Unknown
  • Gas: 270,000 (I must have been out of my mind, but I was warm)
  • Major Travel: Seoul (Lunar New Year)

March
Income:

  • 2,100,000

Expenses:

  • Wired home: 950,000
  • Power: 20,000
  • Gas: 190,000 (still cold)
  • Major Travel: Seoul

April
Income:

  • 2,100,000

Expenses:

  • Wired home: 900,000
  • Power: 35,000
  • Gas: 100,000
  • Major Travel: Gyeongju, Seoul 2x
  • Other: 300,000 for dental work

May
Income:

  • 3,300,000 (took on morning adult classes)

Expenses:

  • Wired home: 1,500,000
  • Power: 0
  • Gas: 40,000
  • Major Travel: Busan and Japan

June
Income:

  • 3,300,000

Expenses:

  • Wired home: 1,500,000
  • Power: 0
  • Gas: 25,000
  • Major Travel: Ulleungdo and Dokdo

July
Income:

  • 3,300,000

Expenses:

August
Income:

  • 5,400,000 (end of year bonus)

Expenses:

  • Wired home: 2,200,000
  • Power: N/A
  • Gas: N/A
  • Major Travel: Seoul and Daegu
  • Other: new DSLR, shoes

As you can see, my international travel for the past year has been limited to Japan; I didn’t even go home for Christmas. If you’re thinking I didn’t get out too much, you might be right, but I didn’t include travel to small towns near me when roundtrip transportation was less than 40,000 – this included quite a few cheap adventures. Obviously, there were other small expenses like visiting the doctor, getting a massage, and overpaying for EZ Shop food, but you can get a general idea of what one can pocket after a year in the country: ~14,000,000 (currently ~13,000USD). I never starved myself to save money, I felt comfortable, I went out, I lived. Want to try teaching English in Korea?

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2 Responses to Living in Korea by the Numbers

  1. kushibo on August 25, 2011 at 3:12 am

    Wow, that’s kind of a lot.

    I agree it’s not that hard to save money (I managed to save in a bit over five years enough for a substantial down payment on an old apartment), but with things more expensive than before and pay scales a bit stagnant, I wasn’t sure how this played out.

    Can you be more specific with the “wired home”? How much is rent, etc.? What kind of place is it? (Sorry if this is covered elsewhere, but I’ve so far only been an occasional visitor here.)

  2. Turner on August 25, 2011 at 9:22 am

    Really? With your blog, I thought you’d be an institution by now. Anyway, I’m out in the countryside in an 11-pyeong apartment, so rent is probably only 500,000 (covered by my job). Wired home is just that; I sent the money to my American bank account from a KB bank and used it to pay off my credit card.

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