South Korea

South Korea

“Don’t drink the Kimchi soup first.” – Korean Proverb

Seoul Lantern Festival

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Getting In

  • US, Australian, British, and most Western European citizens are given a 90-day entry permit on arrival. A Five-day-only stay on Jeju-do is visa free.
  • Arriving to Seoul, you will enter either through Incheon International Airport or Gimpo International Airport. But For a full listing of international airports, check here.
  • Seoul has excellent public transportation. Whether by Metro, Bus, Taxi, or High Speed Rail – you can get to any destination quickly and efficiently. As well, the nation is serviced by a modern highway system; and a ferry system that can take travelers to domestic and international locations (Japan / China).

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Money

  • The South Korean currency is the Won ₩. While $USD are accepted in some places in Seoul such as Itaewon or in Pyeongtaek, where high concentrations of US soldiers and expats reside, you should expect to only use ₩.
  • In general, the cost for food eating is out is cheap in comparison to most western nations so long you stick to local food. Shopping for fresh vegetables, fruit, and dairy can be quite expensive though.
  • Purchase a TMoney card to get discounts on public transportation if you are staying for over a week.
  • Due to the unique renting culture in South Korea, renting/buying an apartment can be very expensive unless provided through an employer.

$1USD = 1,100₩

*MwM Pro Tip: Think 1000₩ = $1 in your head to simplify conversions, and make for an easy way to encourage modest savings while traveling.

Local meal will cost you 7000₩

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Climate

  • South Korea is a very mountainous country with little arable land. Most populations are located near the coast.
  • The country is affected by the East Asian Monsoon. Winters are bitter cold averaging between -7 C and 1 C in the winter and into the 30s C in summer months.
  • South Korea experiences 4 distinct seasons. Spring is noticeable for the Cherry Blossom Bloom.

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History

The Korean people originated with the founding of the Gojoseon in 2333 BCE. This was conquered by Goguryeo in 313. 3 Kingdoms emerged during this time period: the Goguryeo, Baekje, and Silla. By 936, the kingdoms had unified.

During this time, Korea was subject to numerous invasion attempts, particularly by the Mongols – and while never being conquered, did swear allegiance to Kublai Khan. In 1392, the Koreans staged a coup and founded the Joseon Dynasty which maintained peace for the next 200 years. In the late 1500s, Japan attacked Korea later followed by the Manchurians. Korea saw on and off periods of invasion and peace until the first Sino-Japanese War in 1910 during which time Korea fell to Japanese colonialism.

After World War II, Japan relinquished control of Korea. However, due to Cold War tensions between the USA and USSR, Korea was split into North and South in 1948. The North invaded in 1950, with the war lasting until 1953. The war ended with armistice – never signed by S. Korea – and remains technically at war to this day.

South Korea saw rapid development following the war, while the North Korea has remained a repressive and secretive dictatorship under the Kim regime. Tensions remain high between the two Koreas, but mostly go about their own business.

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Need to Know

  • Seoul is a very modern and efficient city – as is the majority of the country. High speed 4G speeds and up to 80Mbps for regular internet access. *Great for remote workers.
  • Public transportation in Seoul is excellent. A cheap, clean, and efficient system of Metro, Bus, and Light and High Speed Rail allow for travel virtually everywhere with a stop or station within two kms of any location.
  • Most public transportation and signs are in Hangul and English. You’ll find that buses may not, but will have English recordings announcing each stop.
  • Kimchi is a way of life. The spicy pickled cabbage dish is the national dish and served with every meal. It is served either as a side dash (usually complimentary) or as a a part of the dish as with Gimbap.
  • Alcohol is big in South Korea. Soju is the national drink and it consumed in large quantities. Remember, never pour yourself a glass – pour it for your friend and they should return the favor.

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Warnings

  • South Korea is a very safe country. With CCTV covering the entirety of major cities, and a strong sense of community, crime is very low. You should feel safe wandering Seoul streets at night. Still, you should always remain vigilant and aware of your surroundings.
  • South Koreans protest – a lot – and sometimes they get out of hand. Protests are usually made public well beforehand and you are advised to avoid them. Not only for your safety, but also to avoid the crowds.
  • Relations between the North and South Korean governments are strained. However, while it is good practice to pay attention to the rhetoric out of Pyeongyang – just in case – you should rest assured that things are safer than the media may portray it. Pay attention to everyday Koreans, not the American media when it comes to Korean affairs.

We recommend reviewing safety guidelines by various state departments: – we make no guarantees to your safety!

US State Department – Moderate to High bias, with moderate levels of broad information. We advise checking against other sources to confirm veracity of statements.

British State Department – Low bias, and very thorough information. We recommend checking with the FCO for tourist warnings.

Canada State Department – Low bias, with thorough information. We advise using as an additional resource for tourist warnings.

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Explore

We spent 3 months living in the town of Songtan, South Korea (October 2015 – January 2016). A few of our posts cover the Songtan / Pyeongtaek area, but most of them are about Seoul.

 

General:

27 Things To Know

Seoul Itinerary – 1/3/5 Day Guide
Scenes from Songtan
Video:   3 months in Korea
Seoul In 60 Seconds

Accommodation:

Our Stay in a Korean Love Motel # 1
Our Last Night in Korea: Love Motel #2
Our First International Housesit

Transportation:

Navigating Seoul

Food and Drink:

General:

Korean Food P1
Korean Food P2
Cooking in Korea

Groceries:

HomePlus and Emart
Local Grocery Shopping in Songtan
Songtan Street Market
Songtan Bakery

Ice cream Reviews:

Korean Ice Cream Review P1
Korean Ice Cream Review P2
Korean Ice Cream Review P3
Korean Ice Cream Review P4

Coffee and Desserts:

 
The Poop Cafe
Hello Kitty Cafe – Hongdae
Myeongdong – Rose Ice Cream
Sinsadong – Remicone Ice Cream
Cafe CF – Songtan

Meals:

Journey to Sinchon – Food
Makgeolli Station

Alcohol:  

 
About Soju – Korea’s National Drink
South Korean Wine and Beer Reviews

Activities:

 

Hikes/Nature:  

Bukhansan National Park: Hiking Mt. Dobongsan
Ansan Trail and Yonsei University
Hikie Fortress Wall of Seoul

Festivals:

Bucheon International Animation Festival
Korean American Friendship Festival
Seoul Lantern Festival & The Chrysanthemum Exhibit
Pocheon Herb Village – Lighting Festival

Animals:

  
Pyeongtaek Cat Cafe
Puppy Spoon Dog Cafe
Hongdae Cat Cafe
The Seoul Zoo

History:

Korean War Memorial
Changdeokgung Palace
Bongwonsa Temple
National Museum of Korea
Gyeongbokgung Palace

Other:

N Seoul Tower
Onyang Hot Springs / Jimjilbang ~ Female (Briana)
Onyang Hot Springs / Jimjilbang ~Male (Kyle)
Chungmuro (Film Photography)
Pyeongtaek Sky Garden
Let’s Go to the Movies (in Korea)
Banpo Bridge Failure