For my first month back in Korea, I decided to “go it on my own.” In my previous two stays in Korea, I depended on my companies to secure housing for me. However, most forms of traditional housing in Korea typically requires large sums of money. For example, the area of Seoul I’m living in right now could command as much as several hundred thousand dollars to rent an apartment. The larger the deposit, the less you pay in monthly fees. If you deposit a large enough sum, you don’t even have to pay monthly rent.
**Note: the map of eMart in Yeoksam is down below
Living in a Goshiwon isn’t that Bad
Nevertheless, most forms of housing in Korea require a significant deposit, but I wanted to try one of the smallest forms of housing that didn’t require such and also wasn’t “shared living”: Goshiwons (고시원 in Hangeul and sometimes also referred to as Goshitels aka 고시텔). My “Goshiwon Adventure” started with “Castle Fine” in Yeoksam (a neighborhood in Gangnam).
How did I find out about “Castle Fine?” Well, it’s one of the 3 or so that are advertised in Craigslist Seoul. Just check out the housing section in the “rooms/shared” or possibly the “sublets/temporary” sections. It’s bound to be in there or just search for “castle fine.” Then again, after you read this, you may not need to go to Craigslist anymore.
I emailed the manager, Sangsoo Jo, a couple of times before I arrived. I emailed him the night before I took off on my flight and called him when I arrived. He was the most responsive. His email is email@example.com in case you want to ask him if there are any units available. I was semi-fortunate that one was available the night I arrived, but it was the smallest unit they had. All the rest were rented. If you look at the photo above, you’ll see honestly the size of my room. The bed extends past the shower and that’s it. I have a bar strung across the top to hang my clothes. If you haven’t been to Korea, the concept of a dryer is less common than you might think. So, we hang dry our clothes and if you don’t want it out on the stairwell, you’ll do it in your own little space above your bed. I’ll have to write about the lack of dryers in Korea in another post.
Goshiwon Sizes, Costs & Amenities
So, the size of a small goshiwon is approximately 1.5 pyeong to 2 or so. A pyeong is approximately 35 1/2 square feet (or 3.3 meters squared for you folks on the metric system). The larger ones can get as large as 3-4 pyeong. Earlier tonight, I visited another Goshiwon in another part of town and saw a larger unit. While it was bigger, the problem is that it was quite dirty and also in a very commercial area that looked like it bred air quality that was somewhat toxic. (I plan to write about these other units in a later post) I’ve seen online on the Korean websites that advertise Goshiwon units for rent that they get up to 6 pyeong, but each time I called, they all said they didn’t have something that large. One of the ads that advertised up to 6 pyeong said that qualifies for a “one room.”
Castle Fine charges 480,000 won for their small unit, but if you rent for more than 2 months, you can rent it for 440,000 won. For the larger units, they are about 580,000 won for one month and 550,000 won for 2 months or more. Again, there’s no other monthly fees. You are required to place a deposit of 70,000 won for damages and the keys, but that’s obviously refunded on your way out.
Included in your monthly rent is also free washer use (with detergent provided!), rice, kimchi and ramen. Also, they have a limited fitness center, kitchen and 24 hour access to the roof to do whatever you will. It has 24 hour CCTV and you get your own little shoe locker. There are limited kitchen utensils and a piano/organ in the fitness center. You get your own personal refrigerator, tv and cable box. You also don’t have to pay for electricity, water or garbage. You can even fill up your water bottles using the filtered water machine in the kitchen. So, if you don’t need much else, this is really a cheap way to go for housing in Seoul!
How to get to Castle Fine Goshiwon in Yeoksam?
This was a small issue at the beginning because I was late for starters (arriving around 9pm’ish) and my taxi driver couldn’t read the map I had brought with me on my iPad. So, I’m going to provide incredibly detailed maps below in case you’re hoping to land here on your first night.
Castle Fine’s Contact Info:
First off, their phone number is: 02-553-3280. Their address is (which I’ll repeat later): 서울시 강남구 역삼동 733-27 2,3층 캐슬파인 역삼점. Their website is: http://castlefine.co.kr And this is the map that’s on their website:
I’d recommend printing this out in large characters so it’s not an issue for an older taxi car driver who has bad eyesight. If this map doesn’t work, type in “역삼동 733-27” (short version of the address which works) into either Google Maps or Naver.com’s maps section.
Here is a larger map from Google giving reference to the two subway stations on both sides of Yeoksam station:
And here’s a map of it zoomed in:
Hopefully, you won’t be driving in the dark like I did, but regardless of when you do, here’s the picture of the building and the front, in case you’re looking with your taxi “ajushi” driver:
You’re looking for these Korean/Hangeul characters above the glass door entrance:
Other Reasons Why Castle Fine’s Housing in Seoul is Reasonable
- Mr. Jo has been incredibly helpful. He’s very easy mannered and relatively accessible. He gives you his cell phone number to ask for anything and guess what? He speaks/writes English better than most managers of these Goshitels.
- It’s pretty quiet. For such small space, you would think that it’s louder than most housing options. However, for the number of people who go in and out, I barely am bothered. I have one of the most trafficked spots on my floor and I barely feel like it’s noisy. And I think I’m sensitive!
- It’s really clean! I’ve seen some older units and this feels so much cleaner than them. The ajuma is constantly here cleaning the building and each of the shared spaces are as clean as it gets.
- It has a lot of great food options. Not only do you get the basic kimchi, rice and ramen for free, but around the corner there’s:
- chinese restaurant (and many more within 1-2 blocks)
- multiple coffee shops including a starbucks less than 2 blocks away
- a hansot dosirak (“affordable lunch box meals”) literally steps away
- a juk (korean porridge/congee) place right in front – I love juk & would eat it more if it weren’t a little pricier than the average options, but I still eat it often!
- a bunch of other restaurants that I can’t even count around Castle Fine that would take another blog post to write about
- a decent sized supermarket right in front and a convenience store (7-11) even closer to the goshiwon
- The transportation options are very convenient. Yeoksam Station is only 7-8 minutes by foot. A bus stop nearby that goes to Sadang Subway station (350 or 340, I think) and from Yeoksam Station, there’s a bus that takes you to the goshiwon in case you don’t like walking the 7-8 minutes it takes to get from the station home (#147)
- Plenty of other amenities are available nearby like health clubs, hair salons and more that I haven’t even had a chance to explore (I’ve only been here for 2 weeks!)
- The Internet is blazing fast (I do have to admit for the first 14 days though, there were some issues with it, but I kind of forced the issue to get it resolved and today, it has the following speeds – faster than home!)
- The garbage and recycling is convenient between the 2 floors
- The climate control in your unit is good
- And frankly, it trains you to be more efficient & organized in the limited space you have. You’ll possibly think a studio is “too big” possibly later or you’ll definitely appreciate life “after the goshiwon” if not want to live in another one because everything’s literally just an arm’s length away.
**Please note: After living here for a month though, the cramped feeling in the smallest unit kind of got to me. I asked to move into a bigger unit, but they were all gone close to the end of my contract. So, I looked for another place that was a bit bigger. I found a place and will be writing about it. I’m relatively happy with the new place, but it’s close to double the price and it’s not necessarily closer to the places I need to be. So, I have mixed feelings on the move, but it’s definitely bigger. And the management company that runs the place seems relatively decently managed and helpful.
A Few Tips if you do Choose the Goshiwon Style Living
Nothing’s ever perfect in the world and goshiwon’s aren’t any different. However, there’s not a lot I think I can complain about. However, here are just a few tips in case you do choose to live in these:
- If you do get a unit that doesn’t have access to the outside, you do have to periodically keep the window open to circulate the air in your room or keep it cool/warm. It might welcome mosquitos, but in my 2 weeks, I’ve only seen one and it didn’t come through the window being open. So, be prepared for this.
- These don’t come with bedding or pillows. So, you will need these right off the bat. There is an eMart just east of us within a 10 minute walk on the big main road. It was open until Midnight when I got to Seoul. So, it was conveniently open for me to get some sheets and a pillow. Here’s a map of eMart in Yeoksam:
- The people here aren’t the friendliest, but then again, I haven’t been that social either. It’s hard to say.
- The pictures in the ads are obviously going to be better than reality, but for Castle Fine, their pics are pretty darn close to reality.
- You do need to be organized. If you haven’t lived in a space this small, you probably shouldn’t bring a ton of stuff. Also, it will force you to schedule your laundry and other chores accordingly.
- And one last note: if you’re taller than 6 feet, these beds are not usually going to too comfortable. I think they max out for someone that size. There may be bigger beds these days, but you definitely will want to check that out. Koreans are definitely getting bigger and as a result, the country is adjusting…but not 100%.