Cool digs for less dough

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Cool digs for less dough

Every young adult dreams of getting away from nagging parents and screaming siblings and relaxing in an apartment that he (or she) can call his own.

Breaking away might not sound easy. But with a bit of preparation, it's easier than you think.

This week and next, we'll give you tips on everything you'll need to know to live on your own, along with suggestions from university students who have been there and done that.


Cho Won-jung

Cho Won-jung, who's studying painting at Hongik University in Seoul, has been living on her own for two years. True to her major, her artistic flair is evident in her tidy, beautifully decorated apartment. Because she spends lots of time in her school's workshop, she chose to live near Hongik University.

She had visited her house when it belonged to a friend, and was completely taken by its large windows and hardwood floors. She signed a contract as soon as her friend moved out, and is living with another friend who works as a stylist.

Her apartment is characterized by gorgeous wall decorations and her excellent use of storage space.

Living in the club-jammed Hongdae district has its challenges. Most nights Ms. Cho contends with crowds and loud music; there's a club on the first floor of her building. Since Ms. Cho enjoys music, she cheerfully says that it doesn't bother her very much.

Her advice to those who are living on their own for the first time: Be sure to visit several prospective apartments, and always listen to the previous owner's opinion about the place.


Kim Dae-hyun

Kim Dae-hyun decided to get an apartment near his school, Hanyang University in Seoul, to eliminate the long commute from his Inchon home.

He tried searching the Internet, but found little information on apartments near his school. The houses he managed to find were too expensive.

He ventured out on his own, prowling the alleys near school for available apartments, keeping the prices he had seen on the Internet in mind. The place he settled on is a quiet building of one-room apartments; the rent fits his budget.

Mr. Kim was initially concerned because his apartment is a "half-basement," meaning its windows look onto the sidewalk. However, the windows are large enough to provide adequate sunlight during the day.

One shortcoming is his apartment isn't well sound-proofed, so he hears footsteps in the hallway and his neighbors talking when their doors are open.

His advice to people living on their own for the first time: Make sure the windows let in enough sunlight. "If they don't, you'll have to keep the lights on during the day."


Making the right moves when renting


Before you begin...

Choose where you want to live and have a backup area as well, in case you can't find a suitable place in the neighborhood of your choice.

Decide on your payment plan

A jeonse -- paying a lump sum up front -- will require a large initial investment but will eliminate the hassles of paying rent every month. If you rent an apartment, you'll need to consider the initial deposit as well as the monthly rent. Decide on which plan best suits your budget.

Decide on the type of home

There are several types of homes available for people living alone, such as officetels, one-room (studio) apartments, residential buildings and multi-purpose buildings with stores on the lower floors and flats on the upper floors. Each has advantages and disadvantages. Consider what best suits your lifestyle, your budget and your need to easily get to and from class or work.


Apartments can be found on the Internet, in the newspaper and through real-estate offices. Most of these have limited resources in English, so it's wise to have a Korean-speaking friend helping when searching for a house.

See it for yourself

After selecting some possibilities, inspect each house thoroughly to see how well it meets your needs.

Transportation and other facilities

Seoul is notoriously short of parking spaces. So if you have a car, check for a reliable parking space. If you're using public transportation, make sure bus stops and subway stations are within a comfortable walking distance. You should have relatively easy access to pharmacies and supermarkets, as well as other facilities such as restaurants, a dry cleaner, a video shop, etc.


Look carefully for any damp places or leaks around plumbing.

Even when it's not the rainy season, leaks can be spotted by looking for stains on the wallpaper near the windows or where the ceiling and walls meet. If you can, discreetly lift the floor covering; if you see any traces of mold, leave.

The direction of the sunlight

A home facing southeast will generally get the brightest exposure. This is important because waking up early in the dark can be an excruciating experience. However, if you spend most of your mornings in bed, a home facing northwest is not a bad choice either. Carry a compass to make sure.

Soundproofing and insulation

The sound of running water can be annoying when you can hear it coming from your neighbor's apartment at 4 a.m. Make sure the apartment has substantial walls to muffle the sound. Insulation is also important, especially during the winter, so check the window sills to see if they are thick enough, and the bathroom to make sure that warm water is readily available.


Check the water flow, hot water availability and drainage. If any problems

are discovered, report them immediately to the owner to be fixed; if those

defects are found after moving in, you'll be held responsible for their repair.


Broken windows often can't open or close completely, so be sure to check for signs of defects. Make sure the windows lock since open windows can be an invitation for thieves. Test the front door's lock and make sure that the keys turn smoothly.

Cracks in the walls

Quite a few houses have minor vertical cracks, so they'll have to be ignored for the most part. Horizontal cracks are, however, indicate possible structural problems and should be considered a danger sign. If the kitchen or bathroom tiles are cracked, you can ask the landlord to have them replaced.

Internet and cable access

Most new homes have high-speed Internet and cable television lines installed. Since living without Internet access can be extremely trying these days, it's wise to find a house with easy Internet access.


Manage your money wisely. Record daily expenditures, as well as your income. This will give you an idea on how much you spend and result in better financial planning. If not, it could be a matter of days before you find yourself broke.

Set some ground rules

Unless you want to become a complete party junkie or starve to death, set some ground rules for yourself, such as waking up and getting home at specific times, or promising yourself to eat at least two square meals a day. Independence means being responsible for yourself; act accordingly.

Don't be overly dependent on friends

Having friends over is good. But insisting on a constant stream of friends coming and going from your house can be a burden to both sides. Instead, learn to live on your own and relish your times alone.

Don't procrastinate

Washing a few dishes in the sink is a breeze. But when those dishes pile up, even the thought of taking care of them is a drag. Make it a habit to tidy up and do a little of the household chores every day.

Your house isn't a hotel

Act before your apartment gets a reputation for its excellent accommodations. Be firm and say "no" when you need to.

Call your folks

Be aware that your parents are probably worried sick and give them a call from time to time to assure that you are alive and well.

Explore the neighborhood and make it your own

Find a place nearby where you can spend your Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons when you find yourself with nothing to do.

Befriend the shopkeepers in the area, if possible. There's a better chance of getting good deals if they know and like you.

Check your neighborhood for:

- Nearby subway stations and bus stops.

- Supermarkets and convenience stores.

- Proximity to major streets: if your apartment is too close, the noise level may bother you; if it's too far, the alleys could be dangerous.

- Well-lit alleys for a safe return home in the evenings.

- The closest pharmacies and hospitals with emergency rooms.

- Businesses in the area: bars, clubs and motels will be noisy at night.

Translation and adaptation by Moon Hee-won




Free at last!

No more Cinderella-like midnight curfews, no more parental nagging. You're free of all restraints, except for one thing: with freedom comes responsibility.

You can develop a self-sufficient, independent lifestyle.

Away from the coddling help of Mom and Dad, this is a great chance to develop self-reliance and problem solving on your own.

Living alone teaches you about money management, since the bulk of your hard-earned income now goes to rent and other living expenses. You learn how to stretch the won. These valuable lessons will help you later in life.


Boogie nights. When you're not out clubbing or bar hopping, those nights alone can get terribly lonely; and for the females, scary, since the walk home involves dark and spooky alleys. (Tip: Find a place in a well-lit residential area. And to stave off the late-night blues, get a pet.)

Solitary confinement? Sitting alone in your room can give you an unsettling sense of isolation, especially when you're sick and there's no one to look after you. Instead of wallowing in your misery, invite a friend to come over. And, throw a party from time to time to take your mind off your loneliness.

The clubbers' hotel. After a wild night of drinking and dancing, the last stop is always your apartment. Sure, having friends over is fantastic, but when they leave who'll have to clean? Worse, the endless scrubbing will just barely get rid of the stench of alcohol. (Tip: Dump your trash and clean your ashtrays after your guests leave and before you go to bed.)

by Han Yoon-jeong, An Ji-sun
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