The curious economics of co-living is a plus for some in Korea

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The curious economics of co-living is a plus for some in Korea

A rooftop garden at Episode Seongsu 121 in Seongdong District, eastern Seoul. [SK D&D]

A rooftop garden at Episode Seongsu 121 in Seongdong District, eastern Seoul. [SK D&D]

 
The counterintuitive math of co-living appeals to some people in Korea: higher rent for apartments where certain facilities are shared.  
 
Kim Eui-hyeon, a 37-year-old career consultant, has been living for a year at Seongsu 121, in Seongdong-gu, eastern Seoul. Enjoying her stay, Kim recently decided to extend the lease for another year.  
 
Co-living is a housing model in which residents lease individual rooms, but share spaces, such as the kitchen, living room and gym, with others. Some have cafes, small libraries and even pet playgrounds.
 
“I looked into renting other houses in different parts of Seoul before my lease ended, but decided that there was no other place like here considering accessibility and services and experience provided,” said Kim. “The 910,000 won ($770) wolse is more expensive than normal officetels, but there are lots of merits that are worth the money.” Wolse refers to monthly rent, and an officetel is a building used for both commercial and residential purposes in Korea.  
  

 
A cafe and bar area at a communal lounge in Episode Seongsu 101, a co-living space in Seongdong District, eastern Seoul. [SK D&D]

A cafe and bar area at a communal lounge in Episode Seongsu 101, a co-living space in Seongdong District, eastern Seoul. [SK D&D]

 
Despite being on the pricey side, the new style of living is quickly gaining popularity.
 
The rent for Episode Seongsu 101 and 121 ranges from 900,000 won to 1.4 million won depending on the size of the rooms. An additional maintenance fee of some 150,000 won is charged every month, but over 95 percent of the rooms are leased.  
 
Wolse of rooms at soon-to-be-opened Episode Seocho 393 cost anywhere from 1.4 million won to 30 million won, but SK D&D, the company running the co-living space, says they have received many inquiries from people wanting to move in.
 
“Young people either live a YOLO [you only live once] lifestyle or are extremely frugal, and people who want to live in fancy homes despite high prices are the former,” said Lee Eun-hee, a professor teaching consumer studies at Inha University. “People who adopt the YOLO lifestyle and enjoy luxuries could be considered to be just showing off, but those people consider it to be an investment for their future.”
 
A view of the dining room at Celib Soonra, a co-living house in Jongno, central Seoul. [CELIB LIFE & STAY]

A view of the dining room at Celib Soonra, a co-living house in Jongno, central Seoul. [CELIB LIFE & STAY]

 
Co-living spaces started emerging in Korea about five years ago, and well-known companies have tapped into the growing market.  
 
SK D&D, which is 34.1 percent owned by SK Gas, runs three co-living spaces: Episode Seongsu 101, Episode Seongsu 121 and Episode Seocho 393. Workspace provider Fastfive joined by leasing co-living house LIFE on 2.Gather in Gangnam District, southern Seoul. Local Stitch, Homes Studio and Celib Life & Stay are some of the other companies that lease co-living spaces.
 
“Being a company-run co-living space, it feels less like I’m left alone since the employees actively communicate with the residents, inform us about social networking events and listen to our concerns,” said Kim.
 
Convenience is another reason why people choose co-living spaces despite the price. Celib Soonra, a communal house in Jongno, central Seoul, offers housekeeping and cleaning services twice a month. The residents are given four free dinners a week at the communal kitchen. All Episode houses offer housekeeping service once a month.  
 
Although co-living may be a foreign idea, many of the residences offer trial-stays for people curious whether they'll like the idea of sharing a house with others. Celib Life & Stay signed a partnership with Airbnb last November to allow people to book empty rooms at Celib Soonra. Ahead of its opening, Episode Seocho 393 announced it will pick six people to stay at the co-living space for a day for free.
 
“People buy cars and clothes after trying them, but don’t get to try out houses, which are very expensive and where people spend the most time,” said a spokesperson for Celib Soonra. “We hope [our program] can help people decide on which type of house fits them the most.”
 

BY BAE JUNG-WON, LEE TAE-HEE [lee.taehee2@joongang.co.kr]
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