living in the Korean Countryside

Living in the Korean Countryside as an ESL Teacher

Upon deciding to take that brave first step of coming to teach in Korea, you must decide where you want to spend your upcoming year in this wonderful country full of beautiful and appetising cities and towns. Different folks have different strokes, therefore not everyone has the same ideal location where to make their home abroad. Drawing on my experience, I will talk you through the pros and cons of a life spent living in the Korean Countryside. A life that is certainly worth thinking over before you plump for the densely populated areas of Korea’s metropolises.

There are many things to take into consideration when deliberating where you would like to base yourself for your time in South Korea. Living in a large cosmopolitan city or a small town in the countryside poses different questions. Here are the main points of contention.

Living in the Korean Countryside

Saving Money

Perhaps one of the biggest draws for living in the Korean Countryside is a financial one. If you decide you’d like to live in a small town then you will have a great and realistic opportunity of saving up to $10,000 a year…if you are smart and of course strict. Due to the nature of the area, you will not easily find nightclubs, department stores or large brand restaurants. Coffee shops would be the obvious exception here in Korea. As well as this, items in smaller towns will be significantly cheaper than say in Seoul or Busan. So the opportunity for saving money for paying off student loans or your next adventure is certainly do-able.

Learning Culture/Korean

For me personally this was the biggest pro for deciding to live in a rural part of South Korea. For those who are looking to jump in with both feet and truly experience the county’s true culture and identity, then a small town is for you. Living in the Korean Countryside offers you the opportunity to learn the language and cultural norms. Although it is improving, many people in smaller areas do not have a great deal of English, so it becomes essential to learn Korean. On the other hand, if living in one of many big cities, you will find most if not all people you encounter will use English which negates the need for you to engage in Korean study, if you so wish.

Embrace Korean Nature

South Korea is naturally a very mountainous country and in the rural areas of Korea this is easily seen. When living in the Korean Countryside you can take advantage of Korea’s natural landscape and go on weekend hiking trips to local mountains in your area (in Miryang I would often take the Insabong hike trail on warm spring afternoons). You could even escape to a forest and encounter Korean animal life. All in all, living in one of Korea’s many rural towns will enable you to take in the scenic beauty and the peaceful lifestyle that comes with it.


When it comes to transport it all depends on location and your weekend habits. Overall, in Korea transport is convenient, easy and cheap. Train lines connect most cities in Korea. When compared to foreign countries namely the UK and USA the transport costs pale in comparison. However, in Korea, subways/undergrounds are only available in big cities such as: Seoul, Gyeongi-do, Daegu, and Busan. If you are the type of person who enjoys the louder scene and would like to socialise and party in the big cities, then you should either live in a big city or a satellite city. In my experience, I was based in a small town surrounded by large cities like: Busan, Daegu and Changwon. So if I wanted to have fun, it was at hand and convenient to reach.


This is perhaps the weakest point for living in the Korean Countryside rather than the urban sprawl of a big Korean city. If you are the kind of person who likes to shop or enjoys the luxuries life has to offer, then perhaps the rural setting is not to your taste. You will struggle to find a department store and will be more likely faced with local markets selling local goods. However, in most rural towns banks and grocery stores are easy enough to find as well as local doctors for most ailments. One amenity you are sure never to miss out on is coffee. Here in Korea…no matter where you set foot you will find a coffee shop or 10 ready and waiting for you.
*With regards to these items of discussion, please bear in mind that Korea is ever evolving and in the 4 years I spent living in my rural town, it has grown 10-fold and this is the case continually in Korea.

To summarise, it is my belief that sometimes taking the road less travelled instead of the well-beaten path leads to some of the most important and life defining moments one can experience. This statement is true in my case. If I could rewind the clock I would take that same wild and untamed route. So be brave and experience this new chapter in life in the best possible way by going full native. The friends you make and the experiences you take with you will live on in you forever.

By Adam Dean Foy

WE TEACH KOREA: Teaching English in South Korea

We Teach Korea is the best site for TEFL jobs in South Korea. English teaching jobs are posted daily, as well as blog posts about living and teaching English in South Korea.

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4 thoughts on “Living in the Korean Countryside as an ESL Teacher

  1. SeoulSam on

    Interesting. I’m not sure I agree with you about saving money, though.
    I live in Seoul and save roughly that much already, but I could save a lot more if I wanted to by simply working more. I can only assume there are way more opportunities for extra work in a big city than in the country…

  2. Jane on

    Actually, coffee shops aren’t everywhere. At least, not if you live as rural as I do (island life!)! Hahah. But I’m not a big coffee drinker, so I suffer no withdrawal.

    I think one of the main things I’ve learned so far is that everyone’s mileage varies. The experiences of my friends from orientation (and my own) are all pretty different, despite most of us getting “rural” placements.

    In spite of some minor inconveniences, I really love living in the countryside! I’ve found it’s really nice for daily life and if I want some excitement I just ferry to the mainland on weekends. Anyway, I enjoyed reading! Thank you for your article 🙂

  3. Rob Dickey on

    Definitions of ‘rural’ vary wildly. In Korea, a city with population 100,000 is considered practically countryside. If your countryside workplace can connect to city amenities (McDonalds/PizzaHut, HomePlus/other super/department store/movies) via train or (mostly) non-stop bus in 60 minutes or less, then the only thing you may lack is frequent bus service or patrolling taxis.

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