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Cost of Living: Now and Then
« on: December 31, 2015, 11:24:54 am »
Just booked a bus ticket to Seoul which made me think about the increase in prices of living costs over the years.

I arrived in Korea in 2009. Here's a short list of comparative prices from now and then (in Gwangju).

Bibimbap at Kimbab Nara:
2009:  ₩3500
2015:  ₩5000

Beer in restaurants:
2009: ₩3000
2015: ₩4000

Samgyeopsal (for 1 person):
2009: ₩8000
2015: ₩10-12,000

Bus fare (with card):
2009: ₩900
2015: ₩1100

Express bus ticket Gwangju to Seoul:
2009: ₩22,000
2015: ₩28,000

Taxi base fare:
2009: 2200
2015: 2800 + faster increases in fare meters

One hour at PC bang:
2009: ₩500+service
2015: ₩1000+no service

Average food price in grocery store increase: 25%+

Taxes, medical etc. have all also gone up by a couple percent.


As you can see, in general, living costs have increased by about 25% since 2009. The trend will only continue.

Hagwon wages, on the other hand, have been frozen, hours have increased, and perks have gone down. And they will continue to worsen as long as prospective English instructors continue to sign contracts that enable hagwon owners to take advantage of their employees.

So happy new year, and to all prospective employees: best of luck with your search, and I hope you put these employers in their place by refusing to sign laughable contracts. Then perhaps the standard will at least go back to what it used to be.


P.S. Feel free to add to this list.


  • Mezoti97
  • The Legend

    • 2697

    • April 14, 2011, 03:02:50 pm
    • South Korea
Re: Cost of Living: Now and Then
« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2015, 11:47:07 am »
Bus fare (with card):
2009: ₩900
2015: ₩1100

Not sure if you're talking about buses in Seoul or another city, but bus fare in Seoul (when using your T-money card) is now 1,200 won (and 1,300 won without a T-money card).
« Last Edit: December 31, 2015, 11:48:50 am by Mezoti97 »


Re: Cost of Living: Now and Then
« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2015, 12:03:21 pm »
Bus fare (with card):
2009: ₩900
2015: ₩1100

Not sure if you're talking about buses in Seoul or another city, but bus fare in Seoul (when using your T-money card) is now 1,200 won (and 1,300 won without a T-money card).

As I said, "(in Gwangju.)"

Yeah, Seoul is more expensive in just about every way.


  • AndyKanerva
  • Super Waygook

    • 436

    • February 23, 2014, 08:43:23 am
    • Gangwon-DO
Re: Cost of Living: Now and Then
« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2015, 12:11:07 pm »
Sadly this seems to be the case just about everywhere. They just raised the price of TTC fares back home, yet again, though wages haven't risen nearly as much. I fear for a future where the comforts we take for granted now are out of reach.


  • Jmessler
  • Adventurer

    • 47

    • August 14, 2013, 02:08:39 am
    • Seoul
Re: Cost of Living: Now and Then
« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2015, 12:14:50 pm »
Bus fare (with card):
2009: ₩900
2015: ₩1100

Not sure if you're talking about buses in Seoul or another city, but bus fare in Seoul (when using your T-money card) is now 1,200 won (and 1,300 won without a T-money card).

Reading skills = over 9,000
Reality is an illusion which occurs due to the lack of alcohol.


Re: Cost of Living: Now and Then
« Reply #5 on: December 31, 2015, 01:26:52 pm »
2009: IGAF
2015: IDGAF

2016: The end of the blur known as Korea...deuces, bitches! I'm out!


  • AndyKanerva
  • Super Waygook

    • 436

    • February 23, 2014, 08:43:23 am
    • Gangwon-DO
Re: Cost of Living: Now and Then
« Reply #6 on: December 31, 2015, 01:32:18 pm »
2009: IGAF
2015: IDGAF

2016: The end of the blur known as Korea...deuces, bitches! I'm out!
Wow, great for you.


Re: Cost of Living: Now and Then
« Reply #7 on: December 31, 2015, 01:36:08 pm »
2009: IGAF
2015: IDGAF

2016: The end of the blur known as Korea...deuces, bitches! I'm out!

Fair enough. But not everyone is leaving, so...

Point is, wages have been frozen for public schools and have worsened for hagwons, while living costs have shot up at a rate of 4-5% per year. That's huge.

Being at the top of the EPIK scale for 3 years now, I take home less now than I did 2 years ago. Not that I'm really complaining, but it's odd to see that due to raised taxes my net income actually goes down every year. Factor in rising living costs and it's easy to see how as time goes by, even though we are more experienced, the amount we can save is lower.


Re: Cost of Living: Now and Then
« Reply #8 on: December 31, 2015, 01:39:30 pm »
Prices seem about right.  Back home prices shot up a lot between 2006 and 2013 (last time I was home).  I was in extreme shock.  I wish I remember what folks said the prices here were in 1995, 2000, 2005, etc.  Before my time, but Korea was cheap.  Also, I think 2004 and 2005 wages for entry level were also 2.1.  Before that, they were lower but so too were the cost of goods.  Actually I believe I wouldsee ads in 2007 to early 2009 putting up their wages 2.2 or 2.3 for many starting positions when it was previously 2.1..  Once the recession hit in 2009, the wages fell back to 2.1 and some hakwons started upping the work hours.  I do see ads nowadays with more money being offered than 2009 to 2012ish.  There are a lot of 2.1s and one way flight BS.  But there are others up to 2.4 or 2.5 and some in the upper 2.0's for longer hours.  Not every job of course, but far more frequently now than 3 or 4 years ago. 


My first year salary was 1.9, but the teachers picked me up and drove me to school.  School lunches were free, taxes and deductions were less, the exchange rate was awesome, etc.  Now, I'm nearly 3 million and have more deductions, pay for school lunches, have commuting expense, and many things cost more.  I'm not too rankled as I make more too.  But if my job ended and I were in the low 2.0's, I'd be p!$$ed.  Thankfully, 2016 will get me out of debt and the exchange rate has finally recovered.   


Re: Cost of Living: Now and Then
« Reply #9 on: December 31, 2015, 01:46:21 pm »
My first year salary was 1.9, but the teachers picked me up and drove me to school.  School lunches were free, taxes and deductions were less, the exchange rate was awesome, etc.  Now, I'm nearly 3 million and have more deductions, pay for school lunches, have commuting expense, and many things cost more.  I'm not too rankled as I make more too.  But if my job ended and I were in the low 2.0's, I'd be p!$$ed.  Thankfully, 2016 will get me out of debt and the exchange rate has finally recovered.

Cheers dude! Here's to a new year of being debt-free. You've been working that sucker quite a while, as every seasoned waygook knows.  ;D


  • Pecan
  • The Legend

    • 3769

    • December 27, 2010, 09:14:44 am
    • Seoul
Re: Cost of Living: Now and Then
« Reply #10 on: December 31, 2015, 02:20:47 pm »
I have read these sorts of numbers by a few before, and it really confuses me, as it is so far removed from the Korea that I knew then.

A 2.4 million gig was easy to find in 1995, as was getting paid 60,000 an hour.

Public school contracts were in USD at $2,000 per.

Read: http://highbrowdrifter.com/index.php/page/8/

He accurately captures what life was like back then.


  • grey
  • Hero of Waygookistan

    • 1536

    • April 08, 2011, 04:47:11 am
    • USA
    more
Re: Cost of Living: Now and Then
« Reply #11 on: December 31, 2015, 02:38:18 pm »
Not related to cost of living, but I would imagine the availability of goods has improved significantly since 1995.

Less money, and more things to spend it on don't help your savings.
Ko fills half his luggage with instant noodles for his international business travels, a lesson he learned after assuming on his first trip that three packages would suffice for six days. “Man, was I wrong. Since then, I always make sure I pack enough.”
-AP


  • tamjen
  • Hero of Waygookistan

    • 1180

    • June 19, 2013, 08:08:14 am
Re: Cost of Living: Now and Then
« Reply #12 on: December 31, 2015, 04:51:26 pm »
2009: IGAF
2015: IDGAF

2016: The end of the blur known as Korea...deuces, bitches! I'm out!

Me too.

Here's what I got upon my arrival in September 2005:

- large awesome 2 bedroom apartment 2 minutes from the school

- totally furnished with a computer/printer/scanner

- tv with satellite dish

- virtually everything in the apartment was still in boxes, the mattress for the bed was still in plastic wrap as were all the sheets etc

- 2.2 million / month

- 24 days paid vacation

- no deskwarming or keeping tabs on what I did for the long summer and winter breaks

- tech high school which was closed for 40 days each semester so the students could get practical experience in a factory (I went to Thailand each time)

- no lesson plans and watched tv every class all class

- boozing and partying with the CT's and Principal all the time

- got seriously angry one time at the students and walked out of class and came back about 2-3 hours later hammered drunk. Started cleaning my desk in prep for being fired when the P, VP, Admin, and both CT's came over and begged me not to quit! They apologized for everything in the history of humanity.

life was better then

I do pretty much nothing now, but it isn't that relaxed.....

Sorry...as to the OP, beer and food were much cheaper then too.
Hail Caesar


Re: Cost of Living: Now and Then
« Reply #13 on: December 31, 2015, 08:46:05 pm »
2009: IGAF
2015: IDGAF

2016: The end of the blur known as Korea...deuces, bitches! I'm out!

Me too.

Here's what I got upon my arrival in September 2005:

- large awesome 2 bedroom apartment 2 minutes from the school

- totally furnished with a computer/printer/scanner

- tv with satellite dish

- virtually everything in the apartment was still in boxes, the mattress for the bed was still in plastic wrap as were all the sheets etc

- 2.2 million / month

- 24 days paid vacation

- no deskwarming or keeping tabs on what I did for the long summer and winter breaks

- tech high school which was closed for 40 days each semester so the students could get practical experience in a factory (I went to Thailand each time)

- no lesson plans and watched tv every class all class

- boozing and partying with the CT's and Principal all the time

- got seriously angry one time at the students and walked out of class and came back about 2-3 hours later hammered drunk. Started cleaning my desk in prep for being fired when the P, VP, Admin, and both CT's came over and begged me not to quit! They apologized for everything in the history of humanity.

life was better then

I do pretty much nothing now, but it isn't that relaxed.....

Sorry...as to the OP, beer and food were much cheaper then too.

I wish I had of gotten here a couple of years earlier.  Just as I got to like the slackness and the money of old Korea, it changed on a dime with the recession.  I miss it sometimes.  But it's more convenient to live here in 2016 in many ways than it was 10 years ago.  More modern, less staring, etc.  Either way, I'd do China if I wanted the old memories to come back. 


Re: Cost of Living: Now and Then
« Reply #14 on: December 31, 2015, 08:55:05 pm »
My first year salary was 1.9, but the teachers picked me up and drove me to school.  School lunches were free, taxes and deductions were less, the exchange rate was awesome, etc.  Now, I'm nearly 3 million and have more deductions, pay for school lunches, have commuting expense, and many things cost more.  I'm not too rankled as I make more too.  But if my job ended and I were in the low 2.0's, I'd be p!$$ed.  Thankfully, 2016 will get me out of debt and the exchange rate has finally recovered.

Cheers dude! Here's to a new year of being debt-free. You've been working that sucker quite a while, as every seasoned waygook knows.  ;D

Ain't that the truth?  Thanks, but more thanks to a fallen Canadian dollar.  I'll still have some cards to get rid of through the year, but it's good to make progress where for a few years, it seemed no progress was being made.  :)


Re: Cost of Living: Now and Then
« Reply #15 on: December 31, 2015, 08:56:30 pm »
I have read these sorts of numbers by a few before, and it really confuses me, as it is so far removed from the Korea that I knew then.

A 2.4 million gig was easy to find in 1995, as was getting paid 60,000 an hour.

Public school contracts were in USD at $2,000 per.

Read: http://highbrowdrifter.com/index.php/page/8/

He accurately captures what life was like back then.

I've read many expats recollections of Seoul living in the 90's and into the 2000's.  Always interesting.  Thanks for sharing. 


Re: Cost of Living: Now and Then
« Reply #16 on: January 01, 2016, 12:08:25 pm »

Here's what I got upon my arrival in September 2005:

- large awesome 2 bedroom apartment 2 minutes from the school

- totally furnished with a computer/printer/scanner

- tv with satellite dish

- virtually everything in the apartment was still in boxes, the mattress for the bed was still in plastic wrap as were all the sheets etc

- 2.2 million / month

- 24 days paid vacation

- no deskwarming or keeping tabs on what I did for the long summer and winter breaks

- tech high school which was closed for 40 days each semester so the students could get practical experience in a factory (I went to Thailand each time)

- no lesson plans and watched tv every class all class

- boozing and partying with the CT's and Principal all the time

- got seriously angry one time at the students and walked out of class and came back about 2-3 hours later hammered drunk. Started cleaning my desk in prep for being fired when the P, VP, Admin, and both CT's came over and begged me not to quit! They apologized for everything in the history of humanity.

life was better then

I do pretty much nothing now, but it isn't that relaxed.....

Sorry...as to the OP, beer and food were much cheaper then too.

Add in the deterioration of student discipline since the cp ban in 2008.

The slide will continue until the moment China pays more.
Creating shared values


Re: Cost of Living: Now and Then
« Reply #17 on: January 01, 2016, 03:12:32 pm »
My first year salary was 1.9, but the teachers picked me up and drove me to school.  School lunches were free, taxes and deductions were less, the exchange rate was awesome, etc.  Now, I'm nearly 3 million and have more deductions, pay for school lunches, have commuting expense, and many things cost more.  I'm not too rankled as I make more too.  But if my job ended and I were in the low 2.0's, I'd be p!$$ed.  Thankfully, 2016 will get me out of debt and the exchange rate has finally recovered.

Cheers dude! Here's to a new year of being debt-free. You've been working that sucker quite a while, as every seasoned waygook knows.  ;D

Actually, just fired off the last payment.  It's done.  Now, to tackle those cards and hope the Cdn dollar doesn't rise too much over 2016.  :)
« Last Edit: January 03, 2016, 12:20:58 am by weigookin74 »


  • maximmm
  • Hero of Waygookistan

    • 1447

    • September 05, 2013, 11:02:44 am
Re: Cost of Living: Now and Then
« Reply #18 on: January 02, 2016, 08:49:55 pm »
Transportation feels have gone up - agree.

Beer?  Not so much but it all depends on where you are drinking.  Emart beer prices seem to be the same - and import beer is cheap if not cheaper than the local crap  - it's certainly cheaper than the cost of beer in Canada (German stuff, anyways).  As for bars - I was at a bar on NY eve and tap beer was 2.5 K won.

Electronics - Chinese stuff is really, really good these days and very cheap as well.  Apple and Samsung stuff is and has always been overpriced.  Though it should be noted that Samsung does make most of its stuff in Korea, so at least it has a pretty decent excuse.

Cost of gas has gone down.

Utility cost - I'll never figure it out but in Gyeonggi, 7 years ago, I had to pay 300K won even when during the months I was away on vacation.  What I pay now is a LOT less.

Groceries - I do most of my shopping on gmarket and I'd say that I end up paying a lot less than I did in the past - primarily because in the olden days I'd do most of my shopping in emart.  But... yes, in general, food prices have gone up a bit.

Cost of pizza, for example, is now around 10-20% higher. 

Wages - yep, these have either been frozen, or out in Gyeonggi, frozen at lower caps.  Yet, in the countryside caps remain the same and under certain conditions you get a double bonus (200K above cap).

Plane ticket costs - due to lower oil prices - have remained the same.

All in all, I don't see a whole lot of difference, though the job market is rough. On the bright side, the days of foreigners been demonized in the local media are now seemingly a thing of the past. 
The anti-Japan propaganda, on the other hand, remains strong.
« Last Edit: January 02, 2016, 08:52:42 pm by maximmm »


  • Davey
  • Moderator - LVL 3

    • 1833

    • February 01, 2010, 01:36:20 pm
Re: Cost of Living: Now and Then
« Reply #19 on: January 03, 2016, 02:02:07 am »
My first year salary was 1.9, but the teachers picked me up and drove me to school.  School lunches were free, taxes and deductions were less, the exchange rate was awesome, etc.  Now, I'm nearly 3 million and have more deductions, pay for school lunches, have commuting expense, and many things cost more.  I'm not too rankled as I make more too.  But if my job ended and I were in the low 2.0's, I'd be p!$$ed.  Thankfully, 2016 will get me out of debt and the exchange rate has finally recovered.

Cheers dude! Here's to a new year of being debt-free. You've been working that sucker quite a while, as every seasoned waygook knows.  ;D

Actually, just fired off the last payment.  It's done.  Now, to tackle those cards and hope the Cdn dollar doesn't rise too much over 2016.  :)

If I recall correctly, you paid off your student loan first, before your credit cards? Just FYI, the best way to minimize interest expense is to pay off debt with the highest rate first.

Congrats on paying off your loan, though.
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