Can anyone share their experiences of moving to South Korea?


syfine's picture
By syfine - Posted on
19 March 2018

I've recently thought about moving to Korea, and even more recently decided I'm very serious about making a reality, and would prefer moving before I'm 22 (currently a freshman in college) so I can still be somewhat young while I'm there. I've done research on a lot of pages so far, but there are a few (probably stupid) questions I needed answered. (I'll already have finished learning Korean by the time I move there)

1: Is it possible moving to Korea before I'm 22? I'd be moving by myself, so is it legal for someone around that age to move to South Korea without someone older accompanying them? I understand the age for being an adult is different for some countries, so I was wondering.

2: I'm majoring in computer programming. Almost everyone I see moving to Korea is either a guest of the U.S. Army or a teacher moving to Korea to teach English. Is it possible for a normal person like me to move there? Can I transfer my US money that I have saved to a Korean bank and use the money there? Could I handle owning an apartment and getting meals everyday and the like just working a normal full time job like an employee at a store until I'm able to get a job in the field I'm majoring in? (this is assuming I have all the money I transferred)

3: How far in advance should I fill out a job application for a job in Korea? Or should I wait until I arrive there? I'm assuming it's better to do it in advance but still wanted to ask. If you think there's anything extra I should know feel free to tell me.

Daniela de Castro's picture
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Last seen: 9 weeks 2 days ago
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Hi Syfine

You'll be happy to know that in South Korea people are considered adults at the age of 19. This is also the age where South Koreans are legally allowed to drink, smoke and vote. Moving at the age of 22 should not be a problem if you have the funds to support yourself. You may even find that many of the foreigners in Korea are a similar age, as teaching English in South Korea for a few years after university is a common choice for young expats.

In most cases, finding work before arriving in South Korea will be your best option. Try looking online or contacting local recruitment agencies to find a job. Once you've received a solid job offer your employer may even handle the work permit application process for you. Our guide to Working in South Korea has more details on the visa application process which might be helpful for you.

To open a Korean bank account you will need a work permit and an Alien Registration Card (ARC). You should make sure you have enough funds to cover your expenses before you move. Expat arrivals has a helpful guide to the Cost of Living in South Korea which you may find useful.

Where will you be moving to South Korea from? 

- Daniela
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syfine's picture
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Last seen: 13 weeks 3 days ago
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Thanks for the answer, it helped a lot, I may have more in the future though of course :p

By the way, when I'm transferring money into my Korean bank account, are my US dollars directly converted into KRW? Let's just say I put $500 USD into the Korean bank account, how much KRW would that be worth?

Also, I'd be moving from the United States to either Busan or Seoul (I'm not entirely sure yet though)

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Daniela de Castro's picture
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Hi Syfine

The conversion rate of your USD to KRW will depend on the bank you use in South Korea. Depending on how much money you want to send to your Korean account, you may also have to pay some taxes or duties on it. The Expat Arrivals guide to Banking, Money and Taxes in South Korea will have more detailed information on how this could affect you. 

In bigger cities like Seoul and Busan you are more likely to have access to large international banks. Try contacting an international bank with a significant presence in South Korea like Citibank to find out exactly how the process of transferring money will work and what it will cost you, as this is usually handled on a case-by-case basis. 

- Daniela 
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syfine's picture
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Last seen: 13 weeks 3 days ago
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Thanks again for your answers, they really help.

For my last question, is it possible to live in South Korea for the rest of my life once I move there? I would really like that, but I'm unsure if it's possible.

Do I have to renew my visa everytime it expires (if that's even possible), or am I just forced to return to the U.S. once it expires or once my contract expires?

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Daniela de Castro's picture
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Last seen: 9 weeks 2 days ago
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Hi again

It looks like if you live in the country for five consecutive years, have a basic understanding of South Korean culture and can speak the language with a reasonable degree of fluency you will be able to start the naturalization process to become a South Korean citizen. 

I'm not an expert though, so you should definitely consult an immigration lawyer or your local South Korean embassy to get the official details about applications for citizenship and residency in the country. It might also be worth having a look at our guide to Visas for South Korea for some general information on which visas you could be eligible for. 

- Daniela
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