Moving to South Korea
Expats moving to South Korea will discover a fiercely competitive modern country that is still steeped in ancient history and tradition. As the home of tech giants such as Samsung and LG Electronics, South Korea has a tech-centric economy. Fittingly, the country consistently ranks as having the fastest internet in the world, ahead of both Hong Kong and Japan. Not only is this useful for doing business in South Korea, but it also helps expats keep in touch with family and friends back home.
Most foreigners find employment teaching English in Korean schools or working in electronics, finance, IT and production. Many expats also move to Seoul, the country's capital, its most densely populated city and the chief industrial centre. Of the estimated 51 million people who call South Korea home, around 25 million live in the Seoul Capital Area. As with many Asian cities, it is dominated by high-rise buildings and apartment blocks. Between all the high-tech, modern buildings, however, is an interesting array of temples, palaces and museums, all conveniently connected by Seoul’s efficient subway system.
The extensive road, rail and ferry transport systems in South Korea connect its nine provinces. Similar to Japan’s bullet train, the KTX connects Seoul, Daejeon, Daegu and Busan - the cities most popular with expats - and enables passengers to hurtle from Seoul in the north to Busan in the south in about three hours.
The healthcare system in South Korea is as advanced as its transport network. The country is at the forefront of medical research and constantly strives to push the boundaries of medical knowledge. Similarly, the standard of education in South Korea is also high, with a number of foreign language and international schools in Seoul and other major cities, as well as in some smaller towns. Living standards are also high and, although accommodation is expensive, the cost of living is relatively reasonable.
South Korean cuisine is very different from Asian foods that expats are often familiar with and may initially challenge their palates. Perseverance is crucial, however, since there are many regional delicacies worth sampling, although Western food is readily available all over.
South Koreans enjoy entertainment, and the country's nightlife, particularly in the larger cities, is fantastic. There are a number of cultural festivals celebrated throughout the year and it has a bustling music scene that frequently attracts international stars.
Politically, South Korea does not enjoy a good relationship with its neighbour, North Korea, but this rarely affects ordinary people going about their daily business.
Despite certain challenges, Korean culture is intriguing and rewards deeper understanding. South Korea is an incredibly safe country with low crime rates, and expats can expect a warm welcome from locals and other foreigners.