Moving to South Korea
Expats moving to South Korea will discover a country that is steeped in ancient history while being extremely modern. It is a nation of people who look both forwards and backwards, in a country that is fiercely competitive on global markets and proud of its rich history.
Technologically, South Korea is hard to beat. The home of tech giants such as Samsung and LG Electronics, Bloomberg ranked the Republic of Korea as having the world’s fastest Internet in 2015, ahead of both Hong Kong and Japan. This is important for business but also for expatriates wanting to keep in touch with family and friends back home.
Seoul is the country’s capital, its most densely populated city and 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.
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.
Banks in South Korea are common, efficient and it's relatively easy for expats to open an account and transfer money in and out of the country.
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.
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 in the major cities.
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.
South Koreans pride themselves on their country’s very distinctive and beautiful four seasons. As in neighbouring Japan, spring cherry blossom festivals are held every March and April, attracting visitors from across the country. Summers tend to be rainy at first with high humidity levels towards the middle of the season. Autumn is spectacularly beautiful in the mountainous areas as leaves turn red, orange, auburn, brown and gold. Winters tend to be quite cold, particularly towards the north, and lends itself to excellent skiing and ice-fishing adventures.
South Korea can be a challenging place for expats but the rewards of moving there are great. Its culture is intriguing and, with accessible countryside, getting away from fast-paced life in the city is easy. Living standards are also high and the cost of living is reasonable.
South Korea is an incredibly safe country with low crime rates, and expats can expect a warm welcome from locals and other foreigners.