Moving to South Korea

In Moving Guides by Steven Kane

Relocation to South Korea: Insights


Capital City: Seoul
Population: 51.45 Million
Language(s): Korean
Currency: South Korean Won (KRW)
GDP per capita: USD 31,000 (2016)
Drives on the: Right
Time: GMT +9
Internet domain: .kr
International dialling code: +82

We are pleased to provide you with our guide on moving to South Korea from Dubai, UAE.

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South Korea makes up the southern part of the Korean peninsula. Covering just over 100,000 square km, it is generally considered South Korea can be divided into 4 distinct areas; the western region of river basins and rolling hills, the mountainous eastern region, the valleys of the south-west and the lower, wider, river Nokdong areas of the south-east. Seoul is the capital city, other large cities are Busan, Incheon, and Daegu.

South Korea has a humid subtropical climate heavily influenced by the East Asian monsoon. There are four seasons; summers can be hot and humid, winters can be bitterly cold especially in the mountainous areas, although a little milder in the south. Rain is very common during the summer months.

One of the original Asian Tigers, South Korea’s economy boomed for the last three decades of the last century and the country suffered considerably less than the rest of the industrialised world during the financial crises in 2008.

An emphasis on education means South Korea is one of the world’s most literate countries. It has very low unemployment and is a leading nation in electronics, shipbuilding, car manufacturing, textiles, and steel. It is the 7th largest importer and 5th largest exporter in the world.

Expats in South Korea
Expats moving to South Korea
will encounter a modern nation steeped in history and tradition. The country has very low crime rates and is generally safe. Language may be an obstacle, the older generation generally does not speak much English; however, people are mostly accommodating and friendly towards foreigners. Like many parts of Asia, the elderly are afforded great respect and despite who you encounter it is really worth learning a few phrases in Korean so you can at least greet people and exchange pleasantries. Bowing is viewed as a sign of respect and is a good habit to adopt.

Foreigners make up less than 3% of the population and more than half of these are actually ethnic Koreans with another citizenship and consequently, this can create an exciting feeling of being a stranger in a foreign land that you may not necessarily experience in somewhere like Singapore or Dubai for example.

Food and entertainment in South Korea are varied and really exciting. Noodles, rice, and soup are popular, as is grilled meat and fish, accompanied of course by traditional Kimchi spicy fermented vegetable dish. South Korea is unique in that it uses metal chopsticks. Music, theatre, and sport are all very popular entertainment amongst locals.

Cost of living (Seoul)
A meal at a standard restaurant is likely to cost roughly USD 20-25 per person with a beer priced around USD 3.50 and soft drinks around USD 1.50 per can.  A reasonable bottle of wine costs approximately USD 22 and a coffee typically sets you back around USD 4.50. At the local supermarkets a loaf of bread is priced around USD 3.10, a liter of milk approximately USD 2.30 and a dozen eggs roughly USD 3.50. Fruit is very expensive in South Korea.

Public transport in most of South Korea is excellent. A monthly pass in a major city is likely to cost around USD 55. Taxis start around is USD 3 and then around USD 1 per kilometer thereafter. Petrol is relatively expensive at around USD 1.45 per liter.

Accommodation is expensive, although a little less so in areas outside Seoul. A typical 1-2 bedroom apartment in a prestigious area of a major city would be approximately USD 1200-2000 per month. Less desirable areas would reduce the monthly rent to around USD 900. A typical house would cost around USD 3500 per month.

Basic utilities for an average two-bedroom apartment will be around USD 200.  Prepaid mobile phone charges are approximately USD 0.15 per minutes and extremely fast broadband internet is roughly USD 25 per month.


South Korea’s obsession with education is often referred to as ‘education fever’. It is fair to say there is, at the very least, some social pressure on achieving a good education. As a result, South Korea ranks second only to Singapore in maths and science exam grades, they also lead the way in levels of literacy according to the Organization for Economic and Cooperation and Development (OECD),

Following kindergarten, Children start school at 6 years old (grade 1) and complete schooling at aged 18 (grade 12). School fees are generally expensive.

Homeschooling is gaining in popularity, particularly amongst expats. Whilst officially it is illegal to homeschool Korean children, is it perfectly legal for foreigners to homeschool their kids.

Healthcare in South Korea is efficient, modern and of a very high standard. Most hospitals will have some doctors who can speak English, however, you may struggle to communicate with the majority of staff so if possible, taking a Korean speaker with you is essential.

The National Health Insurance covers the entire population, however, there are two important points to note. Firstly as a foreigner, you will not be covered by this until you have been issued with your ARC (Alien Registration Card). Secondly, the NHI will not cover any type of chronic illness, for example, cancer. Private healthcare, therefore, is very important. As an employed foreigner, your employer is lawfully obliged to cover at least 50% of your private medical cover.

In addition to western medication, healthcare clinics and hospitals in South Korea also offer a number of oriental medicines and procedures such as herbal medication and acupuncture.

Moving Documents Required

When moving to South Korea from Dubai, importation of Household Goods and Personal Effects

  • Passport copy (incl. photo, entry visa, and residence visa pages)
  • Detailed Packing list in English
  • Alien Registration Card (ARC) issued by immigration
  • Bill of lading / AWB
  • Customs declaration form

Useful link(s);

Note: This document is provided as a guide for people moving to South Korea from Dubai, UAE and for information purposes only. Customs regulations can and do change at any time, usually without notice. Your mover will provide you with more information.