Korean apartments, like most apartments in big cities, are tiny. Most foreign teachers have little studio apartments (one room with a kitchen and bathroom). Originally, I expected to receive a studio apartment. However, I lucked out with a one bedroom, with a decent amount of closet space, and by that I mean there is a closet.
The entrance to the apartment has a little electronic lock on it that looks similar to a hotel lock. You slide up a panel, enter a 4 digit code, then close the panel. The lock plays a little 8-bit (think Gameboy) tune then unlocks. Once you’re inside the panel plays the same little song backward, then locks itself. Its really neat and it makes stopping by friend’s apartments easy. If I’m still at work and Nicole wants to come over, she can just enter the code and make herself at home until I get back.
When you walk into most Korean apartments, there’s a little area by the door to take off your shoes. In all the apartments I’ve seen, it’s a little stone area thats lower than the rest of the apartment, to contain any dirt or water from the shoes.
The apartment, aside from the bathroom is all wood floors. Korean heating comes from a network of heated pipes under the floor. There’s a unit on the wall, similar to a thermostat that controls both the floor heating and the hot water heater for the shower. I’m told floor heating is really expensive to run, like $7-a-day expensive. Most foreign teachers have told me just to buy a little space heater and keep it in whatever room you’re in, instead of heating the entire apartment.
To the left of the main door is a wall of cabinets, and aside from my kitchen, it’s really the only source of storage in the apartment. Luckily, its big enough to hold all my clothes and most of the luggage I traveled here with.
Across from the front door is the bathroom. In Korea, there are no dedicated showers. It’s generally seen as a waste of space. Instead, there’s a shower head on the wall that just sprays all over the bathroom and the entire bathroom becomes the shower. It seemed odd at first, but I’ve grown accustomed to it and now I just see it as a giant awesome shower. One point worth noting is that, as you might expect, everything in your bathroom will get wet, so put your toilet paper away and any other electronics (hair dryer, razor, etc) before you shower.
The Living Room
The main room of the apartment is the size of most college bedrooms. It’s not particularly big, just enough room for a TV, desk, and small couch (coming soon). My apartment comes with a TV and cable, whether I want it or not. All the channels, aside from FOX, seem to be in Korea. I’m told discovery channel is in English as well. I’ll take a look another day.
There is a set of sliding glass doors that separate the kitchen from the main room. I’m told this is to keep kitchen smells and heat from getting into the rest of the house as well as insulate the main rooms from the cold or heat outside.
The kitchen has a small sink, a two burner stove (no oven), a 3/4 size fridge, and a washing machine (no dryer). On the ceiling is a drying rack that can be lowered down. Once you’re done washing your clothes, you lower the rack, place your clothes on it, then raise it back up again to keep it out of the way. When you’re using the drying rack, especially in winter, it’s important to close the kitchen doors and open the kitchen window, to keep the rest of the apartment from becoming moldy from the wet clothes.
Finally the bedroom. It’s in the back of the apartment and about the size of the main room. I have a bedside table and a bed. The bed is interesting. Korean’s have single size beds instead of twins. Singles are about halfway between a twin and a double. There a pretty good size. I wouldn’t mind having one in the states. With Nicole and I sleeping on it, there’s enough space for both of us to sleep comfortably, but no extra space off to one side or the other. The mattress is absurdly uncomfortable. It’s an old metal spring mattress with zero cushion. I’m told this is common in Korea. Kayla, another foreign teacher at my school, and also my neighbor, had two mattress pads, so she gave me one to use. With the pad of the bed, it’s pretty comfortable.
The entire apartment is cooled by an AC unit in the living room that has a little remote for it. Because the apartment is so small, the unit can cool down most of the apartment in 30 minutes or so. Overall, the apartment exceeded my expectations for a Korean apartment, and once I get a small couch, I’ll be pretty happy with the place.