Thursday, June 21, 2007

Fear and Loathing in Seoul

I try to avoid going to Seoul whenever possible and I think there are more than a few bloggers and readers out there that share my feelings (Nomad? can I have an "amen"?). Unfortunately, the US Embassy no longer has a mission in Busan, so from time to time, I have to pay a visit to Seoul to renew passports, register children, have some Thai food, etc.
I suppose if I were still single (or at least childless) I could probably stomach it a little easier. After all, Seoul does offer a variety of things that are not easily available here in Daegu. But since I have children, it becomes necessary for me to do the single most onerous thing that a father can do with his children. Drive to and in Seoul!
Unless all the drivers I saw were from out of town for some strange reason, I fail to understand why anyone would want to drive in Seoul. After all, the subway system is top notch and covers most of the important parts of the city. Everywhere I went, what should have been a 10 minute drive turned into an hour of 4-wheeled insanity. There is no WAY, I would do that every day.
I was pushing my son around in his stroller and I ambled past a real estate agency and just like back in Daegu, the windows were covered with advertisements for area apartments. I noticed a sign advertising the same apartment complex where we were staying with my wife's relatives and the price: 300,000,000 won!! Then I thought, "OK, this IS Seoul, I should expect things to be more expensive right?" Then I noticed the top of the advertisement: JeonSe (Key money deposited for rental NOT ownership)!!! and I realized that this amounted to almost twice the cost of my own equally sized apartment back here in Daegu. I later learned that the same midsized apartment in MokDong would have cost almost double that for purchace. Ladies and gentlemen, that is almost 600,000 USD (if you include closing costs and remodeling, etc. that must be done) for a 15 year old, 1140 Square Foot, Second floor apartment. So, I just thought, let's just see what I could get if I had that much money back home in Knoxville.
Single Family Property
Status: Active
Area: 117
Age: 4 year(s) old
4 total bedroom(s)
3.5 total bath(s)
3 total full bath(s)
1 total half bath(s)
10 total rooms
Approximately 3400 sq. ft.
Two story
Style: Traditional
Master bedroom
Living room
Dining room
Master bedroom is 17X14
Living room is 13.5X11.5
Dining room is 16X12
Kitchen is 25X13
Tennis court(s)
3 car garage
Heating features: Central
Central air conditioning
Interior features: Breakfast area, Cable TV avail., Dishwasher, Disposal, Microwave, Pantry, Range and oven, Washer/dryer hookups
Exterior features: Elect. srvc avail., Level lot, Patio, Porch, Tennis court
Approximate lot is 106X165 Located on a cul-de-sac
Call me a redneck if you please, but I'll take that over a box of concrete any day I can.
Here's another tack, if you have an apartment outside the metro Seould area but you worked in the downtown area, you would probably spend an hour or two in traffic each way and spend a fortune in gas, not to mention the toll taken from your health due to stress. How about selling your 32 pyeong (1140 sq. ft.) Seoul Suburban box and moving to Daegu. Buy a brand new 60 pyeong (2134 sq. ft.) box in the best part of town, 5 minutes from the KTX and take 30 minutes a day off your commute, save gas, save the planet, save your sanity, go fishing, commune with nature sans the hour drive to get there. While you are at it, with the money you have saved on gas and medical bills, you can buy a nice car or two to tool around in.


EFL Geek said...

'cause seoul rocks!

actually we are struggling with living in a small apartment (24평) with 2 children. But we live 2 minutes from Ewha Womens University station and my wife has a job in Seoul as do I. Moving elsewhere is not really an option.

Next time you come up to seoul drop me a line, I'd love to have a coffee with you.

Fencerider said...

I'm curious, do you rent (jeonse) or do you own it (or mortgage)? Cuz I bet an apartment like that near Ewha costs about 3-4억. I don't know what part of the world you come from either, but after its paid are set when you go back (if you can sell it after the real estate bubble bursts later this year).
I know it helps that your wife has a job too. But that makes me wonder also what do you do with the kids whilst you and the wife are working. If yours is like mine, strangers taking care of the kids is a conversation 'danger zone.'
As for coffee next time I come to Seoul...sounds good as long as we drink something besides coffee (allergic2caffeine :( )
Final note: I know Seoul has its good points and my wife keeps trying to convince me to move up there for the 'kids education' and for access to MORE stuff that we cant really afford on a foreign professor's 'salary' I could be convinced to live there but I wouldn't like it and I sure as hell wouldn't drive with any regularity. Daegu has everything I need (except an American Embassy) for now.

EFL Geek said...

I only drive to Church and Costco or out to the inlaws (deep country). We are doing 전세 but want to buy a 33평 apartment, but the price is just out of reach. 전세 for a 33평 apartment would be fine, but for the neighborhoods that are convenient for us there are no rentals available.

In our complex there is a day care that we send my son (16 months) and my daughter goes to a private Kindergarten walking distance (5 minutes) and before that she went to the same daycare.

Yes getting strangers to watch the kids in the evening so we can see a movie has not yet happened. But I think there is a sign of success for later this summer.

Nomad said...

I feel your pain because as you well know, I avoid Seoul and only go up there if I absolutely have to. We almost bought an apartment down here in Songtan - the price for a 14-year-old 47 pyong was 230 million won at the time but instead, we had a brand new 2400 sq.ft. house built in Clarksville, Tennessee for $175,000, which we are renting out until we move back to the states.

Fencerider said...

Clarksville is a nice place to live. I spent some time in Hoptown, before moving to Knoxville as a kid. And the cost of living there is really reasonable compared to the rest of the country. I was actually thinking of settling down there too someday.

Aaron said...

Thanks for reminding me of the degradation I suffer in the Seoul housing market, but it is true: a king's ransom gets you little more than a hovel in Dogtown up here in Seoul.