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11 Best Cities To Live In South Korea: Cheapest and Safest

Jason Park
Published by: Jason Park
Last updated:

South Korea has many choice cities to call home. Their general cost of living is rather when low compared to places like the US. It’s full of culture, diversity, great food, history, and tradition mixed with modern advancements in technology, engineering, architecture, and so much more!

This guide will take you through the best cities to live in South Korea. Ordered by most to least expensive, they give a brief overview along with features and estimated living costs. 

However, it’s ultimately up to you to decide which city will be most ideal.

South Korea has no shortage of living space. Regardless of which one piques your interest, you must do deeper research. 

The best way to find out about any given city is to locate their website, find people who live in those cities in online forums/social media, and find books at your local library.

Overview of the Best Cities to Live in South Korea

As you’ll notice, the list below doesn’t have all the living hotspots you often find online. 

This is because the ones selected here offer not only beautiful, affordable living but they also offer job or educational opportunities. 

While not included in the numbered list below, later, we’ll give a few honorable mentions worth checking out.

  1. Seoul
  2. Anyang
  3. Bucheon
  4. Busan
  5. Seongnam
  6. Incheon
  7. Goyang
  8. Suwon
  9. Namyangju
  10. Hwaseong
  11. Asan

1. Seoul

Seoul is South Korea’s largest city and its capital. The area is home to some 10 million people, and it’s one of the major seats in the Asian world. 

Therefore, it does cost the most out of all the livable in cities of Korea. Many people speak English, and it’s an international hub, attracting millions of worldwide visitors every year.

About the Area

Here is where most of the universities are as well as the center for the country’s politics, business, trading, and other important industries. 

For foreigners looking to live in South Korea, Seoul is a hotspot. Whether you’re an artist, student, or expat, there’s something for everyone.

This makes Seoul one of the safest cities in South Korea. Not only is it perfect for foreigners because of the English signs, but the people are also extremely friendly.

Estimated Cost of Living

Because of all this, it’s the best place to live in the whole of South Korea. The average cost per month for one person is around $1,500, with rent and utilities being near $700. Public transportation is roughly $15, and groceries cost approximately $500.

2. Anyang

While much smaller than Seoul, Anyang is another great city. In fact, its motto is “Livable City, Proud Citizens.” Anyang has two sections: the Manan District to the west and the Dongan district to the east. The eastern side houses some of the richest and most affluent people in the country.

About the Area

One of the Han River’s tributaries runs through here, the Anyang River, where there are many activities and leisure pursuits with mountains encompassing all sides. 

These are Cheongye, Morak, Gwanak, Samsung, and Suri. Not only does Anyang have beautiful and breathtaking views, but it’s also very quiet.

The pitfall with living in Anyang is the environmental damage that leaches into the water. Also, it’s almost all native Koreans with very few international residents. This means livability is a little less than in Seoul.

Estimated Cost of Living

It costs about $1,100 per month to live here. Rent and utilities cost around $600, with estimates at $400 for food and $90 for transportation.

3. Bucheon

One of Seoul’s satellite cities is Bucheon, which is about 16 miles away. It’s hugely popular, and much of the country’s manufacturing occurs. But what makes Bucheon special is its wide and vast exhibits of art and culture as well as agriculture.

About the Area

Due to their claim to cultural fame, Bucheon has several festivals every year, such as the International Bboy Championships for K-pop and the Bucheon Aiins World Festival, featuring miniature displays of major cities all over the globe. One of the most popular attractions, for example, is the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.

Plus, Bucheon burgeons with music, sports, entertainment and nightlife. It’s one of the busiest places for shopping too. While tourism websites boast of having a bustling bar and restaurant scene, Westerners who live there have a much different story to tell.

Estimated Cost of Living

The average person pays a total of around $1,150 per month, with about $600 for rent and utilities. Food is in the range of $425 and $85 for transportation.

4. Busan

With almost 3½ million residents, Busan is South Korea’s second-largest city after Seoul. Located in South Korea’s southeastern section, it has a port with its own vibrant economy. Busan is the country’s largest industrial area and its largest beach, Haeundae Beach, calls the area home.

Busan is also the cheapest city to live in South Korea, mainly because it’s not packed with foreigners like Seoul is. And because the majority of the city are locals, it tends to be the cheapest in terms of housing, rent, and overall living expenses.

About the Area

Busan is the center for international conventions and up-and-coming start-ups and it hosts some of the largest sporting events in the world. Two of which are the FIFA World Cup and the Asian Games. 

What’s more, it’s one of the country’s more religious areas, housing monasteries, temples, churches, and many other places of worship.

Because of the area’s historic military past, there are many things connecting Busan to its roots that are still prevalent today. 

Much of this is evident in the traditional cuisine, recreation, and hot spring resorts available throughout the city limits.

Estimated Cost of Living

For being South Korea’s second-largest city, the cost of living is quite cheap with an estimated $1,075 per month. This would make rent and utilities about $425, food around $400, and near $150 for transportation.

5. Seongnam

Seongnam is South Korea’s 10th largest city and approximately a million people call this place home. Their economy focuses on textiles, petrochemicals, and electronics, being yet another one of Seoul’s satellite cities. It’s small, quaint and busy but one of the most lovely places to live in the country.

About the Area

Located in the northwest corner of South Korea, it is the hub for the some of the best libraries the country has to offer. 

There are a few museums and other points of cultural interest. However, Seongnam has impeccable public transportation. The layout provides a smooth and seamless experience almost 100% of the time.

Estimated Cost of Living

You can expect to pay a total of around $1,065 per month. Rent and utilities run about $510, food is about $375 and transportation is around $80.

6. Incheon

Residing in Incheon is the next best thing to living in Seoul. This is also in the northwestern region of South Korea and its name literally means “Kind River.” This place is bursting with history, having evidence of people living here since the Neolithic period.

About the Area

Today, approximately three million people populate Incheon and it’s one of South Korea’s largest growing port cities. 

Even though people consider Incheon to be part of Seoul’s capital area, it has a life and economy quite independent of the Seoul. It leads the way in economic development via industrialization and enterprises with global appeal.

What’s great about Incheon is that they declare themselves an “English City,” which makes it very inviting to foreigners from all over the world.

Also, many of the country’s most prestigious colleges and universities are here. So, students will get all the benefits of learning in Korea without the overwhelming crowds of Seoul.

Estimated Cost of Living

With food costing around $450 along with rent and utilities just under $400 per month, living in Incheon is quite affordable. The average person can expect to pay about $1,064, which includes $115 for transportation.

7. Goyang

Goyang is yet another satellite city in proximity to Seoul, comprising part of the capitol area. There are several learning institutions here along with a healthy agricultural sector and business opportunities. There’s even an academy dedicated to Confucianism called “Haengju Seowon.”

About the Area

While Goyang does border the northern end of South Korea, the Han River sits just on the city’s western boundary. They have plentitudes of sports but hockey is king to the over one million residents here.

One of the more special features of this city is the Bike Sharing system they have called “Fifteen.” Not only does this make them one of the more eco-friendly cities in South Korea but also a hub for international relations.

Estimated Cost of Living

To live in Goyang, one should estimate paying around $1,030 per month. That would make rent and utilities sit in the range of $425 with food being $420 and transportation at $95.

8. Suwon

As the home to about 1.25 million people, Suwon is one of the more desirable places to live in South Korea. The name translates to “Water Source” and is a completely walled city in the northwestern corner of the country. It’s gone through many names in its history and is an integral part of Korea’s past.

About the Area

What puts Suwon on the map is Samsung Electronics. The company has had its headquarters here since 1961, and it is a huge employer of Korean nationals and foreigners alike. 

Also, there are many colleges, universities, primary schools, and secondary schools. Leisure and recreation that including tennis, ski resorts, fabulous hiking trails, and so much more.

Estimated Cost of Living

This is one of the most inexpensive places to live in South Korea thus far, with an estimated $1,012 per month. This includes food and transportation as well as rent and utilities.

9. Namyangju

Just over 700,000 people live in the area around Namyangju, which is part of the Seoul satellite cities group. 

It’s a very small metropolis, sitting just west of Seoul, with a long and rich history that dates back to the country’s Joseon Period. It’s a good place to raise a family with many excellent schools.

About the Area

Namyangju is notorious for its organic agriculture, growing sweet pears enjoyed by the United States, Canada, and Japan. 

They also have a small collection of art and cultural pursuits such as museums, art galleries, and very old historical sites.

This city is good for those who don’t like residing in noisy areas but still want easy access to Seoul. 

This is not for those who want to work hard during the day and play just as hard at night. It is not the burgeoning bar spot like Seoul or Busan is.

Estimated Cost of Living

Individuals who want to live in Namyangju should plan to pay around $1,000 per month. Rent and utilities will cost approximately $400, with groceries at $400 and $83 for transportation. 

But because this is an ideal location for families, push the total cost per month to $2,700, more than double what it costs for an individual.

10. Hwaseong

655,000 people live in Hwaseong, which has the largest amount of land dedicated to agriculture. But, it’s far from a desolate and boring place. 

They have a Universal Studios theme park and host several notable sports leagues such as women’s volleyball and a major football team.

About the Area

There are many industries in Hwaseong, such as science, technology, and manufacturing. It combines all the charm of natural beauty with the benefits of a full-fledged functioning city. Anyone can settle for a very relaxing and quiet place to call home.

Estimated Cost of Living

The small population of Hwaseong means the cost of living is about the same as Namyangju, about $1000. 

Rent, utilities, and food are about the same monthly estimate too. But transportation is much cheaper, running approximately at $81.

11. Asan

Last but certainly not least is Asan. Not only does it have the smallest population, about 300,000 people, but it’s also the most affordable on this list. 

It’s another central hub for Samsung Electronics, but its convenient location makes it ideal to go to Seoul or access other parts of the country.

About the Area

Asan is full of schools ranging from elementary and middle schools all the way to high schools and universities. This is also the most internationally diverse next to Seoul, with different villages dedicated to various areas of Europe. 

Much of the architecture and landscaping around Asan is very much what you would find in Greece, Italy, and even Germany. It’s a quaint town with excellent transportation and gives access to two major highways.

Estimated Cost of Living

It costs only about $950 per month to live in Asan. That includes $400 for rent and utilities with an additional $400 for food. But getting around is very affordable, only $60 on average.

Honorable Mentions

The cities listed in the following “Honorable Mentions” are other excellent considerations. These are very good places, but they don’t all have good jobs, living quarters, schools, or other pertinent opportunities. 

Plus, some have atrocious environmental concerns with massive, overbearing pollution. Alternatively, they’re either so close to Seoul that most Koreans perceive them as part of it, or they are too far away.

Gyeonggi: This very large province is close to Seoul, with upwards of 13 million residents. But, traffic and transportation times leave much to desire, and the locals are somewhat xenophobic toward newcomers, especially foreigners.

Changwon: Based on the city planning of Canberra, Australia, Changwon is very affluent with fabulous hiking and easy-to-navigate streets. However, inflation is outrageous there, and it’s not all that exciting of a place to live.

Jeju: For a living experience akin to Hawaii, Jeju is a magical place of beautiful nature beset against the ocean. 

It’s a trendy place, yet they have ranches and green tea plantations. While it is very laidback, air pollution and resource scarcity issues.

Pohang: This is a small quiet town with a steel mill and plenty of jobs. Although an adorable seaside town, the steel mill means the living conditions leave much to desire. Plus, there’s not that much to do.

Daejeon: As a city that prioritizes education, Daejeon is perfect. However, it’s incredibly far away from Seoul, there’s not a lot to do, and it can get exorbitantly expensive.

Conclusion

Many cities in South Korea are great, wonderful, and enchanting places to live. Each one has a claim to fame and its place in the country’s history with many opportunities. 

Of course, hands down, Seoul is the best place for foreigners to live. But, it depends on who you are and the kind of life you like to lead.

For young party animals who also want to go to school, Seoul will be ideal. But, if you’re older and moving with your children, then Namyangju, Asan or Hwaseong will be better. 

In the case you’re the kind of person who likes a little liveliness but not the crowdedness of the city, then Bucheon or Busan will be best.

However, maybe our honorable mentions offer something that’s more to your liking. Indeed, there are people who attest to how they love being a resident of Changwon or Jeju. Therefore, the best city to live in South Korea will ultimately be up to you, your preferences, and what you can reasonably afford.

About The Author

Photo of author

Jason Park

Jason has been living in Seoul for over 4 years, and during that time, he has experienced many of the city's hidden stores. He loves to write about his experiences and share them with others. Jason has been quoted and referenced by different major media companies like Mashed, Distractify, ThePrint and TastingTable. In his free time, he likes to watch Korean dramas and learn more about Korean culture.

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