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Can You Live Alone at 16 in Korea?

Jason Park
Published by: Jason Park
Last updated:

In South Korea, the law is a little different. You can have your own residence at 16 years old away from your parents. But this is going to depend on several factors such as gender, social status, and whether you’re a foreigner or not.

Some countries in the world have a law that makes residing alone at 16 years old illegal. For instance, in America, you have to be 18 years old. This is because you aren’t yet a legal adult and can’t consent to agreements by the volition of your own free will. Of course, there are some emancipation loopholes, but these are very rare.

Most Koreans recognize international students who reside by themselves while attending school, regardless of gender or social class, as being outside the normal daily life. So, certain social rules don’t apply, especially if you only speak English.

Can Minors Live Alone in South Korea?

Minors can keep their own house in South Korea, but it’s not often this happens. This is because most teenagers cannot find a full-time job. Only part-time jobs are available and this is not going to earn the minimum to stay afloat.

It Isn’t the Norm

If minors reside without their parents or other families, they will more than likely have roommates to assist with the cost. But minors with their own space are not the status quo, it’s the rare exception. Most children stay with their parents well into their 20s and 30s.

This is because Koreans value family and gender roles along with dating and marriage traditions. So, it’s likely that children will stay at home. Mom does the chores while dad earns money.

Children stay until they are either ready to get married or earn enough to have their own space.

Koreans Often Reside Away from Their Family

That said, it’s common practice for at least one family member to have a house away from the main home due to work. Many Koreans travel to other countries to earn enough income to pay for bills, rent, food, and clothing.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Live Alone in Korea?

There is no legal age limit for getting a house in South Korea. If a minor has the ability to pay for bills, rent, and food along with prices for school, they can take on the responsibility. However, these costs are exorbitant, especially in Seoul. So, it’s not often you’ll find teenagers with their own apartment.

A 19 Year Old Has Better Chances to Get a Job

In the US, although people who are 18 years or older can work as young as 12, they still can’t get a house until they are legal adults. Korean culture does this somewhat on the opposite end of the spectrum.

The legal adult age in Korea is 19 years old and they cannot legally get a full-time job until then.

So, there are more housing and job opportunities for adults than there are for minors. This means most Korean minors can only legally get a part-time job; they will not be able to work somewhere that will pay them enough to survive on.

Should You Live Alone in Korea?

Residing in an apartment by yourself in Korea is fine to do. But, because of Korean cultural values, they place different expectations on women than they do men.

Therefore, women should really try to get a roommate and young women should be home by 9:30 or 10 pm. This is especially applicable to native Korean minors.

Plus it isn’t acceptable for women to date various men and be open about their sexual proclivities. These things must be somewhat secretive and discreet. Men have a little more freedom in this regard, but even then they view gigolos and dating multiple women as deviant behavior.

Pros of living alone in Korea

Having your own place in Korea does have its benefits. You are not subjected to the schedules of other people and can arrange every aspect of the house the way you prefer. There’s no need to compromise with anyone and you can have pets without worrying about roommates.

You can date whomever you want, whenever you want or go visit whatever attraction suits your fancy. You could go have a drink, get a meal or explore your area at your whim and will.

Cons of living alone in Korea

Many Korean women who keep a single household are between the age of 60 and 80. But these ladies tend to live in abject poverty while men between 30 and 40 years old reside by themselves and have high-paying jobs. To leave home means an increased risk of becoming poor much more quickly due to the high costs in rent, transportation, food, and utilities.

Poverty Is Rough

There are no security nets or public social welfare programs to help with the poor. There is a divide when it comes to poverty, with some looking down on the poor as being something akin to laziness. Plus, if money is a consideration, single living may mean taking whatever space that’s available and affordable rather than a home in an area you’d prefer.

Korean Age: Social Polarization

There’s a sharp polarization of single-dwelling homes and apartments between the lines of gender and financial status. Traditional-minded people in Korea don’t look favorably upon women who live by themselves unless they have a solid career. A company CEO or business owner are a couple of exceptions.

Is Living Alone Normal in Korea?

Since 2008, there’s a growing trend of single homes making a turn from the past. This is particularly true in Seoul, where one in three households is a one-person dwelling.

These people tend to live where much of the jobs and shopping are. This makes it more convenient to work and exist. In Seoul, nearly ½ of all singles throughout the whole city live near subway line 2. This is a narrow band dense with restaurants, retail spaces, and cafes.

Advice on finding roommates or housemates

Looking for a roommate or housemate will help reduce the high costs of living in South Korea. Because of this, there are a plethora of places to join online for shared spaces and available rooms; like on Craigslist.

But, if this isn’t desirable, many employers and schools offer message boards and online forums where people can find roommates. If you’re lucky to already know someone in Korea, they might be able to help. They may know of someone who is looking for a roommate and give assistance to get a job.


Residing by yourself, in any country, provides freedom of movement and a wide girth for self-determination. While this can be exhilarating, it also comes with responsibility. So, when adolescents look to leave home in places like Korea, it can be a difficult pursuit.

But this isn’t the norm for most minors. They often stay with their families until they can afford their own space or are of marrying age. For foreigners, living alone is quite normal and accepted. However, the cost of living is through the roof and its best to have a roommate, especially if you’re a woman.

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    About The Author

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    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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