My third chapter of the Korean saga begins. I had to wake up early and run to Seoul Global Startup Center (great startup program run by the city of Seoul) for a meeting. The center is based in Yongsan, up and coming, but still a bit dodgy part of Seoul. The area is mostly famous with it’s hundreds, if not thousands of electronic shops, known as Electronic Market. It used to be frequented by people who are looking to by computers, cameras, phones, electronic parts, domestic fans, you name it. Obviously things changed with the advancement of online shopping so now this place is not very attended as it’s mostly used as storage place for the same goods, that are now sold online. If you order online anything related to computers in Korea, most likely it will be shipped from there! Area looks a bit outdated, but it’s supper cool to walk around and travel back in time. It’s totally different from other, more flashy areas of the city.
SGSC (Seoul Global Startup Center) is a startup program sponsored by the city of Seoul and provides offices, mentoring and some funding for international startups. I’ve been selected to be in the Resident Advisory Panel and that’s why I had to be early. My goal – speak up for the startups and come up with ideas how to make the life in the center better for everybody. I’ve got some ideas, lets see.
Finding a place to live
Yun, our first employe in Korea have contacted some realtors to help find a place to live. Being a foreigner in Korea that’s not an easy task. Actually I was quite lucky the previous times I was looking for a place. A Korean friend helped me to sort out listings, call and arrange everything for me. I guess I was very optimistic and lucky back then, or she worked hard, as renting looked really easy. Not this time. I was hoping to do the same – rent a place only trusting the pictures I’ve been sent. I was offered help from several Korean friends, plus Yun worked hard and did went to see multiple places and took so many photos. At some point his mom got involved.
Why is didn’t work? I guess it’s the season – been told that summer season it’s harder to find a good place. Or may be I’ve become more picky as I already know the city and have very hight expectation of the place I’m about to spend in at list half an year. There are several websites/apps with rent listings, unfortunately they are only in Korean, but that’s not the main trouble. ALL listings are fake – price is not real and most probably what you like it’s not on the market right now. Reminds me a bit of that business in Bulgaria. The idea is you find something you like, call the realtor to see it and the answer is always: “Man, somebody just rented that place, but you are very luck, as we have several places that are not even listed yet, and they are way better.” Guess what – they are more expensive and most of the time do not meet your requirements. Another big issue when you rent in Korea is they ask for huge deposits. It’s called 보증금 and the idea is you put upfront big amount of money (they can ask from $30,000 up to $300,000 or more), which is used by the property owner for investment purposes, and in return he lets you use the property and not pay monthly rent or pay significantly less. Koreans are quite used to that and expect foreigners to be OK as well.
I’m usually very clear what I want as a place to live, and I’ve got mine today in no time – the second one we visited met all my requirements plus it’s in a building that I used to live last year. See it to believe it! Was not moved by flight but but sight this time. All perfect looked perfect but the fact that I will not be able to move until next Wednesday (lady that got plastic surgery done is occupying the place the next couple of days). Again, I wouldn’t be able to do this so quick if I didn’t have Yun, who did all the communication and selection of places, and spoke Korean to the realtor. I don’t know why no realtors in Seoul speaks English 😉 Sweet Castle! That’s not what I call home! That’s how the building I’m staying in is called! Sweet 🙂
The place I’m renting is at the upper end of a diagonal street, that runs across the urban block and ends up almost at Gangnam station. I love this street and since we were there I had to get some coffee. One of my favorite coffee shops there is called Alver. It’s huge for Europe standards – 3 story building with probably 300+ seats. The lower, basement level is all bricks and quite high sealing so they organize a lot of live concerts there. Haven’t been to one, but I think I will go soon. What always amazes me is how safe Korea is. We were looking to find a table to seat on the upper floor and find out that somebody have left their wallet to reserve the table. Nobody will touch it, you can leave things like that for hours, and when you return, they will be still there. Coffee culture in Seoul is …. really big and I will dedicate special post to that.
Day two ended up with eating Korean BBQ with some friends that I met in Suzhou, China last week. Really, really good Korean BBQ place in Gangnam. I think I’m catching up with Korean food, kimchi addicted already!