Living in Korea vs. Taiwan

I’m thinking of doing a stint in Korea. Has anyone lived in both South Korea and Taiwan? I’ve searched the archives here and on other sites but not found anything terribly useful. The cost of living and salaries seem to be similar. Koreans have a reputation for being friendly but nationalistic, sometimes xenophobic. And they like to drink a lot - a major plus in my opinion.
Korea sounds a lot less third-world; more organised, cleaner, and fewer scooters clogging sidewalks.
And the weather is a lot more comfortable for “the Boys” - no need for blow drying.
I think it will soon be time to move. I’ve actually developed a taste for the local salt-flavoured toothpaste!
Been here six years, but never visited Korea. Any thoughts on Korea vs. Taiwan. Cheers.

Are you saying Taiwan is third world ?

For a good source on Korea, go to They have a special Korea only forum. The problem with Korea is that your boss owns you. You can’t take private students without a very serious risk of getting deported and fined. You can only work for one school and schools in Korea have a reputation for cheating their employees on salary and making them live in absolutely squalid conditions.

However if you speak Mandarin, have a white face, and a NA accent. I think you could make a lot of money in Korea. You could talk to your boss about running Mandarin classes on the side or something.

I’ve never been there, but it sounds a lot like Taiwan. Very similiar problems in both countries, but Korea pays for your airplane ticket and your housing. If your not a complete drunk, than you should be able to save some serious cash.

Good luck and let us know how it goes


Koreans are a lot more contentious than people in Taiwan and have a particularly strong dislike for Americans. And like the people here, they’ll assume you’re American if you don’t look Korean. If you have short hair, they may assume you’re military and that’ll really get their blood boiling since a couple US soldiers were recently let off the hook for bulldozing a couple of Korean school girls while on urgent military business. I nearly did the same thing when I was there, and so everytime something like that happens, I pay particular attention.

Working there is a little like working here. If you’re legal, you’re supposed to work only in the place that sponsors your visa. Private teaching is illegal and, at times, the law can be rather strictly enforced. Some hagwon owners follow their employees just to make sure they’re not teaching somewhere else on the side. On the up side, working illegally there is easy. You can get a 5-year multiple entry visa which is good for 90 days each time. And you can go in and out pretty as much as you please, provided you don’t overstay. I had a friend who did this for about five years. He just took a vacation every three months and since all his classes were privates, he never had trouble taking time off.

Studying there is a little different from here. There aren’t any small schools that can help you get a visa and as far as I know, there are no extensions on the 90-day tourist visas. If you want to study at a university, the application process can be pretty tedious. When I was there, and wanted to change my tourist visa to a student visa, I had to find a person to sponsor me. None of the people I knew were qualified and in the end, I had to ask my landlady who reluctantly agreed to do it. Once in school, however, things were pretty smooth. I continued to work illegally and never had a problem.

As I’ve said, the people there are pretty anti-foreigner. Even so, I made a lot of good friends there and had a lot more fun than I’ve ever had here. The nightlife, however, can be harsh and debilitating. If you have Korean friends, you will drink. And when people say that Koreans are heavy drinkers, they are not exaggerating. I’ve seen guys puke their guts out after a half-an-hour soju binge, then get right back up and continue their binge. I’ve seen women do roughly the same. All of them drank me under the table more times than I can count.

The food there is great though it can seem monotonous at times. If you like hot food (I say hot because spicy doesn’t seem like the right word; their spices are pretty much limited to red peppers and garlic) and kimchi, you’ll love it. I did. As far as western food, they pretty much have the same stuff as in Taipei.

The cost of living is higher there than it is here (there being Seoul, here Taipei) and on the surface, it is quite a bit less third world than here. People drive fast and follow some of the traffic rules. It is fairly clean and there are plenty of interesting places. Seoul is huge. It has a great subway system that is cheap and can take you pretty much anywhere you want to go. Finding a place to live is a lot easier to do here. The normal way to rent there is to pay a huge deposit upfront and a relatively low monthly rent. Unless you are rich, the deposit, itself, can wipe you out. I knew people there that chose to live in yogwans rather than pay the deposit. That, too, is expensive.

The women there are pretty much like they are here. They claim to be conservative and then . . .well if you’re a man, you know what I mean. Actually I find them to be less conservative and more violent there. I’ve never been physically attacked here!! Their maturity level is nearly the same (they automatically assume that your relationship will lead to marriage) and they are physically bigger and stronger than local girls. They wear lots of make-up and normally wouldn’t dare go outside without it. If you go out often with girls, you’ll hear a lot of insulting talk directed, usually, at the girl. Stuff like “What? Korean men aren’t good enough for you? Is his bigger than mine? A korean man wouldn’t have you, huh?” etc. If you understand what they’re saying, it can drive you mad but unless you are looking for a fight, it is better to keep quiet. It can get nasty when they’re drunk and I’ve had a guy throw a bottle across the room at me in a restaurant because I was with a Korean girl. He then tried to attack me but was held back by his equally drunk but more civilized friends who apologized profusely and bought me a drink.

Taxi drivers try to rip you off more than here but there has been some improvement in recent years. Hmm…I could probably say a lot more but then I’ve probably said enough. Oh, learn how to read and write korean before you go. It can be done in a day or two and I can help you if you want. It’s not like here where you have to learn each character. You can learn to read and practice everyday just by walking outside. AS for teaching Chinese there, there is not much chance of that. THere are plenty of qualified Koreans as well as a sizeable huaqiao population to compete against. Stick to English teaching and jobs will come easy.

if you’re american or can be mistaken for an american(i.e. you’re white), this might not be the best time to go to korea. … 2rst4.html

Korea (scores 3/10):
Pro: Modern, clean, good facilities, transport, sports, good-looking people.
Con: Chauvinism, nationalism, freezing cold, up-tight, conservative,

Taiwan (scores 8/10):
Con: Ramshackle, dirty, badly-dressed, bad facilities.
Pro: Liberal, open-minded, fun, relaxing

A better class of local and expatriate in Taiwan.

I visited one of the inner cities several times to see if I’d like to live there, but decided I just couldn’t.

The main problem for me was the language barrier. You can learn to read Korean (I did), but that doesn’t mean you can figure out how to communicate, and I found that very disconcerting to be ‘deaf’.

You can’t get much in the way of English publications. We had cable in the apartment but it was either CNN or Korean channels. You do have the Internet though, thank goodness.

A secondary problem was what you could buy. Practically speaking, you can get more imported stuff in Taiwan than in Korea. Korean food is really nice and quite cheap, but that palls after a while. You can’t get a lot of spices to cook with so even if you cook at home it’ll have to be pretty simple. Cat litter is non-existent, except on the black market via the US army. Things aren’t particularly cheap either.

Having said that the people can be really nice if you can figure out how to get a message across, things are really clean and always work, and the scenery is wonderful.

It’s true it’s really cold there - in the minus degrees one time I was there. But if you have a standard apartment the floor is heated and it’s really warm inside because each room opens out to a balcony which has its own windows (so it’s doubly insulated).

And it’s really green, at least at our apartment block. All refuse has to be separated into metal, glass, plastic, organic, clothes, paper, and miscellaneous, for which you need the government-approved bags.

And the honesty of people is incredible. I once forgot and left the keys in the door of the apartment. (You get people sticking ads on your door all day, only they were all in Korean). They were still there when I next opened the door hours later.
For that matter, when you accept delivery of goods and you’re not in, you leave your keys with the security guard at the carpark and he passes them to the delivery men who come and open up your apartment, leave the goods, and return the key to the guard. Beat that.

Does the PRC also frequently threaten to invade South Korea? I heard that many Chinese people believe that the Korean peninsula is traditionally Chinese territory.

For those posters who claimed that Korea was really clean, I have only one question. Just how long do you have to live in Taiwan before Korea starts to look clean? For those of you who haven’t been there yet, ignore all references to Korea’s cleanliness. No one going there from Canada, America, Australia, New Zealand or the U.K. is going to think it’s clean. I used to walk to work at 5:30 in the morning actually retching from the smell, and trying to dodge the pools of vomit all over the sidewalk.

Also, Korea’s per capita GDP is quite a bit lower than Taiwan’s. I don’t want to get into arguments about which one is more third-worldish, but in my opinion, Taiwan LOOKS worse and Korea actually IS worse.

The salaries are about the same, but there are some considerations. One is that though you can make a lot of money teaching privately in Korea (I made much more there than here), the immigration authorities in Korea will try to catch you. I knew people who had been caught, fined and deported.

BUT: The big problem with Korea: the attitude of the typical boss to his workers. The pay looks the same on paper, but there is no guarantee you will get that money. When I lived in Korea (for three years) I never once met a foreign teacher who was not screwed by his boss. Every single person I met was cheated, not paid, ripped off, lied to, sometimes physically attacked, etc. I have met men who had to beat the shit out of their bosses in order to get paid. Before I went to Korea, I had never hit anyone in my adult life. (I’m a woman.) At one buxiban my boss kept on saying he’d pay me next week, and next week he’d have some other excuse, and on and on and on. Finally I asked my boyfriend for help. He refused to beat him up for me, saying it was my problem, but he did teach me how to punch. We’d practice during odd moments. Finally, I was ready. The next time my idiot boss smugly told me he just couldn’t pay me the (months’ of) salary he owed me, I punched him in the face. I got the money.

Also fun: few foreigners bother to learn Korean, but if you do a special treat is in store for you! You get to listen to people pointing at you and saying, “Look! There’s a barbarian!” Yes, they are taught in school that foreigners are barbarians with no culture and no history. How I loved hearing the children I taught calling me a barbarian, when I knew they were the children or grandchildren of subsistence peasants who barely managed to survive by feeding their own shit to pigs.

By the way, they eat dogs there. Here in Taiwan I’ve heard people joke about Taiwanese eating dog meat, and maybe you can find the odd restaurant that serves it, but in Korea it’s a perfectly open and normal part of life. OK, cultures differ: I can’t criticize them for eating dog when we eat pigs and cows. However, it does seem to really bother some foreigners, especially those who live near dog slaughterhouses, and get to hear the dogs screaming and screaming in agony as they are tortured to death, because pain is supposed to make the meat taste better.

If you want to work in this kind of environment, be my guest. Taiwan is a lot easier, and a lot more pleasant. I could never advise anyone to go to Korea to work. There is a reason Dave’s ESL Cafe has two forums devoted to problems: one for the rest of the world, and one just for Korea (and there are way more posts on the Korean one).

One important thing to add: Korean cuisine is awful much of the time. Like Kimchi (han guo pau tsai)? Like other cold, pickled, overpeppered hor-d’voers? Hope so because that’s the mainstay of their diet over there.

I am Taiwanese American- went to S.Korea for study abroad, also learned the language for 2 years. I am in Taiwan now, and yes, both countries are pretty foreign to me still, so I can give you some advice about how you might feel in South Korea.

Although I may look Korean, I was with another friend of mine from the same university (who was not Asian) and I know he got the stares quite a bit. If you are a White guy I guess it would be less, but he was Indian American, so…

Also, Korean men are a lot more pugnacious than Taiwanese men. If you mess with them in the bars or show any signs of foreign superiority/condescending qualities, they will literally kick your ass. They especially do not like the US Military in Itaewon (unaccounted rapes, crimes, prostitution) and so foreigners are given a slight negativity at first–

As for teaching English and pay- it should be the same, although I wouldn’t be surprised if less people are willing to pay a high price or attending hakwons (bushibans) because the economy is not exactly good, and many people are learning mandarin instead (easier for them/more useful, I think). Living expense is about 20% more expensive if you live in Seoul, and depending on where, it might be cleaner or dirtier. Taipei in general is in the middle and in the Seoul, market places and crowded areas are clean, but the alleys and the outskirts of the city are dirty (same in Taiwan).

In terms of language and signs, more signs in English, but you’d better learn the Korean alphabet, because almost all the foreigners I know learn it for convenience. You can learn it easily within 3 days, and it will help you get around.

Last thing, Koreans have a very high sense of national pride, as you prob heard already. It is something I truly admire, and wish Taiwan had this. However, because of the pride you should watch yourself, and be a lot more respectful to elders, managers, bosses, because their culture seems to be a lot more conservative than Taiwan (bowing to people, holding left hand under right elbow when receiving alcohol…etc). Also-- the Women-- If you want to bag a woman, you’d prob have to go to Itaewon, because outside of that area, most women won’t even speak to you in English, (unless its lang exchange). The good looking ones only go for Korean guys, and if you go to the prostitution areas, they won’t even except anyone thats not from E.Asia (unless you go to Itaewon).

Thats about it, any questions msg me-- got a shitload of info.

The last time I was in Korea it was February, I was there for three weeks, and the temperature did not get above 10 degrees F for the entire three weeks. I’ll take Taiwan over Korea anytime!!!

[quote]If you want to work in this kind of environment, be my guest. Taiwan is a lot easier, and a lot more pleasant. I could never advise anyone to go to Korea to work. There is a reason Dave’s ESL Cafe has two forums devoted to problems: one for the rest of the world, and one just for Korea (and there are way more posts on the Korean one).

mmm yeah so apparently bababa had a really bad impression of Korea. I agree with some of her statements - Korea is still a developing country, it is not the same as Japan, and at least from my developing economics course last year- its about the same as Taiwan in terms of living standards, and development. Baba may have lived near bars like Shinchon (where I lived) and there would be fights, and vomit in the alleys at nights (but everything is cleaned up at night).

However, a BIG however- I don’t know if bababa had taken the chance to really learn Korean culture. It is quite different than Taiwan because when there are very few social customs compared to Korea and Taiwanese are a lot ruder in general, but they will be direct to you. Koreans will not be too direct in their opinions, so you have to be careful and learn their social customs to see why they do the things they do. I have met quite a few foreigners who are not the military type and who do NOT socialize with the other foreign crowds. Those people are pretty nice, and many are very interested in Korean culture- so they have received a lot of welcome from the locals.

Anyways if you plan on just going to Korea to teach English and believe that a change of environment will do you good, you’d probably have to think again. You may want to go and learn the culture and language on the side to get the full benefit out of the country. [/quote]

I’ve heard the opposite, that the Koreans are re-writing their history books to say that northeastern china is originally korean territory and the chinese took it away from them…

Why would Taiwan wish to copy Korea’s xenophobia?

Why do you think this is necessarily a good thing?

Again, why would you want Taiwan to be like this? What woul be the advantage? How would this be better than the open situation that is present day Taiwan?

Why would Taiwan wish to copy Korea’s xenaphobia?

I think pride and xenophobia are different words. Maybe you have mistaken what I meant by Korean national pride and transformed it into xenophobia. I believe that national pride and identity are good for any country because it can provide political and personal strength for the people. Of course with any country, xenophobia can occur, but that doesn’t mean that pride can’t exist in a country.

To answer your second question: This pride is often enforced with their cultural and social etiquette. It is good because I personally think respect for elders is an important ideology people should have. OK, maybe some other people that elders should be treated the same as others but I think that parents, and older generations have a lot more experience and greater wisdom than someone who is just in their 20’s.(I mean a decent generation gap by the way). I respect their experience and knowledge.

Third question: I wasn’t comparing Taiwan and Korea in that statement whatsoever. Maybe you misread my statement. I was giving the guy advice. Read more carefully next time.

Indeed they are. However, Korea’s pride is, IMO, very closely related to its xenophobic character. Xenophobia by itself is bad enough, but I think that Korea’s pride and xenophobia have mixed and the result is a near belligerent attitude toward foreign things and people. I don’t think Taiwan should emulate Korea in this regard.

There is nothing wrong with respecting parents and elders and even bosses. However, if that respect is not earned or otherwise warranted, I see no reason that such respect should be given. Yes, I think that all of us are at our dumbest when we are teens and maybe some of us even into our early twenties. But I know plenty of older people who are dumber than a box of rocks. I’ll be polite and kind to such people, and I’ll even respect them as human beings. But, I’m not going to respect them simply because they are older than me. I don’t see the logic in that.

Maybe I did misread your statement. I thought you were still discussing ways that you felt Taiwan could emulate Korea.

In any event, I much prefer Taiwan to Korea. Despite the many nutty things about Taiwan, there are few places as free and open and I enjoy living here very much. Its a live and let live (except on the streets and roads) attitude that I find very nice indeed. Korea, IMO, has nothing over Taiwan.

A bit of a warning for those who’ve been hospitalized in Korea – note minor edits to headline. … 0328134835

[quote=“Agence France Presse”]Blood infected with hepatitis released to [Korean] hospital[s]

Sun Mar 28, 8:48 AM ET

SEOUL (AFP) - Blood infected with hepatitis has been released to South Korean hospitals and pharmaceutical firms, state inspectors said.

The Board of Audit and Inspection said Red Cross officials distributed 76,677 cases of blood infected with hepatitis between April 1999 and January this year.

The Red Cross computer has also omitted the data of 304,000 blood donors who tested positive for hepatitis before 1999, it said.

Inspectors called for the punishment of Red Cross officials in charge of managing donated blood. [/quote]

does anyone have anything good to say about korea? it seems like a pretty horrible place, I have only met one foreigner that went there and actually liked it… There are loads of hot korean girls in los angeles, but once again I think this is like the taiwanese thing, these are the pickings from the elite crop that come to the US. I heard its super hard to get sex there (for free that is) and they hate the US for various incidents

They hate us for everything. They even hate us for shaming them by adopting their orphans that they don’t want… :unamused: