Incredibly Small Houses in Korea

Take a look at this picture:

korean officetel qiranger

This is one of the many new Korean officetels being built near my apartment. When I first came to Dongtan, there wasn’t much where I lived. In fact, many of the other buildings were empty. Then Samsung announced that they were expanding and bringing 7,000 new jobs to town.

The announcement ushered in a construction boom. I had high hopes for the new places, seeing as my previous officetels were quite nice and the one we have now is amazing. However, that isn’t the case. Take another look at the photo above. Each of the units is roughly 3.3m² – a 10ft. by 10ft. box where one must sleep, eat, and relax.

Korean OfficeTels

I bring this up, because The Chosun Ilbo recently ran a story, noting that nearly 10% of Seoul married couples are living apart. Unfortunately the article really didn’t dive into why couples were living apart, but I suspect it has to do with job prospects around Seoul.

The metro area, not only is it the highest population center in the country, but it’s also where the best jobs are. Since congestion is high, commuting time can often be hours long. As a result, some employees opt to rent a second place where they stay throughout the work week. It’s also not uncommon for the bread-winner to work in Seoul, while the family lives 4-5 hours south.That’s why so many of the places in Dongtan are on the smaller side of things now. Families live elsewhere, where housing is cheaper, and the employee travels here only to work.

Looking at the small dwellings, which look like nothing more than a box for a bed, I think to myself, “Would I be able to live here?” I’m not sure I could. I’d want to be with my family. I completely understand the need to go where the work is and to provide for my family, what ever the cost. But choosing such a life if it was avoidable wouldn’t be something I would want to do.

What about you? Could you live in small 10×10 room?

  • 조안나

    I actually have a lot of adult students that tell me that their husband works several hours outside of seoul and only comes home on weekends or  several times a month. The wives often stay in Seoul because they can stay with family or because they want the kids to go to school in Seoul. But, then again, I even had a guy from Jeju who works in Seoul and goes to Jeju once or twice a month to visit his wife and son there, too. Kind of amazing when you think about it…. seems lonely for long term, but quite understandable in the short-term. The of course there are the wives and kids who go abroad for the children’s education and the dad’s send over money. Yet another sad story…

    • qiranger

      I completely agree. When one takes into consideration the enormous job opportunities, one must be able to make the sacrifice necessary to support one’s family. However, as you pointed out it would be very difficult to leave your family for the long-term. It should be noted, that Korea is not the only country that this occurs in. I have friends in the Philippines that are in a similar situation. My friend lives in one city; however, her husband lives on an entirely different island and they only see each other once or twice a year. It’s not something I would want to do, but if forced to, I would do so to support my family.