September Cover Story: Korea on the Cheap!

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Edited by 10 Magazine Staff, shots by Jessica Hollingsworth

What if you could have all of the same things you’re buying now anyway, only for a better price? You can – with the right know-how and just a little bit of extra effort. Save money and have your friends and coworkers be none the wiser thanks to 10’s secrets to a cheaper Korea.

Foreigner Check Cards

Koreans use their credit and debit cards for discounts on just about everything, but less well-known are debit cards created specifically for foreign customers — and the great living expense discounts these cards offer. Check out just a few of these “foreigner check cards” below.

Hana Bank – Hana SK Buddy Check Card: focuses on expenses specific to traveling foreigners: insurance, health, and communicating with home. Call 1599-1111 or visit

• 30 prepaid phone minutes if previous month’s transactions exceed W300,000.

• 5% cash back rewards at pharmacies and Big 3 megastores (E-Mart, Lotte Mart, Homeplus) if previous month’s transactions exceed W100,000.

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• Free accident insurance, including both general casualty and air travel.

• Debit card embedded with prepaid T-Money card.

• Lower bank commissions and benefits in currency exchange.

• Unlike many Korean debit cards, can be used overseas in 90 countries.

Woori Bank – Woori V Foreigner Check Card: focuses on lifestyle expenses for foreigners who live—and play—in Korea.
Call 1599-5000 or visit

• 5% cash back rewards at Big 3 megastores (E-Mart, Lotte Mart, Homeplus) up to a W3,000 per purchase.

• CGV Cinemas discount of up to W4,000, available once per month and six total times per year.

• Free admission to major amusement parks Everland, Seoulland, and more, and a 50% discount for an additional admission pass. Available once per month.

• Benefits on currency exchange.

• Debit card embedded with prepaid T-Money card.

Citibank –  A+ Check Card: focuses on big spenders looking for household discounts in every area of their lives. Also available for Korean citizens.
Call 3704-7100 or visit

• 10% cash back rewards at: every restaurant in Korea during lunch (min. W5,000 bill) / Big 3 megastores (min. W100,000 bill) / gyms, screen golf, and sports shops (min. W50,000 bill) / hospitals and pharmacies (min. W10,000 bill).

• W60 / L discount at S-Oil gas stations.

• 1% discount on all other BC-registered merchants.


Fashion on a Dime

Those fashionable people you’re surrounded by do most of their shopping at what are referred to as shopping malls () in Konglish, and what English speakers might call online boutiques. Worried about the infamous hassle of online registration? Don’t, as all of the below stores have been confirmed by 10 as usable with either the government’s i-PIN system or your alien registration number. Happy shopping!

오가게 Well-known Korean brands at discount prices.
Fashionmil  패션밀 Well-known Korean brands at discount prices.
NJoy New York 뉴욕엔조이 Well-known international brands at discount prices.

Mas Mulli
마스뮬리 Less expensive high-end boutique women’s clothing.
Digue 디그 Less expensive high-end boutique women’s clothing.

Foreign Brand Imitation:
주엔 Hollywood imitation style.
Arden 아덴 Hollywood imitation style.
Nibbuns 니쁜수 European street imitation style.

Design Shops:
텐바이텐 10× Design-focused digital, hobby, home, office, and kitchen ware plus accessories.
1300k Design office, digital, and home ware.

i-PIN: Don’t have an i-PIN yet? Korean citizens use i-PINs in order to protect their citizen registration number from hackers. i-PIN also let foreigners register on sites that don’t have an ARC registration option.


Show Tickets for a Steal

Rush Ticket by the Korea Tourism Organization (KTO):
The Korean Tourism Organization brought the world-famous Rush Ticket system to Seoul starting last year with the Korea in Motion Festival. This year, the system will expand to include concerts, plays, musicals, operas and more. Get last-minute discounts at a special Rush Ticket stand for day-of shows, just like on Broadway or West End.

Sejong PAC’s “1,000 Won Happiness”:
Enjoy quality concerts at Sejong Performing Arts Center for the price of W1,000 through this monthly drawing. Sign up between the 5th and 7th of each month to win a seat. If you miss out, you still get remaining tickets from 14th of every month. Ages 7 and up. Online i-PIN registration required. Sejong Center near Gwanghwamun Stn. (line 5, ex. 8). 02-399-1609


Learn Korean for Less

Seoul Global Center, Gwanghwamun
FREE Korean Classes – if you attend.
Weekday Class: 1.5-hour classes held twice a week free of charge. 12 week courses begin in February, May, and September. Weekend Class: Customized 18-week Korean courses begin in February and August. International Spouses, Migrant and Office Workers, Global, TOPIK Preparation, and Storytelling classes available.

Busan Foundation for International Activities
BFIA’s free Korean language classes range from pre-beginning to advanced levels. Classes open twice a week and run four times per year, with registration in January, March, June, and September. 10:30 am to 12:30 pm. Busan City Hall 1st Floor, near City Hall Stn. (line 1). 051-668-7900

Daegu Multicultural Support Center Korean Classes
Pre-beginning to advanced level Korean classes are held in Daegu twice a week at Keimyung University. 3ho 205-2 2nd Baekungwan, Keimyung University, 1000 Sindang-dong, Dalseo-gu, Daegu. 053-580-6819

Looking for classes for other languages? Find info on Spanish, Russian, Mongolian, and French classes in our April 2012 cover story, “Korea’s International Cultural Centers.” Available now on iTunes! Just search “10 Magazine”.


Getting There is Half the Price

If you know where to look, travel doesn’t have to break the bank. See as much of the Korean countryside as your heart desires with the below travel deals and discounts.

Free Travel Pass 자유여행패스
Not actually free, this is an unlimited 3-day ticket for Saemaeul, Mugunghwa, and Nuriro trains offering non-reserved and standing seats on trains to any destination nationwide. Proof of domestic residence is required. 10% discount on all KTX tickets included. One-passenger “Hanaro” tickets run at W56,000 and two-person “Dasoni” tickets at W89,000. 1544-7788

Foreigner-Specific Train Passes
KR Pass for foreign travelers; Happy Rail Pass for foreign residents in Korea
Purchase KR Pass or Happy Rail Pass for free use on any KTX, Saemaeul, and Mugunghwa trains for two to five days. KR Passes must be purchased at foreign travel agencies, but Happy Rail Passes can be bought in Korea. Foreign passport required. W78,300 to W185,100. 1544-7788

FREE Shuttle Buses for Foreigners by Visit Korea Year
In honor of Visit Korea Year, the government has created two round trip shuttle bus routes from Seoul to Jeonju and Seoul to Busan. Online reservation is required and one-way tickets are not available. Reserve your bus schedule at Available until Dec. 31, 2012.

30% Discount on KTX
Another Visit Korea Year 2010 – 2012 deal gives away exactly 10 coupons a day on a lottery basis for 30% off your KTX ticket. Sign up at least 5 days before by going to and clicking “Great Deals on Train Travel.”

Railro Ticket 내일로
During university vacations passengers under 25 (international age) can get seven days of unlimited travel on the Saemaeul, Mugunghwa, Nuriro, and commuter lines through a W56,500 Railro Ticket. Unreserved or standing seats only. Passport required. Ticket reservations are required at least 7 days before use. 1544-7788

Sea Train Discounts:
Railro tickets purchased in Gangwon Province also include a 50% discount price for the Sea Train, a seaside line where all seats face the window. Railro tickets purchased in other provinces include a 40% discount for the Sea Train. On-site purchase only. 033-573-5474


Trim the Household Budget

Following the recent influx of foreign migrants, the Korean government is doing its best to support multicultural families – i.e. families with one Korean and one non-Korean parent – as well as foreign workers. Check out some of the incredible help available below.

FREE Health Checkups
All foreign residents, multicultural families, and even unregistered migrant workers are eligible for Jung-Gu’s free health check-ups at the district’s Community Health Center. Examinations include a body composition test, chest x-ray, blood chemical test, blood disease test, and hepatitis B test.
Applicants must arrive between 9 and 11 am and must not have consumed anything – including water – since 10 pm the night before. Test results are sent by post within two weeks. A passport or other documentation of foreign citizenship is required. #16 Dasan-ro 39-gil, Jung-gu, Seoul. 02-3396-6494, 6423
Similar tests are available at the health centers of other districts in Seoul including Dongdaemun, Yeongdeungpo, Yangcheon, and Seocho.

FREE Daycare
Children of multicultural families are eligible for free daycare at Seoul City’s official daycare centers, which are open Mon – Fri 7:30 am to 7:30 pm and Sat 7:30 am to 3:30 pm. For a regular Korean family, costs range from W177,000 to W347,000 per month, but all costs are waived for children with a foreign-born parent. Pre-registration required. Find the daycare nearest you and register at or call 02-120.

Nationwide: Multicultural Family Support Centers
Run by local governments, Multicultural Family Support Centers around the country provide free family education, counseling, daycare, vocational training, and even Korean language classes. Check out for info and support in Cambodian, Chinese, English, Mongolian, Tagalog, Russian, and Vietnamese in addition to Korean — though most local center bulletin boards are in Korean. There are 203 centers in total. Services at each local center vary.


Go Clubbing for Free

For the party animals among us not lucky enough to be friends with every club owner in the country, those cover charges really start to add up. Fortunately, there’s an app for that. ClubMix is a lifestyle-cum-dating mobile application that also happens to offer “Free Pass” (프리패스) discounts when the weekends roll around. Download it, tap “Party” on the bottom menu, and voila – instant guest list for some of the hottest venues nationwide.

• Available for Android and iOS

• Membership registration (회원가입) available for chatting but not required for free passes.

• Free passes only appear on the day of the party. If you’re checking on a Tuesday night and there’s nothing, don’t panic, your app is still working – you just have to wait for the weekend.


Itaewon on the Cheap Want to know where you can get W250 chicken wings? 1/2 off on Spanish tapas? A real meat pie and a draft for only W8,000? A great burger with fries for only W5,000? These ridiculous deals can be found in 10 Magazine’s sister publication, Chip’s Maps. On your next trip to Itaewon pick up a copy at the Itaewon Subway Station Tourist Information Center or at the concierge desk at finer Korean hotels. 


Temple Food: Not Just for Gourmets

Temple food is an up-and-coming trend in haute Korean cuisine, with places like Balwoo in Jongro raking in the won for their fancy vegetarian fare. But real temple food is actually 100% free. Many Buddhist temples offer filling, vegetarian meals all free of charge or at extremely low donation prices.

Meals at Gongyanggan (temple kitchens) are offered as a practice in self-discipline – diners should eat every last grain of rice and wash their own dishes – as well as an extension of central Buddhist principles, in that every person is equal and should be grateful to all that is offered to them, no matter how humble. To show this appreciation, diners will generally perform three simple kowtows as they leave.

Temple Kitchens Nationwide

Bongeun Temple, Gangnam, Seoul.
02-3218-4800, 11:30 am – 12:30 pm. W1,000. Rice, soup and three side dishes.

Bogwang Temple Paju-si, Gyeonggi-do. 031-948-7700
Sun 12 – 1 pm. Free. Beware crowds.

Naksan Temple Yangyang-gun, Gangwon-do.
Tue – Sun 11:30 am – 1:30 pm.
Closed Mon. Free. Mainly noodle dishes.

Hwagyesa Suyu-dong, Seoul.
02-902-2663 12 – 12:30 pm. Free.
Generally rice and vegetables.

Bomunsa Seongbuk-gu, Seoul. 02-928-3797
Check on the day of for meal schedule.

Kilsangsa Seongbuk-gu, Seoul. 02-3672-5945
12 – 1 pm. Diners generally donate in exchange for meals.

Beomeosa Geumjeong-gu, Busan. 051-508-3122
11:30 am onwards. Diners generally donate in exchange for meals.


Four Quality Things
to Get On the Cheap in Korea

Contributed by Korean lifestyle video blogger Keith Kim. (

What does Korea offer at prices cheaper than those of your home country? These days, probably not a whole lot – but the following four items are still reliably more affordable on the peninsula than off of it.

Shoe repairs:
Those ubiquitous gray footwear huts on sidewalks all over Korea offer polishing, heel-repair, sole replacement and most other shoe-related services at prices ranging from W1,000 – W10,000. Never buy a new shoe again!

Custom-Tailored Suits in Itaewon:
Custom-tailored suits in Korea start at around 200,000 won (less than $200 USD), depending on the tailor and material used. You can even put together a whole outfit with a custom-tailored shirt and vest for a modest extra. Itaewon vendors are known for the quality of the suits and are well worth the money – and as a bonus, most of them speak English.

Medical Tourism:
10’s August cover story detailed the low prices of cosmetic surgery in Korea, but non-elective procedures offer just as much of a deal, regardless of your residency status.

Prescription Glasses:
One of Korea’s most well-known “cheap” products, prescription glasses and lenses are not only more affordable here, but probably also more fashionable. Get an eye exam, frames, and lenses all in under an hour for less than W100,000 at any glasses shop. Many English and Japanese-speaking glasses shops are found in the Namdaemun market area.