The Han River divides Seoul and people live on either side. North of the river is older and is where most expats have traditionally lived. South of the river is a newer area that has become a favored location for many affluent Koreans. Many businesses are located here and therefore, it is also popular with young professionals.
NORTH OF THE RIVER:
Although expats live all over the city these days, some areas are still more popular than others. May choose the Itaewon, Hannam or Ichon-dong areas because they are closer to many of the social activities of the expat community, which can be very important to the non-working spouse. Pyeongchang-dong and Seongbuk-dong are also very popular with families although they are a little further away and less accessible by/with public transit. The two areas are hilly but contain more large homes than some of the others. Because of its location to schools, Seodaemun-gu (inclues Yonheei-dong) is also a choice location for some families, although it is the most isolated from the expat ‘social’ area – Itaewon.
(district) is home to a high percentage of foreign residents. The Itaewon and Hannam areas are located in Yongsan. Corporate expats and their families live here as do some military families and individuals.
SOUTH OF THE RIVER:
Included in the south of the river choices, Gangnam and Sochu-gu are becoming increasingly popular with foreign residents. Bangbae-dong has long attracted members of the French community. Many single professionals live in this area, which is also home to young well-to-do Korean families.
An increasing number of people are also opting to leave a shorter distance from the working partner’s workplace or in areas that are not inhabited by lots of other expats. There are no restrictions on where you can live as a foreign-resident nor are there any security advantages in living in the foreigner-designated areas. You may not have access to some of the amenities found in those areas of the city, but then, again, you may have others, sometimes even better ones. If you have children, however, it may be better to locate nearer the school or on/near the school bus route. Housing is sometimes less expensive in areas in which fewer expats live, but you may also encounter more culture differences with the property owner. As in anything else, there are advantages and disadvantages to any of the choices.
Some projects outside the traditional expat areas are also offering special housing for foreign residents, and some of these are include international schools and other services for the foreign community.
Basically, foreign nationals can live anywhere in the city. Some chose specific areas because of the presence of other expats and the availability of 'familiar' services and products, while others opt to live where there are fewer foreign nationals. Regardless of where you choose to live, you will have Korean neighbours and a Korean flavour to the neighbourhood.
Itaewon was and still continues to be the largest expatriate community in the country. Located near the Yongsan US military base, it is designated as a special tourist zone; Itaewon is famous for shopping, with a diverse range of shops catering to the needs of the foreign community. The neighborhood also boasts a large number of bars, clubs and restaurants. The multi-cultural community in Itaewon is well represented in the authentic ethnic restaurants in the area. Some of the American, French, Pakistani, Indian, Egyptian and Middle Eastern eateries are simply unmatched. Itaewon is the residential area of choice for a large number of foreigners working in Korea, thanks to its large expatriate community and affordable housing.
Hannam-dong has a significant number of foreign diplomatic missions. Located near Itaewon, the district contains two areas; UN Village and an ordinary residential district. You will notice a number of fancy villas or big Western-style houses in this exclusive area.Hannam-dong is a primarily residential area with many of the cultural and business facilities located in nearby Itaewon.
Ichon-dong is widely recognized as a predominantly Japanese district. Ichon-dong was once home to embassy staffers and employees of trading companies in the city, with a current Japanese population of around 5,000. It’s common to see authentic Japanese restaurants in the area. It’s also quite common to see Japanese business signs in the area. With Yongsan Park in close proximity, Ichondong is a unique and pleasant residential area.
Located in the northwest area of Seoul, Seodaemun-gu is a popular residential area among foreigners. Numerous universities including Ewha Womans University, Hongik University and Yonsei University are located in the district and hence many foreign students and professors reside in the area. Numerous officetels and one rooms in the district are quite popular with the students and singles. The district is surrounded by mountains which allows for regular weekend hiking forays convenient for residents of the district. The large number of international schools in the area indicates a significant number of foreigners residing in the area. Yeonhui-dong is located near Ewha Womans University and Yonsei University, hence a large number of professors and students live in the area.
The most modern districts of Seoul, these two areas south of the Han River are the shopping and business hubs of Seoul. Numerous apartment complexes, officetels and one room studios in the district are popularwith the single working class population in the area. Gangnam has various cultural and business facilities such as Korea International Trade Association (KITA), COEX, and Seoul Arts Center. The area also boasts some of the most affluent areas in Seoul containing pricey high-rise buildings and trendy fashion districts. Gangnam-gu is popular among Koreans because of the convenient transportation to various areas around the city and elite schools and academies in the area. On the downside, the popularity of this district has lead to an increase in housing costs and hectic traffic. Furthermore, the large number of office buildings and academies in the area has resulted in a steady growth of foreign workers and English instructors making Gangnam-gu their home away from home. Of themany neighborhoods in Seocho-gu, none stands out more than Seorae Village in Banpodong. Distinctly French and unique, Seorae Village is located next toMontmartre Park.
Pyeongchang-dong / Seongbuk-dong
Expensive villas and luxury houses line Pyeongchang-dong. Located on the hills and surrounded by mountains with a scenic view of the city, the area offers a quiet residential atmosphere. Seongbuk-dong is located near the Blue House, the president’s official residence. Due to its close proximity to the Blue House, the neighborhood is safe and has a lot of cultural facilities. Art centers and galleries abound but it’s hard to find commercial businesses nearby. Public transportation is also limited with a few bus routes.
Located above a main shopping street close to the U.S. garrison on Yongsan, Itaewon is hilly and crowded with large houses and gardens, apartments and villas. Transportation is convenient, and there are many shopping areas nearby. A new subway line is open with stops in Itaewon. There are guard boxes on the main roads, but each home is responsible for their own security. Although rents are quite high and the houses & apartments are attractive, gardens may be small in relation to the size of the houses. Many ambassadors have their residences in this area, and there are a few embassies as well. The area is close to the Grand Hyatt Hotel, and a short drive will take you to the Hilton Hotel and Namdaemun Market downtown. School bus access is good, but buses will not travel on some of the narrower, steeper, back streets. There are several Christian schools in the area which provide school bus service, and the Hannam-dong preschools also provide bus service to Itaewon. Itaewon is known as the foreigners' shopping area, having numerous small shops and grocery stores. It is also a popular nightspot for U.S. servicemen and other foreigners.
Close to UN Village is the Hannam-dong area, where there are many nice houses and apartments. This is not a closed area, so tenants must tend to their own security and most residents do take precautions. Since there are several high ranking Korean officials' homes and foreign ambassadors' homes in this area, so there is the added security of many national police on duty twenty-four hours a day nearby. There are mostly individual homes, and a few apartment complexes in this area. Hannam-dong is about 45 minutes from Seoul International School and Seoul Foreign School. There are two English-language preschools in the area. School bus services are available to most foreign schools.
This compound in Hannam-dong is guarded and patrolled by area guards. It is on a hill over looking the Han River and is known for its large homes, new apartments and a quiet atmosphere. There are playgrounds and the area has light traffic. Most houses are suitable for Westerners. It is safe and clean. The guards in UN Village provide a taxi-calling service for a minimal fee. The nearest subway station is Oksu-dong #25 on the Orange line. The German School is located near U.N. Village.
This name means the area east of the icehouse, used prior to the advent of electricity to store blocks of mountain ice during the summers of Chosun Dynasty Korea. Many foreign embassies and ambassadors' residences are located here, and guards (paid by the neighborhood residents) are employed twenty-four hours a day. It is a pleasant, convenient residential area. Most homes are large with gardens. There are a few apartments in the area. All schools have buses servicing this area
Ichon-dong is called "Little Tokyo" in Seoul. It is usually called Dongbuichon-dong but this area administratively belonlgs to Ichon 1-dong, Along the main street in the area, where big apartments complex lineup, are many Japanese restaurants and liquor stores.Ichon-dong is special apartment area, 100% of residential buildings are apartment complex size varies from 22 pyung to 100 pyung. Japanese and US Government Service members like to live in this area.
One of the earliest "foreigner' enclaves" was the "Kangnam-won," which still exists, although it is not quite as exclusive as it was in the past. Bangbae-dong is one of the locations where foreigners prefer to live, particularly the French since the French school is here. There are many Western-style houses and apartments in this area, and it is convenient to the subways and several shopping centers. Commuting time to City Hall ranges from 30 to 45 minutes. Public transportation is readily available, and school bus service is available for Foreign Schools. Travel time to schools is about 30 to 45 minutes
Songbuk-dong is a lovely suburban area of large homes in the mid-to upper-price range. It is not too far from downtown Seoul. Located to the very north of the old Capitol building and Kyongbukkung Palace, it is an area with handsome, traditional Kisaeng houses. A number of embassies have their residences here. The big advantage to Songbuk-dong is its beauty and wooded surroundings. School bus transportation is usually at a central location in the area, and it is about 20 to 25 minutes from Seoul Foreign School and 70 to 80 minutes from Seoul International School. There are several supermarkets and other conveniences in the area, as well as two major hospitals close by. However, living in Songbuk-dong can have its disadvantages. Public transportation and taxis are not as convenient, so a car may be a necessity. Teenagers often complain about the difficulty of finding transportation to and from Songbuk-dong, although there is a subway station down the hill, one mile from the main housing areas. It may be difficult for students to attend sporting events and school activities.
Yonhi-dong is a residential area on the northwest side of Seoul. Supermarkets and a number of small stores make up a convenient shopping area. Houses and apartments are relatively large and there is a missionary-owned foreigner's townhouse compound located next to Seoul Foreign School. There are some playground facilities and hills nearby for hiking. Severance Hospital, Yonsei University and the Swiss Grand Hotel and Suite Apartments are only a mile away. The area is relatively close to downtown Seoul, 15 to 30 minutes by car, depending on traffic. Rent is somewhat less expensive than the Hannam-dong and Itaewon areas. The big advantage in choosing to live in Yonhi-dong is its proximity to Seoul Foreign School and the British School. Seoul International School does provide a bus service that can take up to 90 minutes. The Chinese School is also located here. Because of the distance from Hananm-dong, Itaewon, and areas south of the river, Yongi-dong can be a little isolated from other activities in the foreign community. Some foreigners who are staying for shorter periods choose the Swiss Grand Hotel. They accommodations can be let furnished or unfurnished. They are convenient, with access to all of the school buses as well as the hotel shuttle, and have many other services such as baby-sitting and maids offered through the hotel.
Kangnam & Apkujong-dong
These areas are abundant with popular stores and restaurants boasting of American and European products. But the merchandise and meals are generally a bit more expensive.
Because much of the area south of the river was built during the 1980's the major arteries are wide, but still some parts congested, especially those roads leading to the bridges.
Olympic Park Area
There are several apartment complexes located in Kangdong-gu in the southeastern area of Seoul that were built for the 1988 Olympic athletes and their families. The park is a good location for jogging and the subway connections are efficient.