Life on Jeju
Wondering if Jeju is the right fit for you? We’ve gathered the following information based on frequently asked questions. We match new faculty and staff with a returning buddy, and have a dedicated Korean faculty assistant to help make transitions as smooth as possible.
Jeju is a popular tourist destination for Northeast Asia, and the Seoul–Jeju air route is one of the busiest in the world. International travel from Jeju is increasingly easy, with direct flights to China, Taipei, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Bangkok: a full list is available on the Jeju Airport website.
The island has a temperate climate: balmy spring and fall weather; light snow and strong wind in winter, with temperatures rarely falling below 0ºC (32°F); and hot, humid summers.
Jeju excels in outdoor options, with stunning beaches (swimming season is usually late May through September), over 100 oreum (mini volcanoes) to hike, Olle walking trails circling the island, and options for biking, golfing, windsurfing, kitesurfing, scuba diving, road and trail running races, and sailing. Coffee lovers will enjoy the hundreds of adorable, quirky cafés scattered across the island, and a few microbreweries have recently set up shop.
On the other hand, there are few accessible social venues in the way of malls, clubs, or dance halls. Movie theatres show major films in English; there are bar and restaurant options in Jeju city (staff tend to take taxis together to the City Hall area for a night out); occasional concerts and performances; and English-language church services. The KISJ Sunshine Committee organizes transport to events (Jeju United soccer games, cultural festivals), plans community celebrations (Superbowl parties, beach BBQs), and shares weekly updates on staff-sponsored activities (zumba, yoga, indoor climbing). There are also local leagues and tournaments for soccer, ultimate frisbee, and volleyball.
Retail therapy is scarce; most staff shop while home on summer vacation or on trips to nearby cities like Hong Kong or Seoul. Major online retailers including J.Crew, Sephora, Nordstrom, Asos, and Shopbop offer free or flat-rate shipping, and will pre-calculate duties.
Jeju is extremely safe (as is South Korea generally): see the OSAC 2016 Report for a thorough overview. It is important to drive defensively and be attentive to traffic when walking, running or cycling.
Cost of Living
The cost of living in Jeju is about the same or a little bit less than in the United States; as in most places, your lifestyle will determine how much money you are able to save. You can likely make a good estimate based on your current spending and travel habits.
Below is an example of monthly expenses in Korean Won (₩) for a family of four: your needs, habits, and preferences will determine whether you spend more or less. Utilities fluctuate with the seasons, with electricity demands highest in June/July/August, and gas highest in December/January/February.
Before buying new sports equipment or homewares, it’s often worth checking the Facebook groups for secondhand items.
There are several convenience stores about two minutes’ walk from campus, together with an organic shop, a café, and a few restaurants. There is another small commercial area next to the nearby British school, with a convenience store and other restaurants. The nearest town, Moseulpo, is about 10 km from campus. It has a bakery, post office, pharmacy, hairdresser, traditional Korean market, Korean restaurants, and some small stores (Daiso is useful for odds and ends). There is another CU convenience store a short walk from KIS Village.
Food and Groceries
Groceries can be expensive, especially if items are imported from the mainland or abroad, but there is good seasonal variety and it’s refreshing to see how much is farmed in our immediate area: you’ll see harvests of tangerines, garlic, cabbage, radishes, sesame seeds, persimmons, and more.
There is a basic organic grocer a short walk from campus, and you can also order a weekly farm box in different sizes. The nearest conventional grocery store, Hong Mart, is about ten minutes away by car. E-mart and Martro, the nearest large grocery stores with a reasonable international selection, are about 40 minutes away by car.
Hard-to-find international items can be ordered from online retailers including iHerb, ezshopkorea, and High Street Market; other staff are usually happy to place an order together to save on shipping costs.
Getting Around Jeju
Most staff buy a car shortly after arriving in Jeju. The price of cars can range from about $2,000 and up; you get what you pay for in most cases! Insurance for drivers is generally less expensive than in the United States, and if you have a clean driving record, it can bring your costs down even further. You should bring proof of having been insured continuously for the past three years and documentation from your insurance company that you have had no accidents or speeding tickets. Gas is more expensive here; expect a bit of sticker shock the first time you fill your tank.
Money and Banking
Korea is very card-friendly, and businesses have no problem with you using a debit/credit card even for small amounts; just don’t forget to notify your bank that you will be using it abroad! ₩1,000 is roughly equivalent to $1 USD.
Our school uses Shinhan bank (see their helpful Facebook page for expatriates). Overseas faculty are set up with both a Korean Won account and U.S. Dollar account. There is a Shinhan ATM on campus, which makes it easy to access pay bills. Every month, the school deposits Korean Won into the appropriate account and transfers the dollar amount of your choosing to an account abroad (you decide how much the amount will be at the beginning of the year). The school will pay the outgoing transfer fee, but your receiving bank is likely to charge you an incoming fee, usually $10–30.
Make sure to bring the following information about your receiving bank: Official and complete Bank Name; Address; RTN (Routing Transfer Number); SWIFT Code; and your complete account number.
Part of your monthly pay goes toward the Korean National Pension, which is matched by the school and refunded to you as a lump sum on leaving Korea. See the National Pension Service for more details and exclusions.
Our international healthcare plan is provided by TieCare. The two major hospitals in Jeju are Jeju National University Hospital and Halla General Hospital. Please also see community health resources compiled by our health services team.
Healthcare is generally very inexpensive: visiting a doctor at a local clinic costs about $12; prescriptions for antibiotics cost about $8; a vaccination injection costs about $23. English proficiency among medical professionals varies, and if you need to see a specialist, you should plan to have an interpreter for support: both our dedicated Faculty Assistant and Head Nurse are helpful in setting up appointments, explaining prescriptions, and so forth.
You will have to have medical costs reimbursed, which can take up to two months. If you have specific medications that you take, you may want to bring extra and a prescription (you won’t be able to have the prescription filled, but it is helpful to show another doctor what you need).
Dental care is also easily accessible; there are several dentists who speak English well, but hygienists usually don’t. A regular dental cleaning costs about $40, which can be reimbursed by the medical plan.
Korea has two major national carriers (Asiana and Korean Air), with many domestic and international routes also serviced by LCCs including: Air Asia, Eastar Jet, Jeju Air, T’Way, Jin Air, and Peach Air.
Most flights through Seoul require you to transfer from Gimpo to Incheon airport. If you have time and light luggage, the airport rail is easy and costs about ₩3,000. Actual travel time on the train is 33 minutes, but there’s 15 minutes of walking on either end. Do not get on the express AREX train, as it is non-stop to Seoul station! It’s worth buying a rechargeable T-Money card at a convenience store to use for all public transport in Korea. If you have heavy luggage and some extra time, an airport bus is a good and cheap transport option (about ₩5-7,000), but usually takes 35-40 minutes. If you don’t have much time, taking a taxi is usually the fastest (about 30 minutes), and they can drop you off right at your check-in counter. It will cost about ₩50,000, inclusive of highway tolls.
For the most part, dorm staff live on campus and teaching faculty live off-campus. Most faculty live in KIS Village, a group of apartment buildings approximately 3 km from campus. Families live in larger apartments, but be prepared for a smaller living space than is typical in the United States.
Most of the apartments have a king-sized (6’ x 6’6") bed in the main bedroom; Korean-style sheets are provided, but if you prefer to have your own, buy deep pocket sheets. The second or third bedrooms may have a king-sized bed or a twin; sheets are also provided for these beds.
The newest off-campus apartments have ovens, small by American standards but large enough to bake standard goods. There are very small convection ovens in the older apartments (KIS Village 1), and no ovens in on-campus housing. Check to see which type of apartment you will have before packing your bakeware.
Moving to Jeju
Make sure you have the following documentation before moving to Jeju:
1. Passport valid for at least six months beyond the day you arrive at the airport in Korea
2. Apostilled driver’s license (this can easily be used to obtain a Korean driver’s license)
3. Police background check
4. Up-to-date immunizations
If you need a container, find a shipping company three months ahead of time. Ship items about a month before you leave; you do not want it to arrive before you do, as there are heavy fines levied if you are not on the island when it arrives. If you want to bring equipment for a particular hobby, shipping your own gear (bicycles, surfboards, instruments) can be affordable, just check with the airline ahead of time.