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The Just Student Jobs Country guide for gap year travel in the Far East - South Korea

Where to Go - Far East

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China | South Korea | Taiwan| Thailand | Japan

South Korea

Population: 47,470,969

Literacy rate: 98%

Life expectancy at birth: male – 70.75 yrs, female – 78.54 yrs

Infant mortality rate: 7.85 deaths/1,000 live births

Population growth rate: 0.93%

GDP growth rate: 10%

GDP per capita: £8,900

Unemployment: 6.3%

Inflation: 0.8%

TI index: 4.0

Climate: temperate, with rainfall heavier in summer than in winter.

Time: GMT + 9.

Electricity: 110/220 volts AC, 60Hz. Policy is to phase out the 110-volt supply.


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Koreans are extremely hard-working and keen to succeed. Parents have been known to spend as much as $10,000 on their children’s English language classes. The main reason for studying English seems to be to get into an American University.

Service industries and manufacturing are not as strong as they were. Cars, trucks, planes and ships as well as computer components, electronic goods and finished products have all suffered a decline. Rural conditions will surprise; much of Korea is still poor. Life in Seoul is conducted at a frantic pace. Korea is also known as “Land of the Morning Calm”. Morning traffic jams are only calm in the sense that nothing moves very fast, if at all. At all other times, Koreans drive at Warp Factor 10.

There are few natural resources. 75% of Korea is mountainous. Human population pressure has eliminated bears, tigers, leopards and lynx. Only significant populations of deer survive in the wild.

There is a curious relationship between the Japanese, the Chinese and the Koreans. The first two look down on the last. One of the causes of this attitude is the Korean fondness for garlic in food. The staple (apart from rice) is kimchi – a food very much akin to sauerkraut but made with lots of garlic and peppers. Most westerners find it induces a certain amount of flatulence at first. So do some Koreans, Japanese and Chinese. In general, food and drink excellent. . Local drinks are mostly made from fermented rice or wheat and include jungjong (expensive variant of rice wine), soju (like vodka and made from potatoes or grain) or yakju/takju (cloudy and light tan-coloured) known together as makkoli.

Entry requirements

No tourist visa problems if EU. If caught working on a tourist visa, you will be deported and your employer probably forced to go out of business after the fines.


Hepatitis A, Polio, Typhoid and Tetanus.

Tax and Insurance

Perhaps tax-free if not, between 4 and 11%. Get health insurance. Your employer may pay for this.

Gap Year Programmes

Click here to find gap year programmes and placements in South Korea

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