Housing in South Korea
USFK Families can expect to live in On Post Apartment Towers, Off Post Government leased housing or Off Post rental properties. There is a lot of text on this page but it’s important to get a good idea of what it’s like to live here. Your number one priority is not to bring too many things to Korea. You don’t want to pay for storage or to have a washer and dryer collecting dust in the corner of your living room. When moving to South Korea, less is more.
Weight Allowance Calculator – Remember, Command Sponsored get 50% of their total weight allowance and Non-Command Sponsored get 25%. Click Here for a PDF of Household goods you should and shouldn’t bring to Korea.
Camp Humphreys Housing Online User Services – I absolutely hate this website, it is difficult to navigate and cumbersome to use. But it’s the official site, so read it as much as possible before the white text on a black background makes your eyes hurt.
Housing Office Information – The above website has all of the information for housing as blank but if you click Printer Friendly Version all of the info pops up.
Send Housing an Email – Best way to get information for on-post housing is sending an email through the housing portal.
My list of which Furniture to Bring or Store when moving to South Korea. This list is a guide and will be different for each family.
Page updated August 31, 2017
On Post Housing
- There is a long wait list for on-post housing
- Families can sign up for the wait list as soon as they arrive at Camp Humphreys and walk into the housing office. We ran to their office the day we arrived on a Friday afternoon at 1500 and were given permission to start looking for an off post house that weekend. Some families live in lodging for more than a month to wait for on-post housing. I heard on AFN Osan radio that with the relocation from Yongsan, this will be the norm for all families moving to Camp Humphreys.
- Your priority for on-post housing depends on your rank, family size and the current capacity of on-post residences.
- Email housing before arriving to get more information on wait lists, borrowing furniture, off post realtors etc.
- Life on post –Living off-post in a foreign country is a daunting task so a lot of families opt to live on-post to avoid the stress of the unknown. Living on-post is the same as the states so the perks and the negatives aren’t much different.
- Read the most recent Humphreys Town Hall meeting notes here to learn when new facilities are opening.
- The PX is very small but the selection keeps improving – The new PX and commissary won’t be completed until early next year but they built a small annex to start housing more furniture options. If you are looking for certain items, especially household goods, go to the Osan PX. They will deliver and it’s only a twenty minute drive from Humphreys.
- The commissary is very small, located far from new housing and goes through a daily battle to keep its shelves stocked. The commissary relies a lot on internationally shipping in American approved produce and products. There are Korean products (vegetables, chickens etc) available but the supply chain is constantly in flux. Some weeks there are potatoes, some weeks there aren’t. Lettuce is always touch and go and those Fresh Express bags are usually going bad by the time they make it to the shelves. I don’t blame the commissary, trying to ship produce and meats internationally is a logistics nightmare and signing contracts with a foreign country is a slog through international bureaucracy. If you really want fresh produce, go offbase and shop at the 3/8 market in the ville/ Anjeong-ri.
- Humphreys has one of the biggest Gyms in the Army and it is fully operational – The Humphreys Community Fitness Center is also known as the Super Gym because of its immense size and numerous amenities. Enjoy swimming lessons, Taekwondo, an indoor track, saunas, racquetball courts etc.
- The civilians are extremely polite – When I moved from Ft. Meade to Humphreys it was like night and day. The Korean civilians are exceedingly courteous and helpful. Like anything else, there are a few bad eggs but I have enjoyed working and shopping with the civilian employees.
- Traffic is OK– Unlike other military bases in the states, no one is allowed a PoV unles they are here accompanied (with their families) or have an exception to policy. Traffic is much lighter than a regular Army base but with all the construction, traffic patterns change daily which causes confusion and hesitant drivers. Be aware of your surroundings when driving at Humphreys. More than once I find myself going in the opposite direction of where I intended because roads keep closing and traffic is redirected.
There are huge housing towers for on-post living
- When I visited some friends in the brand new housing towers, I was surprised that they were a family of 5 who lived in a 3 bedroom apartment. It was a lot smaller than I expected.
- The New housing towers are not yet complete so some families will live in old housing as well.
- Like most on-post housing, all of their housing allowance and utility allowances were taken and they are at the whims of the big man upstairs when the decision is made to turn AC or Heat on.
- Perks of New Housing
- Underground garage
- Multiple Playgrounds
- Area for dogs to relieve themselves
- Located right next to the Humphrey School Systems and the new MWR. It is extremely convenient for kids and parents.
- The Super Gym is a quick ten minute walk. Sidewalks and roads to the Super Gym are still under construction but should be finished soon.
- It is a twenty minute walk to the hospital when it is finished.
- The new downtown area will be very close to new housing. For now, families must rely on the shuttle bus, taxis or their PoV to get to the other side of base for shopping.
- In summary, residents of New Housing are stuck in a construction zone that one day will be an amazing place to live. For now, the biggest perk is the Super Gym and the schools being nearyby. A lot of residents struggle getting shopping done, getting to the walk-in gate to go offbase, making medical appointments, etc with a one car family.
- Perks of Old Housing
- Same amenities as above (Garage, Playgrounds, pet area, etc)
- It is a ten minute walk to the PX, Commissary, post office, Community Activity Center, Medical Clinic, school aged day care, CDC, etc.
- In summary, the housing is older but the location can’t be beat. Being so close to everything makes it a bit easier having one car.
I love my offpost Korean home! But there is no way in heck I could fit all of my stuff into it. I brought a little over 2,500pounds worth of items to Korea (about 25%) and my apartment is packed. Without a basement or garage, every nook and cranny of our home is full. I left all of my books, furniture, holiday items, camping gear, outdoor equipment and heavy appliances back in the states. I brought my boardgames, some small book shelves, children’s books, all the electronics and household items like linens and kitchenware.
- Families will live in apartments or villas – Single Family homes do exist but they are a bit of a drive and those families will find themselves living in the middle of nowhere without the convenience of restaurants, grocery stores or bus stops out their back door.
- USFK families tend to live in isolated communities called Ameritowns – I’m trying to coin this phrase although its not completely correct. Koreans also live in these communities but when you are house hunting, expect a lot of families in your new unit to encourage you to come live by them in their Ameritown.
- Families can live in Offpost villas that are either part of the greater Korean community or as part of a pocket community of foreigners that I call Ameritowns – This means that you will live in a community of villas that are all the same design with mostly USFK families.
- Ameritowns are often isolated and far from bus stops and grocery stores- I was surprised to see that a lot of Ameritowns stand alone in big fields far away from the hustle and bustle of the restaurants and shops in Paengseong-eup (the town outside of Camp Humphreys) and most do not have access to public bus stops for local transportation. For most Ameritown communities, expect a 15-30 minute walk to get to the store or to a bus stop.
- Ameritowns offer a lot of opportunities for biking and jogging – Because of their isolation, there are a lot of rice paddy roads to jog on and if you live near the river, there are paved paths that are exclusively for bikers and joggers.
- There are school bus stops at Ameritowns – Camp Humphreys has offpost school bus stops at many Ameritowns. Your realtor will know exactly where the Humphreys school bus stops are.
- Ameritowns give kids a chance to play – I live in the Korean community and I hate to say it but Korean children do not play outside. The culture requires kids to spend a great deal of time studying and attending extra-curricular activities. My kids are outside quite often and in the year I’ve been here I can count on one hand when other kids came out to play.
- There are few storage options in Villas and Apartments – Do not expect to have a garage, a yard, walk in closet (very few to no closets) nor an outdoor shed. Some homes come with outside storage options but not all of them. There may be a carport or an underground garage or room for storage on the roof. Most homes come with a balcony big enough to hold bicycles.
- You don’t have to live in an Ameritown – Many people live in American communities for the comfort of having neighbors they can count on. Many members of a unit may find themselves living side by side. We chose to not live in an Ameritown because I wanted easy access to grocery stores, the market and to enjoy the Korean lifestyle. We live in a 3 floor villa that is a 2 minute walk from the Ville and a 5 minute walk from the main gate but we don’t have neighbors that we can rely on nor are there kids for mine to play with.
- Realtors speak English – There are a huge number of realtor offices in Anjeong-ri and there is almost always at least one person who speaks great English. Here are some tips and tricks for offpost realtors
- Use more than one realtor – When we came here we picked two realtors and they both showed us the exact same house at first. We were sort of happy with it but we really wanted something much closer to anjeong-ri. The first realtor blatantly ignored my requests to show us a place that wasn’t in an Ameritown and was closer to Anjeong-ri. The second realtor heard my requests loud and clear and I now live in the coolest and newest house villa. I am a 2 minute walk from the market. Try to use 2-3 realtors and see which unique locations they offer you. Expect to see AceTown, Rex Village, Hilltop Village etc right off the bat. If you are looking for something else then ask and a good realtor will get you what you want.
- Get what you want – Don’t settle until your happy. There are a lot of options for places to live in Anjeong-ri and Songwha-ri. My second realtor said he could show us places all week long.
- You can pay more than your BAH – With an exception to policy letter, you can pay extra to get the villa/ house you want. This is a common occurrence, just be sure to balance the budget before you make the commitment. Your commander needs to sign and confirm that you will be paying extra.
- Get all the amenities you deserve – Most offpost homes come with Cable, Internet and Water as part of the rent. You still have to pay electric and gas. I dare you to find a better deal back in the states. Some other options to consider: dehumidifier, extra AC units and water purifier.
- Check what kind of gas your house is supplied with – City gas is much cheaper than the outdoor tanks that have to be replaced.
- Overseas Housing Allowance (OHA)
- Realtors know exactly how much rent money (OHA) you are allowed – Unlike the states, USFK regulation states that only the exact amount of rent will be paid by the OHA and any extra disappears back into the DoD money vaults. That means realtors will only show you homes that are within your OHA and usually charge the maximum amount since we can’t bank it anyway.
- Read more here on “What to Expect from your USFK Realtor.”
- Go here to learn more about OHA and how much you will be allotted.
- In order to pay rent, each month the sponsor must get the correct amount from the ATM then physically go to their realtors office to pay it. It is nerve-wracking carrying that much cash. Be smart and get all your errands done on the same day. I’ve heard one too many stories of people’s rent money being stolen from their cars overnight.
- Do not debit won from the ATM – You can, but the exchange rate is absolutely atrocious. I am surprised it is legal to charge that much in exchange. Get dollars and go to one of the local money exchange shops in the ville where there is a better exchange rate but you will be charged per thousand won.
- The charge for exchanging money gets worse the farther out in the country you are – The charge for exchanging in Seoul is as low as a won per thousand, in Osan it’s about 3 won and here in Humphreys it hovers near 5 won. But the exchange rate difference on base from the ATM’s or at the cash register can be 10+won. Exchange off-post and help the little guy keep his shop running and save yourself some money each month.
- Cost of Living Allowance (COLA)
- The money allotted for utilities and the high cost of living is called COLA – Families sign up for OHA when the sponsor signs for the apartment. OHA and COLA show up together as a lump sump in MyPay and families are expected to use it appropriately.
- COLA is to be spent by the sponsor and his family as needed. Any leftover after utilities is to be used for cost of living or saved for heavy electricity months from AC use in the summer.
- Offpost homes are beautiful and spacious –
- Spacious for an apartment that is. When comparing Korean apartments vs apartments that were built with Americans in mind, the Americans enjoy much more space and more bedrooms.
- Youtube videos of expats in Korea who are living on a dime will show small, dirty and un-renovated apartments. This is the exact opposite for American USFK near Camp Humphreys who can expect off-post apartments with 3-4 bedrooms and a much more spacious floor plan than on-post housing or traditional Korean apartments.
- Realities of living in a Korean home – Here are a list of idiosyncrasies that come with living in a Korean home
- Utilities cost more in South Korea – Save your leftover COLA for when the electric bill reaches $900. Read here how summer 2016 saw the biggest energy usage by residential homes in Korean history.
- Homes come with hardwood floors and radiant heating – Well, it’s probably laminate floors. Natural gas heats up the water in the floors. This means toasty feet all winter and I love it! However, it is also the number one culprit of water leaks and mold.
- Many Korean homes do not have air conditioning or only have one unit in the main room – We are super lucky to be in a new villa that has AC units in each bedroom. But with electricity costing as much as it does, this convenience is probably going to hurt a lot come August.
- Everything is wallpapered – When I lived in America all I could do was scream how much I hated carpet. Now that I have the wood floors that I’ve always wanted, I have a new element of housing that I hate: silk wallpaper. Do not try to wash the wallpaper like I did, seriously, it’s paper. It rubs right off. We were in the house for a few weeks when my oldest had a nose bleed. Instead of containing it in his T-shirt he sneezed it all over the white wallpaper. You’ve never seen a head-desk slam as epic as mine was at that moment.
- Buy wallpaper putty to clean the paper of dirt and grime. I haven’t bought wallpaper putty yet but it must exist because this stuff gets really dirty.
- Do not put holes in your paper. Your realtor will thank you.
- Most houses come with wallpaper hangers, wires that hang from the ceiling to put up photos and frames.
- Black Mold is a real problem – Not every mold is the dangerous type that can make you sick but South Korea is plagued with black mold troubles. Be sure to inspect your home closely before moving in.
- Check caulking in the bathrooms and kitchen
- Look at the ceiling to see if the pipes from the villa/apartment above are leaking down
- Look for peeling wallpaper and check behind it
- Open all the cupboards, especially those with plumbing
- Check seals around windows and sliding doors
- Inspect the floors and especially corners
- If you move in and find mold, do research before bleaching. In some cases, bleach can help mold grow. Use white vinegar when in doubt.
There are no garbage disposals and plumbing can be iffy – Plumbing is notoriously bad in South Korea so homeowners need to be careful what they put down the drain. When in doubt, trash it.
- Bathrooms are fully tiled and are meant to get wet – There is a drain in the floor and there are no fixtures that can be destroyed from moisture. When it’s time to clean, spray everything with vinegar then hose it all down and dry it. Be sure to keep the bathroom closed and the window open to let the humidity out. Do not let humidity into the house or you could get a mold problem.
- Realtors will show you houses with American 120V outlets next to the Korean 220V – These outlets are connected to a converter box that is usually located in the foyer. It’s better to use the wall outlets than the small converters that you buy at the PX, you will burn out expensive electronics with a wall plug converter. When househunting, know the number of plugs you’ll need for your electronics.
- Each apartment will have a shoe room – Use it! Your clean floors will thank you.
- Almost all villas and some apartments have a balcony – Great for storing bicycles.
- There is not a lot of closet space – Some apartment towers will have basement storage and some villas have roof storage. Otherwise, there are no walk in closets and barely enough closets to hang clothes. Be prepared to buy clothes racks.
- There is a unique method for getting rid of your trash– Click here to find out how to dispose of Trash in South Korea.
- There is a lending closet and Loaner furniture
- ACS has a lending closet of small household and kitchen items that you can get while waiting for HHG to come in. There are no linens available so hopefully you packed some in your luggage.
- When you sign a lease at housing, you will sign up for government furnishings at the same time. The furniture is fugly but its good enough for two years
- There are no desks or desk chairs available for adults – There are kids desks for the children’s bedrooms but no desks available for adults/ computers. It might be a good idea to ship over your desk and chair.
- There are a limited number of items that a family can receive per room.
- The loaner office offers one free delivery when you move in and one free pickup when you move out – So if you borrowed too much furniture or not enough, it will be up to you to transport it outside of the one free drop off and pickup.
- Here is my PDF reference guide for what to bring to Korea and what to put in storage.