Park Jin-oh, 28, reads a book in the living room of his share house apartment complex in Mapo, Seoul.(Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)
Kim Mi-hyun, 37, a senior marketing manager at a retail chain, is thinking about moving into a house with two single women with a similar lifestyle.
“I read a magazine ad placed by a cohousing chain looking for a female single tenant. I am highly interested in cohousing for female singles in their 30s, because I would like to live in a family-like atmosphere while keeping my privacy,” she said. Kim has lived alone since her elder sister got married in 2001.
Park Jin-oh, 28, is an IT technician who lives in a Korean branch of Borderless House in Mapo, Seoul.
“Singles no longer need to put up with lonesome evenings and pay exorbitantly expensive deposits for tenancy in order to get along in Seoul,” Park said.
Borderless House, a Japanese share house chain, entered the Korean market in December last year, jumpstarting the market for shared accommodation here. The business model is new to Korea, and involves renting out rooms to individuals, who then live together and share common facilities under one roof.
“The company will open a total of 11 branches by the end of the year. We predict the Korean market for share houses will continue to grow, boosted by the rising number of singles in their 20s and 30s who are less reluctant to mingle with other singles,” said Jina Kim, a manager of Borderless House.
The company plans to double its number of houses by March 2014.
Borderless House targets singles keen on learning different languages, exchanging cultural values and building international friendships.
The chain enforces a policy that requires half of the tenants at any one unit to be Korean and the other half foreign.
“This concept is unique and appeals to both foreigners and Koreans because it goes hand-in-hand with a globalization trend and a high regard for learning English,” Kim said.
Park does the dishes. (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)
Park, who currently resides in Borderless House’s coed Mapo unit, lives together with four other singles ― a Korean student, a student from Japan, a student from Denmark and a journalist from France.
“The choice before moving in was pretty much between living here and living at a one-room studio, where I had lived before and did not like,” Park said. “Because rents were not much different between the two, it was an easy choice. Here I worry less about possible failure to recover my deposit, I don’t feel lonely and I can even hone my English while I’m at it,” he added.
A view of the room that Park shares with his Danish roommate (Lee Sang-sub/The Korea Herald)
All of his housemates are in their 20s, and have similar hobbies or activities such as badminton or bowling.
Food is a catalyst for bonding between him and his housemates. He treats them to Korean culinary delights, which they are always eager to try. Sometimes they take turns preparing dinner.
“It is a perfect place for working singles who want to escape loneliness and meet diverse people,” said Park. “As long as my workplace is in Seoul, I think I will most likely live here until I get married.”
Shared accommodation gives young singles access to modern facilities and spacious interiors that they might otherwise not have.
One-room apartments or studios, the most common housing type for singles in Seoul, have limited space and lack security. Share house chains have quality facilities of the kind seen in high-end studios, high-rise apartments and flats in expensive locations.
“According to our analysis of customer demands, the living conditions in share houses will likely continue to improve. Borderless House in Seoul offer a flexible tenancy period and various rents depending on location, size and facility,” said Kim.
By Seo Jee-yeon, Kim Joo-hyun