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[Survive & Thrive] Reasons to not overlook community service centers

By Jung Min-kyung

Published : Aug. 2, 2023 - 16:37

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Seongbuk Global Village Center (Seoul Metropolitan Government) Seongbuk Global Village Center (Seoul Metropolitan Government)

Local community service centers are easy to spot, but many overlook the services they provide for their communities.

Taking the time to become acquainted with these centers can lead to various benefits, from saving money to accessing a wide range of cost-effective or even free programs and informative lectures.

Free services

Not all community centers across South Korea offer the same services. However, most of them help visitors with everyday needs.

Many are equipped with copy, printing and fax machines that visitors can use for free.

There is at least one computer installed for visitors' personal use in almost every center. It can save time and money for locals who sought out PC rooms to use word processors.

When raining, community centers often provide umbrellas that can be rented for free.

Many also lend toolboxes that include hammers, screwdrivers and other equipment for free.

Some centers hand out free cleaning solutions that contain various beneficial microbes. Similar solutions cost about 5,000 won ($3.84) per 1.5-liter bottle online.

You can find out which community centers have dispenser machines that hand out the solutions on city government websites. Visitors usually have to take their own empty 1.5 liter bottles to acquire the solution from the dispenser machines.

Old and used batteries can be exchanged for new ones at some centers. The usual barter rate is two new batteries for every 20 used ones.

Around 1 kilogram of paper milk cartons can be exchanged for one or two rolls of toilet paper. The cartons must be washed and dried thoroughly before they're handed in for recycling.

In order to use the services, visitors must show their identification cards, such as residence cards.

Learning and leisure

Most community centers run classes, activities and subsidy programs for residents.

The Huam-dong community center in Seoul’s Yongsan district, for example, offers a three-month membership for two-hour yoga sessions three times per week for 57,000 won.

For foreign residents, centers such as the Seoul Global Center and Seoul Foreign Resident Center announce programs on their bulletin boards.

The easiest way to gain access to the information in English is to visit the Seoul Foreigner Portal (https://global.seoul.go.kr/web/main.do) website operated by the Seoul Metropolitan Government.

Clicking on the "application for program" button on the front page allows people to apply for publicly funded classes, tours and community activities in their respective area of residence.

Survive & Thrive is a series offering a guide to living in South Korea for those outside of the country. – Ed.