Looking for a Goshiwon? How is it different from a One Room?

My room in a more organised state.

Okay since I received a question on Goshiwons (고시원) and I've been meaning to do this ever since I lived in one in Seoul, I decided to do up this post!

EDIT (25 March 2012): Check out this updated entry about a new English Goshiwon resource page here!

According to Galbijim (A very resourceful site!)...
A Goshiwon (고시원) is a small room somewhere around three square metres (1.5 pyeong) that students will often live in for a number of months in order to focus on a test. Goshiwons are generally located inside buildings somewhere around the second to sixth floor or so, and one goshiwon will have a dozen or two people living on one floor.
At the same time, goshiwons are a remarkably cheap way of living in the country if one does not mind the small space, especially for a few months. Prices in a goshiwon will range from 200,000 to 400,000 won per month, and sometimes more. Sometimes the line between a goshiwon and a one-room will be blurred, and some rooms for 500,000 or 600,000 will have a bathroom and shower within the room itself.
Why did I chose to stay in a Goshiwon and not the dormitory while studying at Seoul National University? Because I didn't have a choice! Basically, the dormitories were under repair and they told us that priority would be given to students from less-developed countries. And Singapore isn't one...so none of us Singaporeans got it. Also, because they had offered us this option called a One Room (원룸), which is slightly bigger than a Goshiwon and has essentially the same facilities, but it was about 2.8 million KRW for the whole semester. Contrast this to the 450,000 KRW/month I paid for 4.5 months. I paid about 2 million KRW in total for my entire stay at the Goshiwon, saving me about S$1000.

So I scouted around for a place to stay. My Korean friend had reccomended me a site for One Rooms (http://www.oneroomtel.com/oneroomtel/main.asp) and told me that most Korean students who couldn't get dormitories lived in One Rooms near campus. But the problem about these One Rooms were that, one had to put a deposit (called Key Money, I believe) on top of a monthly rent. And the cheaper the rent was, the more expensive the deposit would be. I didn't like the idea of bringing a whole wad of cash over and I didn't want to put any cash on deposit either, so he offered me another alternative, a Goshiwon.

The site he gave me was: http://su.myhomelivingtel.com/ (Subsequently, my friend PS and WM stayed at this place. It was nice and clean, had a cheaper rent than mine. But it was about 10 minutes walk from the nearest subway station.) So I learnt about Goshiwons! I searched around and came across this site: http://gosi1.net which was basically a Goshiwon directory of all the Goshiwons in Seoul and out of Seoul! 

Here's a walk through on how you can use the site. Click on each photo to make it bigger!

1) It is categorised according to their locations by the subway lines. It also expands to towns like Incheon, Busan and so on.

2) Pick the subway station that you want to stay closest to. For me, it's Line 2 Seoul National subway station.

3) Basically just click around on the various listings. It's always good to explore.

4) Clicking would lead you to a more detailed page which tells you more about the Goshiwon. I translated some categories. (Pyeong is their method of measurement for rooms. (1 pyeong is about 3.3 sqm or 35.6 sqft.)

So the site for the Goshiwon I stayed at was: http://o2oneroomtel.com/su/ and it's called O2 One Room Tel - Seoul National University Branch. I chose it because: 1) It was near the main road. 2) The shuttle bus stop for my school was right outside. 3) Less than 5 minutes to the nearest subway station. (I double-checked via Daum Maps.) 4) It was new! Meaning it would be cleaner! (Their site said that they had just opened in 2009.)

Okay but thing about Goshiwons is that, while you can leave an inquiry on their message board, almost all the Goshiwon web masters would say to drop them a call. But I was in Singapore and...I wasn't confident of carrying out a conversation in Korean at that time. So, my very kind Korean teacher at that time made a call all the way to Korea for me. She basically confirmed a room for me and assured the guy that I wasn't out to scam him because he insisted that most rooms would only be confirmed with a 15,000 KRW deposit. (But to do an overseas wire transfer for that would be...ridiculous. That's about S$17-18.)

A week before I flew to Seoul, I online-messaged a Korean friend who lived nearby to double-check that I had a room ready. And yes I did! I reserved a so-called One Room-style room with my own personal toilet and an outside facing window. Because of the two additional things, my room cost 450,000 KRW. Every room, whether there's a toilet or window, comes with: high-speed internet, television, wardrobe and a fridge. 

When checking-in though, I was prepared that the room would be a lot smaller than what I had seen on the website. True enough it was. This was taken when I first checked in...

The view of my room from the door. 

This was taking standing on my bed a couple of weeks later. 

Wardrobe and personal toilet.

Overall, I liked living at my Goshiwon. My Goshiwon master (? Landlord?) turned out to be a really nice guy. (Though he always asked me why I didn't speak better Korean. I'd reply "저는 배우고 있어요!", meaning, I'm learning!) The lady who helped him, I called her Unni/언니 after a while, was really nice too. They were like my guardians throughout the 4 months.

Sure, I did regret living near SNU subway station instead of the area behind my school, Nokdu, in a One Room, because everyone was always hanging around Nokdu. But what I got in return was a more private room, greater convenience because I lived near the subway station and, more money to spend! Haha.

I am not claustrophobic by nature so I actually loved the very small space I lived in. Lesser space to clean, who wouldn't like that? But I know some of my friends didn't take very well to my cramped-looking room. As the name goes, it is typically for students to stay, therefore furnishings are very minimal.

Unless you're on holiday for say, a month or more, like a study holiday for a language course spanning 2-3 months, I would say, living at a guest house would be more comfortable. Also, most Goshiwons don't accept stayers who stay less than a month.

Oh shoot, it's 5.08am. I'll answer any questions anyone has via my Formspring or my comments box! (: