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My favorite thing to eat in the blistering hot Korean summer is bingsu. I’m not a huge fan of hot weather, so this popular dessert of shaved ice milk and assorted toppings is a perfect way to cool off. Starting around May you’ll see new businesses that open just for the summer, and you can assume that most of them are bingsu places. This summer I’ve noticed that a specific chain called Sulbing 설빙, which originated in Busan, has spread throughout the country. I’ve seen Sulbing or a ripoff version of Sulbing even in small towns in the country! We realized when we filmed this video that the two videos we’ve done about this tasty treat have both featured mango bingsu, so we decided to ask some friends to send us some pictures of their favorite bingsu around the country so that we could share it!
#1 – Traditional Style Patbingsu at Meal Top – Apgujeong, Seoul
Bingsu is traditonally Patbingsu 팥빙수 – “pat” meaning sweet red bean. Pat is used in several Korean desserts and snacks, and may be an acquired taste for some of you. Nevertheless, we had to start off our list of awesome bingsu desserts with a classic from a famous place in Seoul! This traditional patbingsu can be found at Meal Top (밀탑), in Apgujeong at the Hyundai Department store. They were voted as one of the best places for
bingsu in all of Seoul! They are very, very famous. Just mention “Bingsu in Seoul” and many people immediately think of Meal Top. It’s that famous.
They do it up with a small selection of bingsu, and especially popular is their regular patbingsu. It’s straight up just the shaved ice, with the read bean on top and only two pieces of rice cake. You can get the iced milk version as well.
It’s simple, classic and the place is always packed. There’s a machine where you pull out a number and you get called on when tables are available.
#2 – Cheese Bingsu from Sulbing – Countrywide
#2 on our list is also from Sulbing (because it’s that good) and is contributed by our friend Meagan.
Sulbing (설빙): Korean Dessert Cafe is a really popular chain in Korea and they make a fantastic cheese bingsu. It sounds kind of weird from the name, but it’s actually just bite-sized pieces of cheesecake mixed in with the shaved ice, along with almond slivers and fruit on top. It comes with a side of sweetened condensed milk (연유) that really takes it up a notch!
Meagan’s blog, a guide to life in South Korea.
Meagan on Facebook
#3 – Green Tea Bingsu from Beans & Berries – Countrywide
Having tried tons of different patbingsu all over Seoul, our favorite Bingsu was the first one we bit into. It was Beans & Berries green tea bingsu. Which came with a heaping scoop of green tea ice cream, mixed nuts, corn flakes, and to top it all off, sweet red bean. It was a beautiful looking dessert until we mashed it all up. Somehow, it tasted even better than it looked. We almost didn’t get it due to the 12$ price tag, but ever since we did, we have been eating bingsu like its going out of style. Even though we have yet to find a bingsu we didn’t like, and trust us we are trying, Beans and Berries is still our favorite.
Beans & Berries has locations all around the country. If you read a little bit of Korean you can check out all of the locations on their website.
#4 – Green Tea Bingsu from Okrumong – Seomyeon, Busan
My friend Michael recommends Okrumong in Seomyeon, Busan. While they serve up the traditional patbingsu, they also have a slight twist on the traditional style with a green tea bingsu (녹차빙수). It tastes like frozen green tea! The bingsu here is a bit more expensive for the size at about 9 dollars for green tea bingsu, but it is well worth it!
Check out this blog post for more pictures of Okrumong, their card with contact information, and a map. (It’s in Korean but still useful for those that don’t read Korean.)
#5 – Injeolmi Bingsu (인절미빙수) Chew Rice Cake with Bean Powder Bingsu from Sulbing – Countrywide
And yet another from Sulbing, I couldn’t help it! This one may sound really weird, but let me break it down for you. Injeolmi (인절미) is a kind of dense, chewy rice cake that is covered in a yellow bean powder. This rice cake is common to eat on its own, so they made it into a bingsu! I (Rachel) love traditional Korean flavors, which are often earthy, so this is my all-time favorite bingsu. It’s topped with sliced almonds, and hidden in the bean powder are small pieces of rice cake. If you’re not a big fan of rice cake, the pieces in this bingsu are very small and hardly noticeable. It’s the top-selling bingsu in Korea so I would give it a try at least once!
There you have it! 5 amazing bingsu desserts to try in Korea. They are unique and I think a bit healthier than ice cream. Of course there are so many more varieties of bingsu throughout the country, so leave a comment and tell us about YOUR favorite bingsu!
If you’ve been to a cafe in Korea, then you probably hear the same phrase over and over. Since the baristas and cafe employees are often being polite, they will be using more formal wording.
For those who are learning Korean and are used to talking in the casual form, it may be more difficult to understand what they’re saying. And if you don’t understand what they’re saying, it’s makes it difficult to respond! This can make for some awkward dialogue using lots of hand gestures and sentence fragments.
We’re going to fix that! We’ll identify some common phrases at the cafe that you’ll hear, and then give you some response options to make you sound like a native. Not only will you be learning Korean to make your interactions smoother, but you’ll also get some great practice studying every time you visit a café!
The phrases below are all written in Hangeul (Korean alphabet). If you want to learn the Korean alphabet fast, here is a free guide that teaches you how to read in about one hour.
For the rest of you who are ready to master your craft and become the kings of the café, follow the Korean cafe phrases in the dialogue below.
We know that for some of you it may be challenging to try to speak in a foreign language.
To help get past that hurdle, it might be helpful to think of it more as a scene in a movie and you’re an actor performing a role. That way, you’re simply practicing lines and rehearsing them with the other actors. Much less pressure, and more opportunities for fame!
For your first leading role, you’re going to study the Korean cafe phrases in Scene 1. In this case, the barista is asking if you are ready to order.
Now that you’ve got ordering down, let’s move onto Scene 2. After your order, the barista will ask if you’re going to be eating or drinking at the café. Notice there are two different answers based on what you ordered. If it’s drink only, then use A2. For all other cases, use A3.
You may also hear the barista asking you if you’ll be taking the order out. Scene 3 is similar to Scene 2, except the question is regarding a drink-only order. If you ordered food, the barista would not ask you this. You will only hear this if the order is for a drink.
In Scene 4, the barista will ask you the same question as in Scene 3. However, this is for an order that is NOT drink-only. So if you order food, or food and drink, the barista may ask you the question from Scene 4 below.
Now that you’ve proved your performance skills, it’s time to wrap things up with the final scene. Let’s talk about receipts.
Since you’ve made it this far, now is a good time to put these Korean cafe phrases into action! If it seems like there are a lot of ways to ask and answer questions about ordering at a cafe, many Koreans would agree with you!
However, if you keep learning Korean and practicing them, they will become second nature. Head out to your local cafe and get one step closer to sounding like a native!
What phrases do you hear most often at a café? Do you have a place you visit often where you’d like to interact in Korean? We’d love to hear from you, so feel free to leave a comment below!
Photo Credit: Ged Carroll
Learn to read Korean and be having simple conversations, taking taxis and ordering in Korean within a week with our FREE Hangeul Hacks series: http://www.90DayKorean.com/learn
Seoul is, without a doubt, one of the most convenient places to live in the world. It's a 24 hour city, with businesses remaining open until the wee hours of the morning. It boasts an incredibly efficient and affordable transportation system. And you can get just about anything delivered to your house. Including groceries. Which is particularly handy when you live in the hilltops of Gyeongnidan like myself.
Below is a list of helpful websites to use when you don't feel like hauling around heavy bags of veggies or fighting ajumma in chaotic supermarkets.
Although I live in Itaewon and have easy access to a number of international markets, I prefer shopping on iHerb.com for the price, selection of food and quick delivery. iHerb.com is based in America and prides itself on having the best overall value for natural products in the world. You can find just about anything on iHerb, from user-reviewed breakfast foods and baking items to vitamins and toiletries. One of my favorite brands to order is Bob's Red Mill; I'm particularly fond of their gluten-free bread mixes, steel-cut oats, and soups. I'm obsessed with their hearty Vegi Soup Mix for $5.37 USD which sells at Itaewon High Street Market for the equivalent of $10.69. And I won't even get started on the mark-up of vitamins in Korea.
Surprisingly, the shipping is crazy cheap- a flat rate of $4.00 USD for up to 15 pounds. Shipping takes about a week and despite the more complicated customs process as of late, all you need to complete your order is an ARC number (either yours or a co-signer's).
First-time users can use the code STJ541 to save up to $10.00 USD on one's first purchase. Be warned, however, that once you start using iHerb.com, you WILL become addicted.
Korean farms use 15 times more pesticides than those in the United States. Scary, I know. Fortunately, for the health-conscious, there's a new farm-to-table initiative quickly gaining popularity in Seoul. Gachi CSA is a food delivery system that provides residents in Korea with trustworthy, local, organic produce directly from local farms straight to your doorstep.
Gachi offers a base basket of local, seasonal fruit and vegetables in two portions: one for couples, the other for families. The Couples' Basket contains 8-10 different items and is priced at ₩27,000 per week, whereas the Family Basket contains 10-12 different items and is priced at ₩35,000. These two baskets both have a time-frame option of month share, half share and full share (1 month, 3 months and 6 months respectively). For an additional fee, add-on options such as snacks, juice, bread and meat can be added.
Gachi posts recipes using ingredients of their weekly boxes on their Facebook page and those interested can register for the service at their website.
High Street Market
As I mentioned earlier, a lot of High Street's prices are a rip-off, but for those items that can't be purchased on iHerb- i.e. perishables- their website comes in handy. High Street has a great selection of meats, including harder to find options such as pastrami and chorizo. Additionally, High Street offers whole cooked turkeys and hams, which is particularly convenient if you're hosting a holiday party. (Just remember to order a couple weeks in advance.) They also have a good, albeit expensive, variety of cheese, which is nice for those living outside the city with a lack of access to the unprocessed stuff.
The delivery fee for orders under ₩120,000 is ₩3,000- not a bad price, considering they ship all over Korea, including Jeju Island. Check out High Street's online store here.
Located in Gyeongju, Waeg Farm is home to 7 goats and former university teacher Doug Huffer, who has made goat cheese available for purchase on the internet in an otherwise goat cheese-less country. Each 200 gram container of goat cheese costs ₩10,000 and shipping is ₩4,000, or free if you order 4 or more containers. Additionally, Waeg Farm sells their own farm-grown veggies, so inquire as to which are available.
Visit the Waeg Farm website or Facebook page for more information and photos of their oh-so-adorable goats.
Alien's Day Out Bake Shop
Vegans with a sweet tooth will be happy to learn about Alien's Day Out Bake Shop. Opened by Mipa, food blogger and owner of PLANT Cafe in Itaewon, the online store offers tasty cookies, muffins and cakes at prices comparable to other bakeries around the city, but are made using organic, unrefined cane sugar and organic soy milk.
Some of Mipa's especially yummy goodies include pumpkin cranberry oatmeal cookies (₩7,000 for 6 cookies) and banana chocolate nut muffins (₩9,000 for 4 muffins). She also has a nice variety of cakes on sale that start at ₩30,000 and should be ordered a week in advance.
Alien's Day Out Bake Shop ships all around Korea for ₩4,000/order and delivery takes a few days. Visit the website to place your order or visit PLANT's Facebook page for more of Mipa's treats.
For those looking for authentic Indian groceries, spices and sauces, ExpatMart is the place to shop. While the website offers a variety of curries, flours and varieties of rice, it also sells fresh items. Hard-to-find produce like cilantro and okra can also be purchased on ExpatMart, which is perfect for those hoping to whip up some Mexican or Southeast Asian cuisine. Additionally, halal meats are available, making this website a go-to for Muslim residents in Korea.
For orders over 70,000 won under 22kgs, shipping is free. A ₩4,000 shipping fee is charged for orders under ₩70,000. Browse the Expat Mart website here.
Words by Mimsie Ladner of Seoul Searching. Content may not be reproduced unless authorized.
What’s in a name? Well, in Korea — quite a bit actually!
Many Korean parents will spend a lot of time and money to come up with the perfect name for their child. They believe that a person’s name can determine their destiny. With a child’s future on the line, it’s important to come up with a good name.
Here at 90 Day Korean, we want you to have a Korean name as well. While it can be tough to come up with the perfect name, we’re going to help point you in the right direction so that it becomes much more likely.
As an expat living or traveling in Korea (or even living in your home country and interacting with Koreans), it’s easy to notice a barrier at times due to cultural differences.
Having a Korean name is a great way to break the ice with Koreans and get started on the right foot. It adds just a little extra layer of comfort and Koreans will have fun calling you by your Korean name. It sounds familiar to them!
You may have seen Korean names before. Maybe you have a favorite KPOP star, Korean drama character or athlete. Any of these names ring a bell?
Kim Yuna (김연아)
Lee Min-ho (이민호)
Bae Yong-joon (배용준)
As you can see, most Korean names have three syllables. There are some names with more and some with less, but the huge majority of names have three syllables.
You should probably stick with three as well when coming up with a Korean name for yourself!
In Korean, the surname is written first. So the first syllable you see is the family name. By far the most common Korean surnames are 김 (Kim), 이 (Lee) and 박 (Park).
The second two syllables you see are the given name.
We’ve come up with a list of five methods you can use to make your very own Korean name.
Take a look through, try out the different methods, and hopefully come out with a Korean name you can start introducing yourself with starting tomorrow!
It’s going to be lots of fun. Let’s get started!
Method 1: Write Your Given Name in Korean Characters
The first method you can use to make a Korean name is not to make one at all! You can simply take your name and write it in Korean based on the way it sounds.
While this isn’t a Korean name per se, it is a first step you can take to make it easier for Koreans to pronounce and read your name. It makes things comfortable!
No matter which method you choose to go with for making your Korean name, you should probably go through this step first anyway. There are many situations when knowing your name’s spelling in Korean will come in handy! If you can’t yet read Korean or don’t know the Korean characters, you can learn them in about an hour by taking our 90 Minute Challenge.
When writing your name in Korean, it all comes down to vowel sounds. It’s important to sound it out just right!
When you do this, sometimes an English name with only a few letters can have many syllables in Korean.
Let’s take the English name Michael for example. To write it in Korean, we need to sound it out.
The first thing we could do is break it into two syllables.
For the first syllable, we need to think which Korean characters could make that ‘long i’ sound. No single Korean character has that sound on its own.
How about 아 + 이? That sounds right. Let’s add in the “m” sound in front of the ㅏand we’ll be good to go!
First part: 마이
Now let’s focus on the second syllable. If you sound it out, it sounds more like “keul.” As you remember from the 90 Minute Challenge, the character that makes the “k” sound is ㅋ. It looks like a key! Let’s use that one.
The final step is to add in the “eul” sound. That should be easy! The Korean character that makes the “eu” sound is ㅡ and the “l” ending we can make with ㄹ. Shall we stack them together?
Second part: 클
There we have it, we’re all finished! We ended up with three syllables:
Let’s take a look at some more common names in English as examples:
There is a smartphone app called “Write Your Name In…” and it has a Korean function. The main problem we have found with it is that it doesn’t have that many names in its database. However, if you have a common Korean name, this is one way you can check your work once you’re done.
You can find it here:
Definitely try writing it yourself first though. Not only is it great practice, but it’s a lot of fun!
Method 2: Use a Korean Name Application
There are some applications and websites out there that can help you come up with a Korean name of your own.
Some of them use your real name to help generate a similar-sounding Korean name, while some use your birthday. Others seem to come up with a Korean name at random — when you refresh the page, you’ve got a completely different name!
Those are the main reasons we recommend against using this method. However, you never know — you might just get a great-sounding Korean name that suits you or at the very least, it could be the starting point for improvement.
For example, maybe you get a first name you like but the surname sounds strange to you. You could simply customize it yourself by swapping out the surname and putting in one of your choice.
In any case, these apps can be fun to play around with. Here are three of the Korean name applications floating around the internet that you may wish to try out:
Method 3: Choose Your Korean Name From a List
Choosing a name from the click of a button not for you?
When Koreans choose English names, they often choose the names of English-speaking stars that they admire. Maybe you have a favorite KPOP star or actor. You can start to get name ideas from them!
Of course, you probably don’t want to take their entire name including family name (imagine meeting a Korean who introduced himself as “Tom Cruise!”), but you could easily switch out the surname to one of your choosing.
Here are links to lists of Korean names. The first is just a list of baby names like you often see on the internet for English names. They are romanized, however, so if you see one you like, you will have to change it into 한글. That’s the fun part!
The second is a list of popular Korean names. You can see which names parents choose most often. Maybe you’ll find one that suits you!
Finally, here is a list of Korean family names. Take a browse through and give some thought to which matches you best.
Method 4: Choose a Korean Name That Sounds Like Your English Name
Another method for choosing a Korean name is finding a Korean name that sounds like your name in English.
This may require some help from a Korean, however, but you can make use of the name lists and other resources to try for yourself.
For example, maybe your name is Kimberly Johnson. Through the name lists or from the help of a Korean friend, you come up with the following name:
Some expats may wish to choose a last name that sounds similar to their given name in English! One student named Joe chose the surname 조 when making his Korean name. He then just chose a modern and cool-sounding given name in Korean.
Method 5: Choose a Korean Name With a Special Meaning
This method may also require some assistance from a Korea friend but it’s a great way to come up with a Korean name that has a story or meaning behind it versus an arbitrarily chosen name!
Some names in Korean have special meanings. For example, these common names in Korean have the following meanings:
Many Koreans are also concerned with a name’s meaning in Chinese characters. This requires added research, but can help you come up with a Korean name that has meaning behind it.
Remember how we said Korean names usually have three characters? You could look up the meaning of each in Chinese characters or have someone assist you. This would help you have a cool backstory for the meaning of your name and what it represents!
Regardless of which method you choose for coming up with your Korean name, it’s important to get feedback from a Korean. Having a trusted ally on your side can make all the difference in the world to choosing the right-sounding name.
This guide will help set you off on the right track. Get started by writing your first name in Korean characters. Then try your last name. This will be a fantastic starting point and you may wish to stop there! For those of you that want an authentic-sounding Korean name, however, you can continue on and try the other methods.
In either case, we wish you the best in the quest for your new Korean name! Let us know which name you came up with for yourself below in the comments!
Photo Credit: Robert McLane
The Jeokmyeol Bogung at Beopheungsa Temple in Yeongwol, Gangwon-do.
Hello Again Everyone!!
Beopheungsa Temple, which was first known as Heungmyeongsa Temple, was first established in 647 C.E. by Master Jajang-yulsa. It was also one of the Seonjong Gusan (the Nine Holy Zen-sect Buddhist temples). It was also one of the five temples that Jajang-yulsa established Jeokmyeol Bogung Halls to place the Buddha’s sari (crystallized remains) inside for people to worship. Unfortunately, and throughout the years, the temple has been destroyed and rebuilt after numerous devastating fires.
You first approach the temple grounds up a road that is lined with beautiful mature trees. Halfway up the road, you’ll see the wide Iljumun Gate with an elephant and dragon as foundation stones for the pair of pillars.
Having made your way up the road that leads to Beopheungsa Temple, you’ll be greeted by the Woneum-ru Pavilion that houses the temple’s bell pavilion on the second floor of the structure. Having passed under this pavilion, you’ll notice a collection of buildings meant for the monks as well as the gift shop and visitors’ centre. To the left, there’s an expansive temple courtyard that is largely unoccupied, which hearkens back to the temple’s fiery past.
The main hall in the lower courtyard is the Geukrak-jeon Hall. The exterior walls are only adorned with the dancheong colour scheme, but there is a beautiful, but diminutive, stone lantern reminiscent of the one found at Beopjusa Temple. As for sitting inside the Geukrak-jeon, you’ll find a beautiful statue of Amita-bul (The Buddha of the Western Paradise), who is colourfully clothed in painted silks. He’s joined on either side by Jijang-bosal (The Bodhisattva of the Afterlife) and Gwanseeum-bosal (The Bodhisattva of Compassion). Both are equally regal in appearance.
To the left of the main hall is the Josa-jeon with a mural of Jajang-yulsa front and centre. It’s between this hall and a second bell pavilion that you’ll find the Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall. Housed inside this newly constructed hall is a triad of murals centred by Chilseong (The Seven Stars). This painting is joined to the right by a standard mural of Dokseong (The Lonely Saint) and to the left by Yongwang (The Dragon King). This painting, of the set, is the most masterful with a seated image of Yongwang staring off into the distance with an angry expression on his face.
The far hall in the lower courtyard is the Mandala-jeon, which has a painting of the Buddha hanging in this diminutive hall, as well as a sand mandala. This type of hall is a first for me at a Korean Buddhist temple. The other items in the lower courtyard are a budo and stele dedicated to both Jinghyo-guksa (826-900), as well as an unknown monk, which dates to around the time of the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392).
The true highlight to this temple lies up a path lined with red pines. The first building to greet you, and slightly up an embankment, is the Yaksa-jeon dedicated to the Buddha of Medicine. Just behind this hall is one of the most unique Sanshin-gaks that I’ve seen in all of Korea. Immediately when you step inside this shaman shrine hall, you’ll be greeted by three separate paintings and statues of three different Sanshins (Mountain Spirits). In the centre sits an elderly image of Sanshin, while to the left is another image of a male Sanshin, but this time, with a headdress. To the right of the central figure is a female Sanshin. All three are amazing in appearance and composition.
The final structure at the temple is the most famous. The Jeokmyeol Bogung hall, just like the main hall at Tongdosa Temple, is without an image or statue of the Buddha housed inside the hall. Instead, a window looks out onto Mt. Sajasan, which is purportedly where Jajang-yulsa buried the sari (the Buddha’s crystallized remains). In addition to the buried sari, there is also a cave, the Jajang-yulsa Togul, at the base of the embankment where Jajang formerly prayed. The views of the surrounding mountains are spectacular and give the best reason as to why Jajang decided to created one of the five Jeokmyeol Bogung at the future site of Beopheungsa Temple.
HOW TO GET THERE: The closest major city to Beopheungsa Temple is Wonju. From the Wonju Intercity Bus Terminal, you’ll need to take a bus to Jucheon. The bus ride takes about 50 minutes. Then from Jucheon, you can take a local bus to Beopheungsa Temple, which leaves five times daily and takes about 30 minutes in duration.
OVERALL RATING: 8/10. While there are only really a handful of halls that a visitor can see, they’re pretty special. Starting at the extremely rare Jeokmyeol Bogung that crowns the temple and leading all the way down to the centrally located Geukrak-jeon Hall on the lower courtyard, there is a lot to occupy the temple adventurer. And when you add into the mix the triad of Sanshin images and the fiery image of Yongwang inside the Samseong-gak, and you’ll know why I rate Beopheungsa Temple as highly as I do.
The Iljumun Gate at Beopheungsa Temple.
The Woneum-ru Pavilion that welcomes you to the temple grounds.
The temple courtyard with the Geukrak-jeon to the right.
A look inside the Geukrak-jeon Hall at the main altar.
The newly constructed Samseong-gak shaman shrine hall.
The Yongwang mural with Munsu-bosal up in the clouds.
The view from the Samseong-gak down at the second bell pavilion.
The path that leads up to the Buddha’s remains.
A look up at the Sanshin-gak, which is situated behind the Yaksa-jeon.
The triad of Sanshin incarnations.
The way to the Jeokmyeol Bogung.
A look towards the hall that looks out onto the Buddha’s remains.
The mound and the cave where Jajang meditated.
Of all the endless eating opportunities, I ended up wanting to try the chicken feet! They are served up in Korea a few different ways, but the kind I wanted were the hot ones.
The ones I tried are called 불닭발 (bul dak bal) or “Fire Chicken Feet”. Anytime I see the word 불 in front of a dish here I wonder if I can hack it or not. I mean, I handled the 불낙 볶음면 which is literally translated “super-crazy spicy hot ramyeon noodles to fry off your face”. Yeah, it’s funny how these names pan out. Truth be told, they weren’t the hottest noodles I’ve ever had.
So I figured these chicken feet can’t be all that bad.
They were. I’m convinced they are marinated with jet fuel or something because after just one tiny piece I was sweating profusely.
These chicken feet are different than the type you would get in Chinatown for dim sum where they are soft and the flesh falls off the bone. These were fried and more chewy. Very different experience. Yet, an experience nonetheless.
ESL, Travel, and Judo!
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1. Visa (are you here legally and are your workers)? There is a new "startup visa" and sometime in the future I hope to discuss it in more detail.
2. Financial law (what restrictions / rights do you have as a foreign investor)?
3. Business structure (what kind of business do you run)? This also affects ...
4. Taxation, which is always a concern.
We've tried to briefly touch on those in our Korea Herald column. Each area is really quite complex but hopefully you can get an idea of the basics, or places to look for more answers. If there are more specific areas of law people show significant interest in, we hope to address those in the future so don't hesitate to ask. (And, of course, please read the disclaimer.)
Starting a business in Korea: Visas, entities, and taxes
First, you need to be able to legally be in the country and run a business. E-series visa holders and those in the country on visa waivers are generally not permitted to do so. If you invest 100 million won you can qualify for a D-8 visa, but you will be limited to the type of business the company does and cannot open other businesses or accept outside employment. Those who have one of several residential visas (F-2, F-4, F-5, and F-6) have the freedom to basically operate just as a Korean citizen would, with no limitations on business type or kind, except that, of course, the business must be lawful. Leave the drugs and guns overseas, please, and think twice about that “Kiss Bang” with extra services you always wanted to manage.
After you’re sure you can open a business without risking deportation, the next step from a legal perspective is to determine its structure. The most common structures are solo proprietorship (“sa-eopja”), general partnership (“hapmyeong hoesa”), limited company (“yuhan hoesa”) and stock corporation (“jushik hoesa”). Which structure is used generally depends on the ownership and management structure and tax consequences of the business. There are other forms, too, but they are less common.
The first two, proprietorship and partnership, are not separate entities from a tax or liability perspective ― that is, the proprietor or partners directly receive earnings and are directly liable for damages caused by the business. Ownership is simple and, in the case of more than one person, equal. These structures are typical for “mom and pop” style shops and small businesses such as small hagwons, restaurants, stores, or legal offices with few partners. You do not need any formal corporate documents (such as articles of incorporation) but in the case of a partnership, a partnership agreement is recommended to minimize possible future disputes.
The last two, limited company and stock company, are separate entities and taxed separately ―that is, the entity is taxed and then the person is taxed, creating the possibility of double taxation and making planning a bit more complicated . Generally a well-planned entity can minimize tax liabilities. Also, ownership interests can be transferred by sale and broken into different classes, allowing more flexibility in terms of control and profit sharing. You will, however, need corporate documents (such as articles of incorporation) and the law places certain restrictions and liabilities on directors and other parties.
A Korean limited company is like most other nations’ limited liability companies, and has fewer reporting requirements than a stock corporation. Many larger foreign businesses begin life as limited companies and become stock corporations only if they need the additional flexibility or will seek to be listed on a stock exchange.
Of course, if your business needs to change, the structure can always be changed with a little time, planning, and of course paperwork.
Whichever your type of business, you should register with the local branch of the tax office, and the commercial registry. You will need to pay at least two types of taxes: value-added tax and income tax. Some businesses, including translation, are VAT-exempt so what purpose you pursue can affect how much of your income you keep. Tax itself could be several articles, particularly once you start considering personal and business income tax planning, so we would suggest finding an accountant with whom you can communicate, although we will try to address those issues in the future.
You may also need to register with and meet the requirements of other government entities, such as the Ministry of Education (if you are a teacher) or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (if you are assisting with foreign visa applications). If you invested more than 100 million won you will need to register with the Ministry of Knowledge Economy and you will have some extra legal protections under the Foreign Investment Promotion Act.
The Seoul Global Center has great pamphlets on businesses and registration in multiple languages, as well as information about the periodic sponsorships the government has been giving, so we would suggest starting there. As any small business owner can tell you, there is a small mountain of paperwork to surmount and headaches to suffer, but generally the long-term personal rewards and financial freedom are worth it.
By Darren Bean and Yuna Lee
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