When you move to Korea, you do not know what state your apartment will be in. There are things that may be promised or even included in your contract, but really, there is no guarantee. Between my two apartments, I have seen black mold, rotten food, piles of empty water bottles and trash. When put in this situation, the best thing you can do is buy some thick rubber gloves, sponges, and a nice big bottle of bleach. That's how I've spent a lot of my free time since I've moved into my new place.
The other potential problem I've seen firsthand and heard about, is a lack of furniture. One guy I met had moved into an entirely empty apartment - absolutely nothing but the walls and floor. Luckily, my situation was a bit better. I am sleeping on a mattress on the floor (still waiting on my bed frame) and only recently upgraded from a mini-fridge to a full-sized one. My apartment had the basics, but is still missing some essentials. It may be tempting to race off to E-Mart or Home Plus and buy brand new furniture, but I recommend heading to a market first.
Chilseong Market has a great furniture section, so that is where Blair and I headed this weekend.
To get there: take the subway to Chilseong Market (it's on the red #1 line, two away from Banwoldang). When you get off, you'll see this sign:
1 Chilseong-dong Community Service Center Chilseong Market
2 To Dongin (4) Jct. Chilseong Market
3 Chilseong Furniture Market
4 Bridge of Chilseong Sincheon Public Parking
If you go out exit 3, you'll come up and see this:
Turn right, go straight, or cross the street and wander that way. The market is huge and full of great deals. To find the furniture, cross the street, and turn right. The main road has furniture stores, but they are more expensive than the smaller shops down the side streets and alleys.
Once you find the right piece of furniture, you need to figure out how to take it home. There are a few options. For the largest pieces, many places include delivery in the price, so be sure to ask, and even negotiate a lower price if your home is close to the market. Blair's shelving unit was very tall, similar to the one pictured above, but wood rather than white. She bargained them down to 25,000 Won including delivery. They threw it in the back of the truck and drove us to her apartment. Even better, delivery included him carrying it up the stairs and bringing it inside!
Another option is bringing the furniture by bus or taxi. I had left a smaller piece of furniture at Blair's while I had been home. We tried to take it in a bus (not pictured), but got off at the wrong stop accidentally and ended up lost enough to justify a cab ride. One driver did turn us down, but the second one just laughed while we squeezed in.
As a side note, I had picked up a hanging closet - tension mounted from the ceiling to the floor. It was only 20,000 won, saving me about 30,000 won from the E-Mart price!
Aside from the furniture shops, there is a lot to see. Here are some random pictures from around the market:
Lots of bikes and street vendors
Live turtles, which I am assuming are snacks rather than pets
Lots of fresh octopus and seafood
Fish and seafood
An indoor market with lots of fresh produce
Drying fish outside by the bridge