Before coming to Sejong, I spent a lot of time looking up information online that would give me some sense of what to expect when I moved here. I had lived in Korea before, but this was a whole new city, and I had so many questions: What kind of weather could I anticipate? What could I do for fun? Where could I go running? How could I meet other foreigners? What kind of crimes could I do?
For the most part, the internet managed to answer my questions (Cold, go to the park, go to the park, go to the park, try not to do crimes). But my most pressing question was also the one that could not be answered beforehand: What would my apartment look like? I found a few videos online, but each abode was slightly different from the last, and wouldn’t necessarily reflect the one I would be assigned. I admit that I also harboured a secret hope that my apartment would be huger than the ones I saw on YouTube. Sadly, this did not turn out to be the case. Nevertheless, I quite like my apartment, so I would like to take you on a brief tour. In order to simplify the tour, and to make it more narratively compelling, I am going to divide it into two parts: Things I Like, and Things That Could Be Better. Now, bear in mind that I don’t pay rent, so there’s a lot of arrogance that goes into criticizing a free room that comes with electricity and hot running water.
Things I Like About It
Like most apartments in Korea, mine comes with a refrigerator and stove built into the design, as well as a washing machine. So even though these things aren’t unique to my place, it is wonderful to not have to worry about buying my own.
One of the first thoughts I had when I first saw my apartment was that I had one wall that was almost entirely a window. This came as a huge relief. I’ve known people living in Korea that have only tiny portholes that don’t provide much of a view, or no windows at all. I was glad to have such a wide outlook on the world.
Another one of my first observations was that I had a large white wall with unblemished wallpaper. It might be curious to get excited about a boring white wall, but this particular wall happens to have the colour and texture of a projector screen. This is perfect for me, because it just so happens that I own a projector. So at night I am able to watch movies that have been blown up to the size of my entire blank wall.
I like that my clothes horse is built into the architecture of my apartment. It stows away conveniently and doesn’t take up any extra space. Clothes horses have a tendency of dominating the spaces that they’re in, even when they are not in the process of drying clothes. I was glad to not have that problem, but also, hold your applause until the next section, please.
I like that the apartment comes with a large shelf section and work station. This was especially useful when I first arrived and had no furniture. I think this area was designed for more academic purposes, but I like using the shelves as a kind of pantry, and the desk as a cooking counter.
The shower is a delight. I have two shower heads – one is removable and allows me to direct the spray in any direction I choose. The other is a waterfall-type jobbie which is great to simply stand under while I pretend to be in a shampoo commercial.
My bathroom also has an entire mirrored wall. I am all for mirrors, and think bathrooms everywhere should have more of them. I’m of the opinion that naked bodies look their best in bathrooms, and having so much mirror allows me to watch myself as I pretend to star in my own shampoo commercial. My bathroom also has a lot of shelf space and quite a capacious cabinet. But again, please hold your applause until the end.
I like how efficient my apartment is with space. There are a surprising amount of cupboards and wardrobes and draws and shelves for storing away just about everything. But once all the doors and draws are shut, the space appears simple and minimalist. There is no obvious indication that this tiny room is hiding tons and tons of clothes and crockery and bric-a-brac and appliances and toilet paper.
Things That Could Be Better
Now, I don’t want to get too bogged down in negativity here. I want to only focus on the expectations that were not met, and the few details that make me scratch my head and wonder at the mindset of the architect who brought my living space to life.
I think my first impression upon seeing my apartment for the first time was the disappointment that it was as small as I feared it would be. I can cover the distance from my front door to the back wall in about three-and-a-half strides. Actually…
Okay, five strides, it turns out. Aside from the bathroom, every corner of the apartment is visible from every other corner of the apartment. What kind of house party could I throw here? There is no place for me to secretly gossip to Guest A about Guest B.
To be honest I was a little disappointed that my apartment didn’t come with a microwave. But to be fair, this was never something that was promised to me; I simply took it for granted that I would have one, along with the fridge, stove, and washing machine. But I managed to find a secondhand one for cheap, and it hides away nicely inside a cupboard above the stove that happens to have a power outlet in it. It’s the perfect space for a microwave, but it’s also quite high up, which means I can’t really see what’s going on in there. There is something quite terrifying about having to hold dangerously hot dishes above my head on a daily basis.
My clothes horse acts as a kind of childproof lock on my cupboards. Once it is deployed, and my clothes are all hanging up to dry, it becomes a bit of a mission to access anything else in my wardrobe. I have to reach feel around underneath the Hanging Garments of Babylon to retrieve dry clothes, and often have to carefully pull t-shirts out through the bars of the clothes horse. Maybe the architect expects me to remain unclothed while my laundry dries? That would explain all that pro-nudity business that’s going on in the bathroom.
Speaking of bathrooms, my bathroom cabinet doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. To my eyes it looks like the architect built in a few security features to prevent anyone from placing anything on its shelves. There are parallel bars running down one side of it, which means you have to carefully maneuver objects through that narrow space in order to put anything there. I’m sure there was a very specific idea in mind about how a shelf like that should be stocked, but I for one cannot fathom what that idea is.
The water will not get hot. This isn’t a terrible problem, since the apartment is extremely well insulated and very rarely gets cold. But I do miss a scalding hot shower. I believe the water temperature in my building is controlled from somewhere outside my apartment, so all I can do is tolerate what I have.
I could nitpick this place forever, but anything is nitpickable if you try. Instead, I’ve adapted to this place’s oddities, and choose to think instead about the things that make it homely. Homely as in, like a home. Not the other meaning. I like my fancy toilet seat, and I like that I have blinds on my windows, and I like that my fridge is big, and that I can plug USB cables directly into the walls. I like how, on sunny mornings, the sun lands gently at the foot of my bed, so the room lights up slowly instead of striking me straight in the eyes. I like that I live above convenience stores and coffee shops, and how there’s a taxi rank right outside. This is a good little life I’ve got here, and to ask for anything more would just be indulgence.
For a more kinetic, detailed look at my apartment, you can watch a short video here: