Essential Apps for Life in Seoul

  • Photo by Photo by Yaeri Song for Seoulist

    Photo by Yaeri Song for Seoulist

  • Photo by Photo by Jon Brietfuss for Seoulist

    Photo by Jon Brietfuss for Seoulist

With the smart phone and tablet market growing by the day, people will always need cool new apps to dress up their gadgets with style. Yet for some of our readers, there is a slight problem…

You are in Korea.

This means not every app you dreamed of having back home will work out here. A popular app like “WHERE” cannot guide you to a nearby restaurant or provide the best reviews while you are an ocean away from the destinations it features. With this in mind, I did a little footwork and compiled a list of a few apps that have proved to be more than useful, and worth sharing. All apps are free unless noted otherwise.

Improve your Chef Skills: Kfood Magazine ($2.99 per volume)
Are you living in a studio apartment and getting tired of take out and bar food? This app can motivate anyone with a kitchen and cooking utensils to whip up a homemade Korean dish with ease. Volume 1 and 2 each come packed with 12 diverse recipes with quality step-by-step instructional videos. The app acts as an interactive magazine with an appealing contemporary look that will make it hard for you to take your eyes off the delicious food. Another great thing about this app? It lays out the ingredients of each dish very clearly and slowly walks you through the steps to make cooking feel like second nature. There is a LITE version with one free recipe and instructional videos, but getting both volumes is worth it, in my opinion.

An app that can save your life (literally): ArPharm (Free)
If you’re feeling a bit under the weather and happen to be in unfamiliar territory, worry not. This app creatively uses the power of GPS and a smart phone’s camera functionality to guide you to the nearest pharmacy instantly. Just hold the phone up towards the direction of the pharmacy of your choosing and follow the magical arrow until you reach your destination. It’s that simple.

Best international text messaging service: KaKaoTalk iOS | Android
There’s a good chance that most of you have already heard of this one. It’s grabbed the attention of over 25 million users worldwide, supports multiple platforms and offers four different versions of the app in English, Spanish, Japanese and Korean. Don’t be surprised to find yourself on a subway in Seoul witnessing the majority of smartphone users texting away on KaKaoTalk. It’s fast, easy to use, customizable and allows you to do everything a text messaging service can do without the price tag or limit of texts. This is truly a keeper.

The book of music: NoraeBook (노래방책)  iOS | Android
From the latest Kpop music to your favorite American hit singles, this app comes loaded with virtually every song available at a karaoke room in Korea. It offers the choice of browsing the song directories of both of the main Noraebang companies—TaeJin (태진) and KumYoung (금영) – and acts as an updated, handheld copy of the song books in the karaoke rooms. So, while your friends are eager to sing and start hogging all of the song books, just pull out your phone and simply search for the song name or artist on this app, enter the code number of song of your choosing into the machine, and sing your little heart out.

Free international calling: Skype iOS | Android
Since Korean telecom companies tend to offer expensive service plans for smartphones (without free nights and weekends that you may be used to back home), it is important to balance the usage of minutes with an internet calling service. Although there are several other apps out there such as Viber and Daum’s My People (마이피플) to remedy the lack of minutes, the Skype app beats out the competition. None of the other apps compare to Skype when sizing up to the number of users available to call, as well as the quality of service provided. Free calls can be made both domestically and internationally, so long as the desired contact has Skype installed on their smartphone or computer.

Korean for serious beginners: Korean Class SEEMILE ($17.49 for all 7 sections)
Learning Korean isn’t an easy thing to do. It takes dedication, patience and an effective learning tool. After some serious investigation, I’ve found that SEEMILE Korean Class is the app that helps you take this on. It effectively uses the traditional lecture-based approach to learning, and if you’ve ever watched an English learning TV show in Korea, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. The green chalkboard gives the viewer the nostalgic feeling of being in a classroom as Jenny Lee explains the principles of Hangeul, key phrases and expressions used in everyday life in Korea. In this app alone, she teaches a whopping 95 chapters worth of material, with some chapters containing anywhere between five minutes’ and an hour’s worth of content. The chapters are divided into seven sections such as Reading, Grammar, Conversation and Expressions. However, there is a downside: Gaining access to all 95 chapters costs a total of $17.94. While this may sound a bit steep, the upside to that is the app includes free trial chapters when you download it and you can also purchase each section separately costing somewhere between $1.99–3.99 each. Like any language learning tool, it must be used on a daily basis, so take advantage of SEEMILE’s portable classroom and use those extra minutes on the subway. You’ll certainly see improvement.

Other apps to consider for supplementary Korean learning:

Korean Word a Day

WordMaster 55000 ($0.99 or free Trial Version)

Let’s Learn Korean with KBS

Korean Study Buddy!

The subway app: Seoul City Metro ($1.99 or free Lite Version)
It was hard to find a subway app that tells me everything I want to know, but this one does it all. It includes the essentials, such as an interactive touch screen map of the subway system, timetables, route calculation, bookmarks, etc. It is updated often and has an all-English interface, making it convenient and easy for non-Korean speakers to navigate their way around Seoul.

However, if you find that this app does not live up to its expectations, then head over to Chris in South Korea to see a selection of public transit apps that come with his recommendation. To take it a step further, Chris provides content for an app of his own known as Seoul Taxi Guide ($4.99) which includes Seoul hot spots, restaurant reviews and even some helpful Korean phrases to show taxi drivers.

What are some of your essential apps for life in Seoul?

Jon Brietfuss

About Jon Brietfuss

Jon Breitfuss is a home-grown Chicagoan with an appetite for Korean culture. Adopted at birth, he has returned to the motherland eager to capture his experiences through a lens. Keep an eye on Jon’s travels by visiting his Flickr.

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