Funemployed in Korea

  • Photo by Design by Yaeri Song for Seoulist

    Design by Yaeri Song for Seoulist

Living in Seoul can be a challenge if you’re not gainfully employed, but that doesn’t have to stop you from enjoying all that the city has to offer. The baeksu (백수) approach to unemployment is simple: “Don’t earn and don’t spend.” Not ready to give up life’s little luxuries just yet? Then try making the lifestyle decision to “earn less and spend less” instead. With that in mind, we’ve rounded up some of the best entertainment, culture and dining options that allow you to optimize your time to compensate for your lack of funds. Let the funemployment begin!


Early-morning matinées
Most movie theaters offer a discount called jojo ha-rin (조조할인) for the first screening for each movie before 11 a.m. These tickets are usually 5,000 won (compared to the typical 9,000 won weekend admission). If you’re a night owl, look instead for theaters that offer a comparable discount for late-night showings, also called shimya ha-rin (심야할인). Last showings are still quite popular, so discounts for them aren’t as ubiquitous as the early morning ones.

Image from All Night
Select 24-hour movie theaters like Megabox Dongdaemun offer a late-night movie package called Movie All Night (무비올나잇) for 15,000 won. This three-movie marathon is the cinematic equivalent of Hongdae’s Club Day: 15,000 won gets you a yellow wristband that grants access to three different movies. The movies play back-to-back, and the first screening starts between 11 p.m. and midnight on Fridays and Saturdays only. Included in the admission are disposable slippers and complimentary blanket rentals for your comfort. An additional 5,000 won gets you a combo meal, and 2,000 won will buy you ramen and other snacks to satisfy late-night cravings. This coming weekend’s big draw includes the foreign movie package: Cloud Atlas, Life of Pi and Les Miserables or the Korean movie package: Baksugundal (박수건달), My Little Hero (마이리틀히어로) or Tower (타워). You can purchase the Movie All Night package in-person or online. Note: Megabox Dongdaemun is the pioneering theater behind Movie All Night. Megabox Central at Express Bus Terminal also hosts this weekend event. Other cinema brands have been known to offer comparable discounts, but usually part of a seasonal or short-term promotion.


Image from Seoul Theater Center ( day-of-performance tickets at the Seoul Theater Center
The Ticket Box at the Seoul Theater Center is where you can get up to 50% off on Daehakno area theater tickets playing that day (당일예매할인). Go earlier for better options, but there’s usually not a line or a limit to how many tickets you can purchase. If you don’t speak Korean, there are a handful of dance and non-verbal shows available. The Seoul Theater Center Ticket Box is the small teller window on the side of the building. It’s located just off exit 4 of Hyehwa Station (line 4). Open 1 p.m.–8 p.m., Monday through Friday, 11 a.m.–8 p.m. on Saturdays, 11 a.m.–7 p.m. on Sundays. Closed Mondays.

Big musical show discounts
Most large-scale musicals including Aida, Phantom of the Opera and Jekyll and Hyde offer a 20 to 30% discount on Wednesday 3 p.m. matinees shows. If you take advantage of this offer, be prepared to be in the company of a younger crowd, including students on a cultural field trip. Many musicals also offer a 20% discount during Lunar New Year holiday (February 9–11, some musicals offer discounts earlier than that). To find these deals, find the musical of your choice on Interpark, click and scroll down until you see the discount table (in Korean). Tip: It pays to hold on to ticket stubs you purchase because many musicals or venues give discounts to returning fans. For example, during the first month of performances, Aida is offering a 20% discount to people who watched the musical as early as 2006, as well as those who recently watched other performances at the same venue.

Image from Ticketmonster ( + social commerce = a match made in funemployment heaven
Last minute, midweek deals are in your favor when you don’t have to work every day. This past weekend, you could find a flight on Ticketmonster that cost 25,900 won one-way from Gimpo to Jeju (including airport and fuel surcharges). That offer has now ended, only to be replaced with the same deal with different airline with equally low fares. You’ll find similar deals on Coupang and other sites, as long as you can travel on Wednesday or Thursday. With less Koreans traveling during the winter months, you’ll also find many hotels and pensions (even those near ski resorts!) offering decent deals. Click here to see a comprehensive listing of all domestic travel offers on Korean social commerce sites.


Photo by Meagan MastrianiSplurge and save with midweek lunch menus
Have you been eyeing a fancy fusion restaurant? There’s a good chance it offers a lunch menu that’s more budget-friendly during the weekdays. Some nouveau Korean high-end restaurants to try: Congdu, Dadam (pictured left) and Jungshikdang.

Visit those elusive restaurants and cafes
Most of Seoul’s most popular restaurants are far from fancy, but they require a long queue. That’s not an issue, however, if you have the luxury of showing up when everybody else is still at their desks. Try the off-peak queues at Yeongdong Jokbal, Pizzeria d’Buzza, Mies Container and Bada Shikdang, to name a few, but keep in mind that some restaurants close between lunch and dinner hours. Also, look for storied “matjip” restaurants and cafes in financial districts like Yeouido, as many of them tend to be open only during business hours. If you can dine with leisure within those limited hours, try visiting Victoria, a cafe in Yeouido known for organic pies and tarts. Tip: Naver “여의도 맛집” for cheap, midweek lunch ideas.

Inline images from Megabox, Seoul Theatre Center and Ticketmonster. Dadam photo by Meagan Mastriani.

A portion of this article aired on the radio show 1013 Mainstreet (TBS eFM) on January 14, 2013.

Yaeri Song

About Yaeri Song

Yaeri Song is a closeted filmmaker based in Seoul who enjoys long walks in the park with her celebrity Pekingese.

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