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Living at the CJ International House

In a departure from my typical blog entries, I thought I would write a very pratical description of the CJ International House (Korea University, Anam Residence Life). This is designed specifically for college or university faculty who might find themselves teaching or conducting research at Korea University and who want to know a little about the CJ International House before they arrive. (Posted March 19, 2006 | Updated on April 5 and May 16, 2006) If you want more specific information, feel please free to contact me by e-mail at

Location. The CJ I-House was built in early 2005. It sits atop a hill directly up the road—a very steep road—from the main Korea University campus. Walking downhill, it takes less than 10 minutes to get to campus. Walking uphill, especially in warmer weather, is another story. Even during the dead of winter, with the temperature in the low teens or twenties, it’s possible to work up a sweat getting back to your room. Fortunately, during the semester, the university runs a free shuttle from the main campus (with stops in front of the basketball courts and main library) to just behind the CJ I-House. It takes less than 10 minutes, and the shuttles run very frequently.

There’s also ample parking (the parking lot is located between the CJ I-House and the older International Faculty House, or IFH as it generally called). Most foreign visitors, of course, will not have cars while they’re in Korea, but it’s useful if you have Korean guests. They can park without any problems. It’s important to note, though, that there are two ways to drive up to the CJ I-House. If you enter through the front gate, you will not be able to reach the parking lot, so you must enter from the back gate, near the Korean Studies Hall and Ice Rink.

General Comments about the CJ I-House. The six-story CJ I-House building is modern and well maintained. It houses both students and faculty, but the faculty and student rooms are on completely separate wings, so you’re not likely to be disturbed by blaring music. Unfortunately, the building is situated close to other student housing—just below the CJ I-House are undergraduate dorms for international students, Korean males, and Korean females. These students have a tendency to sit outside until midnight and beyond, sometimes talking and laughing very loudly—and the sound carries very well. It has not been a major problem, but it can be a little irritating. You might want to bring earplugs if you're a light sleeper.

On the first floor of the CJ I-House are the lobby, the reception desk and the cafeteria. The CJ I-House is run a little like a hotel. So, when you arrive you can check in at the reception desk. After paying a 10,000 won deposit (about $10), you’ll be issued a card key (which opens your room door as well as other areas reserved for faculty). You’ll also be provided an IP address for your computer. All rooms have an Ethernet connection, but you need to remember to bring an Ethernet cable with you (although, I imagine some rooms will have a cable left from the previous guest). Wireless service is also available, but this is provided by the university. You will need to ask your department to help you set this up. I was not asked to pay my room rent when I arrived, but, if you stay for more than a month, you’ll be required to pay a fairly hefty deposit, which must be paid to confirm your room reservation (I believe the standard amount is 1,800,000 won—about $1,800). The most convenient way to pay is through a bank wire transfer. As a Fulbrighter, the KAEC paid my deposit as an advance on my monthly stipend (those of you with other sponsors might be able to work out a similar arrangement--but, it's important to note that the housing staff will require a deposit without exception).

Room rent. The basic charge for a single room is 1,200,000 won a month (as of 2006). A two-bedroom “family room” is 1,600,000 won a month. The rents are relatively high—much higher, for example, than the rents in the International Faculty House (the IFH is a much older building, though). The most convenient way to pay your rent is through a direct transfer of funds from your (Korean) bank to the Korea University, Anam Residence Life bank account (Hana Bank Account #391-910001-03204). There is no charge for a domestic funds transfer and it can be done using your bank's ATM (as in the United States, ATM machines allow you to select a language option, so they are very easy to use for non-Korean speakers). There is a Hana bank branch located on the campus (there's an entrance from the street and from inside the campus, near the Student Union Building).

If you don’t bring along a computer, there is a free public computer available next to the reception desk. You can check the Internet there, and, of course, send e-mail (although you probably have to have a web-based account). Since most residents have a computer with them, the computer is generally not occupied—but, still, there is only one. Public phones are available in the basement (you can purchase a phone card at the reception desk), but your room will also include a phone with a direct line. When you check in you may not be provided with your room phone number (I wasn’t), so you may have to ask. I’ve noticed that most of the people at the reception desk speak at least some English. In addition, during the day, there is an office staff (in a room behind the reception desk). Several individuals there speak English quite well.

The cafeteria, it is useful to note, only serves breakfast. The cost is 5,000 won (you can also purchase 10 tickets for 45,000 won). Breakfasts are a hybrid western-Korean style: usually scrambled eggs, fried rice or potatoes, stir-fried vegetables, soup, fruit (apples, kiwi, oranges, bananas), yogurt, cereal, toast, croissants, orange and grape juice, milk, and coffee. There’s not much variety (every day is virtually the same breakfast, with only very minor variations--sometimes potatoes are served instead of rice), but it is “all-you-can-eat” buffet. The cafeteria is open from 7:30 to 9:30 am, and is closed on Sundays.

The basement has a laundry room with a good number of washers and dryers (including several extra large machines) and tables for folding clothes. The smaller washers and dryers cost 1,000 won (two 500 won coins are required--the front desk has a small supply); the larger machines cost 2,000 won. I recommend, however, that you not use the larger dryers: they are not as efficient as the smaller dryers, and you'll just end up wasting money. You’ll need to buy detergent and other laundry supplies outside (there are no vending machines, for example, they dispense detergent). There are vending machines, though, where you can purchase drinks. In addition to the laundry room, there are several study rooms, a “prayer room,” a couple of sound-proof music practice rooms, a lounge (with tables and chairs), and a separate television lounge (with comfortable chairs, a big screen tv, dvd player, and hi-fidelity sound system). There is another television lounge on the first floor for faculty-use only. It also has a big screen tv and dvd player. From my observations, the tv lounges are not used much, especially the faculty lounge.

On the second to sixth floors are most of the rooms. Most of these floors also have a separate lounge areas (with sofas and chairs), group study rooms, and kitchenettes for student use. The study rooms include a conference table and comfortable chairs.

Finally, on the second floor is a fitness center. The fitness center has four “Lifecycle-style” treadmills (the kind you'll find in any regular fitness club), four exercise bikes, a variety of weight machines, a set of dumbbells (from 3 kilos to 22 kilos), a "power rack" (with bench and barbell set), and a mat area. The treadmills and exercise bikes are equipped with individual LCD televisions. The fitness center is free for CJ I-House residents, but the hours are limited: 8:00-10:00 am mornings, 6:00-10:00 pm weekday evenings, and 4:00-10:00 pm weekend evenings. Use of the fitness center is uneven. Some weeks, it is virtually empty—perhaps on 3 to 5 users during the entire day---but other weeks it is packed (students and faculty from the other building are also allowed to use the fitness center for a small monthly fee). On several occasions, I’ve had to wait more than 45 minutes to use a treadmill. The busiest times seems to be between 7:30 and 9:00 pm.

The Single Faculty Room. The room is well appointed, but very small. I’m not sure of the exact measurements, but it long and narrow: perhaps 8 feet wide 18 feet long. The room has a twin-size bed (with a very firm mattress), which includes a pillow, mattress cover (which serves as a bottom sheet), and a quilt. A large western-style bath towel and two good-sized hand towels are also included (Korean-style bath towels are typically very thin and very small). One note on the pillow: The pillow is fairly thick and firm, so smaller people may need to bring their own pillow for comfort. When my wife visited, she couldn't sleep on the supplied pillow--it was just too high and uncomfortable.

Single faculty rooms also have a private bathroom with a good shower and a small, but well-equipped kitchenette (gas range, sink, full-size refrigerator, utensils, plates, bowls, cups, several pots, a large rice cooker, toaster, hot water pot for boiling water, knives, a cutting board, etc.). There’s also a reasonable amount of storage space in the kitchen—several cabinets and drawers.

Each room also includes a study desk with a large hutch (which has plenty of bookshelf space). There’s also a rolling file cabinet (two regular drawers and one file drawer). It’s a reasonably comfortable workspace, but small. The desk chair is good quality, with a mesh back and lumber support. Next to the desk is a matching cabinet (with two storage shelves) and a good-size LG brand, flat-screen television. The television includes a satellite connection, which gives you access to (in addition to the normal Korean stations and AFN Korea) BBC World, the Discovery channel, a Korean movie channel called OCN, Arirang TV (a "global" Korean satellite station that broadcasts around the world, including in the US), and a host of international channels: three Japanese satellite stations (NHK, BS1, and BS2), CCTV (mainland China), THT (Russia), RAI International (Italy), ABC (Australia), TVe (Spain), TV5Monde (France), Deutsch Welle (Germany), and several sports channels, including ESPN's StarSports. It’s probably a little too distracting, but it does allow you stay connected. **NOTE: the satellite signal is very inconsistent. Some stations may be completely lost for extended periods of time. For example, for almost a month, the Discovery channel has disappeared and Arirang has been extremely inconsistent. Again, not a big deal, but I'm surprised that it has not been fixed.

At the entrance of the room are three connected closets with plenty of storage space for clothes and luggage. The closets include a small number of suit hangers, but if you’ll almost certainly need to purchase more after you arrive (if you stay for more than a week or two, of course). One thing to be careful of: one of the closets had two drawers at the bottom. Since the drawers do not have handles or recessed grips, you’ll be tempted to pull the lower drawer from the bottom-middle. Don’t do this! You’ll likely get a nasty cut on your finger because of where the hardware for the closet door is located. I did.

The last piece of furniture in the room is a small dining table, which includes four chairs. It’s a bit cramped to use if you have guests, since it is squeezed into a corner. However, if you’re eating by yourself or with one guest, there is plenty of room.

Heating and air-conditioning. The room has a dual heater/air conditioner located on the ceiling. These types of units are not common in the United States, but work well. The controls are fully electronic (the control panel is located near the bed). I should point out that there is a master switch for heating and cooling. Short-term stayers may not notice this, but if you happen to stay in the CJ I-House during, say, spring and if there's a heat wave, you'll find you cannot use the a/c. According to posted notices, the a/c will not be available until the outside temperature reaches 28 degrees celsius at noon.

Guest Room Service. I should also say something about the service. For long-term guests, you should know that general cleaning service is not provided. Instead, each room includes a small vacuum as well as a small broom and dustpan. It’s up to you to clean your room and kitchen. You are also responsible for taking out your own trash--near the front entrance to the building are two large trash containers (one for recyclable materials and one for regular trash). NOTE: on occassion the cleaning staff will pick up room trash, but it does not seem to be a set procedure.

The bathroom, however, is cleaned on a weekly basis—and sometimes more frequently. In addition, the cleaning staff will also change your towels, although you are responsible for washing your own bed linens (which strikes me as inconvenient). Initially, though, there didn't seem to be a set schedule for cleaning the bathroom or changing the towels. As I said, usually the bathroom is cleaned once a week, but this isn’t always the case. Sometimes it’s once every two weeks, and sometimes it’s two or three times a week. For towels, the pattern is even less consistent. The first three weeks of my stay, my towels were not changed (I assumed I was responsible for washing them), but, then for a short while, my towels were changed several days a week. More recently, it's been once a week. As I said, the schedule is inconsistent.

It's also worth noting that the cleaniing staff starts early in the morning--around 6:30 am. Since my room (on the third floor near the elevator) is also across from their storage room, I often am awakened when they start their work--they have a tendency to talk loudly. If you're a late riser, you might want to request a room down the hall away from the elevator.

Things you might need: Coffee maker, iron, small ironing board, portable speakers (for computer), sheets (twin size), extra pillow (with case), clip on lamp (for bed and/or desk), printer, general office supplies (stapler, paper clips, scotch tape, binder clips, etc.). An alarm clock would be helpful, but isn't necessary since you can set the tv to turn on automatically in the morning (I use this as my "alarm"). A good place to pick up basic stuff is Carrefour Korea, which has a store located at the World Cup Stadium (on subway line no. 6). [Click here for an interactive map of the Seoul subway system]

A note on electric outlets: The room comes equipped with a two-outlet transformer that allows you to plug in 110-volt electrical appliances (the standard in the US). Otherwise all the other outlets in the room are 220 volt with rounded prongs. Because of the incompatibility between American and Korean appliances, you will probably be better off purchasing basic appliances after you arrive in Korea. Most laptops are dual voltage, but you will still need to buy an adapter to fit the standard American plug into a Korean outlet plug.

Two-bedroom Family Apartment. Unlike the single room, the family room--or apartment--is relatively spacious. It includes two bedrooms, a master bedroom and a second, smaller one. The master bedroom is perhaps 12' x 9' (this is a very rough estimate), and the second bedroom is about 9' x 8' (it does not seem too cramped, though). Inside the master bedroom are: a comfortable queen size bed, a desk, office chair, movable file cabinet (with two regular drawers and one file drawer), night stand/file cabinet, and two closets. The second bedroom has a single bed, desk/file/chair, and a single closet. An interesting feature of this room is an opaque window on the wall that separates the apartment from the inside hallway. Both bedrooms have telephone and ethernet connections, although only a single telephone handset is provided for the apartment. Each bedroom and the living area have their own heating/ac unit.

There is a separate living area, which includes a kitchenette with the same basic features as the single faculty room (SFR). The refrigerator, however, is larger, and there is a bit more counter and storage space. The sink is also larger. The living area also includes a dining table with room to seat four adults fairly comfortably and a small sofa (about the size of a love seat), coffee table, and side table. The television (the same as in the SFR) is placed in front of the sofa on a nice-looking tv stand/cabinet that sits in an alcove. Overall, the living area is about the same size (maybe exactly the same size) as the SFR. It feels much less crowded than the SFR, although (assuming you will be sharing this space with your family), it may still be a little cramped.

The shower, sink, and toilet are in separate areas near the entrance to the apartment. The toilet is on lefthand side and the shower is on the right--each has its own door for privacy--while the sink sits in the middle (no door). The shower is a bit strange: although it the same basic setup as in the SFR, it does not use a glass shower door; instead, it uses a solid door made of plastic. The door makes it feel as if you are showering in a closet. It took a little getting used to. The entry way also has three storage closets.

The family rooms are located on the first floor. It feels a little claustrophobic in that your view out of the sliding doors is obstructed by a four-foot high solid wall with a small hedge on top of that. the wall is a little weathered and not very attractive. In addition, there is dormitory that sits just to the left of most of the I-House. The problem here is privacy: if you open your curtains completely, it is very easy for students and others on the second and third floors to see into your living room area and master bedroom. (The third floor rooms, moreover, have a balconey, which allows for a very clear view.) It's not a big problem, but you have to be careful after taking a shower or getting changed. You can avoid this problem, however, if your room is located closer to the lobby-side--room nos. 101-102. Click on link to view more pictures: CJ International House (20 Photos)

A few notes. You can pick up basic office supplies, including an ethernet cable, at a small stationery store located just outside the entrance leading to the Politics and Economic Building. Located right next to stationery story is a copy store (in Korea, copyright laws are still generally ignored, so US textbooks are routinely copied and sold to students). There is also a small bookstore located on campus that sells basic office supplies. Around the neighborhood, there are a number of very small convenience stores, a slighty larger market, and dozens of restaurants. The subway station is also very conveniently located near the university; in fact, there are two subway stops (on line no. 6) for Korea University, one is called "Korea University Station," while the other one is "Anam Station." The Anam station stop is actually the more convenient of the two, especially for walking back to the I-House. If you plan to take the shuttle back, though, you can get off at the Korea University station and walk to the bus stop located next to the main library.

Written by Timothy C. Lim
Associate Professor
Department of Political Science
California State University Los Angeles

Professor Lim is in Korea as senior Fulbright scholar and visiting professor at Korea University.

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