Wednesday, September 27, 2017

FREE! Fall Middle School Weekend Camp Retreat

Saturday OCTOBER 28th 09:00 - Sunday October 29th 17:00

Registration Deadline: October 10th

We told you guys we were working on another camp with the Pyeongtaek Youth Center and here it is! The planning and execution of the camp is once again headed up by the fabulous Mr. Kim and Ms. Eunice. These two have been phenomenal to work with. (Click here to read more about the first summer camp) 

This middle school focused camp will consist of fifteen foreign students and fifteen Korean students who will spend TWO fun filled days making new friends and participating in fun activities. The camp is all about the exchange of cultures with one day at a Korean facility to experience Korean culture, and one day on Camp Humphreys to learn about the US way of life.

This camp is free to attend BUT on day two we are going to need our families to participate in hosting an event on Camp Humphreys. More on that below. First, lets look at day one.

DAY 1: Pickups start at 9:00am

The first day, Saturday October 28th will be held at the very impressive MooBong Youth Camp that's tucked away in the hills (mountains) of northeast Pyeongtaek. This camp is so beautiful, well maintained, and smells of trees and nature. We could hardly believe how lovely it was the first time we visited. They even have a coffee shop for volunteers and waiting family members. 

Activities will include such things as Survivor (paint ball), climbing, pottery and more. Outdoor activities may change depending on weather. Appropriate safety equipment and professional instructors are on hand to help the campers be safe and have fun while climbing and playing survivor.

The camp has a huge clean cafeteria that serves some lovely Korean food. We had the bulgogi and corn dogs when we visited. It wasn't spicy and they allow students to serve themselves so they can feel comfortable taking what they like and leaving what they don't.

FYI: For students who don't eat Korean food or have dietary restrictions, there will be a microwave, mini fridge, and hot water available at all meals as well as milk at breakfast. Students can feel free to bring their own oatmeal, cereal, or instant meals.

The camp has clean traditional rooms that have a TV, mini fridge and private bathroom. There will be divided by sexes and sleep 5 to a room with a counselor to monitor them. There are no western beds for students. They will sleep Korean styles with a sleeping mat and blankets. It will be like camping outside... except inside with a bathroom and TV. If your child would like to bring their own pillow it's completely acceptable.

DAY 2: Wake up, have breakfast, and head to Camp Humphreys

The second day of the camp will be all about showing the Korean kids how we celebrate fall in the US. Students will be escorted onto Camp Humphreys for a Halloween Party with games, costumes and community potluck, and to attend Fall Fest. (Once you are accepted more exact details will be sent.) The Public Affairs Office is helping us with this but it's also where we all come in. This is our chance to give back. Families of attendees are asked to bring fund foods, volunteer, and help thing setup/take down. We want this to be fun, relaxed, and feel like home.

Treats include things like (but be creative):

  • pumpkin cupcakes
  • chips and scary looking dips
  • cookies that look like goats
  • anything weird and Halloween / fall harvest themed
We will also need some volunteers how can help with:
  • Face painting
  • Creating silly costumes
  • Preparing for the event
  • Cleaning up after the event 
  • Managing the games
  • Lending things to be used as costumes

We are also working with the PAO so we know we can all pull this off together. The most important part of day two is sharing what community feels like. Together we will create a welcoming space that is safe, fun, and filled with what we love about home.

Registration Deadline: October 10th

Thursday, September 21, 2017

How to use the SOS app with Kakao Taxi

One of the best things to happen to Korea is Kakao Navi. If you aren't using it, stop now and go download it. It's an app for calling taxis almost anywhere you can find yourself.

YES, it's in Korean. DO NOT let this stop you. Honestly, this is one of the most important apps you can learn to use in Korean and 10 Magazine has done an awesome job showing you how to use it. CLICK HERE to learn more and get it setup on your phone. Slow down, get focused and use this. Taxis are an affordable and necessary part of life in Korea and if you use Kakao Taxi it removes the need to communicate your destination with your driver.

One of the awesome aspects of the South of Seoul app is that it makes it an excellent companion to the Kakao Taxi app because we list all of our addresses in Korean so they can be easily copied and pasted into Kakao Taxi (or other navigation apps).

Here is how it works in 5 Easy Steps

1. Use South of Seoul to find someplace awesome

Once you have determined your destination you can get the address two ways: 1) click the share icon in the header or 2) click directly on the address.

2. Click "Share Location" and then "Copy".

This will give you a copy of the address as it is listed in the app. It does not copy other information from the listing.

3. Open 카카오 택시 (Kakao Taxi)

Keep this in an easy to find location if you aren't comfortable using the Korean alphabet yet. Once the application is installed the app will open to a page like this. The RED address is where you are located. After you call the taxi DO NOT WANDER OFF!

Now click in the circled area to get ready to paste your address.

4. Paste your address. 

See, that was easy. Now click that little blue button on the bottom right. (Sorry we forgot to circle it. It's kind of hiding in this graphic).

5. Confirm the address and by clicking the 도착 button and then hit the big yellow button to call the taxi.

If there is more than one address for some reason, choose the one that closely matches what you pasted.

THAT'S IT!!! You are now free to move about Pyeongtaek easily using Kakao Taxi and South of Seoul. No more base Taxi's for you!

Monday, September 18, 2017

How to Use Our App Listings

Our listings are filled with useful information depending on topic and availability. It's surprising how much you can find poking around one of our volunteer created listings. Let's go on tour together to see what's up. Since we all need to eat, let's look at one of the 40+ Pyeongtaek grocery stores we have listed.

To get started let's enter the Pyeongtaek Area Directory, select Spotlight: Businesses and Groceries & Specialty Foods.  The listing we are looking at today is a popular store located near Camp Humphreys.
We sort by distance

The first thing you should notice when you open the Spotlight: Businesses: Groceries is that listings are sorted by distance from where you are standing at the moment. This is incredibly helpful when you need things right away. We know that many of our users are new to Korea. You don't know where you are or where other neighborhoods are in relation to you. Seeing the distance will help you learn where things are at.  You will also notice that we have taken our many users from the USA into consideration and listed things in miles for your comfort.

We have a quick location view

Now, let's say you want to have a quick look to see exactly where a location is related to you? We have you covered. Just click on the directions button. It looks like the little map marker that we have in our logo. See that blue dot? That's you. The red dot is the business you want to go to. Clicking the red dot will also link you back to the business listing. The blue, pulsing dot will follow you wherever you go. You can use this to create little walking tours in an area. You can walk from one restaurant to another easily. It's a totally awesome way to get oriented.

Read and Post Reviews

So, you have decided a listing looks cool and you want more details. Click on the banner to open for more details. The first thing you will want to check are the reviews left by others. Our community has been fantastic about sharing their knowledge and love for places with those that are coming next. 

You can access these reviews by clicking in two locations; 1) The star on the header bar and 2) in the body of the listing.

Be sure to leave a review once you have visited the location. Facebook posts get lost, and we don't have yelp, so your input matters. With our constantly changing population it's important to those who come next. Leaving reviews empowers new arrivals to hit the ground running. 

We love reviews that are information based rather than feelings based. For example: " I loved it" is wonderful but doesn't share information people need. Instead say, "I loved it because it tasted like home" or "I loved it because they had friendly staff and a kids play area." Also remember, our system doesn't like fancy symbols or emojis, so keep review text simple.

Kakao Navi Links for you and Taxis

Not every listing contains the Kakao Navi link but when it does, it's awesome. We know it's in Korean but it's crazy useful for your cab driver (just hand him the Navi instead of worrying about addresses and names) or when you are walking. When it's embedded in a listing it's like winning the lottery. We include it when we can, but it depends on the technology available to the volunteers who create the listing. It can't be expected, but it can be appreciated.

We give credit where credit is due

As we often mention, South of Seoul is a volunteer based organization (click here to learn about joining the team) and we rely on people like our Pyeongtaek Food & Fun members to recommend places and contribute to the process. (click here to see our submission form) When others take time to share awesome information we make sure they are recognized and appreciated. You can find links to their Pyeongtaek Food & Fun posts, other FB groups, or references for their submissions.

Useful Korean Phrases to Help You Succeed

Now to the coolest part! In many of our listings, including all of our grocery listings, we include links to useful words and information you need to find important grocery items. We know that dealing with the language barrier is difficult when you arrive and are here to help as much as we can. Feel free to send use items you would like added to this list. you can send them to

We currently have useful phrases for:
  • Coffee shops
  • Restaurants
  • Visiting the dentist
  • Grocery stores
  • Butchers
  • Communicating with trip bus drivers

Get Directions DIRECTLY In the App

Believe it or not, the app maps work pretty darn great and offers nice routes. We use it all the time to find places we don't often go.  You can either click directly on the address in the listing or in the location marker in the header. Honestly, this makes it so simple. No having to open another navigation or maps app. The blue dot will follow along with you and just keep it on the blue line. You can also easily share this location with friends. Really, use this. Life will be better.

Share the Listing OR Copy the address

If you want to copy the address and use it in your navigation or put it into Kakao Taxi (You need the Kakao Taxi app NOW. Here is how to use it even though it's in Korean. Be set free from base taxis or wandering the streets at night). Honestly, the South of Seoul app and the Kakao Taxi app are like a match made in heaven because we use only Korean addresses that can easily be dropped into Kakao Taxi. CLICK HERE TO LEARN HOW to use them together.

Save it for Later

So you have decided you are interested in a listing and what to remember it forever. That's easy as pie. Just click on the little blue tab that looks like a bookmark. You will be able to easily find your favorite listings later.

Additional Information in the the headers

Now every header has additional information but if you see this little yellow button on the right CLICK ON IT! We have added something useful that's not to be missed. This includes but isn't limited to these two handy features:

Bus Schedules

YouTube Videos of Fun Places to Visit

This certainly isn't everything either. Other things we have embedded into listings include but aren't limited to:
  • South of Seoul blogs about the listing in question
  • Links to where to buy movie tickets online in English and find movie times
  • Culture information you need for places like swimming pools or visiting jjimjilbangs
  • Videos on how to take the subway for those just getting started
All of this information is directly linked to FROM the listings so that you don't have to hunt around the internet for all the information. We are always looking for ways to make your life easier. Now go forth and explore our listings and learn all you can. Life in Korea can be fabulous, all you have to do is get out and love it.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

New Registration System for Fall Bus Trips

ALERT: Android is being a little - well, no good word I can put here - so if you have an Android phone please use the old signup form:

This summer we took a big leap of faith and launched our ride-share Pyeongtaek Beach Bus trips. We cobbled together the best reservation system we could at the time and spent the summer making notes on how to improve. We then sat around with scratching our heads and asking ourselves, "How will we make these changes with zero budget for expensive trip planning systems while also not putting too much of a burden on our volunteers?"

These are the questions we struggle with all the time, "How do we provide a top of the line experience with no resources?" Somehow we keep coming up with solutions. This time was no exception. Of course, now we just keep our fingers crossed that it works as well as we hope it will. New systems can always have surprises and glitches (especially ones built in an extreme no-budget situation). So please let us know if you run into any so that we can trouble shoot them or come up with a new way of doing things. All of this is always a work in progress.

So here it is! All registration for South of Seoul events will now be "Members Only" through the app. Look for the REGISTER for Activities tab in the South of Seoul home screen to get started. Doesn't it look lovely? We have two fall hiking trips planned.

Next you will arrive here. The first thing we want to draw your attention to is up in the left hand corner. See those three little lines? That's where you can now go to confirm your payments have been received. In addition to being able to see it in the app, you will also get a confirmation email once we have received your payment and added you to the ride-share Departure Roster.

If you click on the REVIEW my upcoming trips you can quickly see if we have received your money or not. You can also find the payment information if you didn't take it down when you made the reservation. It also details our cancellation policy so you aren't surprised by it. We have to do this to keep trips running smoothly. If we don't volunteers are running around like chickens with their heads cut off messaging folks about are they/aren't they going. Not as much fun as it sounds. 

Ok, now you are ready to go register for trips. Click on the banner and you will go to a list of planned ride-share events. We will try to keep them in order of date they happen. Select a trip and click on it.

Now you need to do TWO things. 
1) Add how many people are going (HURRAY!! No more having to enter each individual attendee on a different form! Honestly, that was a hot mess. It was the best we could do at the time.) 
2) You will also select where you need picked up.  We have the pickup times posted as well for easy reference. Please arrive 10 minutes early for easy loading.

Although we don't have integrated payments (because it adds a great deal of cost to each seat and we aren't really selling anything, just collecting ride-share fees so it's not really an option to do it any other way.) the system we use requires that we have address fields. However, you can just provide your email and phone number and then write N/A in the other fields. We don't actually need to know where you live, just need to have the fields for the system to run smoothly.

You DO need to add a list of who will be on the bus. We need this for records. Don't use line breaks or it will struggle to submit, use commas to separate names.

Now just click through the payment options and we are done! Hurray!! 

We think this is going to be much better for everyone involved but if it's not please feel free to let us know what is going wrong by emailing us screen shots at 

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Adventure Preparedness: Buying A Scooter

Buying transportation sucks but adventures are critical. It also sucks 100 times more when you don't know how it works or where to get started. When it sucks that much it's easy to take the path of least resistance and just stay home and not do anything. DON'T DO IT!!! Adventuring in Korea is too awesome to be missed.

Over the next few weeks we are going to try and demystify buying transportation in Pyeongtaek, or at least make it seem a little less scary. First on the menu, how to get your adventure loving butt onto a scooter seat. Starting with...

Three Options for Buying A Scooter In Pyeongtaek
and the Plus and Minus of Each

1) Individual Seller on Facebook Buy & Sell Groups or Seoul Craigslist

  • Plus: There are lots of foreigners who need to unload their motorcycles and scooters quick so they can be weirdly cheap. Many of the online foreigner individual sellers speak English as a first language.
  • Minus: Paperwork can often be sketchy as hell. Many scooter/bikes on these sites are without paperwork or maybe the lost some of it. Maybe you think you have what you need but by the time you find out you don't the last owner is out of the country. High turnover owners have questionable bike maintenance track records.
This was where we started our hunt for scooters and we thought it was the route we were going to take since we are super cheap. It's also a system we're comfortable with using. However, it turned out to be too much work. Sellers didn't know much about their bikes, we didn't feel comfortable with their assessments of their engines, some didn't have paperwork, others were too far from us to be worth the effort. Maybe if we were in Seoul or had tons of time to shop, but in the end it was too much work for not enough gain. We NEEDED (ok, maybe wanted) a scooter NOW! Not in a few weeks.

2) ACS Korea

  • Plus: They speak English fluently. They also work hard to make sure the bikes they sell have been checked out and are in good shape. They sell primarily to US Military and don't want any complaints so they do their best to sell quality. They respond quickly and know a lot about registering SOFA bikes. They will make an honest recommendation about what are their best bikes.
  • Minus: The bikes they are offering might not be in your area. You won't get a test drive before you order. You will pick the one you want and it will be delivered at a cost of 50,000-100,000 won depending on your location. It will also take a few days for your scooter to arrive. They don't have a huge selection.
We actually found these guys through a FB group but they are scooter sales people living in Koreal. Not folks about to jet. They have more than one bike, they know the rules for registration, they have a reputation to think about so we decided to give them a try. They were quick to respond and very forth coming with information and recommendations. Despite my reservations about working with a foreigner focused business, we bought my scooter from them and was very satisfied with the cost, quality and service. We absolutely wouldn't hesitate to buy from them again.

3) Geomgang Autobike 금강오토바이
Contact Information in the South of Seoul App

  • Plus: Very friendly and helpful. Went out of his way to find us the perfect bike. We told him what we wanted and he built it for us for the price we wanted in 36 hours. Small shops often give great deals on accessories when you buy the bike and provide solid follow up services.
  • Minus: He doesn't speak English so you will need to use a phone translator. Not open on Sundays so weekend shopping can be hindered. Not huge selection of bikes on hand read to go out the same day.
After my husband took delivery of my scooter from ACS Scooters he immediately decided he also wanted one. Since ACS didn't have any more 125cc in our price range we started looking around town. Most of the bike shops didn't had poor selection, weren't open, or didn't seem excited about customer service. Not until we got to Geomgang Autobike 금강오토바이.

He didn't have what we wanted in house, but we told him what we wanted and he built it for us for the price we wanted to pay. He did fast and excellent work. We grew up doing small engine repair and the work we saw him do was exceptional. We did have an issue with the bike the day we first picked it up (quite common when first riding a completely rebuilt bike so we weren't upset) and he put it back on the stand and had everything worked out within 12 hours and zero attempt to charge us anything. We took it on a three day road trip right out of the gate (NOT what you should do on the first day of a re-built engine) and it ran like a dream. We absolutely will use him again.

Costs and Process for Buying a Scooter

So you now know where to get your bike, but what are the costs and how do you get it ready to legally ride? Let's take a look at what you will need to do in order to feel the wind in your hair riding through the rice paddies.

SCOOTER COST: A new, average auto bike in 2017 in Korea is going to run between 2,300,000 - 5,000,000 won. We aren't talking fancy imports.  A solid, average used scooter is going to run 500,000 - 1,000,000 won for a 50cc and maybe 700,000 - 1,500,000 won for a nice 125cc with lost of wiggle room in the middle.

LICENCES: You will need to have a valid Korean drivers license to drive a scooter in Korea. You only need a motorcycle endorsement for bikes over 125cc.

INSURANCE: You will have to get this before you can register your bike. It can be done very quickly and over the phone using online signatures. We use Sami Tut at 010-8321-3222 for all of our insurance needs. One year of Insurance is often between 200,000 - 400,000 won depending on driving history, bike type, etc. We pay about 230,000 a year since we have lived here a while and had no accidents.

REGISTRATION: You MUST register all scooters and motorcycles and you - unlike with cars - register it yourself. You MUST register it within 7 days of purchase or you will be fined. Some services will do it for you for an additional 100,000 but it's a waste of your money. You will register your scooter/motorbike at your local community center/residents center. Sometimes this can take a while to track down. They will not speak English but it's also very easy. You need to just fill in basic contact information on a form and they will do the rest. If you are here on a SOFA visa you will need to register your bike at the DMV that handles SOFA visas in your area.

NOTE!  If you are not military but living near a military base, you are going to run into the issue that everyone will tell you to register your scooter/motorcycle at the DMV. You should NOT do this. They will send you away. Find your local residents center and go there.

When you go to register you will need:
  • 1) three pieces of paperwork from the seller
  • 2) your Korean ID
  • 3) your Korean drivers license
  • 4) proof of insurance. (I simply texted messaged a screen shot of my insurance and text messaged it to the guy helping me. He printed it out.
You will pay your taxes at time of registration and they will be between 5,000 - 50,000 depending. We don't entirely know all the things this depends on. We paid 7,000 when we registered each of our old used bikes.

HELMETS: You must wear a helmet. They cost between 70,000 - 150,000 depending on what you are looking for. 

COST TO FILL UP: When we run our tanks dry it costs 7,000 won to fill up. We have long commutes so we fill up twice a week.

Now that you know the gritty details, don't mess around. Living in Pyeongtaek becomes immeasurable better with transportation of any kind.

Per usually, the places mentioned in this blog have all been added to the South of Seoul app for easy reference. You can download the South of Seoul app from Google Play or Apple App Store.