To tourists, South Korea is known for its superior technology, awesome skyscrapers, tasty food, and proud traditions. However, there is a side of the country that tourists rarely see, such as ‘Goshiwon’ and ‘Goshitel’—tiny, restricted, cheap housing units where South Korea’s poor live.
South Korean photographer Sim Kyu-dong spent around 5 years living in Goshiwon in Seoul when he moved there for work and documented the lives of the people. The photographer who came from Gangneung in Gangwon Province had no other option because the rent for Goshiwon was low, there was no need for a deposit upfront, and there were no maintenance fees.
In an extensive interview with Bored Panda, Sim talked about what motivated him to do the photography series, talked about his passion as a photographer.
“Goshiwon is actually built for examinees preparing for various tests such as the state bar exam or civil service examinations. I used Goshiwon whenever I leave my home and stay in Seoul. It was good accommodation,” Sim said. “In such a way, I spent about 5 years in Seoul’s Goshiwon.”
Goshiwon rooms are very comparable to dormitory rooms, have shared kitchen areas and bathrooms, and attract a lot of students and migrant workers. Meanwhile, Goshitel rooms are somewhat more spacious but much barer. Goshiwon and Goshitel are often used as synonyms in South Korea.
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