What’s it like to like in Uljin, South Korea? Here’s a 2021 Updated Version.

Beachside in Bugu
Beach by Bugu Bus Terminal.

So you found a job and were assigned to the city of Uljin(울진)???? I’m sure you’re thinking “Where the hell is Uljin? I’d never heard of this place.” I and many others have had similar responses and concerns. As anyone would do, I began to do my research on the city but couldn’t find any information or blogs that weren’t outdated by several years. As I write this post in August 2021, I have lived in South Korea for the past five years(moved to Korea in May 2016) and recently moved to Uljin back in March 2021 to work for an elementary school. I wanted to write a blog post but I decided to wait and settle into my new city. I lived in the area for a few months and had a chance to explore the place.

Uljin-Gun. Part of the downtown area of Uljin

As mentioned earlier, Uljin is on the east coast of the country in the North Gyeongsang Province. While visiting or living here, you will feel the breeze and have access to multiple beach areas. The city is both large and small at the same time. What I mean is, Uljin is spread out that having a car would make life so much easier. And it’s small in terms of nightlife and going out to eat. Uljin is also home to the Hanul Power Plant which provides energy to the city and the surrounding areas. Which in term leads to lower energy bills. The following pros and cons of the city should provide some insight into the city. Should you still have any questions I recommend going to the “Uljin(The Best Of)” Facebook group. It’s an expat group for people living in the city and they should provide any answers you can’t find.

Walking to the Uljin Bus Terminal

The best way to describe Uljin is a countryside beach town. As mentioned before, there are multiple beaches to visit. You’ll also come across numerous rice fields and farmland throughout the area. It’s famous for Seongryugul Cave, Deokgu Spa World and was a film location for the K-drama Into The Storm[폭풍 속으로]. It’s also famous for its yearly Crab Festival. In this post I’ll provide insight on what it’s like to live in Uljin from the perspective of an ESL Teacher. Please note at the time of writing, the Covid-19 pandemic is still at large so things can change in the future. Also note that this is coming from a teacher working in a public school that’s not under EPIK or other public school programs. This was a last minute direct hire type of position.

Yeonhojeong Pavilion at Yeonho Park in Uljin-Gun

Uljin itself is a great city to live in. Regrettably, Uljin has a difficult time recruiting and retaining native teachers. Small cities like this aren’t popular with most English teachers. Many would rather be in or near the major cities for a variety of reasons. According to some of the Korean teachers and staff I’ve talked to while working in Bugu[a different part of the city I work in] The city isn’t popular with Korean teachers too. Koreans seem to have similar grips with the location itself. Regardless, If you’re willing to come with an open mind and are willing to at least give one year a shot, I provided a list of pros and cons of Uljin. Keep in mind that these are from my perspective and everyone has their opinions of living in a city.

Pros:

Lower cost of living

  • Utilities cost about 25,000 won to 50,000 won depending on usage. Since the town is powered by the nuclear power plant, the cost of utilities tends to be lower. of course the electric bill tends to be higher during the winter and summer.  Groceries tend to be cheaper as well. Plus you have access to fresh produce from the Uljin Market and on Market Day.

Beaches

  • Numerous beaches to explore and walk along throughout the city. There’s even a small Buddhist temple [Ilchulsa Temple{경북 울진군 울진읍 공세항길 311}] on the coast line. On clear sunny days, there’s nothing like having a café mocha by the beach watching the waves go by.
Ilchulsa Temple{경북 울진군}

Hiking and outdoor lovers paradise

  • Great for outdoor lovers and there are many Buddhist temples to explore. There are two near the Uljin Bus terminal which is about 20 minute walk. Uljin, like most of Korea is surrounded by numerous hills and mountains. There are plenty of hiking trails and farm land explore and enjoy the quiet nature. Uljin Geumgang Pine Trail (울진 금강소나무 숲길) is one of the most famous trails in the city.

Better Air quality

  • Being far from Seoul and other major cities, you’ll have cleaner air and you’ll notice the difference in breathing as soon as you get here. Even on days with poor air quality, Uljin tends to have tolerable air.

Great for introverts and place to save money

  • If you don’t need as much social interaction and or looking to save money from dining out, Uljin has less restaurants so you won’t be as tempted to do takeout. Compared to my time in medium and larger cities I’m not as tempted to order delivery and waste money as I used to. This town is a great place to save money and be able to pay off student loans quickly due to the lower cost of living.

Rural Allowance

  • Working at a public school in Uljin, you’ll receive a 100,000 Won rural allowance. The max salary a public school English teacher can make is 2.9 million Korean Won. I started out at 2.5 million Korean won.
Pathway on the river that leads to the beach. This photo is heading back to town

Cons

Far from the large cities

  • It takes 3.5 hours by bus to get to Daegu(Dongdaegu Station) and Busan(Nopo Bus Terminal). Seoul takes about 5 hours and you will arrive at DongSeoul Bus terminal. It’s located next to the Gangbyeon Station. There is a rail line being built and wont be ready until 2022

Limited restaurant options and groceries

  • As mentioned before, there are less restaurants you can order from so the variety won’t be as large.

No Homeplus, Emart or Lotte Mart

  • The nearest department stores are over an hour away, even by car. For those who enjoy cooking or baking certain ingredients will be hard to come by without having to order online.

Transportation

  • Public transportation is limited compared to larger cities. There are buses to get around the city. I believe they stop running around 8pm. Taxis are available as well but the costs does go up when exploring the city. If you have a car, it makes getting around much easier.
Market Day occurs on days with a 2nd and a 7th

How did you end up Uljin? And How long will you stay?

Bugu beachside.

I was in Cheongna International City in Incheon and my contract was coming to an end in Feb 2021. Unfortunately, my contract wasn’t being renewed so I had to find another job. Early Feb. 2021, I came across a job listing for an opening in Uljin. Desperate for a public school job during these crazy times, I decided to apply. A few days later, I was asked to do an interview. The following day, I was offered the job and I’ve been here ever since.

As of writing this post, I plan to stay for the next few years to save money and pay of the student loans. While I do miss living in larger cities, I do enjoy the break from the noise pollution and figured it could be chance to get reorganized and become financially stable again. So I’m gonna stay as long as possible.

Uljin Bus Terminal
Uljin Bus Terminal Schedule

If you have any questions about Uljin or South Korea in general DM me on Instagram @the_blerd_explorer. Instagram is where you’ll be up to date with all my adventures and news. You can also follow me on Tiktok [ the_blerd_explorer ]. Follow both to see more of Uljin and other Korea related content. For those wondering why I haven’t uploaded more blog content, I’ve been busy with teaching, IG livestreams and podcasts interviews talking about my new book, The Black Traveler’s Guide Daegu South Korea.

Till next time, peace.

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