Students Scrape the Barrel to Make Ends Meet

      July 21, 2015 12:59

      About a dozen messages are posted on the online flea markets of colleges in Seoul every day advertising empty rooms for rent as the summer vacation starts.

      Students going abroad for language training or home to the provinces are subletting their rooms to make ends meet.

      It is a risky practice as landlords can unilaterally terminate contracts or claim compensation for damages if tenants sublet rooms without their consent.

      But the prospect of earning two months' rent in their absence is difficult to resist. "I can't afford to pay rent for two months when I'm in my hometown of Busan," a student said. "I find it a little uncomfortable to think of somebody else using my sheets and kitchenware, but subletting is a good way to earn money during vacation."

      Their target customers are students from provincial colleges who are attending private institutes or crammers in Seoul, those taking preparatory classes to increase their chances of landing a job, and those attending summer school.

      Students in Seoul and Gyeonggi Province are paying an average rent of W420,000 (US$1=W1,156) per month on a one- or two-year contract, according to the presidential Youth Commission. That brings their cost of living to about W1 million.

      "Students are finding their own way to spend less, because they don't know when they will find work in a tough job market," another student said.

      Some students sell course materials and test questions from previous mid-term or final exams or renting out formal dresses or suits for job interviews.

      "I can earn more than W100,000 by selling materials for the courses I took every semester," said a 24-year-old senior at a private university in Seoul. "There's constant demand."

      A 25-year-old student who is looking for a job recently posted photos of the suit he wears for job interviews online. It fetches W50,000 per hire.

      "After each semester, other students sell meal coupons for the school cafeteria or their right to use school lockers," he said. "Many students have no time to work part-time because they're busy preparing to find a job. So they're selling anything they can sell online."

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