If you search up “how to learn Korean” on the internet, you get a bunch of results for online learning, like Talk to Me in Korean, Duolingo, and How to Study Korean. But you’ll also see blog posts and videos that tell you the best way to learn Korean is immersion.
Looking at places like SNU and Sogang, the Korean class prices can be pretty steep for the unassuming wannabe Korean speaker, clocking around 2,000,000 won for a semester of a daily immersion class, and around 700,000 won for a part-time evening class. For some, the time commitment or money just isn’t in the cards. Maybe you’re only there for under 90 days, or perhaps you’re an exchange student that already has you cramming in last-minute homework at 2am. If you’re in Seoul, you have other options! (Other cities probably have similar opportunities, but I only have experience in Seoul.)
The quality of these cheaper classes is pretty hard to gauge since they are usually run by volunteer teachers, and many don’t survive the semester, but there have been some long-standing ones with a good online presence that you should know about in the case of wanting a cheaper option of Korean classes without breaking the bank or sucking up all of your time.
Cost: 30,000 won deposit (refunded at the end of the session) + textbook (Sogang)
Class Duration: Regular Course, 12 weeks; TOPIK Prep, 8 weeks; 3 times a year
Class Time: Saturdays at various times
This is probably the most detailed level placement for its price in all of Seoul. There is a placement test that takes place when you go in to register for classes, where you will be placed into one of 6 levels. This is also the only cheap alternative to TOPIK preparation classes, and the center refunds your deposit when you show them your test receipt. Located in the Gwanghwamun/Myeongdong area, it’s easy to commute to and is the most organized of the list. Note: There are other centers that may offer separate classes similar to these.
Cost: Free (recommended 5,000 won donation) + textbook (19,000 won)
Class Duration: Ongoing, new students start on the 1st of every month
Class Time: Sunday 3pm-5pm
This class is good for people who want a Sogang education on a ramyun budget! It’s only up to 1B of the Sogang textbook, so if you’re looking for something a little more challenging, you might want to skip out on this class. This is near the Omokgyo Immigration Office if you’re familiar with the area.
Cost: Free + textbooks (19,000 for levels 1 + 2)
Class Duration: 10 weeks; 3 times a year
Class Time: Levels 0-4, Saturdays 4pm-5:30pm; Levels 1-2, Thursday 7:30pm-9pm
This class has been around for quite a bit of time and has a tremendous following. Boasting 5 levels and a large cast of teachers, Kongbubang sits near Sookmyung Women’s University Station at the Galwol Community Welfare Center.
Cost: 1,000 won per class + 3,000 won per session for textbook
Class Duration: About 8 weeks; New session begins every 2 months
Class Time: Saturday 3pm-5pm
This class is located on Sookmyung Women’s University’s campus in the Social Education building. SKEV allows their students to choose their own level based on the textbooks they use. This class’s success can be attributed the fact that the teachers are students at the university and use this for practice, so there is never a shortage of teachers and relies on the students’ determination. They update their Facebook page regularly and seem like a very nice bunch of people!
SNU International Student Fellowship Korean Class
Cost: 20,000 won + textbook (~20,000 won)
Class Duration: 15 weeks, Fall and Spring semesters
Class Time: Tuesday evenings 7pm-8:30pm
As an alternative to taking classes at LEI on SNU’s campus, SNU students who take part in mentoring and supporting international full-time students offer affordable Korean lessons to foreigners (targeted to SNU exchange students). The classes are on Tuesday evenings and you select your level on your own using this Active Korean Guide. I’m not exactly sure if this is limited to SNU students because you don’t really need a student ID to be a part of it, but you might want to be student-aged as they go on group outings frequently. You’ll probably want to email them at firstname.lastname@example.org to make sure they’re still holding classes since this is student-run.
Surprisingly, Seoul is pretty generous with weekly, low-cost Korean classes that fit most people’s schedules. I had the opportunity to take a class (that I subsequently dropped after two classes) at a community center ran by a church that had a pretty good mix of foreigners from different backgrounds and reasons of coming to Seoul. It was also broke into 3 different levels, though it seems I was placed in the highest they offered despite only ranking 2/3 in practice TOPIK exams.
As the saying goes, “You get what you pay for,” and maybe some of these classes aren’t exactly rivals of their more expensive counterparts. If you’re a cheap millennial or just trying to cut costs down for your trip to Japan, hopefully, this guide was helpful. 한국어 배우기 화이팅!