How well-equipped is this city for those raising infants/toddlers? Specifically, are there public places to change diapers, maintained playgrounds, etc?
Seoul is not as well-equipped as many places in North America or Europe, however, this is changing and has certainly improved over the past few years.
Getting around with baby - The sidewalks in Seoul and other cities around Korea can be difficult to traverse due to many cracks and uneven surfaces. Carrying your baby onto the subway is possible but can be tiring. There are often many steps to navigate; even though there are elevators/escalators in most stations, you may still have to go up/down some steps. Some cars reserve one end for wheelchairs and strollers; no bench is installed there. You can recognize those sections by looking for a large wheelchair on the station platform near where you board the train. Getting around by bus is possible if you are carrying the baby. There are seats earmarked for the elderly, the disabled, the pregnant. It's very difficult getting on and off the bus with baby carriers or strollers due to the large numbers of people who travel by bus.
Where can I get a list of reliable childcare providers/nannies?
Seoul International Women's Association (SIWA) is a good resource to get information on childcare providers. Nannies in Seoul are not a popular concept; expat families often hire a full-time maid who can assist in looking after the child(ren). The following is a list of popular pre-schools for younger children from 2 years of age and up:
Bright Beginnings is an English Pre-school in Seongbuk-dong for children aged from 3 and up.
BIK - British International Kindergarten is located in Hannam-dong in Yongsan-gu and offers programs for children from the ages of two to seven. .
ECLC International Kindergarten is an Early Years school for children aged 2 1/2 to 6 years and is located in Hannam-dong in Yongsan-gu.
Franciscan Foreign Kindergarten is a certified international kindergarten for children aged 2 to 6 years. The school is located in Hannam-dong.
Kids of the Nation International School (KONIS) offers a Montessori Program in English in Pyeoungchang-dong.
NIK - Namsan International Kindergarten, located in the Yongsan-gu end of Jung-gu, is a registered early years school for children aged 3 - 6 years.
Rainbow International Kindergarten (R.I.S.), located in Gangnam in the Yeoksam area of Seoul, has provided English education for 3 - 6 year olds since it opened in 2006.
The number one safety issue for children is road accidents from scooters/motorcycles using the sidewalks. In terms of housing, many properties may not be equipped with safety features for younger children, appropriate fencing on balconies, safety locks on windows, etc.
What are the most popular kid-friendly attractions in the area?
There are several large theme parks in the vicinity of Seoul. A day out to these parks requires planning to avoid massive crowds. Avoid public holidays and Saturday afternoons, if possible, and
take plenty of sun protection in summer.
Here is a list of popular amusement parks:
Dreamland is located within the city limits of Seoul. An urban amusement park, it’s home to three roller coasters, several carnival rides, a water park and a mall petting zoo.
Everland is about an hour’s drive out of Seoul and is set in wonderful surroundings. There are five theme areas including Caribbean Bay, Festival World and Everland Speedway (the latter requires a current driver’s license). Each area has specific attractions, rides and restaurants. In winter, it’s possible to go sledding at Everland Snowbuster. Food must be purchased on the premises at Caribbean Bay; you can’t carry your own and your bag may be checked. For the water sports, a bathing cap is required.
Lotte World is a giant shopping, sports and activities complex, and amusement center all under one roof. In the center of the complex, you’ll find an indoor ice-skating rink that is open year-round and where you can rent skates. Towering above the ice rink is an indoor amusement park complete with a roller coaster, monorail and merry-go-round. It’s a great place to go on a rainy day. A monorail connects this large Adventureland to an adjacent lake outside, called Magic Island. Magic Island has indoor swimming pools, bowling alleys, a folk village, hotel shopping center and several movie theaters. Lotte World is located in Jamsil between the two Olympic Stadiums. Jamsil subway station, Line 2 takes you directly into the complex.
Seoul Grand Park is south of the Gangnam area, and has two great zoos. The children's petting zoo on the left lets you feed llamas and donkeys and pet free-roaming pigs and watch some pretty playful monkeys. The larger zoo on the right has a fabulous dolphin and seal show. The Seoul Land Amusement Park also is down here.
Seoul Land offers theme areas each with its own special characteristics and focus. Performances, exhibitions and events, such as flower festivals, take place in the park. Seasonal facilities such as the outdoor swimming pool in summer and a sledding slop in winter make it a fun place to visit year-round. There are also laser shows and fireworks.
Museums abound in Seoul and are generally inexpensive. More and more of them have information in languages other than Korean, including English, Chinese and Japanese. Some of the popular museums are listed below:
Bank of Korean Monetary Museum is all about money. Visitors can use the money-checking machine to make sure that none of their cash is counterfeit. Admission is free. Open from 10am to 5pm, Tuesday through Sunday. Closed Mondays.
FEELUX Lighting Museum is located just outside Seoul and is the only museum in Korea specializing in the history of lighting and is a wonderful place to look around. The traditional lighting
room presents every type of illumination from prehistoric candle lights to various types of lamps throughout history, including those of Korea. The modern room begins with Edison's light bulb of 1897 all the way down to optic fiber and LED lights. A light therapy room demonstrates how light affects the body and brain, as well as other knowledge about mixing lights.
Green Science Experience Zone - Open from 10am to 4pm/Closed 12pm. Free of charge; participation by order of arrival. Activities: Making rubber balls, pinwheels, toy ducks, toy monkeys and walking toys with easily found materials like paper cups, wood chopsticks and straws.
Hello Museum is an art museum for children located in Yeoksam-dong. Not only is the art presented with children in mind and hung low for them, the whole place has been custom-designed for them including the low archways, a little cave made out of traditional Korean paper (hanji) for kids to sit and chat in, and little portable desks. Hello Museum opened in November 2007 and offers both exhibition tours and art classes for children. Director Kim Ysaac worked at the Smithsonian in the U.S. Art classes are offered the 2nd and 4th Saturday of each month and cost W50,000 per child.
Kimchi Field Museum is all about kimchi and is located not far from the COEX Mall.
Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art is located in Itaewon and has an area for children. Leeum is located near Hanganjin Subway Station (stop 631).
Museum of Chicken Art contains art related to chickens. The website has some English on it.
Museum of Natural History is located in Soedaemun-gu.
National Folk Museum - located in Gyoongbbokgung Palace.
National Museum of Art provides a variety of educational programs for children as well as a travelling exhibition service that goes around the country. Many of these programs are in Korean only, but young children often adapt very well even when they don't understand the language. Moreover, there is likely to be someone with some English who can help.
National Museum of Contemporary Art can be reached from inside Seoul Grand Park.
Museum of Natural History is located in Soedaemun-gu. The museum offers English tours Saturday evenings (meet at 6.30pm for a one-hour tour beginning at 7pm), as well as other special programs for visitors and foreign residents.
National Museum of Korea is located in Itaewon and provides information on Korea's 5000 years of history. It recently opened and is one of the must-see attractions of Seoul. The museum offers some guided tours in English.
National Palace Museum of Korea is a royal museum that exhibits royal artifacts and related materials of the Joseon Dynasty (1392~1910).
Owl museum is a must for all owl lovers. This private museum near Anguk Station by Insa-dong/Samcheong-dong is filled with owls and owl paraphernalia from across the world. Children
will be invited to post their drawings of owls on the walls.
Paper Museum - Jong Ie Nara offers visitors a glimpse into the history of paper art in Korea through its collection of works ranging from traditional artifacts made with rice paper to modern paper art. The Small Exhibition Hall features paper sculptures for children and students.The museum also runs various art programs for all age groups, such as the “origami class for children” and “rice paper craft,” and teacher-training programs in various genres related to paper art.
Samsung Children’ Museum was designed for children up to 12 years old. This hands-on museum provides exhibits that children can touch and manipulate. All the descriptions are in Korean, but as it is a hands-on museum, the kids will still enjoy it, especially the water area.
Seoul National Science Museum is a an interesting place to visit for both adults and children. It offers regular programs for students and special exhibitions tailored for a wide range of age groups. It is located near exit 4 of Hyehwa Station on subway line 4. Tel: 02-3668-2200.
War Memorial of Korea located near Itaewon offers something of interest for everyone. This is the world’s largest war memorial displaying more than 8,000 war relics and weapons.
Funique House (Museum offers exhibitions that visitors (children and adults) can touch and also guess at the science behind objects. Funique House has two locations: Seoul and Paju.
Totoman offers adults and children a view of life in Korea from the 1960s and 1970s. The museum focuses on objects of everyday life that have gone out of fashion and/or been forgotten.
Toy Museum (HanlipToy Museum) is a private museum in Haeri Village in Paju in Geyonggi Province (north of Seoul). On display in the museum are about 2000 of the 100,000 toys collected from around the world by So Jae-gyu, the chairman of HanlipToys, a Korean company producing educational toys for children. The basement of the museum features an area called Story Land, where children can play make-believe in a mock village that includes a police station, market, hospital, broadcasting company and beauty salon. A few more popular attractions for kids to check out:
COEX Aquarium is located in the basement of the COEX Mall of ASEM Tower. It offers six thematic exhibition areas and showcases 40,000 marine animals from 500 species from all over the world, including a huge shark tank. Much of the information is in Korean and it is more expensive than the one in the 63 Building. Hours: 10am to 8pm. Getting there: Subway: Samseong Station, Line 2 (219), exit 5. Parking: ample parking is available in the COEX Mall.
COEX Mall is located just south of the Apgujeong shopping area. You'll find lots of kid-friendly stores and restaurants here as well as movie theatres and lots more. Getting there: Subway: Samseong Station, Line 2 (219), exit 5. Parking: ample parking is available in the COEX Mall. Seoul Tower is one of Seoul’s more popular tourist attractions. Elevators whisk you to the top of the 135.7 meter observation needle where you have a 360-degree view of the city. The Tower overlooks a large plaza and pavilion; you may access the cable car that services Seoul Tower from the pavilion area. The tower offers entertainment space and restaurants, some of which close at around midnight.
The 63 Building was once Korea's tallest building. It has a small but interesting aquarium and Seoul’s only IMAX cinema. Headphones are available so that you can enjoy the IMAX film in English. The glass elevator to the observatory deck provides a breathtaking view of Seoul.
What are the most popular activities for kids after school or on weekends?
The international schools offer after-school programs, often based on the interests of the volunteers willing to teach them or on some special programs initiated by the school. However, school buses are not always available to take children home later than regular school hours. You’ll want to check with the school to see if the school bus in your area makes a later run. Arts lessons are available in every city in Korea, usually by Korean instructors who will come to your home. Some speak more English than others. Your school will sometimes have a list of piano, violin, etc., teachers that may be available in your area or that would be willing to come to you. As of 2009, there’s also a Kids’ Gallery in Hannam-dong, Seoul that offers all kinds of arts classes for children from pre-school age on up to teens. For older children, there are group activities such as Boys, Girls & Cubs Scouts, and many organized team sports.
What's it like to be a teenager in this city? Are there any particular challenges I should be aware of as a parent?
Compared with western teenagers, Korean teens are pretty much occupied with studying, as there is a significant amount of pressure on scoring well on their college entrance exams. However, it isn't uncommon for them to go out after school and drink in many of the bars and restaurants scattered around every nook and cranny of Seoul. The drinking age in Korea is 20 years old Korean age, which is typically 19 years old Western age. Many establishments do not check for ID, so the laws are not strictly enforced with underage drinking. However, this is less true than 5-10 years ago, as bars and pubs will receive penalties and fines if caught. If you're concerned about your teen drinking, you'll have to put your own safeguards in place.
Are there any organizations/social groups in the area that cater exclusively to young people ages 12-17?
Various cultural events are offered year-round in museums, theaters and art centers. Most of the other activities for teenagers are provided through the international schools.
I want my child to get the most out of our stay in this country. Are there any specific opportunities to teach young people about the local culture?
Korea is rich in culture and has a long interesting history, so there are plenty of opportunities for your children to learn about this fascinating place.
Palaces (gung) dating from various periods of the Chosun Dynasty can be found around Seoul, particularly in the downtown area. Most of the palaces are renovations or reconstructions, but many are worth a visit to get a sense of Korean history and culture.
Biwon (Secret) Garden Note that only guided visits are allowed. You cannot go around on your own.
Changdeok Palace is where you will find the Secret Garden. You can visit the Palace area on your own if you wish.
Deoksu Palace is a favorite for couples to have wedding photos taken. Ironically, right behind the palace is a lane way commonly called the "road of divorces" as it is said that the marriage of any couple walking on it will end in divorce.
Jongmyo Shrine is the place where descendants of the first Lee (Yi), founder of the Yi royal families, hold their ancestral rites.
Unhyeon Palace hosts the re-enactment of the wedding ceremony of King Gojong and Queen Min. Yonsei University offers Korean language classes for foreign students. Other universities offer similar language and cultural programs during summer vacation. Korean National Tourism Office (KNTO) offers tours of major historical and cultural sites around the peninsula.
The Boryeong Mud Festival is an annual festival that takes place during the summer in Boryeong, a town around 200 km south of Seoul. The first Mud Festival was staged in 1998 and by 2007 the festival attracted 2.2 million visitors to Boryeong. The mud is taken from the Boryeong mud flats and trucked to the Daecheon beach area where it is used as the centerpiece of the "Mud Experience Land." The mud is considered rich in minerals and used to manufacture cosmetics. The festival was originally conceived as a marketing vehicle for Boryeong mud cosmetics.
Korean Folk Village is located near Suwon just outside Seoul. The Folk Village (aka Hanguk Minsokchon) is a replica of an entire village. Potters, weavers, blacksmiths and other artisans
practice their trades in traditional fashion. Performances are scheduled throughout the day at the amphitheater.
Namsan-gol (aka Namsan Hanok Village) is located next to the Korea House in Chungmuro, at the foot of (Mount) Namsan. Tthis traditional complex provides insight into traditional Korean housing. Various cultural events, performances, classes and exhibitions are regularly held here.
Jogy-sa is one of the largest Buddhist temples in Seoul. A beautiful and ornate temple, it is the headquarters of the Chogyejong Buddhist Order and is famous for the lantern festival held in early
May to mark Buddha’s birthday.
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