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Monday, November 23, 2015


As I mentioned earlier in this blog, I spent the last 70 or so days preparing to get to Korea, and spent little to no time preparing to live in Korea. I got passports, shipped a car, endured three different pack outs, packed 15 bags to check on the airplane and 5 bags to carry on, and on and on and on. So when I got to Korea you would think I let out this great big sigh of relief that all of that work was over... right? Wrong.

The first thing I noticed when I got to our new apartment was that I couldn't plug anything in. My Apple Watch was dead (traveling around the world will do that)... I couldn't plug it in. My iPhone was dead... couldn't plug it in. I wanted to fire up the laptop so I could write a few things about my flight... nope. I knew that there was a big difference between the American outlets that I was used to and the Korean ones I was about to live with, but I hadn't done any SpunkyResearch to know what I was truly in for. And to be honest, I'm still kind of confused.

We have little plugs that Sweet Baboo calls "adapters". As far as I know, these little things are simply the middle man between my American plugs and our apartment's Korean outlets. I don't think there is any translation between the power the apartment sends to the device, and the amount of power the device needs. I need to research that.

Cute little guys, right? I remember getting a few of these in some product packages I opened back in the States. Wish I held onto them...

At around 500 won, they aren't terribly expensive... until you look around at how many things you need to plug in!
But then there are these "transformers". No, Optimus Prime isn't living in our apartment (but seriously, how awesome would that be?!). My powers of amazing deduction tell me that these devices do translate the differences in power. But I don't know how. Sweet Baboo keeps tossing around numbers like 220 and 110... he tells me that [this] thing doesn't need the transformer, but {that} thing does. He says that we'll need "a few more transformers" for the things that I have coming in our HHG shipment... but which ones will we need? There's the 1KVA Down Transformers (approximately $30 each), the 2KVA Down Transformers (around $45 each), or the big 3KVA Down Transformers (I think I saw it for $60). But what's the difference between these? I don't know... it's all in Korean! I need to do research on that.

These fellahs aren't terribly small. There is no such thing as decorating when these are involved. They remind me of old Army equipment!

Who wants to translate this for me?

Or this? I'd love to know what the knob means!
But I do know that the bigger the box, the more power they pull. And that costs more money. You see, electricity is billed differently here than in America. The bill literally gets exponentially more expensive based on the amount of electricity used. It's like this: There is a basic fee that you pay based on how much electricity you use. The basic fee goes up in increments of 100kWh of usage.

< 100 kWh            410 won
101 - 200 kWh     910 won
201 - 300 kWh     1,600 won
301 - 400 kWh     3,850 won
401 - 500 kWh     7,300 won
> 500 kWh          12,940 won

That's just the basic fee to use the electricity in that bracket. Everybody pays that basic fee. But the Koreans have devised a way to reward those who work diligently to conserve energy. They tax each bracket, and the taxes stack.

< 100 kWh              61 won
101 - 200 kWh      126 won
201 - 300 kWh      188 won
301 - 400 kWh      281 won
401 - 500 kWh      418 won
> 500 kWh            710 won

So if we had a month of 300kWh, here is how our bill should look (according to my understanding of this system):

  1,600 won: Basic Fee
  6,100 won: (first bracket tax: 100kWh x 61 won)
25,200 won: (second bracket tax: 200kWh x 126 won)
56,400 won: (third bracket tax: 300kWh x 188 won)
89,300 won: (sub total)

That's a subtotal because there are two other taxes that I still haven't figured out. One is a 10% VAT tax, and the other is the 3.7% Electricity Industrial Fund. So let's add those together:

89,300 won: (subtotal)
  8,930 won: (10% VAT)
  3,304 won: (3.7% Electricity Industrial Fund)
101,534 won (still a subtotal)

We aren't done paying for electricity yet! That part of our bill will be the portion we have the most control over. I can turn off the lights in my apartment, I can unplug electronics that we don't use often. But there is another portion to our bill that I have no control over. There are two more sections to my bill that I am expected to pay. I will pay fees for the community electricity and the elevator electricity. These are split up equally among everybody in my apartment tower. I don't much mind paying these fees... I do use the elevators, and appreciate that the stairwells are relatively warm and comfortable when I come in from the cold.

I'm sure I'm missing a lot here, but this is what I have figured out. I'm sure my eyes will pop out of my head when I get our first bill. Everybody I have spoken with has agreed: electricity is expensive in Korea. And I should do everything I can to reduce our usage of it if I want to be able to spend our money on anything else. Like food. Which is another blog for another day. (Spoiler alert: Yum!)

1 comment:

  1. European and Asian outlets are 220 volts, thus the adapters. You may find that some things like you handy dandy hair dryer have a switch and can handle both voltages