What it's like in a "goshiwon", a 50-square-foot Seoul microapartment

Originally published at: What it's like in a "goshiwon", a 50-square-foot Seoul microapartment | Boing Boing


Coming soon to the U.S., for young people who’ll want a “good” white-collar job in a big desirable city where such jobs tend to be but who don’t want to spend 2+ hours commuting every day.


I’m guessing that Juliadonna Park is a woman, because:

The end of my stay was anti-climatic and multi-faceted — I had to join the bridal party of a childhood friend back home…


My first goshiwon in Seoul had no hot water but did have a Hello Kitty toilet seat.

My previous work-provided basement apartment. Seoul, Korea. 360 degree panorama.


psychological effects

I’ve lived in a space nearly that tiny. One resemblance I remember is how much more attention it made me pay to small things that I owned. And how, like that broken dish, some of my things became more dear to me.


It’s not for everyone, and it certainly shouldn’t be a permanent living situation, but I think that this kind of place (which is really common throughout East Asia) might be a step in the right direction toward easing the housing crisis in the US.

People who are still single and spend most of their day working and out on the town can manage in a small place for a while at least, which would increase the total number of housing units while freeing up larger units for people who actually need that much space.

In big cities, it seems like a no-brainer.


Yeah, I’m not sure that people who spend a huge fraction of their non-work time sitting in a car that’s even smaller than this apartment are that much better off. For some single people an apartment is just a place for their bed, and they do most of their living out in the world.


More like Goshilost! Am I right?


It shouldn’t, but it will be. You’re already seeing 350sqf-minus condos being sold by developers in large American cities, so this is the next step. As the story indicates, in Seoul the author noticed several tenants who are middle-aged or elderly there.

High-density and affordable housing does not have to be a space so small and cramped that one can’t move without breaking something. That’s a decision on the part of developers and their tame municipal and state politicians.

Tiny homes are a good interim Housing First solution for the unhoused but aren’t a proper long-term housing solution for working people.

Putting aside pandemics and future lockdowns related to the climate emergency, “for a while” is going to be a short time for most people in a space under 100sqf.

Company-town style employers (including tech companies that offer lots of “free” goodies to keep people in the office) love that situation with young workers.


A prison cell is bigger, and you can’t beat the value added services. /s


The smaller the space, the more important layout is, and honestly the layout in that place seems pretty terrible. Most truck-bed RVs are smaller than 50 sq ft and they are reasonably comfortable for long periods. They achieve this by converting the space as needed. The seating becomes the bed, the sink becomes the table, the toilet is the shower seat, etc. Theres very little space reuse or conversion in this place- they’ve just taken faux high-end decorating and squished it together. RVs even have full kitchens and decent fridges in them, which this place does not.


Do you believe it shouldn’t be an option to rent out spaces this small, even for the subset of apartment dwellers who don’t cook, don’t spend much time at home and are just looking for the cheapest possible accommodations in the middle of a big city?

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That is true, yes. But in the US, where the option of a living in a really tiny apartment for 300 bucks per month just isn’t in the cards, the only alternative is often homelessness, especially when there is no safety net to fall back on.

I agree that it would be a good Housing First solution for the unhoused, but I also think that it would provide one last option for people who are on the cusp of becoming unhoused, in addition to people who simply are not at a stage in their lives where they are ready to be tied to any location. It’s not a perfect solution, but when rents go to San Francisco levels, something has got to give, and that something might just be dwelling size.

Then again, 50 square feet might be a bit too extreme. I have done 200~300 square feet in Japan, and it helped me save money on rent while having a commute within the single-digit minutes.


Carthusian monks have better accommodations.



My room was … two meters long; it was hardly a meter wide

That’s not 50 square feet. A quick conversion to American measurements indicates a living space that is less than 22 square feet. That is really, really small — about the same size as my 1 person backpacking tent.


The photograph in the article shows the actual place and it appears that the author is talking about the distance between the wall of the unit itself and the wall to the shower/toilet, which seems to add at least another meter in width.

ETA: There is no way she could stretch her arms to touch the mirror behind the toilet from the bed (even without the shower wall), etc. So, I think that she just means the sleeping area by “my room.”


This doesn’t surprise me. Here in the Twin Cities they keep insisting 600sqft is a one bedroom apartment when it’s really a studio with a wall separating the sleeping area (my apartment is like this). It’s just gross how this is allowed all the while city governments bend over backwards to make more parking lots.


Good point. Sometimes it helps to look at a picture (or read the whole article) rather than just the BB summary. Thanks.


I mean, they already are here. Even aside from the often illegal NYC “apartments”, I’ve had friends who rented a 1 rm studio with two other friends and put up partitions that effectively made their individual spaces this small. My good friend in SF lives in the rear of an illegally converted garage with no running water and a hot plate. It’s slightly bigger than this (maybe 100 sq ft), but it’s right at the top of Dolores Park and he can stash his bike in the garage. He’s been there for years as it’s an easy commute to his W Oakland woodworking shop.

And then there’s the actual legal apartments that are really not much bigger, though I’m sure the fella in the article would have killed for an extra 10-22 sq ft:


And apparently it was designed by a German expressionist set designer