This post covers popular apps and websites you can use in South Korea.
I use them to discover cute cafes, get deals on hotels and find discounts on Airpods in Korea. Once you’ve tried these apps, you won’t be able to live without them.
I’ve categorized them by travel, living, health and entertainment.
Let’s check them out!
Korea is the perfect environment for apps with its blazing fast internet and bbali bbali (hurry up) culture.
As the birthplace of Samsung and LG, it has one of the highest smartphone adoption rates.
There are some unique and useful apps that can only be found in Korea.
Best of all, most of them have English versions!
Naver Map (네이버지도)
Naver Map is super handy in Korea.
- For 길찾기 (finding directions), it shows the best routes for driving/using public transport/walking.
- It shows restaurants, cafes and convenience stores.
- It now has an accurate subway and bus schedule too, including when the next one is scheduled to arrive.
- Naver Map also has a pretty good English version.
I hope they update Naver Map to show some functions of Google Maps like “Open now” or “Top rated”.
Google Maps still works pretty well for restaurant recommendations in Seoul, Busan and on Jeju.
Kakao T (카카오택시)
Uber had an unfortunately short stint in Korea. But, one good thing came from it, Kakao T.
Like in most places, getting a taxi can be a hassle in Korea. Taxi drivers can be grumpy or patronizing when you’re younger. They also don’t pick you up late at night if you’re not going far enough or in the right direction.
Kakao T solves these problems.
Since users can rate drivers, they seem to drive better and be more pleasant.
It’s great because you can choose to either pay via the app or directly to the driver (in cash or using credit card). Also, you don’t have to explain where you’re going, because you select the pick-up and drop-off before getting in the car.
Subway Korea (지하철)
Not the sandwich place, but the super useful subway map app!
This is the most up to date map of subways in South Korea. You can put in your starting station and destination; they’ll do the rest.
There are a few apps with this function, but Subway Korea is the highest rated. So try them all and find the one you like.
Seoul Bus (서울버스)
Was once very necessary, but Naver Map now has the same function.
Check it out though if you want a more specialized bus app.
Be your own tour guide. Get info from the Seoul Metropolitan Government on the best attractions to visit in the city.
It’s full of interesting places that you wouldn’t find otherwise as well as restaurants, ticketing and an event calendar. At 260 MB, Visit Seoul is not a small app, but it’s free and the perfect compliment to Google Maps.
Daily Hotel (데일리호텔)
Don’t mind being flexible while traveling in Korea?
Daily Hotel offers great deals on rooms the following day when there are vacancies. I found great deals on nice hotels while traveling in Busan.
A Korean travel app with some exclusive deals on accommodation.
I usually compare their hotel prices with Hotels.com and choose the cheaper one.
It also lets you rent a hotel/motel for 6 hours or so, but you didn’t hear that from me.
The most accurate Korean to English translation app by Naver.
It even has a setting for 존댓말 (honorifics) although results may vary.
They now have an image and website translator that will make ordering at a restaurant or checking tour info a breeze.
Some of these apps won’t be available in your country. Access every Korean app with VPN here!
Apps for expats living in South Korea
After slow traveling for 5 years, I recently came back to Korea. I noticed a few changes, mostly for the better.
My Korean friends highly recommended some apps and services that are super convenient when living in Korea.
The following are a must if you live in Korea.
Zigbang is the number one real estate app in Korea. Real estate agencies post their listings on it. I used it recently to find my apartment.
It allows you to:
- Select type of house you’re looking for, such as 아파트 (apartment), 빌라/투룸+ (villa/two rooms+), 원룸 (studio), and 오피스텔 (officetel).
- After selecting the type, you can either 지도로 찾기 (find on the map) or 지하철역으로 찾기 (find by subway station).
- Then, you can filter more, like 월세 (monthly rent with deposit, usually 1-year contract) or 전세 (lease by large deposit without paying monthly rent, usually for a 2-year contract).
- You can 매물보기 (see the listings) and contact realtors through the app, message or call.
Pretty much the same as Zigbang. You can find different listings here, so check both apps to see more options.
Make sure to watch out for 허위매물 (false houses) that realtors use as bait. You can report them, but it’s still a hassle.
This is a gamechanger in Korea.
SSG is run by ShinSeGae Group, and it reads as ㅅㅅㄱ (쓱), meaning slip away/leave quickly and quietly. It’s basically Korea’s version of contactless delivery that’s great during the pandemic.
This service is especially useful when you want groceries, but don’t want to leave your house. (and it’s the best for introverts!)
You can select items from:
- emart (general shopping)
- Traders (bulk groceries like Costco)
- No Brand (low-cost food)
- Peacock (meal kits)
You can use either their official website or app.
The interface may look overwhelming, but it’s easy once you figure out how to use it.
After purchasing, they’ll leave the package quietly (쓱) by your door, at the time of your choice (usually the next day).
One great thing about Korea is that no one steals packages because of CCTV.
Market Kurly (마켓컬리)
Market Kurly is perfect if you’re looking for quality groceries directly from farms and small businesses.
They have some cool stuff like Italian cheese, Greek olive oil, French chocolate.
If you live in Seoul, Incheon or Gyeonggi-do and order by 11PM, it’ll get delivered before 7AM the following day in front of your door.
For other areas, orders should be made before 8PM to get delivery by midnight the next day.
In Chungcheong-do, I received Market Kurly around 1PM the following day.
They make an effort to be eco-friendly with minimal packing waste.
The Korean version of Amazon Prime. I recently bought an iPhone 12 with this app and it worked out great.
Even though delivery (택배) was fast in Korea before, Coupang boosted that speed by providing Rocket Delivery (로켓배송). It guarantees that you get your stuff the next day, even when ordering at midnight.
I also ordered two 10kg dumbbells on Sunday night, and received them by Monday morning.
Karrot Market (당근마켓)
당근 means carrot in Korean, but it’s actually short for ‘당신 근처의 마켓’, meaning the market near you.
Think of it as Craigslist, but without the “casual encounters”.
It’s a local market for secondhand items, and trading is restricted to your neighborhood within a 7km radius.
Some users want Karrot to increase the distance, but they’re reluctant since it’s their identity.
Instead, you can go to another neighborhood and check the app to see more items (like playing Pokemon Go).
요기요 is super easy to use. It’s like Door Dash or Uber Eats. After typing your address, you can see available restaurants nearby.
It categorizes food by type such as 한식 (Korean food), 중국집 (Chinese food, but Korean style), 치킨 (chicken, yes Koreans worship fried chicken), and so on.
You can pay through the app and ask a delivery person to drop it off by the door (to avoid contact during COVID-19), or simply pay with cash or credit card.
This was especially handy during K-quarantine.
Here are some cool things I found from using the app:
- They have 오늘만 할인 (discount today) section where you can get the same order for a lower price.
- For frequent patrons of food delivery, the Super Club (슈퍼클럽) subscription costs 9,900 won per month and you can get 3,000 won discount on each order 10 times.
- Yogiyo charges about 2,000-3,000KRW (2-3 USD) for their delivery fee. Delivery price varies depending on restaurant owners. Sometimes it’s free!
배달의민족 literally means “tribe of delivery”. As a local startup, it was the No.1 food delivery app in Korea for a long time.
It has more restaurants than Yogiyo and a cute mascot.
In December 2019, Delivery Hero, a German company, acquired Baemin, and Koreans started saying, “what kind of tribe are we? Germanic people, now” or “배달의 민족은 갑질하는 배신의 민족이다, meaning the tribe of delivery is a tribe of betrayal doing 갑질)”.
The reason why Koreans were unhappy about this M&A was that Delivery Hero already owns No. 2 and 3 apps (Yogiyo and Baedaltong), giving it a monopoly (99% of market share).
Right after the M&A, they raised their service fees. Many people deleted the app and started ordering directly over the phone. Cities are also developing public food delivery apps without service fees.
It’s still convenient despite the controversy.
Not in the mood for Korean food? Shuttle caters to expats who want something different.
Shuttle originated in Seoul in the Itaewon (이태원) area after two startups, Y-not and Bird Riders, decided to stop competing and start cooperating.
They now expanded to Busan (부산) in the Haeundae (해운대) and Seomyun (서면) areas and Pyeongtaek (평택).
Koreans think their delivery fees are expensive, but most expats are used to the higher prices. I used them sometimes when I lived in Seoul. Especially Sunday morning after a long night out.
Health and Beauty
The air quality in South Korea has slowly become worse over the years.
It used to be just fine dust in Spring (or yellow dust, 황사) from China, but now a lot of the pollution is home grown. I highly recommend getting an air purifier.
AirVisual lets you know when to avoid the outdoors.
For better quality air, try living in the south.
Most of my Korean friends use this app daily, and especially for their profile pics on KakaoTalk.
You can filter photos, beautify by setting details of facial contours, skin, eyes, nose and lips, or even put on makeup. (I stopped putting on makeup since the app does it for me!)
As you may have noticed, appearances are kind of important in South Korea. Looks is another app made by Snow, but it’s more popular overseas. It also uses AR and can be a lot of fun and a confidence booster.
Geniet is a fitness app that’ll get you in shape fast. It lets you choose a coach and records your progress. You might have to speak Korean though.
Short for “god of dieting”. It gamifies the weight loss process with badges and shares healthy recipes.
Fat Secret (팻시크릿)
A funny name in English, but it’s actually quite handy. Fat Secret is a calorie counter with some healthy snacks and recipes.
Naver Webtoon (네이버웹툰)
My mornings begin with webtoons.
Naver was the first one I used since it offered a wide range of genres.
It’s super intuitive because it shows daily webtoons from Monday through Sunday, new (신작) and completed series (완결).
Naver Webtoon updates weekly and you can read everything for free unless you want to read ahead of time (미리보기).
Kakao Webtoon (카카오웹툰) [Previously Daum Webtoon]
After trying Naver Webtoon, I wanted MORE and I’ve been using Daum Webtoon every day too.
(Yes, I am a 덕후 (a nice way of saying Otaku in Korean).)
Daum selects different types of webtoons from Naver, so I love their variety.
You can select TOP, 연재 (currently being serialized), 기다무 (free if you wait), 완결 (completed series) and PICK.
I normally go straight to 연재 and read them daily from Monday to Sunday for free.
Koreans have been watching TV on their phones since the DMB days in the early 2000’s. I remember having a smart phone with antenna back then.
Now you can even watch high-def movies and TV shows on demand thanks to LG. There’s also K-drama reruns you can enjoy while commuting.
Great for when you want to blow off steam or practice singing, but don’t want to leave the house.
It records your voice and lets you hear how you sound. I use it sometimes when I want to do something fun by myself.
There are higher rated apps overseas, but this one specializes in Korean songs.
A little bit of background on internet in Korea
Since Korea first launched commercial internet services in 1994, usage has increased from 44.7% in the 2000s to 91.8% in 2019.
PC Bang culture developed with this trend, which might explain why Koreans dominate competitive gaming and even created their own e-Sports leagues.
Internet access rate for each household is 99.7%, so pretty much everyone can get online.
Still, Koreans go to PC Bangs to play games or enroll in college classes.
(You need to sign up online at 9 AM sharp on enrollment day before each semester. It’s so competitive that it requires secure and high internet speed.)
Koreans mainly access internet through wireless methods like Wi-Fi or mobile data and they use smartphones for an average of 3 hours and 48 minutes a day.
The top 8 apps account for 37% of smartphone usage time.
What are the top 8 apps most used by Koreans?
The top 8 apps with more than 10 million monthly users in Korea are:
- Samsung Pay
- Naver Map
I also listen to music on YouTube while working from home.
Naver is perfect for searching things in Korea or reading local news.
My extended family of 30 people has a group page on Naver Band where we share photos and updates.
Coupang is very useful if you live in Korea as they have the fastest delivery (they call it “rocket delivery”).
As an iPhone user, I can’t use Samsung Pay, but my friends say it’s very convenient.
I use Google Maps overseas, but Naver Map in Korea, since it’s more accurate there. Other mapping services are not allowed to map South Korea, since they’re still at war with the North.
Instagram is good for getting updates from my friends or K-pop stars I like.
In addition, the app that Koreans used the longest (total time spent in the app) was YouTube (42.4 billion minutes), followed by KakaoTalk (22.6 billion minutes) and Naver (15.5 billion minutes).
After that, it’s Facebook, Daum, Instagram, Kakao Page and Naver Webtoon respectively.
How many apps do Koreans use?
Koreans love their apps. With high-powered smart phones containing tons of storage, they can fit a lot on their devices. They even use apps for banking where they can send and receive money and check their balances.
Generation Z (10-24 years old) uses 34.4 apps, Generation Y (25-39 years old) uses 33.8 apps, and Generation X (40-54 years old) uses 26.6 apps.
According to the mobile index of a mobile big data platform, “IGAWorks”, 10-39 year-olds use an average of 34.1 apps per person.
exclusive info on Korea
Did we miss anything?
These apps are very useful if you travel or live in Korea.
I still use a few of them even when I’m abroad.
Let us know your favorite Korean apps in the comments.
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