Seoul has sky-high real-estate prices, rising inequity, and incredibly important "goshi" tests that determine admittance to valued jobs in law or civil service.
Students want somewhere to retreat for months to study, but since land is at a premium, there's a big market for "goshiwon", teensy apartments that fit a single human body and not much else—typically about 50 square feet, "almost a tenth of a North American studio apartment".
The Canadian writer Julladonna Park went to live in a goshiwon and wrote a terrific essay on what it was like:
My room was two meters high and two meters long; it was hardly a meter wide, so that I could place one fingertip on the wall to the opposite side with surprising ease. It would have been impossible to spread out my arms and legs within the confines of the wall, even if I did away with the bed, the glass-paned shower stall, toilet, and sink, the table above the mini-fridge, the cabinets above the table, and the TV that came without asking. [snip]
There was no room for guests. No room for any kind of exercise, not even jumping up and down in one place. No room in the mini-fridge for anything aside from a day's worth of snacks and a carton of milk. No room for the trendy clothes that others were wearing. No room for knick-knacks and souvenirs. Mostly I lived inside my head, in my dreams, and in my screens.
The sheer mechanics were pretty miserable. In his first week, Park accidentally smashed several plates and knickknacks just by, like, moving around. But the psychological effects he notes were just as interesting …
The bizarre thing about living in 50 square feet of space was that it didn't change me; rather, I became the most extreme version of myself.
Really fascinating read—go check the whole thing out!