High-rise housing in Seoul is often referred to as 아파트 (a-pa-teu) or apartment, borrowing the more american word “apartment” which has its equivalent in the british english as “flat”.
The etymology of the word “flat” and “apartment” (as according to etymonline.com)
apartment means “private rooms for the use of one person within a house,” from Fr. appartement (16c.), from It. appartimento, lit. “a separated place,” from appartere “to separate,” from a “to”.
flat comes from from Scot. flat “floor or story of a house,” from Oxford English dictionary. flet “a dwelling, floor, ground,” from the same source as the adjective “flat”.
To be honest I usually say “flat”, and, naturally one thing I seized upon in the past was the reference to the “flatness” of high-rise “flats”, owing to the fact that most apartment/flats only have one level unlike actual houses (See: Flattening of Space: on Seoul, 2009).
An additional consideration to be added to that article should be that although Korea’s population also predominantly lives in flats like Singapore, the slight difference between Korea and Singapore is that we do not typically have basements or basement flats. Our flats do not usually go all the way to the ground floor. Most times our public housing block flats have a void deck on the ground floor (common area), which gives us the sense and appearance of our flats being slightly propped up from the ground (rather than touching the ground).
Another difference between Singapore and Korean flats is that in Korea they use the “pyeong” unit of measurement to describe house sizes. Flats come in typical sizes such as 20 pyeong and do not usually come in oddball sizes or designs although they may be built by very different private developers. According to wikipedia, “anecdotally, the unit (pyeong) was derived from the amount of space an average sized man would take up lying on the floor with his arms and legs spread out.” This would be about 3.3058 m2 (squareroot of 3.3058 would be 1.81819, so that would be a rather big man actually)
Model House / Showflat Visit
We went to see a “model house” or “showflat” at a property developer’s temporary building the other day. It had fully furnished showflats on show, and surprisingly (considering that we might not look like the house-buying clientele), they were very nice to let us in and to give us a tour of the spaces. The flats in question were part a private high-rise housing development that was labeled as “Raemian” (which is technically a brand of Samsung C&T Corporation for apartment buildings) that will be in the Sinchon area. The building has not yet been built yet.
Map showing location of new flats to be built
Epic Aerial Poster
Entrance to the Model House (no pictures were allowed inside)
Scale model of House interior
This great picture shows another set of model flats with phrases such as “going fast” and “sold out” stuck on them! The koreans are sure very expressive with their signs! There were many many many signs everywhere, which I was told were saying things like “its good time to buy bigger flats for the price of big flats are falling faster than the price of smaller flats” and other exhortations for people to get bigger flats. Because of the neat and graphic nature of hangeul, and the lack of capitals or lowercase formats of letters, if you print a korean sign large enough, it already looks SHOUTY!!! to me. I suppose that’s what I like about Korean. Without having to do anything, IT ALREADY LOOKS LIKE AN EXCITING LANGUAGE!!!!
More pictures of the trip to the model house can be seen here on flickr.