How's the tap water in Seoul?
August 19, 2008 3:31 PM   Subscribe

How's the tap water in Seoul?

I've heard various things about the tap water in Seoul: 1) If you drink it as an unaccustomed American you will die, 2) It's great, it's fine, 3) There are public water-fountains everywhere so you won't have to worry.

So what can I expect as a healthy person who will probably end up getting a touch of something during my first few weeks anyways (my general experience of traveling abroad)?
posted by bardic to Travel & Transportation around Seoul, South Korea (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I drank it (as an unaccustomed American) in 2006 and was just fine. I don't know if you will be fine but I haven't heard anything saying it was a big risk.
posted by Bunglegirl at 4:24 PM on August 19, 2008

i can say the same thing. i ate and drank everything i wanted to in south korea and only once faced a problem: from domino's pizza. the water was always fine. that country is civilized in ways we cannot yet fathom as touring barbarians.
posted by artof.mulata at 5:01 PM on August 19, 2008

I also drank the water throughout South Korea for a two week period without any trouble about ten years ago. And, if you're worried, bottled water is available almost everywhere in Seoul.

(However, get used to asking for water at meals! One of the hardest things for me to get used to was not having multiple glasses of water readily available with the (spicy) meals!)
posted by richardhay at 5:21 PM on August 19, 2008

Best answer: I have drunken lots of tap water in various places in Seoul for the last 3 months as an "unaccustomed American" and I am fine. The only problem is that in restaurants it usually comes in too small a glass... for me the problem isn't that the food is spicy, but that I'm used to drinking a lot of water with each meal.

ps. "unaccustomed American" is the best phrase ever.
posted by no1hatchling at 5:41 PM on August 19, 2008

I drink it frequently--you won't get sick. At worst, I suppose it might have more mineral content than you'd like.

Restaurants, though--even cheapo ones--have filtered water.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:44 PM on August 19, 2008

Best answer: In the 12 years since I came to Korea, I have never drunk untreated tap water (knowingly) except in an emergency. I still won't. I only lived for a couple of years in Seoul out of that time, though.

As Joseph says, most Koreans are very hesitant to do so unless they are too poor to have the option, or live in the countryside. I follow their lead, although this may just be a result of habits formed when times were bad. Still, though, sanitation and plumbing is often, er, less than confidence-inspiring. The water itself may be well treated, but I place little confidence in the pipes delivering it, particularly in older neighbourhoods or buildings.

On the other hand, Korean folks tend to be incredibly keen on the mythical health-giving properties of 산물, literally 'mountain water', which comes from fountains on every mountain area everywhere where people hike and is supposedly spring-fed (but I am pretty sure is really usually just regular old tapwater), but given levels of pollution seems like an unwise idea to me.

However, get used to asking for water at meals!

How odd. I eat lunch in restaurants with my colleagues at least 3 days a week, and have for many years, and I cannot ever recall being in a restaurant where we weren't given a plastic carafe of (ostensibly) filtered water, or at least there being a filter/dispenser over in the corner somewhere with a UV cup-sterilizer, from which you are expected to serve yourself.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:16 PM on August 19, 2008

Don't is my opinion. Do you know the work that is done to the tap water in North America? You do realize this is actually a rare thing that only 10% of the world's population has? And ask yourself why we bothered to do this for the last few decades? We filtered our water while our kids were allowed to play with metal darts!

There's a reason.

And a 2L bottle of water is a dollar there, which should be reason enough.
posted by sleslie at 11:09 PM on August 19, 2008

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