I currently live in Chuncheon, the opposite end of Korea, and I love it. I was recently on tour down south, and I will be participating in a rando event in Jellonam-do in April. That particular area is full or farmland, smaller mountains, and lots of islands--perfect for riding. Koreans deservedly have a bad reputation for driving, but I have sadly become habituated to it by now (although it took a while). There is a pretty solid community of cyclists in most areas, and Koreans love to ride in/for clubs. Once you do make your way to Korea, I would suggest heading into a local shop that sells imported bikes (as they will be in the know with regards to local bike clubs) and give them a check. You will notice lots of bike shops selling cheaper Korean brands, but they are likely for kids/non-serious riders. Last bit of advice, there is a facebook group called Han River Riders...
Korean drivers are terrible...I supposed I could get used to it. I rode in L.A. for a while, but back home drivers seem much more predictable. I've been here a week and haven't rode much because it's cold, the drivers scare me, there's not much light after work, and I don't have an internalized map of the area. I'll have to get over it but damn, what a culture shock...as far as cycling is concerned. If you're reading this and thinking of bringing your bike to Korea, don't be scared off. It's all right, just different.
I live in Gwangju in Jeollanam-do. South Korean drivers are indeed crazy, but they're not hostile towards cyclists like American drivers are. People don't buzz you here to try to intimidate you. Actually I find the air pollution to be much worse than the drivers. However once you get out of the city it's fine. Commuting in heavy traffic for days in succession gives me a cough though. Pollution mask is in the mail. The countryside here is amazingly beautiful for cycling. I've never lived anywhere mountainous before though.
I'm currently in the southern portion of Gyeonggi-do (like an hour by train south of Seoul). As was mentioned, the drivers are terrible, however i feel far more safe riding on even the busiest streets here than in the US or UK. Cyclists are given much more respect here in my opinion. There's definitely a little bit of everything as far as riding goes in this country. From where I live i can mountain bike, get in a nice urban ride (which i think is more dangerous because everyone one is glued to their damn phones and have absolutely no situational awareness, thus causing infinite riding obstructions), mosquito/gnat ridden rides along the rice paddies and nice stretches of relatively flat highway/express way riding. All in all, it's a lovely country to ride in and i highly suggest you find time to take advantage of it. As Omiak said, it's great once you get out of the city, i find the only thing as remotely peaceful is hiking (which honestly isn't quite a good as a quality ride).
If you're ever up near Seoul and care to ride the Han River feel free to hit me up!
Last edited by SoloBuffalo; 07-09-12 at 05:30 AM.
Reason: im an idiot.
I live in Jeollabuk-do, and I agree with Omiak and SoloBuffalo. The drivers in Korea are kind of crazy, but I feel way safer cycling in Korea than I did in the U.S. because the drivers here expect me (and others) to be cycling on the roads with them, so they're much more aware of and much more accommodating to cyclists than in the U.S. I'm not Korean, so I could be wrong, but my impression is that Korean drivers don't take driving craziness as personally as U.S. drivers do - everyone drives like a maniac, and everyone expects everyone else to be just as assertive as they are, so they're all playing an equal game, rather than in America where people take it as a personal insult if they're cut off and feel the need to avenge their disrespected reputation. In America I always felt like the drivers were hoping they could run me off the road, but in Korea I feel like my right to cycle never gets called into question.
To respond to the original poster's questions (late though I may be), yes, definitely find a way to cycle here. You can buy a decent bicycle quite cheaply and there are plenty of English teachers coming and going so you can always find someone to sell or give it to when you go. It's an excellent mode of transportation and the land is beautiful to see - especially out in the provinces, you can easily enjoy urban cycling, bike paths, trips through farms and rice paddies, and really anything without going very far. It's a great opportunity and not one to pass up.