Leaving Korea this weekend

I’ve only got a day or so left in Korea, so this will be my last post for SafKorea. Unfortunately I haven’t found anyone to keep this blog updated while I’m travelling, so it’s going to be pretty dead from here on. Sad, but true.

I just wanted to say thanks to all those people who helped me put all this information on the internet, and all the people who visited the site and found it useful. As of today I’ve had just under 13,000 hits on this site, which I think is not bad considering that there are less than 2,000 South Africans teaching English in Korea. At least, that’s as far as I know.

It’s been a tough year here, but a really good one. I’ve met a lot of great people, and done some interesting things. The one thing that has stood out to me is how amazing the South Africans here in Korea are. All the Saffers I met are really intelligent, wonderful people who love SA, and there’s a great sense of unity, despite our different backgrounds (and dare I say it, colour). It’s given me a great sense of pride in my country and its people, and a lot of hope for our future.

Anyway, I’ll be keeping this blog live until August this year (until I finish all my traveling), and then we’ll see what happens. Since no-one will be keeping it updated, please add a dash of salt and some of your own research to all the information you find here.

Good luck to everyone going to Korea for the first time, and sterkte for all those already in country! I’ll see you all back in SA!

TB

Are you a South African English teacher in Seoul, Gyeonggi or Incheon? Win an Apple Ipod Nano.

I’ve been contacted by an academic at the National University of Singapore who is conducting research on the experience of English teachers in Korea. He’s specifically looking for South Africans. Check out his advert below:

Are you a South African English teacher in Seoul, Gyeonggi or Incheon? Win an Apple Ipod Nano.

I am currently conducting research on foreign English teachers in the Seoul Metropolitan Region (including Incheon and Gyeonggi Province). The research aims to investigate the lives of foreign English teachers, their experience of living in Seoul and their contribution to the urban environment.

As part of this research I am conducting an online survey of teachers. There are 55 questions and it will take 10-15 minutes of your time. If you complete the survey you will go into the draw for an Apple Ipod Nano. The survey can be found here:

http://www.surveymonkey.com/s.aspx?sm=bzYn4_2fCV3JdsmJJ036yw2Q_3d_3d

I am particularly interested in getting responses from South African English teachers as I would like to find out about experiences beyond those of Americans and Canadians. I will also be conducting interviews in April and May this year. If you are interested in taking part in these feel free to send me an email (again, interviews with South African teachers are particularly important).

Many thanks,

Francis Collins

Asia Research Institute National University of Singapore ariflc@nus.edu.sg

Extending your stay after your E-2 visa expires

visa-extension-picture2

I was super enthusiastic about coming to Korea in early 2008, and I figured the sooner I got here the better. So I arranged to arrive in Korea about a week before I had to start to work, so that I had enough time to settle in and get myself sorted out before I had to start work.

The jury is still out on whether this was a good idea, but one of the unintended consequences is that my E-2 visa expires before my contract ends. This is because the work visa is valid for 1 year after arriving in Korea, not from your first day of your employment. As such, my E-2 visa expires on 26 February, but my contract states that I have to stay until 28 February. Uh-oh…

Extending your E-2 can be a task of Herculanean….nay Schwarzenegger…proportions, and not worth the effort if you aren’t staying for another year. Definitely not if it’s only for a few days. So what to do? You’re in luck. There is an answer, my friend.

It’s called the “Temporary extension of stay for departure of registered foreigners”. Basically you can get yourself a tourist visa once your E-2 visa expires, without having to leave the country first. This is pretty cool. You can stay in Korea for up to 30 days after your E-2 expires, as long as you have a flight ticket showing that you will leave the country within that time. You aren’t allowed to work during this time, though, no matter what your boss says. It’s purely for tourism purposes.

But wait! It gets better! It’s free! And you don’t even need to go into an Immigration office to get this extension. You can apply online. All you need is a jpeg image of your flight ticket.

Here’s how to do it (just make sure you’re using a Windows PC, with IE6 or higher):

1. Go to this website: http://www.hikorea.go.kr/pt/index.html (If the website isn’t in English, you can change the language by clicking on “English” on the menu to the right of the page.

2. If you aren’t already registered on the website, do so. You can join under the “Log-in” page to the left of the screen. You’ll need your ARC number and some personal details.

3. Once you’ve registered (or logged in), look at  the top menu bar. Click on “E-APPLICATION”, and then “File an application”.

4. A list of available applications should appear. The 8th option under “Sojourn”, titled “Temporary extension of stay for departure of registered foreigners” is the one you want. DO NOT use the 2nd option, titled “Extension of stay for departure of registered foreigners”. It’s something else.

5. Click on the little mouse next to “Temporary extension of stay for departure of registered foreigners”.

6. Read through all the requirements and administrative procedures. All you need to know is that you must have a jpeg file of your flight ticket, and that this visa extension is FREE.

7. Click on “I agree” at the bottom of the page, and then click “APPLY (PRINCIPAL)”. This will take you to another page where you fill in some personal details and upload the jpeg file of your flight ticket. You will also need to state how long you need to extend for (until the date of your flight) and why you need to extend (for me it was “To visit some tourist sites in Korea before I leave the country”).

8. Once you’ve filled in all the compulsory fields and have uploaded your flight ticket, click “Submit”. That’s it. You’re done. You should get an email confirmation of your application.

9. It takes about three days for Immigration to process your application, and you will receive an email saying whether you were successful or not. You can check the progress of your application by logging-in on the HiKorea website.

10. When you get the email stating that your application was successful, you can log-in at the HiKorea site and print out a copy of this confirmation.

11. Take a copy of this confirmation with you to the airport, and hand it to the immigration official. After that, you’re homefree!

I found this to be pretty easy process, and far less pain than having to go all the way to an Immigration office. Now if only they could make the E-2 visa application this easy…

Free trip to Southeast Asia

Beach in ThailandOne of the nicest things about teaching in Korea is the free flights. The schools usually pay for a one-way flight to Korea from South Africa, as well as a one-way ticket home at the end of your contract (unless you are renewing, in which case you get a free return flight home and back to Korea).

The oddest thing about this, though, is that the schools tend to insist that they will only pay for one-way flights, and will only reimburse half the price of a return flight, even if the return flight is CHEAPER than a one-way flight. I still can’t wrap my head around this one.

In any case, I’m in the last three weeks of my contract and I can now start getting excited about my trip home. I’m not renewing, so it’ll be a one-way flight for me. But I’ve managed to organise myself something interesting. Because there are no non-stop direct flights to South Africa from Korea, you usually have to stop over somewhere, usually in Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Dubai or Qatar. I like Asian airlines, so I decided to see if I could arrange a flight on Singapore Airlines. Last time I flew with them, back in 2006, it was awesome!

Luckily for me Singapore Airlines had some decently priced one-way flights (about 1,100,000 won, one-way). So my school was willing to pay for this. “Hang on,” I thought. “Hmmm…Singapore…close to Thailand and Cambodia…” and then it hit me. Beaches! Sunshine! Cheap food! Fresh fruit! Yes! Maybe, just maybe, I  could arrange to stay over in Southeast Asia a bit on my way home.

And wouldn’t you know it, the Singapore Airlines flight home was pretty much the same price whether I flew straight home or stayed for a month. So I decided to try and arrange a month-long stay in Southeast Asia, and my school had no problem paying for the ticket. In fact I have already been reimbursed. Awesome!

So on 1 March I’ll be landing in Singapore, and on 3 March I’ll be in Cambodia enjoying Angkor Wat. After that it’s off to Thailand’s beaches for a nice dose of sea and sand. I have a grin on my face already. The best part is, because of the free flights, I should be able to get away with less than R5,000 for my accommodation, transport and food for more than a month in Southeast Asia. Un-be-lievable!

So long, Korea, and thanks for all the flights.

SafKorea looking for a new home

I’m heading towards the end of my contract, and I’ll be leaving Korea at the end of February. I’m hearing Machu Picchu call my name. As well as some Thai beaches, Angkor Wat, and Buenos Aires.

Since I’m leaving I won’t be able to keep this website up to date. So I’m making an open invitation to any South Africans in Korea (or any planning to come here soon) to take over the reins and keep this information on the web.

If anyone is interested in taking over, please let me know as soon as possible.

You can get hold of me here: safkorea@gmail.com

TB

South Africans in Korea on the increase!

Seems like more and more South Africans are on their way to Korea. I just came across a recent (ok, it’s a month old) article on the increasing numbers of us out here. Still not as many as the Americans or Canadians, but certainly quite a few.

To quote the article, “the number of South Africans on E-2 visas increased from 709 in 2006 to 1,131 in 2007, and currently stands at 1,412.” Wow! You can check out the full article here: http://www.rjkoehler.com/2008/12/15/south-africans-on-the-increase-in-korea/

I wonder what has caused this increase? All that I can think of is that when I started doing research on coming to Korea back in 2007, there was very little information specifically for South Africans. But now there’s quite a bit, and it has made the whole process a lot easier. Also, at least one South African recruiter has stopped charging a ridiculously high recruitment fee to place people in Korea. This has certainly helped make it easier to get out here.

Back from Japan

I spent most of the past week in Tokyo, Japan. It was fantastic, and I’d definitely recommend a visit there, even if the exchange rate from KRW to the Yen is terrible. Originally the trip was going to include a visit to Osaka and Kyoto, but when the KRW lost almost 50% of its value after September, I had to trim these plans a little.

In any case, there is so much to see and do in Tokyo that a short visit certainly doesn’t do the place any justice. My wife and I visited some of the more touristy spots (Asakusa, Ueno, the Imperial Gardens), but we spent most of our time in cartoon-land. We tracked down a couple of places linked to anime, including the Ghibli Museum (the guys who did “My Neighbour Totoro”) and a toy store specialising in merchandise from movies and TV shows. Let’s just say that our budget was stretched to the limit, but I did finally get my hands on a Yoda figurine and some Robotech models. Awesome!

Our biggest expenses for the trip were the flight tickets and accommodation. I struggled to find good flight prices, but I did track down a special on Northwest Airlines to fly return for about 350,000 won. This isn’t a bad price, since these flights usually cost at least 500,000 won. But the flight wasn’t that great. Most US-based airlines have a bad reputation with regards to service, and I have to agree with this. The people at check-in weren’t the most friendly (especially at Narita Airport in Tokyo), and on the flight it was really hard to spot a smile among any of the flight attendants. Cathay Pacific and Singapore Airlines are WAY better. But hey, the flight was cheap.

We tracked down a hostel in Tokyo that was reasonably priced – Aizuya-Inn. We paid 5,800 yen a night for a 4.5 tatami room with shared facilities. Now in Tokyo, unless you have a massive budget, it’s ALWAYS shared facilities. But the place was roomy, and very clean and quiet. Perfect. Also, the manager was French, and he spoke good English, so there were no communication problems like I had in China. All in all the place was really good, and it was located close to a major subway station and lots of touristy areas. I highly recommend it.

I definitely suggest going to  Tokyo for a visit, especially if you are working in Korea. It’s expensive, but worth it!

Note for South Africans – unlike most other nationalities working in Korea, you need a visa for Japan. Luthien has made a detailed comment on how to go about this under the Travel section of this website.