Monthly Archives: January 2009

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.

In Tokyo!

Jus a quick message to let you all know that I am in Tokyo at the moment. I will only be able to reply to any messages after the 22nd January.

Thanks!

TB

Getting past SA customs

customs

My contract ends at the end of February, so I’m starting to make arrangements for getting back home. One of the things that has been bothering me a lot is getting stopped by customs at Jo’burg International Airport (OR Tambo/Jan Smuts or whatever it’s called this week). The thing is I’ve spent quite a bit of money on some toys in Korea, including Ipods, an Ipod hifi, Nintendo DSs and an Apple MacBook.

These are pretty expensive items, so I’ve been worried that SA customs would stop me and confiscate these items, or slap me with a huge duty. And this would add up to quite a bit.

Thankfully some people mentioned that if you are a returning resident, and have been out of SA for more than six months at a stretch, you can bring back personal items without being subject to duties or tax. But the SARS website (and the SA internet in general) has so little information on these things that I was still a bit worried. So last night I phoned the SARS head office in Pretoria, my old home town (SARS is responsible for customs). I spoke to Gideon, who was really helpful, and told me without hesitation that what I had heard is true. If you have been out of SA for six months at a stretch you aren’t subject to tax or duties on any personal items that you bring with you. All you need to do, if you are stopped, is prove that you have been out of the country for that time, and that the items are for personal use.

This is easy. Your passport will have your exit stamp from when you left SA , and no subsequent entry stamp. So pretty easy to show that you haven’t been home. Also, if you bring back personal items (and I’m thinking laptops here) you can just show how bashed and used it is. Well, that’s how mine looks, anyway. So I’m not too worried about this.

Of course if you bring something back that’s brand new and still in its packaging, you may have a harder time convincing the customs guys that it’s for personal use and not resale. But for me, this isn’t a worry.

This really makes me a lot more relaxed about going home. Thankyou SARS for your clear and quick response!

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year to everyone! I hope it will be a great year for all involved. I know mine will be!

My wife and I have just finished booking all our flight tickets for the coming year – to Japan, Southeast Asia and South America. It’s going to be an awesome year!

The sites going to be a bit quiet for a while. I have a Winter camp to plan to run over the next week or so, and then we’re off to Japan for a bit. But don’t lose heart – I’ll soon have a whole bunch of updates!