Tag Archives: South Korea

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.

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.

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!

GEPIK follow-up workshop 17 December 2008

On 17 December, GEPIK, in all its infinite wisdom, held a follow-up workshop for about 500 native-English teachers. I assume this was a “follow-up” to the Orientations held earlier in the year. It was a day-long event at Dankook University, on the other side of Seoul from where I live.

To summarise the workshop: a waste of time.

It took me four (4) hours to get there from my town, and about the same to get back. So let’s say eight (8) hours of travel time. This was to attend an event that lasted from 10:30 to 17:30. So eight hours travel for seven hours of workshopping. And of those seven hours, only two and a half were of any use. The rest consisted of ceremonies, lunch and Korean traditional games.

Although the event itself was a bit of a waste, it was a great chance to catch-up with some people I haven’t seen in a while. But I really feel like our time could have been better spent. I really don’t think this workshop was well thought out or implemented. At lunch, for example, there was a huge line to get food. I ended up paying for a sandwich just so that I wouldn’t have to sit in line for an hour.

The only part of the workshop that I was interested in was the talk by Darren Ng. He spoke about “Behavioral Management Essentials” – basically how to handle discipline in the classroom. Darren was entertaining, as always, though this time I didn’t find what he had to say as applicable as before at the June/July Orientation. But it was still worthwhile for some tips and tricks for later in life.

Also, the quick review of the 2009 GEPIK contract by Dain Bae was very interesting, since there are a couple of improvements. These include longer standard vacation (20 days), extra pay for non-teaching overtime work (7,000 won per hour), and a larger housing allowance (400,000 won, up from 300,000 won). Also, they have created more pay levels to differentiate different qualifications and experience. However, these changes only applies to new recruits (who obviously weren’t at the workshop) or for people renewing, which from what I heard was a small number of current teachers.

I’m just glad that this was probably the last time that I will have to attend a GEPIK event, since my contract ends in February. I’ve got some pics on my cellphone, and as soon as I can work out how to transfer these to my computer, I’ll post them.