Foreigner Registration

August 15, 2010

The same process repeats itself in country after country; there’s always going to be some kind of bureaucracy. How easy it is to work with the system (or pay it off, depending on the level of corruption).

Anyone planning to stay in the Republic of Korea longer than 90 days must apply to a local immigration office to get his or her alien registration card. I remember the process well in Japan; come in with your employer, fill out the appropriate paperwork, turn in your passport, pay a fee, and your sparkling card will be ready in a few days. It’s more or less the same here; my boss took me to the immigration authority in Pohang, which is nothing more than a dinky office the size of my apartment. Surprisingly, they’re able to mail my card back to Bugu-ri. I’m a little vary about walking outside without my passport, but I suppose it’s unavoidable during this period; I just fear anything in Korea that involves the police.

Things you need when applying for your waygook card:

1. Passport
2. Current address in Hangul
3. 10,000 Won
4. 300 x 400 mm photo

One thing that wouldn’t hurt would be a name chop. Anyone who has spent a little time in Asia knows most countries allow its residents to use a stamp on official documents in lieu of their signature. Practically, someone should have two: a stone one registered with the government to use for business purposes, and a cheap wooden one for daily matters – signing for a package, immigration documents, etc. Your choice as to whether you want your name in Hanja (traditional Chinese characters) or Hangul (Korea characters). In Japan, I used katakana for my name stamp. Even if I had chosen the appropriate kanji (雷途, “thunder road”), I have a feeling Koreans wouldn’t pronounce the characters the same way. I should just go ahead and get stamps in Korea, China, and Vietnam… don’t think they use them in Thailand or India, but I could be wrong. In Hangul, my name is 라이트 터너.

My biggest concern, other than surrendering my passport, was to determine whether the consulate in Houston had issued me a multiple-entry visa. If not, I would have to apply for a permit and pay a sizable fee. Fortunately, if you see that little ‘M’ on your papers, you’re a go. Japan is definitely looking good for Chuseok holiday. No matter where I go, though, I’m sure I’ll feel like a Mexican-American in Arizona:

– All foreigners must carry a passport, visa, or a foreigner registration card while in Korea (Those under 17 are exempt from this duty).
– All foreigners must comply with requests to display passports or foreigner registration card by immigration officers or other such public officers (including public administrators of city, province, or town), if they are performing their official duties. (registration related duties)
– Failure to comply to such requests will result in punishment as according to Immigration Act Article 27.

Today was Liberation Day. The Japanese officially surrendered to the US and WWII ended on August 15th, 1945. The Republic of Korea was established three years later to the day. Perhaps as nothing more than a political gesture, President Lee Myung-bak proposed a plan to reunite with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. This is a really good article to consider when there’s talk of reunification. Sure, there is a common history, but as we’ve proven time and time again, that really isn’t the same as a national identity. Not much time has gone by, but I think even 50 years is enough to widen the gap where it cannot be closed again.

[Photo, “Immigration Office V” by Jens-Olaf]

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