Sunday, September 14, 2014

Welcome to Korea, A Shorthand Guide

More 'Type A' than ever before, I thoroughly enjoyed writing this "shorthand guide" to living in South Korea so much that I couldn't just give it to the new native English teacher - it needed to be blogged (parts of it anyway ^^). Geared towards prospective or new native English teachers, welcome to South Korea!

1. Your Apartment
2. Helpful Technology
3. Official Business - Getting your ARC, Korean bank account, tax benefits, etc.
4. Contact Me

Your Apartment:

Apartment Heat: (floor or ondol heating & water heat): 
There is a control box with buttons that controls the heating in your apartment. For any hot water (shower, dishes) or apartment heat in the winter, you need to turn this on.

During the winter, if the water isn’t getting warm (and is at best lukewarm), try taking the main (temp) knob in the shower and putting it lower (so there’s less water pressure).  Because it’s winter, full blast hot showers just can’t happen. Half blast, okay.

Apartment Bills: Cable & TV, Electric, Gas (3 bills)
Once you have a bank account, there are bill machines located inside Korean banks where you can pay your bills if it has the letters "ORD" on one of the corners. Here is what I did at the NH Bank bill machine in my city:
1.  Press the top left corner button (which is for public bills – documents icon)
2.  Swipe your bank card or bank book
3.  Insert the paper bill
4.  Enter pin number
5.  Verify bill amount (with the right most button if I remember)
**Note: Once you have online banking, in theory you should be able to pay your bills online (I always physically went to the bill machine, however).

Apartment Trash Disposal:
In Korea, people separate their trash into three categories: recyclables, food waste, and regular waste. There are separate trash receptacles for each category – In Icheon, recyclables can go into any bag and put on designated street corners (where you see Koreans put bags of garbage). Food waste goes into the small garbage cans with the orange lids. There are special bags (that you need to purchase – the Icheon E-mart bags are “regular trash” worthy) that you can put all the rest of your trash into. These bags are put next to the recyclables trash bags on designated corners.

Some of the nicer, high-rise apartments have their own “garbage areas” with waste bins, etc. There are also small dumpsters for old clothing items you don’t want kept on random streets. Check out Rebe's fun blog post about trash disposal, which includes pictures.

Helpful Technology:

T-money (Bus & Subway Pass & More):
T-money cards are rechargeable at most convenience stores (I used CU) and at the recharging machines in the subway. When recharging at a convenience store, you can show the worker you card and say something like “T-money joo-say-yo” and they will understand. You place your card on a sensor and pay with cash. Voil√†!

How to use:
1.  Using your T-money card on buses: Swipe when you get on and when you get off
2.  Using your T-money card on the subway: Swipe when you enter/leave

Helpful Smart Phone Apps (with iPhone links):
1.  Kakao Talk: Free messaging and phone calls (over wifi) – most everyone in Korea has this app; it’s sort of Korea’s Facebook. Most of your students and co-workers will ask if you have Kakao. You’ll need a phone plan to install it, however (it sends a verification code text message to your phone)
2.  iKobus: This is the app where you can reserve Express Bus Tickets; I wrote a blog post about how to do this (the app in in Korean) or you can ask your co-teacher for help
3.  Seoul Subway (Jihachul): Seoul subway map – you can search routes and route times
4.  Google Translate: I used this all the time

Helpful Online Shopping Sites:
1. – 4.00 USD shipping from California (grocery + items)
2.  G-Market – Korea’s

Join Facebook Groups:
1.  “GEPIK Teachers” – Matt Burnett is the unofficial official GEPIK Teacher Facebook coordinator (he’s a really friendly, knowledgeable guy).

Official Business:

Alien Registration Card (ARC):
As you know, getting your ARC is very important – you need it in order to get a bank account and a cell phone in most cases.

Your co-teacher will guide you through this (and go with you to the immigration office - I went to the Suwon Immigration Office with my co-teacher):
1.    Bring your passport and a color photo (3 centimeters x 4 centimeters)
2.    Bring money – you are responsible for the processing fee (10,000 KRW)
3.    It took about a month and a half for me to get my ARC (on the long side)

Medical Test:
Your co-teacher will take you to the hospital for this:
1.  Blood work, pee test, x-ray…
2.  Bring money – you are responsible for this payment (I remember it being around 80,000 KRW, and I used my credit card from home)
3.  You will receive a red and white paper medical booklet once everything is okayed and processed – this is like an insurance card I think

Korean Bank Account:
There are many banks in Korea to choose from – I went with NH Bank, which was the most convenient option as there’s an NH Bank across the road from Doam; however, NH Bank has a reputation for being extremely difficult to work with as far as wiring money home. I hear KEB (Korea Exchange Bank) is a friendlier foreigner bank option; I’d recommend doing some research online to figure out what you prefer.

Banking with NH Bank:
1.  Your co-teacher will go with you to help open an account
2.  You have to request a bank card (and you will set a pin number)
3.  You will get a bank book, which keeps track of transactions and works at ATM’s to withdraw money, etc. (very handy)

If you want NH Internet Banking, which allows you to wire money home from your computer, you need to do a few things:
1.  Set up bank account
2.  Request online/Internet banking (Korean bank accounts don’t automatically come with Internet banking)
3.  Request ability to send money internationally (via Internet banking)
A. If you don’t do this, you’ll have Internet banking just to check your account balance, etc.
4.  Have your home bank information (swift code, phone #, & address)
5.  Have your home bank account information (routing & account numbers)
6.  Have a USB or external storage device (for your certificate, which you will do later at a computer on your own)

**Note: You will essentially have two bank accounts – one regular “checking-like” account and one specifically for sending money home internationally (which can also serve well as a savings account). Make sure you get TWO bank books (I spent the first ten months of my contract going to the Main NH Bank Branch in Icheon and having them transfer money home for me because I couldn’t get it to work on my computer); two bank books with two account numbers will ensure you’ve got what you need
***More Notes: You have to use Internet Explorer when doing any online banking transactions. You can also do all your online NH Bank business in English; right now, the global button is at the bottom of their website –

Korean banks have extremely inconvenient hours for us teachers. The main bank usually closes at 4:30-5:00PM, so if you have business at the bank, you’ll most likely have to wait until you a day off from work or use your vacation time to go to the bank. There were enough holidays this past year for me that it wasn’t too much of a hassle. A bit inconvenient, but all teachers in Korea deal with this.

If you are from the United States of America -- The U.S. has a tax treaty with Korea, so you do not have to pay Korean taxes. In order to take advantage of this, you must have a residency certificate for the U.S.

Things you'll need to do:
1.  First, you must complete Form 8802 - Form 8802 is used to request Form 6166 (Form 8802 is an application; Form 6166 is the actual residency certificate) -- Info and links to documents here
2.  It costs $85.00 regardless of how many copies you request (ask for at least a few in case you need extra copies) -- You can pay the fee electronically here
3.  It will generate a code that you can enter on Form 8802 in the "Electronic payment confirmation no." field
4.  Since you will be in Korea by the time this all gets processed, you'll also want to designate an appointee within the U.S. on Form 8802 who can receive the form on your behalf.
5.  As for U.S. taxes, you'll need to file Form 2555 with your year-end U.S. tax return (Form 1040)
6.  Thus, you should be exempt from U.S. taxes as well

**Information and links courtesy of Ashley Wendorf**

Smart Phone:
Having a smart phone is extremely useful in KoreaI got my iPhone from The Arrival Store (TAS) – all English website, English bills, English-speaking customer support, and no Korean co-signer needed, I had a good experience with TAS despite the bad rep it has among some of the foreigners hereMy monthly bill was about 93, 000 KRW.

If you don’t want to go through TAS, you’ll have to get a cell phone with the help of your co-teacher:
1.  You’ll need your ARC Card, passport, a Korean credit card, and a Korean co-signer
2.  You’ll probably have to get a two-year plan, unless you choose to pay by the minute or what other pay-by options there are 

In the GEPIK contract, there’s a section about the Korea National Pension. My understanding is that I paid 4.5% of my salary per month and my school paid 4.5% of my salary per month. At the end of my contract, I am entitled to these savings. The Pension Office in Icheon is across the street from the Icheon Bus Terminal, above the Tom N Toms Coffee on the 5th floor. 

Things to bring with you:
1.   Passport
2.   ARC
3.   Copy of your flight out of Korea
4.   Copy of (home) bank account online summary 

Contact Me:

If you have any questions or concerns, please do email or message me. I’ll be more than happy to help as best I can. Good luck this year – in general, the students, staff, and your co-teachers are kind, funny, and excited you are here.

Very Best,

Abby Nedeau-Owen
Kakao ID: Prancingbee


  1. Hello Abby!

    Thanks so much for saying that I'm really friendly and knowledgeable! It's so rare to be called nice names on the internet hahahaha!

    Great post too...really helpful for new teachers :-)