alien registry; the wall in my apartment

Eight business days after applying for my Alien Registration Card (and four business days after Ang), I have finally become a perfectly legal and partially contributing member of Korean society.* Considering the nuts and bolts of the application process and the complications that can arise unless it gets briskly taken care of:

The ARC is your lifeline during your stay in South Korea. It is the next best thing to a Korean passport we can get and we can only get it if we are working in country. I can only compare the importance of the ARC here with the (relative) non-importance of having something of the sort while in England: much more so. For example: during my five months in England I was able to get a phone and internet service (separate from the university's) without the UK-equivalent to the ARC. One day I stumbled into an O2 store and, 15 minutes later, stumbled back out with a phone and a buttload of minutes and texts. I've seen some forums that say you can have a pay-as-you-go phone with just a passport but those plans tend to be exorbitant in price and leave you feeling like a penniless husk at the end of each call. Some would say But Elliott, they're great if you don't use your phone much! This is something I would agree with but if you don't use your phone much you're going to be broke and unable to use your phone because you ran out of minutes trying to re-up. Also you can't re-up on weekends. Also there are apparently something like 17 million cellphone stores in the country of South Korea but only 2 deal with pay-as-you-go-plans and they're located nearer the DMZ than the 18 year old kids patrolling it.** So then, for all practical purposes no card, no phone.

The same goes for both internet and TV. You don't get either of them until you've received your ARC. In England you don't get TV (legally) until you've payed the licensing fee (it was something like 150gbp/annum when I was in country two years ago). Here in Korea the licensing fee supports the Educational Broadcasting System and the Korean Broadcasting System (both public programming) and will run about 30,000won - roughly $30 - per annum and is billed through the electricity fees your home or apartment accrues. Easy. Though it doesn't matter if you don't have an ARC.

And, for those of us stuck paying US bills while overseas, the fact that you can't start a new bank account until you receive Precious Card can be particularly worrying. EPIK, our recruiting agency and the overarching governing body for English language in country schools, signed Angela, me and about 700 other green teachers up with an account at Nong Hyup Bank. Seems perfectly fine until you realize that the account has been set up with your passport and you can't get paid until you set up an account with your ARC (because everything here works on direct deposit and your schools don't actually pay you money until they see that you're a legal registered alien and not just a rubbish collector living in the woods scraping off the good people's hard labours). Also Nong Hyup Bank doesn't give your money to banks overseas which means that you can't freely transfer money between Korea and the States. The only bank that Angela and I know of that does cheap, easy international funds transfers is KEB Bank and to set up an account there you need an ARC, a lowly official passport and E-22 working visa being insufficient and simply insulting, thank you very much.

So, the moral of the story: without your ARC you will find yourself between The ROK and a hard place.


p.s. Playstation 3 consoles seem to be very expensive here so consider this a distress beacon: SHIP MINE NOW TO *message garbled*.

* The whole not paying taxes thing is a bit of a bonus, it must be said.
** I didn't have time to fact-check this one. Pure conjecture.


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