Friday, April 8, 2011

My Terrible Horrible No-Good Very Bad Morning

Yesterday may go down as one of the major low points in Korea.

To back up from the beginning... I got an email from the man who is doing a lot of work for the dual citizenship campaign claiming that I had failed to renew my F4 visa so I am illegally in Korea. If I'm illegally here, I can't get dual citizenship.

I double checked my visa in my passport and the final date was November 2011. Still time left. But then he asked me to check my alien registration card. Uh oh... the date on there read January 2011... No biggie, I'll just go to the Immigration Office, explain my confusion, we'll all have a good laugh, the visa will be extended, and everything will be just fine.

So yesterday Mark met me in Anguk and off we went. I explained to the first guy how I confused the visa expiration date with the final re-entry date and he told me that since I was late there would be a fine. Not ideal, but do-able. It was my mistake after all. So he led me down the hall to the "Offence Office." (And that's not a typo, that's how it was written.) He showed me where to go and told me once I have that taken care of to return to him. And that's where all hell broke loose.

The "Offence office" man took my paperwork, consulted some sort of a chart and proceeded to tell me that the fine was $500. $500!!!!!! Apparently if you over-stay the visa for less than 90 days the fine is $100. But after 90 days it jumps to $500 and goes up from there. And I happened to learn of my mistake a few days too late. I was 3 days past the 90 day mark. 3 FREAKING DAYS!

I tried to explain to him (in Korean no less) the misunderstanding, that it was an honest mistake (I wasn't really trying to pull anything sneaky), and that I'm a Korean student and don't have that type of money.

He didn't budge and kind of yelled at me in Korean. Then he said really loudly in English "NO EXCEPTIONS."

So then Mark started getting fired up and told him that we're NOT paying, I'm adopted, came here to learn about the culture and the language and this is ridiculous. At this point Mark may or may not have also dropped an f-bomb. ^^ Then this oh-so-kind government official decided to switch to English and said, "You are not Korean. You CHOSE to give up your citizenship so this is your problem." Um, excuse me??? Didn't realize way back my birth family fell on hard times and had to send me abroad that I had a choice in any of this.

So we went back and forth for about 10 minutes and finally realized we weren't going to win this battle. So we asked how we should pay the fine. And he said, that it's too "difficult" for him, so we need to go to a bank and pay it. And until we do, he's keeping my passport and alien registration card.

So off we went in the rain to the bank. The first bank didn't have a global ATM, so we were sent to another bank. The next bank's internet was down, so the ATM's weren't working... so we were sent to another bank where we were finally able to withdraw the money and pay the &#(% fine.

Finally we went back to the office, retrieved my stuff, and got the very, very expensive little stamp on the back of my F4 card confirming I had extended my visa.

Ugh. What an awful day. And it makes it worse that pretty much every Korean I talked to has been shocked about the way that the "Offence office" worker spoke to us and said that if we had a Korean with us, we probably wouldn't have had to pay (that much at least). They said normally in Korea if you argue, you don't have to pay or you can at least get your fine lessened. But since we're foreigners they assume 1) we're rich and 2) since we can't speak the language well, they can push us around.

So yesterday, I learned a very expensive lesson. So for anyone else living in Korea, look at the date on your Alien Registration Card and whatever you do, make sure you renew it on time.


Jen said...

Ugh...this makes me frustrated for you. I hate when days start like that, but then they can only go up from there!

I think beer helps in these kinds of situations...even if it's the morning!

David said...

"So yesterday, I learned a very expensive lesson. So for anyone else living in Korea, look at the date on your Alien Registration Card and whatever you do, make sure you renew it on time."
This is a life lesson and not only pertains to korea. Don't be late!

Julia said...

oh man, kimmie. What a nightmare. I was hoping I wouldn't read a line about you going to jail....or Mark going for his temper! :) But seriously, that sucks and I'm glad it's worked out even though you are $500 poorer. :( Hang in there!

Dad said...


What an unfortunate incident!
If Birthfather had accompanied you, you would have been in a better position to argue your case.
I wonder if he could help in any way once he returns to Seoul. In any case, be thankful for your rather hefty refund from the feds.

Jane said...

How awful. Being a foreigner in any Country sucks these days. Makes me wonder why I do it some days, especially when I get viewed as a potential terrorist....

Mica said...

What a nightmare! That seriously sounds like a bureaucracy thing that would happen in France! Ughhhh, I guess it's horrible everywhere.

I can't believe he told you that you willingly gave up your citizenship. That must have been so frustrating! I'm surprised Mark didn't punch him.

(Also, Harrison said, "Why would any Koreans mess with Mark?? He is like 5 times as tall as they are! Aren't they intimidated???")

Aunt Carol said...

Kim, I am so sorry -- what a frustrating nightmare that must have been! May today and the upcoming days help to ease the pain of yesterday!

Mom said...

Kim, aren't you lucky to have so many nice comments from family & friends when you really need them. As I said in my email maybe birth-father or Sanqwan could have been of some help but only God knows. We do know that most of your time in Seoul has been enjoyable & most likely the last two months will be as well. Hang in there, Dear!! Love you!

Anonymous said...

Hi Kim!

I'm sorry to hear about your ordeal.

I have a few questions and was wondering if you had the answers to them.

I lived in Korea from 2007-2009 and was on an F4 visa while working for a Korean company. I’d also applied for an ARC back then.
This year, I will be heading back to Korea on a new F4 visa and will once again have to apply for an ARC since I’ve lost my old ARC (which probably expired anyway). Does it make a difference that I once had an ARC? That is, will I still be in the system of the Korean Immigration office under my old ARC number? And if so, do I just need to report my ARC as lost even though it was issued to me over 4 years ago? For the record, both my passport and F4 visa are brand new – I got my passport renewed this year – so I don’t know if this makes any difference.
Sorry if my questions are confusing! And I’d appreciate any helpful answers!

Thank you,

Kim said...

Hi Laura -- Honestly, I have absolutely no idea! I'm guessing you can probably just get a new ARC. My problem was more with the visa than the actual card. Good luck and enjoy your time in Korea!!! :)

Unknown said...

I saw Laura's post above about having an F4 card long expired. I'm in the exact situation. I'm in Canada and hoping to line up a job. But I'm thinking of going to Korea in a tourist visa then switching over to the F4. I still do have my card but it's been expired for 2 years (I should have gone back to Korea just to renew it... my mistake).

Keep me updated on what happens if you get your F4 before January 2012.


Anonymous said...

Reading your post reminds me my visit to immigration a few years back ... However, I was 10 months past expiration. Didn't think much of it and just walked into immigration with my Korean cousin ... I paid 500,000 won, too. There's nothing you can do about it. I'm sure the adjussi could've explained it a little better but it's the law. Once it's in the computer there's nothing you can do, it's policy ... But he shouldn't have withheld your passport or anything else from you but I guess it's cause he's an adjussi...I ran to a nearby bank withdrew the money and paid ... Sucks but next time I'll remember to pay on time ... It's once every 3 years and the best visa anyone can get ... It's worth it if ur in Korea. IMO. Anyway, hope everything is working well for u!