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.