Remember my registration with the immigration authorities? The one which ended with them telling me that I can get my ID number in a few days and get the plastic card in 3 weeks? This whole thing turned out to be interesting.
Don’t get me wrong, on the immigration bureaucracy side, everything went as it was supposed to go, actually even better than it was supposed to go. It’s just that it turned out that without the plastic card, the ID number is next to useless. Having registered myself on August 27, later that week I got a piece of paper from the immigration office which effectively indicated my number and it was duly signed and stamped. I figured this would be good enough until I got the plastic card, but it wasn’t that simple.
First, I wanted to open a bank account. Not really, since I’m not getting any salary here in Korea, but because getting any kind of a sensible mobile phone plan, you need a Korean bank account. So, to the bank. Everything goes smoothly, I fill in the account opening form and then the lady asks for the actual immigration card. Nope, sorry, don’t have it, but here’s the piece of paper they gave me. No dice. No way to open an account before getting the physical plastic card. I guess this sort of makes sense, since the piece of paper seems pretty easy to forge and there is nothing on that piece of paper to tie it into my Finnish passport, i.e., it doesn’t show my passport number nor does it have any photo on it.
Second, I went to the mobile phone shop to get a prepaid plan. Prepaid is the only thing you can get without a bank account and at that point, I had already been in Korea for over a week and was getting frustrated about not being able to communicate with the Better Half who goes to classes in the morning. So, I figured I’ll take prepaid and maybe change it later. Next problem, being an iPhone user, I need a data connection. On a prepaid plan data is way, way beyond expensive. (This probably holds true in most countries.) I knew that you could get a separate WiFi plan and since my operator (KT or olleh, long story why I picked them; more on that later) has WiFi access points pretty much all over the city and subway, I figured that would be good enough. Ah, sorry Sir, you cannot get the WiFi plan without the plastic immigration card. Do I start to see a pattern here?
Well, the story has some good news as well. Although I was supposed to get my immigration card only this week (supposedly yesterday), it actually arrived on Friday 7th of September. That was great news! So why did it take me over a week to get going? One thing was the conference last week which ate up pretty much all of my days and on Monday this week, there was typhoon Sanba, so I only made the trek to the bank which is right next to where we live.
The bank was a very pleasant experience. They have a desk for foreigners, meaning someone who spoke fluent English was there. Everything went smoothly and many of the forms were in English. Not all though, but I had to sign them anyway, so I’m sort of wondering what I may have agreed to. 🙂 With the bank account done, I went to get my mobile phone plan updated today and turned out that the account wasn’t exactly what they wanted, but luckily my bank also gave me a debit card which then was fine. More on the mobile phone plans to come later. They are a nice story as well and in the end there was a pleasant surprise for me.
So, all in all, I got the stuff done today, which is what would have happened, had the immigration card taken the full three weeks to arrive. Everything went pretty smoothly and the immigration card arriving early was a most welcome surprise. I can tell you from my own experience with my Better Half’s case that immigration office in Finland delivering cards ahead of schedule is not business-as-usual. In fact, even if everything is in order, you may still need to contact them separately so that they’ll actually order the card to be printed. They could learn something from the Koreans.