Thursday, June 28, 2007

True Identity

Before I came to Korea I tried to put everything in place that I needed to continue to function financially, and keep doing my job, over 5,000 miles from home. I tried to open an account with the laughably titled 'world's local bank', HSBC, which failed, and in the maelstrom of my final weeks before leaving, a lot of other plans fell by the wayside as my house sale unexpectedly unravelled and I had to deal with the consequences of that, which finished with us stripping our kitchen floor five hours before we were supposed to get up to go to the airport in the morning.

I don't earn in Korean Won so what I make ends up in UK bank account. Since arriving, I've considered various options solve my inability to move funds from my British bank accounts, but it always comes down to being able to prove who I am, which is quite difficult when you're not in a position to provide British or Korean utility bills with your name on them, or trappings of verification that the increasingly legislated and paranoid financial industry place on their customers. The problems are only exacerbated by lack of ready access to equipment such as scanners and printers which we chose not to buy for our short stay, and in any case we had no space for in our efficiently organised (i.e. cramped) one-room apartment. All in all, it seems easier to try and sort all this out when I'm back home.

On the other hand, as much as I seem to lack a financially provable identity in Korea, my wife has the same problem in England, but circumstances are such that she wanted to open a new trading account with a British company. So in what had already proven to be a great effort up to that point, we arrived at the offices of a Korean public notary with some bills and other evidence of her financial existence and proceeded - at great expense - to have them witnessed. But since the notaries didn't speak English - or at least, weren't willing to admit that they did - our expectation that they would sign-off any translations as authentic was quickly dashed. We think we have enough to satisfy our potential service provider, but since someone half-a-world away has to be satisfied that these documents match their compliance requirements - which is a subjective judgement - we won't know until they come back to us. Maybe it's because I inevitably feel more in control on home ground, but I'm left with the feeling that it would have been easier to resolve this in the UK.

In retrospect I regret a little complacency which crept into my thoughts as the months before my departure diminished, and I wish I'd put everything in place I needed, and thought I might need, including trading accounts, bank accounts and credit cards. I came here for six months, which turned into twelve, and had I been better prepared it might have meant a less frugal lifestyle and fewer worries about the cost of the air conditioning bill during the summer.

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