Friday, October 05, 2007


While I've tried to relate my experiences in Korea as fully as possible, I don't always find the time and some significant events got lost along the way. Almost ten months ago, after the official signing of marriage paperwork but before our actual wedding, my partner and I went to the Ministry of Justice's Immigration Office in Busan to see about converting my standard three month entry visa into something a little more permanent.

We filled out some paperwork, paid a 60,000 won (about £32.20) fee, and I left my documents with them for evaluation. They warned us that sometimes they carry out further investigations, but a few weeks later I got my F-2-1 Alien Registration Card dated to October 13th - exactly a year after my original entry. Simple, cheap, and with the hindsight of the monumental and expensive screwing we would be on the receiving end of by the British Embassy eight months later, incredibly painless. The sign above the immigration office reads "Beautiful Korea, Wonderful Immigration", and it really did feel like it, even if a location next to Busan docks somewhat stretches the first assertion. By comparison, if the British Embassy had to put a sign up above its gate, it would probably be "Superior Britain, Feck Off".

Now effectively exiled in Korea, I unexpectedly found myself needing to extend my stay well beyond its originally intended duration, so we went back to the Wonderful Immigration offices today, filled in a very short form, waited fifteen minutes, and paid 20,000 won (about £10.73) for an extension. Initially the immigration officer intended to extend it for three years, but when he noticed that my passport expires next August he said he could only date my card that far for now, which is fair enough. That was it, and it's one of those occasions that I'm glad there's no more story to tell. Whereas Britain wanted to know every last detail of my (and my wife's) income, net worth, living arrangements, future plans and so on, Korea isn't interested in anything beyond my address. What I do with my life here is my own business, which to my mind is how it should be.

Is it fate that I'm persecuted by my own Embassy and yet just about every interaction I've had with Korea's officialdom has been the model of ease and efficiency? My wife made the observation that had I been from a non-Western country I may well have had a harsher ride here and I suspect that's true, though to what extent dealing with bureaucracy would have been harder I don't know, and I know some foreigners have had problems here. On the flip-side of this, perhaps if my wife had been from a Western country rather than an Asian one it might have been easier to get back into the UK, though I tend to think that British bureaucrats despise everyone - including their fellow citizens - equally.

The bottom line is that through experience being in Korea has taught me that contrary to all previous experiences, bureaucracies don't have to model themselves on 1930s Germany to get their jobs done.

Korean tags: 정부, 대사관, 영국, 외국인


daeguowl said...

I assume you'll get shafted renewing your passport through the embassy rather than applying for it in the UK....

Mike said...

Yes, I expect so, unfortunately.

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