Posted in Korea, Uncategorized

Visa Run (2014)

So for those of you who don’t know, I got a teaching job in Seoul.

It wasn’t easy getting there. Although there have been a number of blog posts about doing visa runs, they are all outdated. Even the ones which were done in 2013. So here is my blog post about how I gathered the documents I required to get a working visa and how I went on my visa run. I am currently in Fukuoka Japan on my visa run. So lets start from the very first thing I did to get my documents together.

In order to get a working visa, you need to have a number of legal documents:

Degree (Apostille);
Criminal Background check (Apostille);
A passport which is valid for at least another year;
Work contract;
Passport photos.

Criminal Background check needs to be ordered when you start looking for jobs. You can get this from disclosure scotland if you are a UK citizen. They were really fast. I sent my application online, paid and forwarded the requested documents (via email, they don’t need originals), and I got my criminal record check to days later.
However, there is something else you will need to do. I was unaware that I had to get my criminal record check stamped and signed by the issuer in order for me to get an apostille.
Apparently, there is a way to request this before the document is sent out to you. I did not know so I received the document and sent it to be apostille. It was returned to me. I then sent it back to be signed (I will touch up more on this later).

So get your criminal background check signed.
You also need to get your degree certificate copied and signed. I went to a law firm/ solicitors to do this.
I took the original to them and they made a copy and then stamped and signed the copy. This is what is need to be apostilled, NOT the original. There is only one body in the UK which apostilles documents. The Foreign Welfare Office. To get one document Apostille it costs £30. Therefore both documents equals to £60. It is worth sending them both at the same time so that you can avoid paying the £6 courier fee twice. Alternatively you can send a pre-paid envelope with your documents so that it can be cheaper for you to receive your documents back. I would recommend paying the £6 to have it delivered back to you via courier.
This process takes about 2-4 days.

Now the reason why I am telling you to do this before you are offered a job, is because companies often want you to have these documents with you before they even consider your application. This is because there can be complications. I thought this would be an easy process, but I was completely wrong.

As I mentioned I received my criminal background check within 2 days of applying, but I had to send it back to be signed by Disclosure Scotland. This is where my problems started. When I sent the document to be apostilled, I received it back after two days without the apostille. I sent it back to Disclosure Scotland to be signed (which is free). The document came back to me signed but it was useless. They sent the document back in an A5 envelope, so the A4 document was folded in half. The corner which stated that I had no criminal convictions was torn off. This is Royal Mails fault, but I didn’t care about who was to blame as I needed the document because I was traveling the following weekend.
I called Disclosure Scotland and they said they would print one off again and get it signed and sent to me. I called on the Friday, but this was not done until Tuesday so I didn’t receive it until Wednesday. I sent for it to be apostilled but there was no way I was going to get it done in time as I was leaving for Seoul on Sunday. I requested for the document to be sent to my employer in Seoul, it was not sent there. They sent it to my home address. I then had to wait until my mum could send it over to me. This cost £50 and two more days wasted.
Now if I had gotten my documents ready before I started applying for jobs, I would have saved a lot of time and money. It is almost impossible to get an E2 Visa without your apostilled criminal record check. Also, I could have got my visa in London instead of having to travel to Japan.

Anyway, once I got my apostilled documents in the post in Seoul, I could go on my visa run. Luckily I sent my employer a copy of my documents before they were apostilled and they were able to get me a visa authorization code (which usually takes about a week and is needed for you to get your visa). They then booked tickets for me to go to Fukuoka, Japan. I booked my hotel.

My flight left at 8am from Incheon. Landed at about 9:10am in Fukuoka. You need to get to the Korean embassy before 11:30am if you want to collect it the next day. As soon as I got out the airport I got into a taxi. The driver spoke English. I told him Korean embassy and was on my way. He asked me if I wanted to go on the motor way/highway. I should have said no. The highway route is an additional fee. I guess because you get their faster. The taxi cost me 4,500 JPY. Which is about 50,000 KRW. =[ Although this isn’t much money in London, It felt like I was making an investment into this taxi ride because it is sooooo much cheaper in Seoul. But, if you are in a rush and panic, like me, the taxi ride is only about 10 minutes from the airport.

So I got to the embassy, filled out the application form and went to the desk. The woman behind the counter who spoke great English told me the fee was 13,200 JPY. Too much money!!! Although I am not sure how much it costs in the UK. And maybe it’s different depending on your nationality.

MAKE SURE TO CHANGE MONEY IN KOREA!! The exchange rate was much better than the exchange rate at the airport in Fukuoka.

So once I handed in my passport, I went walking around. I would suggest that you only take a camera, change of clothes and your documents. My bag was heavy because I am moving houses when I am back in Seoul and my stuff wouldn’t fit into one suitcase so I had to bring the extra stuff with me. If I could do this again I wouldn’t bring anything with me. So I walked around a little bit, sat on a bench and let the time pass.

My hotel is really close to the embassy. I stayed at the Twins Hotel Momochi. It was a lovely hotel for a decent price (well, 4,900 JPY). I would recommend staying the night here. They were even kind enough to let me check in a few hours before check in time. And I even checked out late and they were still kind to me. So go and put your stuff down and explore.
I have always wanted to come to Japan and I am glad I came to Fukuoka. It is amazing. I wish I hadn’t packed so much so that I could explore more easily. If you don’t want to explore, there are a few places close to the hotel where you can have dinner or lunch. Including a McDonald’s, Subway, Korean restaurant and many Japanese restaurants.

So now I am sitting in a coffee shop next to the Twins Hotel and I am writing this post. I am going to pick up my passport and visa between 1:30pm and 4pm. Then I will be on my way to the airport so I can head back to Seoul.

In regards to time, Fukuoka Korean embassy process your visa very fast. I would recommend to get your visa done in your home country before you start working. In London after getting all the documents ready and your visa authorization code, it will take the Korean embassy in London about a week. But if it is not possible, then here is a good place to come to get it done. Japan is known for being expensive so I would be wise and try not to spend to much.

So there is my visa run!

Visa costs 13,200 JPY
Taxi costs 4,500 JPY (one way)
Hotel costs 4,900 JPY
Bring about 3,000 JPY extra for food and drink.





Posted in Korea, Portfolio, Reviews

Review: The Virus


As mentioned in my comeback post, I have been watching dramas since I handed in my dissertation. Although this isn’t the first drama I have watched in May, I have the urge to write about it as I have just finished the series.

The Virus (더 바이러스) is a drama which aired in April & May 2013 and consisted of 10 episodes, making it the shortest Korean drama I have ever watched. I am critical about this drama because, although the story and ending of the drama was amazing, there was something missing for me.

The lighting and acting for the drama was perfect as it corresponds with the dark and cold story. However, I felt like these 10 episodes dragged on and did not grab my attention, apart from of course the extremely handsome Lee Ki-Woo (이기우)! Also more importantly, Uhm Ki-Joon (엄기준) shows amazing acting skills in this drama. Although I found it hard to connect with any of the characters, his acting was outstanding in a few scenes!

For such a smart and unique story, I feel this drama could have been slightly longer and focused more on the characters personalities or development of things (I don’t want to give the story line away!!). However, having said that, as mentioned before the drama dragged on, but I think allowing the viewers to connect with the characters would have added more of a kick to the story line.

I found it interesting that this drama had a lot of English in it! And not from Koreans but from non-Korean actors. However, one flaw was that the non-Korea characters all understood Korean 100% but were unable to talk in Korean…

Of course, the final episode was a bit rushed, but the writer, Lee Myung-Sook (이명숙) came up with a story line that really made me think! Of course the show is about viruses but the way in which Lee Myung-Sook connected the spread of virus with the competitive world and economy was truly amazing!

Although this drama isn’t as exciting as I would have liked, I would recommend watching The Virus for it’s story line. It is a short drama anyway so my fellow Korean drama lovers could finish it in a few days!

I give this drama a 3 out of 5, but the story deserves a 4.5 out of 5.

Posted in K-Pop, Korea, Portfolio, Uncategorized

K-Pop success in Western Countries?

Recently I have been reading blog posts which discuss K-Pop & Western success. The main thing I noticed was that there are a lot of people who think K-Pop Artists need to release songs in English, in order to get successful in Western Countries. This blog post is going to be about why I think this shouldn’t happen.

The band I am going to use as my main example is… 빅 뱅 (BigBang)!

So BigBang were in America recently and there were many blog posts about BigBang becoming successful in Western Countries. While I was glad to read about BigBangs success, I had a problem, every blog post that I read suggested that BigBang should have an English album. Now, I must state that this is purely my opinion, and I am sure people will disagree. I think, if BigBang or any other K-Pop band started singing in English rather than Korean, it would be a disaster.

I think that K-pop works so well because it is sang in Korean! There is something enticing ad attractive about listening to people talking Korean and I believe that K-Pop is the best way to show how interesting, beautiful & sexy Korean Language is! Singing or Rapping in Korean is what sets K-Pop apart from mainstream music in Western countries. I completely understand that some people won’t listen to K-Pop because it is in Korean, but people who appreciate well made music that is catchy, will listen to any kind of music, regardless what language it is sang in.

Being someone who hangs around with a lot of people who don’t listen to K-Pop, I realised that they tend to think that K-Pop is cheesy and sounds like the type of songs you hear when you play dancing stage in an arcade. So when I showed them songs such as G-Dragons ‘One of a kind’ and a few songs by Jay Park, they were shocked that they sound like songs they would hear in western countries. Some of them even liked the songs so much that they downloaded a few! The point I’m getting to here is that, if K-Pop had more coverage in the press, people will know that it does not sound like the music you hear on Dance Dance Revolution! And they might be more open to listening to K-Pop.

Recently, Psy (Park Jae-sang) has had a lot of media coverage, but as a comical music act, he does not and cannot represent the whole of Korean music. It’s like saying that Taylor Swift can represent western music as a whole. There are several different genres within Korean music, as there is in western music. There is Hip-Hop, Indie, Rock, Pop, R’n’B & Jazz to name a few, the only difference is that they are sang in Korean, by Korean artists!

Now, I was originally going to make one big blog post about K-Pop, but it might not be easy on the eyes! This post is already a bit long so I am going to do a small series of follow up blog posts. The next one is going to be posted today.

Please stay tuned for ‘Why I listen to K-Pop’…

featuring BigBang!

Posted in Korea, Portfolio, Uncategorized

Missing Seoul.

This is an entry in my diary that I wrote yesterday morning. I wrote this as soon as I woke up and I just want to post it here. I enjoy reading personal blogs and blogs that are raw thoughts, so I thought I’d have a go at it!

Missing Seoul.

The view form my class room in Hanyang university.

This day, two months ago, I was getting ready to go to Seoul for one month. On June 28th, I boarded my flight from London Heathrow to Abu Dhabi and from Abu Dhabi to Incheon South Korea.

I had the best & craziest month of my life. I met amazing people and seriously fell in love with Korea. A month flew by so fast, it felt like two weeks.

On the 28th of July, the torturous pain began because I was leaving Seoul.

I knew from the very start that saying goodbye to the people I met would be hard, but I didn’t predict that I would be so attached to South Korea. I felt like I was saying goodbye to my home. That I would be going to a foreign land. That I would never return.

Today is the 28th of August. I have been back in London for a month. Not one day has gone past where I haven’t thought about Korea.

I have plans to return to Korea next year, but until then, I will have an empty void in my heart, soul and mind. That void will be filled when I return to Korea. Until then, I can only reminisce.