ESL South Korea

First Weeks in Korea

Here’s a step by step list of things to do during your first weeks in Korea:
1.   Health Check

All foreigner workers in Korea have to undergo a standard health check within the first couple of weeks of arriving in Korea.  If you’re a public school teacher, this health check is sometimes done during your mandatory EPIK orientation and saves a lot of time.  Otherwise, your co-teacher or boss will have to take you to a local hospital close to your school where they take your basic stats, urine sample and draw some blood.  They test for diseases, drugs and HIV.  After about a week, the hospital will give you a certificate with the results for your drug and HIV test.
Important:  Teachers contracts state that if you fail the medical test (i.e. if you have HIV or an illegal drug substance is found in your blood system), your contract is cancelled, you have to pay back for your arriving flight ticket, and on top of that find your own way home.
2.   Alien Registration Card

Go with your boss or co-teacher to the closest immigration office with the following documents:
Passport, 2 Passport photos, health check certificate (above), application fee (about 60,000 Won).
The immigration office will keep your passport for the 5-7 business days it takes to process your application.  This might be a good time to get a multiple entry permit, if you’re planning on travelling outside Korea during the duration of your contract.

3.   Bank Account

Take your passport and Alien Registration card to a bank of choice (but see my article on KEB bank and Banking in Korea) and open an account.  You’ll be provided with a bank book and debit card (if requested).  This is the account your salary will be paid into so provide your school with a copy of your bankbook and account details.

4.   Health Insurance

Once you have your ARC card, your school can apply for mandatory health insurance on your behalf.  A copy of your passport and ARC card is all that’s needed.  You’re not needed at the Health insurance offices for this application, so your boss or admin staff at your school will usually handle this by themselves.  For more info on health care in Korea.

5.Cell Phone

After you’ve got an ARC, cell phone application is next.  Ask a Korean to tag along to any of the gazillion phone shops you’ll find on every street corner.  Take your passport, ARC card and a copy of your bank book.  Two options are available, that of contract and prepaid.  If you’re a phone fanatic that uses your cell phone a lot, contract would be a better option with cheaper rate.  But if you use a cell phone infrequently than prepaid will work out cheaper.
For more info on phones and communication in Korea.

6.   Internet and Cable TV

Your Boss or co-teacher has to help with this.  They’ll likely phone one of the many service provider companies on your behalf and arrange for installation at a time when you’re home.  Look to pay around 30,000 – 50,000 Won ($30-50) for a Broadband Internet (super fast!) and Cable TV package.

7.   Locate the Essentials

Banks, Supermarkets, cheap restaurants, bus stations, train stations, post offices.  Find out where they’re located and which ones are closest to your house.  If you’ve got another foreigner at your school or apartment block this information will be only a couple of questions away.

8.   Locate other foreigners

Facebook has lots of groups for foreigners in Korea and all the major cities have online communities of some sort.

9.   Furnish your apartment

If you’re a hagwon teacher, your apartment will probably be furnished sufficiently.  EPIK and public school teachers will have to furnish their apartments with the settlement allowance they are provided and maybe some of their own money.  I’ve found buying furniture from the Internet (Gmarket) the easiest and cheapest.  Delivered right to your front door.