Friday, December 28, 2012

Getting a driver's licence in Korea

 My new license, with some obvious redactions

I've finally done what the boyfriend has been bugging me to do for the past 3 years... gone and gotten my Korean driver's license. I really should have done it earlier, it was so simple, but it is slightly time consuming as well, which is probably why I put it off for so long.

If you want to get your license in Korea, as long as you have your license from your own country, it's quite easy, as long as your country as approval of the Korea government (Click here for a list). You just need to exchnage your foreign license for a Korean license. The Korean government will hold on to your foreign license while you have the Korean license. If you want your foreign license back, you can just go to the office, with your plane ticket as proof that you will leave the country and you can get your license back.

First of all, you must go to your embassy and get some proof that your license is real. For US citizens like myself, that requires obtaining an affidavit which is $50.00 USD. Just as a tip, they don't accept most Korean debit cards so I had a rather hard time paying the bill. Either bring lots of cash with you, or a US credit card.

 The entryway into the Driver's License Examination Office

The next step is to take your license and affidavit to a Driver's License Examination Office ( 운전면허서비스). The closest location for me was near Seolleung Station.

You will need to bring
1. 3 passport sized photos (3cm x 4cm) (Can be obtained on the second floor in the Gangnam Branch for 6,000 won)
2. Your passport, showing your latest entry dates to Korea.
3. Your license and affidavit/proof of validity.
4. Your ARC (Alien Registration Card).
5. 10,000 won for processing

 Gangnam Driver's License Examination Office

I was a little worried about knowing what I had to do when I arrived, but fortunately, it was quite straight forward. As soon as I entered, the "Changing Foreign License" desk was directly to my right. I had to fill out four forms, paste my photos to them and then the woman at the desk sent me off to get an eye exam in the basement.

"Changing Foreign License" desk

The eye exam was quite easy, just cover one eye and say the numbers on the board. I've heard from others that they had to do some other eye checks, but this was all I had to do. This cost 4,000 won.

I thought that I had to take a writing exam, but when I brought my paperwork back to the desk she said that was all I had to do, and put my paperwork through. I talked to several people who got their license last year who had to do a written exam, but I found another person who got their license this year and apparently they didn't take any written exam either. Perhaps something has changed in the past year. But, just in case, I would look over the traffic signs just in case they make you take a test. The cost for the license processing was 6,000 won.

All in all, the process took less than an hour. It probably would have taken less time if I hadn't kept going to the examination desk asking if I needed to take a written exam and if I hadn't had to get my photos taken. It was amazingly fast. For your nearest Driver's License Examination Office, see here.

But, why get a Korean license rather than an international license, you ask? Well, an international license is generally only good for one year and then must be obtained again if you want to keep driving. The Korean license is good for 9 years and is recognized in a long list of countries, including the USA, so even if you go home for a short time, you can drive on your Korean license as well, plus in a long list of other countries if you happen to be traveling.

According to Korea4Expats, the Korean license is valid in the following countries:

Africa: Algeria, Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Cape Verde, Cote d'lvoire, Republic of the Congo, Demoractic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Morocco, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Republic of South Africa, San Tome and Principle, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zimbabwe
Americas: Barbados, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Haiti, Panama, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Uruguay
Asia:  Afghanistan, Bhutan, Brunei, Cambodia, East Timor, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Samoa, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Tonga, Vietnam
Europe: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Moldova, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Romania, San Marino, Serbia and Montenegro, Slovakia, Switzerland, Spain, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, the United Kingdom
Middle East: Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen

If that's not enough reason for you to get your Korean license, I don't know what is.

**Update 12/31/2012**

Just got the following update from the US Embassy newsletter for January 2013:

Please be advised that starting January 1, 2013, the U.S. Embassy will no longer provide notary certifications for U.S. issued driver licenses.   Republic of Korea is a member of the Hague Conference on Private International Law and recognizes apostilles issued by foreign authorities.  To have your driver’s license apostilled, please contact the issuing state’s office of authentication for an apostille.  

For more information, please visit the Korean Driver’s License Agency’s website.  Please note that you must take a written exam before you can obtain a Korean driver’s license except for those who hold driver licenses that were issued by a State that has a reciprocity agreement with Korea; namely Alabama, Florida, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Texas, Virginia, Washington, DC., and West Virginia.  This written exam can be provided in English.  

For more information on how to obtain a Korean driver’s license, please visit the Korean Driver's License Agency's Website.  

... This explains the fact that I didn't need a test, and also suggests you will now need to obtain an official apositille rather than an affidavit. Check with the embassy website for more details and current information. 

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

White Christmas in Seoul

 View of our madang

We woke up to a surprise this morning, a light coating of snow was covering everything! Merry Christmas everyone! 

Our roof

Monday, December 24, 2012

Movie Review: Please Teach Me English

I was recently lucky enough to catch the 2003 Korean film called "Please Teach Me English" (영어완전정복) on TV several days ago. It's definitely a must see for every English teacher working in Korea. It gives a little insight into how Korean adults feel as they attempt to conquer the English language.

It's the story of a Korean man and woman who sign up for an English class at a hagwon (actually filmed at YBM Jongno). The girl, named "Candy" works in a government office and often needs to deal with foreigners who have problems. The man, named "Elvis", will soon meet his sister who was put up for adoption as a baby and grew up in America. Both want to speak English badly, but both struggle something terrible with the language. Their native speaker teacher isn't much help to them either and quickly gets frustrated with their lack of progress.

Elvis is a bit obsessed with the beautiful English teacher, but Candy has eyes only for Elvis. Unfortunately, Candy is a very awkward, geeky gal with no coordination or tact... her every effort to catch the attention of Elvis goes unrewarded. However, he does discover that while he's totally unattracted to her, he can actually think of her as a friend. The two of them try to learn English and deal with their own personal problems together.

This movie is an oldie but goodie. It's worth tracking down and watching if you can. If you've got some basic Korean skills, you may not even need subtitles since the characters spend most of the movie trying to speak English (however, sometimes being able to read the Korean subtitles is useful to figure out what they are trying to say). Anyone who has taught English in Korea will definitely relate to the characters, particularly one side character who has a problem with his electricity bill.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Reiley's Taphouse

Riley's Taphouse in Itaewon just opened about a month ago, but it's already a huge hit among ex-pats and Koreans alike. Their specialty? A huge variety of brews, domestic and import alike and a food menu pairing their beers with their amazing cuisine. 

Oh, and when I say domestic and import beers, I'm not talking about Cass and Heineken, I'm talking about craft beers from Magpie, Craftworks, Indica, Lost Coast Brewery, and Alley Cat among many many others. They advertise that they have 20 beers on tap at the moment with another 20 more taps that may be opened in the future.

Their menu seems to be expanding every time I visit. This past weekend I saw a new menu, "Beer Cocktails" including "beergarita", "gindica" and "brussian". I'm a little curious, but also slightly afraid...

If you're into high end Japanese beer, they have a huge selection of beers from the Japanese brewery Hitachino. They're a little out of my price range (9,000-34,500), but the bottles look quite cute, so if you're willing to splurge, it could be worth it.

The other thing I liked instantly about this place was the atmosphere. Lots of tables, a nice long bar... it feels like a proper pub. The music (at least early in the evening when I went) was not too loud. The thing I hate about drinking in Itaewon sometimes, is the blaringly loud music that prevents me from having a conversation with my friends. The music here is tasteful and at a reasonable volume for socializing. I hope it stays that way.

Reiley's Taphouse is impossible to miss. It's on the main drag of Itaewon on the 3rd floor across from KB Bank. From Itaewon Station, exit 2, walk straight and it will be on you left.

Reiley's Taphouse
123-32 Itaewon-dong 
Yongsan-gu, Seoul, Korea 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Snow and Cold

I don't usually write mindlessly on this blog anymore, but here's a little freewriting to brighten (or kill) your spirits.

 Around the corner from my house

I'm a little behind the times this year, but, yes, in case you missed it on every other blog and Facebook page from Korea, winter has arrived on the peninsula. And it's been a cold one.  We're only half way into December and I've already seen more snowfall than I've seen in my whole time in Korea over the past 4 years (albeit, there have been large snowstorms, but I always seem to be out of the country when they happen). Temperatures these low bode for a long and cold winter... or perhaps the new ice age I've been waiting for since high school.

 In my neigborhood

On day one of the snowfall I was far too busy working on my final project for my Curriculum Design course for my Masters to be out in the snow taking photos like everybody else . But... people's photos did come out awfully nicely... 

 In my neighborhood

On other topics of coldness... hanoks are notoriously cold in winter, and ours is no exception. The boyfriend bought me a new pair of fuzzy pajama pants so at least one part of my body can feel warm. Actually sleeping is the warmest time of the day since we've moved to the floor mat for sleeping. It's nice and toasty warm down there... sometimes too warm if the boiler stays on for too long. However, we usually make sure that doesn't happen. The house being drafty is only half our problem. The other half is that heating a house this big (we guess about 40 pyeong) is rather expensive. November alone was over 100,000 won, and we didn't think we even had it on that much. We're constantly playing with the thermostat and adjusting where to send the heat in the house. The cool thing about a house this big is that you can shut off (or partially shut off) the heat to rooms you're not using. So, we keep the heat in the kitchen and second bedroom to a minimum and try to heat just the living room and the bedroom. We'll see how well we're doing when we get December's heating bill... 

 Around Jongno 5 ga somewhere...

Speaking of cold and snow, however, that means it's ski season. Wednesday night we went to Konjiam ski resort for a few hours of night skiing. The conditions were great and all the slopes were open. Unusual, I think, for this early in the season here. I'm severely out of shape, however. I promised myself I'd do sit ups and stretch tonight... but have I done it? Of course not...

 Near my favorite 닭한마리 restaurant in Jongno

Anyway, I know posts have been sparse here lately. I have no excuse now that the fall semester is done and my Curriculum Design project is done. But, it's hard to get the motivation to write again after spending a whole semester glued to my computer typing up things for school. I've been craving other forms of stimulation such as watching movies, cooking and studying Chinese. Did I mention that I'm studying Chinese? Perhaps not. That will be a post for another day... because that's a good one. 

Dongdaemun Gate in the snow

The end of this rant has finally come. Oh, and if you're wondering where all these photos from the snow came from when I said I didn't go out in the snow to take photos? This is from snowfall number three... the less exciting one because it wasn't first. I walked from Jongno to Dongdaemun in the snow, but, it was kind of nice....

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

More publications and whatnot...

 This week there's been lots of me all around. First, I received this month's issue of 10 Magazine in the mail where my review of the restaurant Potala was published, and in addition they selected me as one of their featured contributors. January's edition will have a review of Chang Su Rin and February will feature Pyong Ga Ok. Who know what will be next? Perhaps Chinese?

Then today I noticed that The Korea Blog published my post about my Kimjang experience. So, even though blogging has been light here lately, it doesn't mean that you can't find me here and there.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Chang Su Rin: Thai Food Take-Out

Outside the Restaurant

Thai restaurants in Seoul tend to be pricey sort of restaurants that would be nice for a date, however if you just want to grab some Thai food and eat in front of your TV at home it's not always so easy. Fortunately, Chang Su Rin: Thai Take-Out has opened to fulfill all your Thai food cravings.

English Menu, don't forget to ask about the daily lunch specials

The menu, while not huge, has everything you could want from curries to noodles to fried rice... and of course, you can't forget my favorite: Thai ice tea. The prices are a little higher than what you'd see at a take out restaurant at home, but far cheaper than a lot of Seoul's more famous dine-in Thai restaurants. Plus, portion sizes are quite big so unless you're starving, you could probably share one dish between two people or get two meals out of each dish.

A view into the kitchen

As any take out restaurant should be, it's pretty tiny, even the kitchen is small. You can eat here, and actually, I usually do, it's a bit of a squeeze to come with more than 3 friends. The other great and terrible thing here is that everything is made from scratch so, things take a little while to make. Usually dishes come out one at a time. Great for sharing food, but if you're a typical American who expects all dishes to come out at once you could be disappointed.

The whole seating area

Thai Ice Tea

Red Curry

Pad Thai

Lad Nah

Tapioca and Corn

The past two times I've visited, I've been lucky enough to get some "service". "Service" here meaning free deserts. The desert above is a corn tapioca pudding, not terribly sweet but a nice after dinner touch. Below is a carrot cake (!!!). One of the Thai staff members spent some time living in the states and learned to make this... it was the best cake I've had since living in Korea... I tried making one a few weeks later, but it wasn't nearly as moist as this one and my frosting wasn't nearly so cream cheesy as this one.

The most amazing carrot cake EVER

-->Chang Su Rin is operated by an all-Thai staff which speak both English and Korean. Menus are also available in both Korean and English. Order in person or by phone.

Chang Su Rin
194-15 Huam-dong (55 Duteopbawi-ro)
Yongsan-gu, Seoul, South Korea
Hours: 11am-10pm daily

The closest subway station to Chang Su Rin is Sookmyung Women's University. From exit 2, walk straight for 400 meters. Chang Su Rin is on your left at the four-way intersection. Chang Su Rin is also easily accessible from Haebangchon as well. Walk down the back side of Haebangchon all the way down to the bottom of the hill. Take a left at the rotary and walk to the four-way intersection. Chang Su Rin is on the right after crossing the road.

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