Getting a Cell Phone in Korea

There are a shitload of sources out there and I wanted to briefly summarize what you’ll need to know.

Quick Tips:

  1. Shit happens all the time – Korea is a fast-paced economy and has the same kind of lifestyle so changes happen very frequently so the specifics may vary when you’re reading this
  2. You need your ARC (Alien Registration Card), or at least the print-out receipt from the office when you applied, and a bank account
  3. There are about 3 major providers – KT (Olleh), SKT (TWorld), and LG
  4. The whole process takes at least 20 minutes
  5. You’ll need to pay 25,000 KRW (may vary) since you’re a foreigner and they need some assurance

Cell Phones

You’ve got a lot to choose from if you’re thinking of purchasing a new phone.  Used phones depends on the store’s inventory.  You can purchase used phones from some stores and/or online in Korea, but I took a look and they’re not quite up-to-date; I was looking for a used iPhone 6 but there were none out – however I’m sure you can find some in America’s used market.  One thing you should know is that just like in Japan, the camera’s shutter is designed to display the shutter sound and there’s no option to turn it off, not even in silent mode is it off, but you can download an application to get rid of the annoying sound once and for all so I’ve heard.

Phone Plans

From the stores that I’ve checked-out, the posters displaying their options of phone plans are just a piece of what is available.  I spent maybe an hour or more at one store looking at plans and more than half-way through he realized that there were more options that better suit my interests; see I was interested in a low-minute and high-data plan for cheap.  In the end I settled for 100 minutes and 6GB of data per month.  It’s running me about $80/month, including the phone’s price.  Now, this is on a two-year contract.  I heard and saw something briefly on one-year contracts, but they’re rare and limited to my belief.  I think they’re only available for certain phones.  You may be able to get a one-year contract if you already have an unlocked phone.  Also, I was hoping to only get an unlimited 3G plan but they told me that it was unavailable – I don’t know if it’s because it’s paired up with an iPhone 6 or if they got rid of their 3G plans when LTE started to become prominent.  I read a couple of articles on it but they were a bit confusing to be honest; yeah, they were in English too – maybe it’s me… Best bet is to find someone who can speak English to review all your options, if you’re trying to be smart that is.  One other thing I should mention is that since it is a two-year contract, if you cancel after only one year you will have to pay the rest of your phone off.  And based on your phone plan, the price of the phone varies; the more expensive your plan, the more expensive your phone is.  This is because they give you some sort of discount based on how much your plan is and every month you’re paying off your phone for a total of 24 months – so if you cancel after 12, you have half left.

Bank Account

I confirmed that they will automatically withdraw the monthly bill from your bank account on the 21st starting from the following month.  Remember the “foreigner assurance” fee I mentioned before?  That’s all you have to pay for a brand new phone and contract, for the moment that is.  As for opening a bank account, you’ll also need the ARC or the number at least, and your passport.  I went with a co-teacher and they did all the talking while the teller kept marking signature locations on a bunch of documents all in Korean.  I must’ve signed at least 15 times in 20 minutes – awfully a lot in my opinion.  The pattern I see is that they like confirmation for each significant section of a contract, and not just the full contract where you sign at the bottom.

Providers

KT seems to be #1 in Korea and you’ll see the Olleh wifi spots everywhere.  I asked around to see which was the best in my area and they told me SKT so I just went with them.

Have fun navigating Korea’s wonders!

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Fire Drill? No, North Korea Drill.

Hamchang N Korea Drill

The English teachers at one of my schools took me out to a nice lunch, and when we got back there was an alarm ringing outside; you could barely hear it inside but could tell that it was piercing outside.  One of the teachers said that we have to head out, in Korean of course, and I sort of get the gist and start following.

It was a fire drill, of course, so I asked, but NOPE!  It was a North Korea drill!  This goes to show how serious South Korea is about defending itself against its evil-half.

Still amazed by the news, I followed the teachers out to the tennis courts where all the students had already gathered amongst other teachers.  The Principal started to lecture all of the kids, in Korean obviously, and I clearly did not understand anything.  The funny thing though is that it was like a military lecture.  Always asking to see if the students heard/understood, and the kids would shout, “Yes,” back at the Principal each time.  I know that men have to serve at least 21 months in the military here in Korea, but starting in Middle School is a bit early don’t you think?

By the time I got back to my desk and checked Facebook, many other native EPIK teachers had already posted about the new revelation.  I mean, think about it – we have drills for fires, and natural disasters, but not for imminent attacks from hostile foreign countries; but then again, we are from the United States of America.

A Middle School of 15 Students

Yeah, my smallest school contains only 15 students.  Even better, the first year (7th grade) has only 2 students.  But I’m absolutely loving the small classes!  Brings me back to the days when I was teaching at a conversational English school in Kyoto with class sizes going up to only 8.  It’s so much easier to do everything you need to be doing as any sort of teacher!

Best part of all is my co-teacher!  She’s amazing!  She knows when the students don’t understand and only then does she translate into Korean – smooth class.  Although the class sizes are small, we were able to actually “co-teach”.  For example, I included this part of showing them how to play rock-paper-scissors as we play it slightly different, you know as a cultural learning experience or something for them, and we essentially split the class into two and played and stuff like that.  I have yet to teach with all of my co-teachers at all 4 schools that I’ve been assigned to, but it’s going to be difficult to top that.

The school is in the countryside and a pain-in-the ass to get to for most of the teachers as they don’t live in that village.  Most of the teachers carpool and I’m going to be hitching a ride with a teacher from now on I suppose.  It would definitely be environmentally friendly in terms of emissions and on the pocket.  Got to figure a way to continually show my appreciation, gratitude and somehow repay her – there’s always snacks, meals, and gifts.  We’ll see!

Newcomers Party

Since last week my peers from the EPIK program have been talking about their staff parties with their schools but I didn’t hear even a peep as to if we were even going to have one.  I soon came to the conclusion and assumed that since my (main) school is Catholic and they may not condone a social drinking event.  I gradually got over the expectation of a party after coming to that conclusion, and then today I was requested by my, what I like to call, “Supervising Co-Teacher,” to go to my main school after finishing my last class at another middle school to teach a class.

However as it turns out, my co-teacher for that “spontaneous” class was not prepared, or in other words, they weren’t finished recruiting students for an after-school supplemental class yet, and I wasn’t required to teach today.  After discussing some schedule details with my Supervising Co-Teacher, he nonchalantly mentioned that we had the staff party in 5 minutes!  SURPRISE!

So I hop into the car with my Supervising Co-Teacher and get a lift to the restaurant.  A quarter way through the meal, he remembers another significant detail that I will have to give another introduction and probably have to sing a song; let me tell you – this is not karaoke style, it’s with no music at all.  And for those of you whom already know me, you know that I’m tone-deaf so it’s an impossible task for me.  So it gets to my turn later and I’m about to sing Barbie Girl by Aqua when I realized that I didn’t remember all the lyrics for the chorus; of course I would remember it a bit afterwards though…. Sang it at the karaoke after party though.

About karaoking with Koreans though – they all stand and sorta cheer you on and enjoy it so it’s quite nice; as I’m used to everyone chilling in their seats (and of course cheering, if they were paying attention lol).  I think they realized that you don’t need to know the language being sung to know that someone is tone-deaf LOL… And my heart skipped a beat when they started inviting people to continue!  But luckily we just went to a cafe and chatted for a couple of hours – that’s what I’m talking about.

But boy I gotta tell ya, I’m grateful for the party as I was able to make some friends, and it’s difficult at work when everyone is so busy; especially at the beginning of the semester since everyone is still organizing schedules, materials, lesson plans and such.  Looking forward to plans to play tennis and try some other Korean foods with them next month! 🙂

I Love You 사랑해

So it’s around 4pm and I’m sitting at my desk making lesson plans when unexpected visitors come to me – 3 high school girls.  Have I met them before?  No.  They’ve sorta met me before though, at the opening ceremony earlier this week.  They introduce themselves and shocked when I could almost say their names properly, and even more shocked when I was again, almost, able to correctly write their names in Korean.  One of the chicks admitted of having some interest in me which is probably her and her posse came by.  She said something in Korean along the lines of, “We’re going to come back and stay here for a while.”  And I agreed because it didn’t bother me at all and it was the first time I actually had a conversation, although really short, something more than the standard greeting in the hallway since I haven’t taught a class there yet.

Long behold, a period later they came back and I was in the middle of rushing to finish another lesson plan and they sensed it so they didn’t stay long; they possibly had cleaning shift as well, who knows.  But sure enough before they left, one said, “I like you.” And another said, “I love you.” And they chuckled, and in the spirit of it all I said, “사랑해” (Saranghae) which stands for the latter.  Probably not the best environment to have said it in the teacher’s room and all, but everyone understands that I’m a foreigner, lol.  Thoughts?  When we learn a new language, we all learn the unnecessary vulgar language first anyways, and although this may not be “vulgar” in a sense, it may be considered inappropriate.  I’ll stick to the 외국 waygook (foreigner) card for now though and watch myself from hereon out?

Korean Surprise #3

Went to 1 of my 4 middle schools today and it took over 1.5 hours by 2 express buses.  I got there an hour before when I should’ve arrived and my co-teacher decides to have me teach the next period in ten minutes!  I was informed by my main school that I won’t be teaching this week, and use it to prepare and settle down; but boy was I surprised!

Ended up teaching what we consider to be grades 8, 9, and 7; education in Korea is 6, 3, 3, and 4 – elementary, middle, high and university.  8th graders had awesome energy, too much if I must say, so it may be difficult to control but at least I’m looking forward to teaching them, ironically.  9th graders though, so checked out!  My co-teacher said that she’ll be the main teacher for them so I’m all for that!  And my 7th graders are a little lower than expected in terms of their English comprehension.  I spoke slower, enunciated carefully and clearly, and used lower vocabulary but only a couple out of 9 were able to comprehend me.  My co-teacher then decided to take over the class and teach, which I didn’t quite mind, but the kids didn’t quite understand her too – it was her style, but I can’t blame her as no one really knows the level their kids will be starting out.

On a side note, I’m curious as to whether or not my school will be having a staff party or not as I’ve heard from other peers, native English teachers in EPIK, that they all have or had one and that I should be having one too.  Some were yesterday, some were today, and probably some are tomorrow…but I don’t know if they’ll extend me an invitation as I was at a different school today and I’m taking care of some other business tomorrow so I probably won’t step into the school tomorrow.  That means I’m putting on jeans! 🙂

Bowing

いらっしゃいませ〜

I need to stop bowing to my students… In Korea they are technically “lower” in status and you only bow to those above you of a higher status.  I just have the habit from when I was in Japan as a student because you can’t go wrong with showing some respect.  But now it’s just a bit weird.

As you may or may not know, in Japan there are levels of bowing to show respect to certain people of a certain status.  There’s a good satire on it here.  In Korea, it’s similar I think but not quite too sure.  What I do know is that it is common for students to give a full 90 degree bow to teachers in the hallways.

So you can only imagine them bowing 90 and me bowing like a 10?  Either way, I think it’s weird for them to see a teacher of higher status bowing to them at all.  It’s just automatic!  It’s like when we thank people over the phone, we even bow then!  And I know others can definitely attest to doing the same thing, or even seen a Japanese person do it before!

Anyone want to take bets to see if I can get rid of the habit?  It’s not looking good…