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Archive for the 'Travels in Korea' Category

May is Family Month – Save 30%!

The Month of May in Korea is often called Family Month. There’s Children’s Day, Parent’s Day, and Teacher’s Day. Korea takes Mother’s Day to a whole different level! On these days you give your Children, Parents and Teachers gifts to show them how much you appreciate them. Children often benefit the most with candy and money being popular gifts. Teachers get quite a lot of gifts as well as they have many students and parents to receive gifts from. And that’s why the month of May is called Family month in Korea!

Well… did you learn something new about Korea?

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Hurry, this exclusive 30% offer is only valid for three days only, and expires on May 13th,11:59 PM EST (New York time). So be sure to act now!

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한국어 재밌게 공부합시다!
(Let’s have fun studying Korean!)

Keith Kim
Director of Operations & Host
The Fastest, Easiest and Most Fun Way to Learn Korean

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* Coupon codes cannot be combined.
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* Unless canceled, subscriptions will renew at regular price.

Seoul Metropolitan Subway: clean, punctual, and scary

 Subways in Korea.

The Seoul Metropolitan Subway is a thing of beauty. It’s quick, efficient, and cheap. The subway itself also divided into three separate but similar entities: Seoul Metro, Korail, and SMRT (Seoul Metropolitan Rapid Transit corporation). Where have I heard of SMRT before?
Our diligent 현우 has posted a nice introduction to to Seoul’s subways in this forum post. Note the loudspeaker – each stop is announced in both English and Korean. It is very foreigner friendly in that regard. The air conditioning doesn’t hurt, either 🙂

1000 원 buys you up to 6 miles worth of track and 100 원 for every additional 3 miles. Not bad. Actually that’s more than not bad – that’s a great deal. Remember the post about the size of Korea? We’re not talking more than a little more than 230 square miles for the whole city with the majority of stops located nearby each other. So we’re talking a cheap ride no doubt. Buy a 10 dollar card and call it a day.

The card that I am referring to is non other than the T money card. These nifty little guys really make you feel like you’re paying for your subway ticket electronically…wait…well that’s exactly what they do. Okay so their novelty wears off quick. But not for me. In my case, I almost was so excited by the convenience of them that I was tempted to swipe them twice.

Hey what do you want from me? Texas has a lot of limestone so it’s not like they’re going to build any subways in the Lone Star State anytime soon so just let me swipe my card twice in peace.

Oh and T Money almost begs to be scanned twice – Seoul Metro gives you a 100원 discount if you use the card instead of a paper ticket. I especially like the T Money card’s tap n’ go way of paying. Just tap your wallet or purse on the magnetic reader located on thew top of the turnstile machine, wait for the beep, read your remaining balance, and you’re goo to go. Except I always end up losing my card or have another card already in my wallet that interferes with the subway card in the first place. But that’s just me.

Speaking of which, there are ticket booths available for paper ticket purchases, card refills, and for general directions. Not that you’ll need them – all signs are in English and Korean. But fear not – you will find Seoulites sometimes even checking the subway map prior to swiping their card. I also like how the ticket booth guys will let elderly people  and those who are down on their luck through a special entrance gate for no charge from time to time (like a rain-soaked, broke American who slaughters Korean pronunciation and who also just happen to have left his T Money card on the bench at the last stop where he got lost and frustrated but not frustrated enough to not buy two rolls of 김밥 and then wonder how much it would cost to buy some fruit from that lady but he couldn’t remember the word for the specific type of fruit she was selling so he just asked 과자 얼마예요? but then later realized that 과일 is fruit and 과자 is cookie so then he felt kind of validated when the vendor giggled at him).

But unfortunately, it’s not all bells and whistles for the operators of the trains. Several news articles and TV specials will make you wonder why don’t they raise the fee so as to support these hard-working employees.

As far as being punctual, I don’t have any numbers to support this claim but here goes anyway: Seoul’s subway is the best subway in the whole universe and way better than anyone else’s subway. Bam.

Now as far as the scary aspect – let me explain. Drinking and driving isn’t as big of a concern in Korea compared to America. But don’t let that fool you into thinking that Korea has safer streets – because they don’t. But as far as traveling to and from the bar, the majority of people use public transportation be it bus, taxi, or subway. So, the scary aspect isn’t the same as someone stalking you – it’s more like a creepy drunk person within arms length of you. I mean, drunk people got to get home somehow, you know?

Although it can get cramped as all get out, there are several times when it’s also creepily empty at times. Either way, all things considered, it is clean and quite useful. Foreigners need not fear the subway – it’s well-lit, heavily used, and moderately well-maintained with minimal breakdowns.
The Green Line Mile
Now, subway social culture – who should stand and who should sit – that’s a whole nother can of worms.


Business or pleasure? (Korean visa regulations)

Visa regulations.

Ever changing and always with controversy it seems.

I should point out that to apply for a visa to go to Korea, one must go through their local Korean consulate. The three most common reasons to visit Korea are for traveling (tourist), teaching (English), and business (international). For this blog entry, we will focus on the first one. Next week will focus on the E-2 teaching visa. Visa application information changes somewhat frequently so it’s important to check with official online resources prior to making plans. This post is intended to provide an overview from a strikingly handsome American citizen’s point of view.
Below is a breakdown of the tourist (C-3 90-day) visa. Information was pulled from the Houston Consulate.

Visitors Visa [C-3]

    If you are a US citizen and are a tourist staying in Korea for less than 30 days no visa is required.

    If you are a US citizen and are applying for a visa to stay up to 90 days for tourism, visiting friends and/or relatives, goodwill match, events,conference, cultural art, training, religious ceremony or academic data-gathering you need to submit the following documents:

  1. A signed US passport with remaining validity of at least 6 months and one blank visa page.
  2. A completed and signed Application for visa 
  3. A recent passport color photo (2″x2″ ) attached on the application form
  4. $45.00 Visa Processing Fee. All fees can be paid by Cash or Money Order.  All Money Orders should be made payable to The Korean Consulate.
  5. If you are applying by mail you will have to include a prepaid postage return envelope (USPS Express mail, Fedex or similar kind of overnight mail) with complete address for the passport to be returned.
  6. If you are applying for tourism or visiting friends and/or relatives – A Flight itinerary or a copy of Round-trip Airline ticket lf you are applying for goodwill match, events, conference, cultural art, training, religious, ceremony, academic data-gathering Original Documents proving the purpose of entry
  • This office will not make copies, if you need original documents, please bring the original and one copy.
  • This office is not responsible for the loss of any documents including passports.

Below is an index pulled from the Korean consulate website that details the required documentation for certain types of visa. Bolded items are a bit more applicable to KC101 students.
Diplomats (A-1)

Officials (A-2)

Agreement (A-3)

Temporary News Coverage (C-1)

Short-Term Business (C-2)

Short-Term Visitors (C-3) summer jobs, short-term Korean classes, extended travel

Culture/Art (D-1)

Students (D-2) full-time Korean university students

Industrial Trainees (D-3)

General Trainees (D-4)

Residence Reporters (D-5)

Religious workers (D-6)

Intracompany Transferees (D-7)

Treaty Investors (D-8 )

Treaty Traders (D-9)

Professors (E-1)

Teaching Foreign Languages (E-2) common teacher visa, position tied to visa

Research (E-3)

Instruction of Technology (E-4)

Specialty Occupation (E-5)

Art and Entertainment (E-6)

Particular Occupation (E-7)

Training Employment (E-8 )

Visiting& Joining Family(F-1) 

Residence(F-2-1) if spouse is Korean citizen

Dependent Families(F-3)

Korean Residents Abroad (F-4) for Korean decedents and adoptees

Permanent Residence (F-5-9) must be in Korea 5 years or hold F-2-1 for 2 years

UPDATE 1/09: More on student study visas.
Essentially, so long as you go to Korea for less than 30 days (the vast majority of tourist agendas) you’re fine. You won’t need any special visa, but you will need a valid passport and a return ticket (proof of round trip ticket or e-ticket is generally acceptable). But get ready for a seriously long flight. Mine was fourteen hours with no leg room.

I should point out that recently a big change in Korean visa regulations has occurred. Starting in late November, South Korean citizens can visit the United States for up to 90 days without any special visa requirements. Some are grumbling at the possible influx of illegal immigrants with fake passports; however, a new electronic passport system will also now be in place which will most likely curb such practices. Either way, this new law will encourage international exchanges within the two countries and speed up the other “for real” visa process for the rest of us. It also will save South Koreans the $110 visa application fee that they were previously required to pay. Below is a graphic organizer that shows the new step-by-step process for Korean citizens. The new application can be completed as soon as 72 hours prior to departure.


What are visa applications like for Korea in your home country (other than USA)? Anyone been to Korea with any special visa considerations?

Here’s a nice little international visa chart taken from everyone’s favorite punchline tourism campaign: Korea Sparkling. The first chart is for citizens who can travel to Korea visa-free while the second chart is for those citizens who can apply for a visa

Visa Exceptions

Woah there Canada, 180 days? No fair.


King’s Wedding in 경복궁(Gyeongbok Palace)

Hi, 현우 here.

Did you all have a nice weekend?
모두 주말 잘 보내셨어요?

I went to 경복궁 (Gyeongbok Palace)  with Michael, also a listener to KoreanClass101, who was with visiting from New Zealand for a few days before he starts studying in Korea next year, and also some other friends of mine.


We went to 용산 in the morning to see what’s new at the electronics market and then went to 경복궁 where we were supposed to meet up with my other friends. And we were REALLY lukcy – not only had the rain stopped just a few minutes before we entered the palace, but also this fantastic re-enactment of the wedding of 숙종임금 (King Sukjong: 1661 ~ 1720) and 인현왕후 (Queen Inhyeon: 1667 ~ 1701).


And here’s the video!

(It might be better if you watched it in high quality by clicking on the video and clicking on the ‘high quality’ button.)
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Two funny facts – 1) even the cameramen are dressed in the traditional costumes. 2) look what they are using to balance the weight of the camera.


Michael ↑

and me ↓


And actually the first guard behind me was chewing gum!
And some of the food that we ate ↓

(Clockwise from left-top: (1) 비빔밥 (2) 파전 (3) 불고기 정식 (4) 돌솥비빔밥)


안녕하세요. 현우예요. How was your week? I hope you had another exciting week!! ^^

Today I’d like to share a video that I took in the Summer when I was in Jejudo – Jeju Island/Province (제주도), the biggest island and the southern most province in Korea – a beautiful place! 정말 예쁜 곳이에요. It’s a very short video, but I hope it will help you feel refreshed a bit ^^!!

It might be better if you clicked on the video and watched it in high quality. 🙂
You need to a flashplayer enabled browser to view this YouTube video