F4 Visa

27 01 2012

I almost had an F4 visa.

The application process has come full circle back to the original problem of my mother not having her US citizenship papers. (Horns sprout.) Who loses these important documents not once but twice?

Who qualifies for an F4 visa?
If you’re the child of a former Korean citizen or a Korean-born adoptee, you qualify for an F4 visa. Better than a student (D4) or a teaching (E2) visa, an F4 visa lets you stay in Korea for two years and is easily renewable. The F4 visa provides all of the benefits of being a Korean citizen (pension, work eligibility, healthcare) without recognizing you as a Korean citizen. Most important, you can work in any job in any capacity, as your visa is not employer-sponsored.

What documents are needed for an F4 visa?
The application process is straightforward. The difficulty is the family registry is difficult to obtain from the US. You need:

  • F4 visa applicant’s passport + one passport copy. This is me.
  • Copy of former Korean citizen parent’s American passport
  • Copy of applicant’s birth certificate
  • Copy of Korean family registry*
  • Any marriage/divorce/name change records to show the name on your parent’s passport = the same person on the Korean family registry
  • Copy of your former Korean citizen parent’s US citizenship
  • Former Korean citizen parent’s application for losing Korean nationality
  • 60,000Won

Korean family registry*
The Korean family registry is difficult to obtain from the States. Part of the complication lies in Korean names being Romanized in America, so is your mom’s name is Yong Nim (용님), Yeong Nim (영님) or Yeong Lim (영림).

I was able to get our registry after asking my aunt for her ~Korean social security number. With this unique ID, the census office located our family tree.

No citizenship papers, no visa
To make a long story longer, the Immigration office processed my F4 visa application yesterday! I went to Immigration with no expectations of getting the F4 without my mother’s papers but figured it was worth a shot. My mother’s clearly a US citizen, maybe Immigration will recognize this when I show them her US passport, my US birth certificate and her marriage record to an American.

And they did.

The staff processed my application and told me to come back 2/15 for the visa.

“But first, we’ll need your mother’s signed loss of Korean nationalization form.”
“Here it is.”
“Oh, you need to fax this to the Korean embassy in the US.”

I took the form with me to immigration. Wrong. This form needs to be submitted to the Korean embassy, which then issues you a receipt to give to Immigration. The Seoul Immigration office staff made this sound like no big deal.

I called the Korean embassy in Atlanta last night.
Guess what document they need to process my mother’s loss of nationality?
Ding! Her US citizenship papers.

Essentially, Immigration recognizes me as the child of a former Korean national.
The Korean government recognized my mother as a US citizen once she married my American father in 1972. However, my mother never officially renounced her Korean citizenship by filing papers with the Korea Ministry of Justice. You’re not officially dead, until someone files your death certificate.

Here’s the irony.

The receipt (of loss of Korean nationalization) that the Korean embassy in Atlanta provides comes back here to the Korea Ministry of Justice which oversees the Immigration office which has already processed the F4 visa without my mother’s citizenship papers.

Continuing Korean
What I most want to do is continue in the Korean language program at Sogang.
The idea of quitting language learning after one or even two semesters is heartbreaking.

With an F4, I could work part-time next semester, March – May, to save enough to see Steve and family this summer and pay for another semester this fall.

But I’m getting a little discouraged.

The US State Department is running at a 3-5 month backlog for replacing documents. And while my mother likely has the citizenship document in her hoarder house, she lacks the motivation to look for it with any gusto.

I oversimplify this in my mind as something I want very much being held hostage by something my mother is unwilling to do. Unfair, I know.

Eddie has come through in a big way though, receiving and sending documents for me, being accessible with the time difference and overall just being there. I’m grateful. This time in Korea has been a good learning experience about trusting others. I hope it doesn’t end in May.

(End whine.)


20 01 2012

Happy new year!
We get Monday and Tuesday off for Lunar New Year. Huzzah.
Mid-terms ended this week with oral interviews on Wednesday and reading, writing and listening tests last week.

I timidly venture into more conversations with Koreans.

On the way to visit Amanda in Suwon Wednesday, I asked a woman at the subway station which transfer I should take. She explained where I should go and that she was taking a different train and if I had any questions in Korea “ask some kind Korean people, and the more Korean you know, the more convenient your life will be.” ~Something like that. And last night after getting lost on a run, a woman at the corner store explained how to get home by foot.

It’s fun to use Korean and exciting to recognize even 7% of what the other person is saying. In the classroom, we understand our teachers and each other, but outside of the classroom, well… I’ll be speaking Konglish to anyone who will talk to me from now on.

Today I went to singing class for the first time. We have weekly, optional pronunciation and singing classes to improve our Korean. There, the teacher picks a different KPOP song each week and you sing the lyrics verse by verse. Oh-em-gee. I have never read Korean this fast.

I don’t heart KPOP, but I am committed to conquering this song:

zombies & macaroons

17 01 2012

I have a friend! I have a friend!
As Jake would say, “I’m happy.”

Nu ri and I met for coffee and dessert this afternoon.
I was looking forward to this, my first date in Korea.

Nu ri works at JK House (where Steve and I stayed when he visited last month) and just got accepted into pharmacy school on the strength of her application alone, no interview needed. So clearly, keen young woman. Nu ri is old school too. She doesn’t wear BB cream or high heels. Instead, she plays the ukelele, works at a guesthouse to practice English and French, volunteers tutoring poor elementary school students, wants to work for the WHO.. you get the idea. Nu ri’s no 된장여.

The last Friday we were at JK, the hosts took us out for dinner.
There, we got to hear a Seoulite’s sentiments on Kim Jong-Il’s death.

Nu ri shared that in the deepest part of her heart, she was optimistic for reunification.
(But Nu ri, won’t that be bad for South Korea?)
No, it could be good for the North Korean people, but also for South Koreans. This (transition) could provide providing engineering and construction jobs for South Koreans, and Nu ri said she would like to see the country come together.

Yes, this is when I fell in love.
This afternoon, Nu ri said she liked zombie movies. That sealed the deal.

Over coffee and macaroons, Nu ri taught me grammar plus gerunds(!) and helpfully corrected me along the way. We switched after an hour and chatted in English, so Nu ri could practice. Therein, the zombie convo. (I think Nu ri will be watching Evil Dead 2 this weekend.)

Nu ri’s an older sister too, and her younger brother starts his compulsory military service next month. Given affairs, she is a little afraid for him.

Guess how much ROK soldiers make in the army..?
100Won an hour.

At the end of the month, ROK soldiers net about 30,000W/month.
No commission once complete, no tuition discount on the back-end.
How ya like them apples?

Next week is lunar new year, and I think Nu ri and I will get together after that.
Huzzah for blossoming friendships.

Sogang University

15 01 2012

I love Sogang.
This may be the best Korean language program in the world.

The top Korean language programs are likely here in Korea.
Seoul boasts the nation’s top universities.
Of these, Seoul National (top public), Yonsei (top private) and Ewha (top women’s) each have Korean language programs. And Sogang is widely considered the best of these three.

This program is recognized for its focus on verbal communication.

The slogan is “Be as proud of Sogang as Sogang is as proud of you.”
Overly sentimental in typical Korean style, but I think sweet.
Sogang is a Catholic school founded in 1960 and another slogan of theirs is “Think Different”.
Again, not Madison Avenue ad-worthy but charming.

We have class from 9:00am – 1:00pm every Monday through Friday:
9:00 – 9:50:               Writing
10:00 – 10:50:          Speaking
11:00 – 11:50:          Speaking
12:00 – 1:00:            Listening or Reading

While two hours are focused on speaking, we’re talking during the other two hours also.
Class is 4 hours of Korean, all Korean. NO FOREIGN LANGUAGE ALLOWED.
That means directions, what not to do in class, what page we’re on, how to do this activity, everything is in Korean. Sometimes I miss directions in my own language. In Korean

The first day of class, we looked around the room at each other like,
“This is level one for reals?”

In my class, we have students from America, Japan, Indonesia, The Philippines and France. We also had a Columbian, but she moved to Level 2, and there are also students from Italy and Russia here at Sogang.

Jonathan from NC School of the Arts & Aki from Tokyo

Teacher Kang & Ayaka from Hokkaido

We have one teacher for the 1st an 4th hours and one teacher for the middle two hours.
Both are excellent but different. First period teacher speaks pretty damn fast and will give you the gas face, if you forget to turn off your hand phone or are late. Second period teacher speaks more slowly and has a ton of energy. Also, she brings snacks.
When she teaches, I feel like I’m watching someone do exactly what they were meant to do.

Classes are structured brilliantly.
You can not get bored in this class.

After each period, we have a 10-minute break.
Within each period, there are plenty of writing, speaking, listening and interactive activities.

This experience makes me want to return to DLC to teach English.
I would give better instruction now for having been a student with good teachers.

During break, I usually Skype my mom. This reinforces the Korean I’ve learned and the break is short enough we have good chats. She told me in Korean yesterday I was being a teenager.
I told her back in Korean life is short.

Korean saunas

8 01 2012

I went to a men’s jjimjilbang tonight.
Walked down the stairs, saw a bare butt, walked back up and out.
Sure enough, under the big red letters for sauna


I’d missed the little blue letters for male


The clerk at the Family Mart directed me to another sauna two blocks away.
Huzzah Korea. Saunas everywhere.

Korean saunas operate something like this—

  • 7,000W if you just want the shower room and don’t need any clothes.
  • 8,000W if you need pjs and plan on hanging out, getting some ramen, going to the co-ed restaurant if there is one.
  • 11,000-12,000W if you want to sleep overnight.

Like the Y, you get a locker and key.
Inside the shower room is where the magic happens.

Depending on the size of the sauna, you’ll get three pools.
The first is a boiling hot. Think mild first degree burn.
The second is a medium-warm whirlpool, what we would call hot back home.
Adjacent is a still ice water pool. It’s so cold it will truly take your breath away.

Across the way is a steam room and next to that a dry heat sauna.
There are sitting and standing showers aplenty, and the idea is to go back and forth and back again, and scrub yourself raw.

If you’re incompetent at this or want some pampering, you can pay an ajumma to scrub you down to your basest dermal layer for about fifteen bucks.

I know what you’re thinking.
Too good to be true, right?

It is the most relaxed you will ever feel.
I couldn’t get Steve to go, but perhaps if we knew there were men’s only…

You’re doing all of this torture relaxing buck naked btw. The floors are gender-segregated.

The sauna makes your skin feels so soft.
If you have skin maladies, you’ll hydro-hydrate them right away.
And for runners, Korean saunas are like the RICE treatment on steroids.