Oh the Bureaucracy

As I enter the last three weeks of my life in Korea, I’ve been packing what I want/need to take with me back to the States, deciding what Korean things do I not have and really want, what should I sell, and of course getting all my finances in order.

As vented yesterday, the run-around that I have had to do to get a piece of paper saying that I used to have Paper A but I now have Paper B and this Paper C proves it and clear up all my outstanding pension and tax paperwork in the end looks like this:

  • 8 buildings/offices visited
  • 7 1/2 hours sitting in offices and traveling around Seoul
  • countless number of phone calls to different government offices
  • 10 total papers and documents needed

All for:

  • 1 missing paper
  • 1 packet and 1 form filled out
  • 3 papers filled
  • a pension that I should receive the day after my birthday
  • a tax refund that I received today

It’s been a while since I had to do any paperwork in the States. I’m quite aware that there is bureaucracy and the left hand having absolutely no clue where the right had is even remotely located. But the fact that number one, there are actual lines and line decorum; two, there’s definitely someone to complain to if the government employee is rude or ignorant; three, the employees generally know what’s going on and where to direct you; and four, papers and places are clearly marked, all of which makes life while waiting in government lines much easier.

For today’s adventure, once I arrived at the Jongno Immigration Office, I took an application line number, because it was for everything but visa pick-up, inviting a non-resident and SOFA related items. Then after a while, I realized that although it wasn’t marked as such, I probably could go through the visa line instead of the application line. Once I got to the front of the visa line, I was told that although the visa line clerk can make certificates about visas, the particular visa certificate that I need, is actually in a completely different office. So I went looking around for the right office, which thankfully the building isn’t that big and I found it, and after quite a few ‘hummms’ and ‘hawwws’ and ‘hemmmms’, just enough to make me nervous that I was about to wonder around for yet another office, the clerk printed out two certificates and asked me to check them.  Then it was back over the river to the other side of Seoul to head to the nearest National Pension Office near my school/apartment, which shockingly the paperwork there took the least amount of time during this entire experience, once I actually got there. The street sign for the NPS was pointing to the left, so I walked left and went into the wrong building, I was supposed to go into the building behind the sign. Because that was soo clear. Then it was on to the post office to get my tax refund, which took forever because the clerk had no idea what my new fancy form meant and how to enter it into the computer to make sure that it was a valid ID number and that I hadn’t already picked up the refund. So after consulting with some other people, we were finally able to get the show on the road and then after the paperwork I finally got my tax refund from two years ago.

I don’t want to stand in a government line again for another couple of months at the earliest…


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