Why is Korea like this? Interesting what people had to say…BUT

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I was reading my 1 day old Joonang daily issue and landed on the following article towards the bottom of the first page of the 2nd section which is dedicated to local Korean news.   The article was titled “Why is Korea like this?”  Most comments from the forum held in the City Hall of Seoul very recently were focused around this topic.  Most questions were salient to the many lives of foreigners in Korea, but when you think about it, some things make sense…

First of all, most of the questions were addressed as to why foreigners didn’t have the same treatment as local citizens.  Officials from Woori bank had difficulty answering some of the questions.  At the same time, if Woori placed their full efforts on the customer which represents literally .00001% of their entire customer base, where would Woori be today?  It doesn’t mean they should ignore that customer base, but they are still weak at English and on top of that, they haven’t tested every single possibility that a foreigner would go through.

I’m a bit frustrated myself since I just recently opened a second bank account under the “new guidelines” that the banks created for foreigners.  I didn’t get an ATM card this time around even though I have one for my other bank account.  It’s been a little bit of a pain getting cash from one account to the other.  Also, when I applied for a credit card with my current bank, it wasn’t easy & it took a long time.  Wait a second…I say it “took a long time”, but that is relative to Korean standards.  In western standards, it actually was pretty quick.  It was less than 3 weeks.  I remember waiting for credit cards for more than a month.  What am I talking about?

The main reasons behind the heightened financial restrictions and other limitations for foreigners has been fraud as far as I know.  The Koreans didn’t just implement them to create a harder time for customers who do a bit of business within their banks.  Unfortunately, there are other nationalities like the Chinese and other Asian nationalities who have taken advantage of the financial system.   However, the Koreans can’t just target them only and did broaden the rules to any nationality.  The key now is to prove that perhaps Americans or Canadians or whomever is complaining that the rules may need exceptions.  However, in New York, similar restrictions and difficulties occur due to fraud.  I personally experienced it from 1998-2000.  In areas where there is more traffic & potential fraud, you restrictions for the customers is heightened.  I didn’t like it then and I’m not excited about it now, but I accept it & figure out other means.

The question I ask these foreigners now is do they take care of the minorities on their own free time?  How often do they spend their own personal time on the issues of people who don’t represent more than .01% of their lives?  Almost none is my bet.  We all do.  Do they focus their efforts on the plights of other minorities throughout the world?  Do they stand up for the rights of others who fail to get what they need?

This is definitely not an excuse for what are problems for foreigners in Korea.  I think these things should be fixed as well, but I wish the forum would of better explained these things.  Unfortunately, nobody bothered to explain it from the Korean side & more importantly, I blame the Koreans for not being able to do that.  There are reason…and all of the people need to work together to improve them, if possible.

Original article here:

http://joongangdaily.joins.com/article/view.asp?aid=2883397

published 12/1/07 by Joongang Daily

It was Seoul Town Meeting time again at City Hall yesterday as government officials were pounded with questions from perplexed expatriates trying to make sense of the Korean way of doing things.

In the ninth such forum, questions ranged from how to withdraw money abroad from South Korean bank accounts to why a national identification number is needed to purchase a theater ticket on a local Web site.

The room was packed with about 160 foreigners for the 2.5-hour meeting.

“I could not withdraw money from my Korean bank account with my ATM card when I was traveling abroad. But I saw my Korean companions withdraw money without any problem,” said Anne LaDouceur, the moderator of the meeting and a member of the city government’s Foreign Investment Advisory Council.

Some in the audience noted that they could not even use their ATM cards in Korea for several months after they opened new bank accounts here. “Nonghyup recently refused to open my account even though I have lived here for four years and have an alien registration number and a passport. I was ashamed,” said a Nepalese man.

Officials from Woori Bank had a hard time answering the questions, so city officials said they would figure the problems out and provide the information later on the Web site of the Seoul Help Center for Foreigners (http://shc.seoul.go.kr/).
There were also complaints about inconvenient Web sites and cell phones.

“There was always something preventing me from having a cell phone,” said Donald Park from the United States. “And why do Korean Web sites always ask people to provide a national identification number or alien registration number to join?”

Mary Tompson, a professor at the Korea Institute of Science and Technology, drew applause when she said, “I could get a cell phone with help from Koreans. But the issue is, why can’t we do this without help?”

Expat parents were concerned about the family registration system. “I cannot check the mother box of the family registry unless I give up my U.S. nationality. My children are motherless on the family registry,” said Demetra Gates Choi, who is married to a Korean.

Perennial issues like motorcycles on sidewalks and reckless driving were also discussed.

By Kim Soe-jung Staff Reporter [soejung@joongang.co.kr]

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