How my Irish driver’s license got “discarded” by Seoul Global Centre.

This is the story. I went to Seoul Global Centre (S.G.C.) in 2011 and exchanged my Irish license for a Korean one.The Korean license is valid for 10 years, until 2021. Great, brilliant. I was told that to get the Irish one back, I simply had to return to the SGC and exchange it. Lovely.

I’ve been happily motoring around in Korea for 4 years. Never once in that 4 years have I got an email or letter or anything to say that any time period was up or that a deadline was approaching or whatever. Now that I’m returning to Ireland, I went back yesterday to exchange the license only to be informed that this wasn’t possible. Obviously, I asked why and was told that everyone who gets a Korean license signs the paper that says that it will be discarded after 3 years unless you come to pick it up.This has seemingly always been the policy. Do I have recollection of signing this paper? No, it was years ago! Were they able to show me the papers I signed in 2011? No.

I tried talking my way into getting it back. Since I’m leaving Korea no one would know if she just opened the safe (where I’m certain it still is) and gave it back to me. She was having none of it.

I thought about crying which I am just too positive to do.

I thought about sitting on the chair and refusing to move until she gave me the damn license. This was ruled out based on the amount of security hanging around. No one wants to get arrested before they leave a country.

I thought about jumping over the desk and just pulling the safe open and getting it forcibly but that was disregarded because I don’t have a desire to cause a scene or get arrested.

So, I left and went to my embassy to ask them what I can do. I just have to do what I did when I came here. Go to the  Korean Embassy in Ireland to get it verified and then follow the directions on this very helpful website;  http://www.citizensinformation.ie/en/travel_and_recreation/motoring_1/driver_licensing/exchanging_foreign_driving_permit.html

I did call Seoul Global Centre this morning to ask whose policy it was and they said that it was a Government policy. I also asked why it was 3 years as opposed to 10 or 5 and she said that she didn’t know herself.  I can’t find any more information about it online.

While the situation is obviously not desirable, it was caused by my own ignorance. The very bright part of this story is that my Irish license is expiring in September anyway and now my Korean one is good until 2021 so all good on that front! I am certain that they still have it in the safe and that they haven’t actually thrown it away but “discarded” is the term for not giving it back to you.

The lesson is that to anyone who has got a Korean license by swapping over, GO BACK AND GET IT WITHIN 3 YEARS! I don’t know if you can then reapply to keep the Korean license for longer or how it works so if anyone knows, please leave a comment below.

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Selling your car in Korea- all you need to know.

It’s all well and good to find a buyer for your car, but where do you actually go to transfer ownership and so on? That’s what I asked also. After some research, I found that if you live in Goyang (like me), you go to the Goyang Car Registration centre, here.

What this website doesn’t tell you is what you actually need going along with you. First, you need to visit the centre with the person you’re selling to.

The seller needs;

  • Alien Registration Card
  • Registration of the vehicle. You got this with the car.

The buyer needs;

  • Proof of insurance for the car.
  • Alien Registration Card.

In Goyang, there is not one word of English to help you on your way. So, just do your best at the information desk and the lady should present you with these two documents;

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Fill them out ( yes, they’re in Korean). I think one is a sale document and one is transfer of ownership.  Top section is the sellers information and the bottom is buyer’s information. Then there’s a bit about the car information.

Then get 3,000won and walk to the bank and get this;

11720583_10153005068818016_429922831_nTake a number and wait your turn.

When you get seen to, they will check the car for outstanding fines. Unfortunately for me I had a few. You MUST pay them before you can proceed.

When everything is clear, you simply show these documents and the ones listed above and it’s done. The new owner will get a new registration form that has the car in their name.

I recommend you bring a Korean speaker with you in case you have fines to pay. We had to call so many people to find out how much the fines were and the bank account to pay the money into. Nobody at these places spoke English.

I also recommend you get the number the second you walk in the door. We originally had number 75 and they were only on 43 or something like that. Fortunately, some old guy gave us his number because we were foreign.

You need to check where to do this in your area. My coteacher told me it was city hall and when we called them they said that Goyang had its own car centre. Other areas like Seoul may have different places so be sure to get someone to call and find out.

Overall, after the fines were paid, the whole thing was really easy. If you have any questions, just let me know!

What did you say? Things your students say in Korean.

When I started at this school, I had NO IDEA what the children were saying to me. I work in a Korean playschool so the students only learn English as subject. My favourite story is of a day with the 5 year old’s just a month or two after I started. One of the boys said something to me and by the way he was acting, I knew he needed the bathroom. Unfortunately, the assistant wasn’t around so I just let him off and left the door of the classroom open. A few minutes later, he appears back with nothing on from the waist down. Turns out he needed a hand finishing in the bathroom and with no assistant, he just came back to me!

After that, I promised myself to get my Korean together so I’d actually understand what the students were saying and I did. I just listened to them and since they say the same things day in day out, I would write it phonetically, ask my co teachers and then learn how to say it properly. Here are the top phrases my students say;

  • 쉬 마려워요 (she mar yeah woh yo) – I need to pee
  • 똥 마려워요 (dong mar yeah woh yo)- I need to poo
  • 선생님………( sun saeng nim) – teacher
  • 연필 필요해요 (yun pill pil yoh hay yo)- I need a pencil
  • 지우개 주세요 (gee you gay juice a yo)- Eraser please
  • 색연필– (saeng yun pil) crayons
  • 아파요– (app pie yo) I’m sick/hurt
  • 어떻게 해요 ( oh dok a hay yo)- How do I do this.

Here are some phrases and words that you can say to the students;

  • 애들아! (yeah dra)- Guys!
  • 조용히하세요! (jo young he ha say yo)- Be quiet!
  • 어디 아파요? ( o d apa yoh) – Where are you hurt/sick?
  • 화장실 가다오세요 (hwa jang shil gat da o say yoh)- Go to the bathroom and come back.
  • 빨리! (bally) Quickly

Since we’re here to teach English, you should obviously keep the Korean to a minimum but in a a bind, these phrases may help. As ever, my Korean spelling could be atrocious so feel free to tell me any mistakes!

5 things I love about Korean gyms!

I LOVE the gym and there are so many reasons why. Here are some of my top reasons to love the gym in Korea;

1. The great characters- You are guaranteed to meet great characters in the gym. You get all kinds.

First you have the people who look like they may actually live at the gym. They will be there no matter what time of the day or night you go. They have a little gang also, they all go together and have share jokes and generally have a bit of craic while they’re working out.

Then you have the adjummas. These women are fierce and if they want one of your weights or machines, you’d be best off giving it to them.

Finally, you have the people who are only there for the sake of being there. They look like they just walked off a Nike advert, they do not sweat and spend more time flirting with the gym instructors that anything else.

2. The useless machines– There are so many machines that do nothing in a Korean gym. Take this one for example;10896868_10152728724308016_3251874785038359723_n 10313043_10152728724388016_8410101403486755741_n

What is the purpose of this machine? IT HAS NO PURPOSE! The plate just vibrates and that’s it. How is this in a gym? There is another machine where you can turn yourself upside down. Why would you spend your time upside down? I don’t know why these machines are here but it keeps me entertained watching the people using them.

3. The treadmills– Each treadmill has a tv screen! Fantastical! Plug in your headphones, choose your program and away you go. No need to miss any of your favourite shows or miss your exercise.

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4. The instructors- The trainers here are so brilliant! They know everyone who goes in and they take the time to speak to everyone about why they’re there in the first place. Whatever the reason, they put together a plan that suits and change it up every few weeks to prevent boredom. If your foreign, you become a pet project and I consider the lady in my gym to be my own personal trainer. Amazeballs.

5. The K Pop dancercise classes– I don’t know what they actually call the classes. It’s like aerobics but with k pop dancing??? It’s hard to describe.Are they there to learn new dances or to get fit or a combination of both?  It’s a tonne of adjummas in the craziest outfits you’ve ever seen doing some k pop dances. I tried once and failed miserably. They must be psychic because they looked like they knew what to do before the instructor did. I LOVE being in the gym while these ladies are around. They bring coffees and snacks for after the class and they always slip me some chocolate or fruit on my way out. .

This video gives you the basic idea. The classes in Korea are more intense and the outfits way more out there.

Add your favourite things about Korean gyms in the comment section below!

Teaching Kindergarten in Korea – my words of wisdom

Teaching Kindergarten is possibly the most exhausting thing you can do. My school teaches Korean age 3 to Korean age 7 and after 4 years, I almost don’t know what silence is. Between the crying, the talking, the shouting, the laughing, the sheer activity, it’s always go, go, go.

Here are a few things I’ve learned over the years*;

1. K.I.S.S.- Keep it simple, stupid!

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It’s a marathon, not a race. Set small goals for every class and work on simple things. Use the same words and phrases until they can use them correctly and then change it up. Little by little, they’ll make great progress and enjoy doing so because they won’t be under preassure.

2. It’s all about being organised.

Yellow sticky notes and push pin on white with clipping path.

They might only be 6 but they will eat you alive if you don’t know what you’re doing. You have to know what lesson you’re giving, what games you’ll play, what songs you’ll sing and you have to have all your materials walking in the door.
If you’re new to teaching, make a lesson plan and follow it.
Also, have lots of activities ready. They have zero attention span so changing lots is the key.
3. Have a routine.
Try to structure your classes the same so that the students know what to expect. Have a proper introduction, main class and conclusion.
Introduction is probably the most challenging. How do you get them to sit down, stay quiet and listen? You can try a few chants;
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My personal favourite is “what sound does sh make? sh sh sh”
Once they’re sitting quietly, do your hello song and things like day, date weather, basic things to get them concentrating.. There are loads of Hello songs on youtube. Choose two or three so that they don’t get bored singing the same song every day. Make sure to have actions so that they have something to do.  I sing the theme tune to Happy Days for days of the week and although they claim to hate it, they can all sing it.
4. Be familiar with what is expected in terms of discipline.
Korea is so sensitive when it comes to disciplining children.  Every school should have guidelines on what to do if a child is unruly. Whatever you do, follow up on threats, don’t make idle promises. If you give them three warnings, outline in advance what the consequences will be and sometimes positive reinforcement works. For example, I have a little boy who is a bit energetic in class. At first, I went for being cross with him but after a while I literally showered him with love. Every little thing he did well, I praised him to the high heavens. Now he’s one of my best. Doesn’t always work, but something to think about.
5. Always shake it up a bit.
Every few weeks, do something different. Sing a new hello song or introduce new chants, make up new games or whatever. It keeps the students interested and keeps you from getting bored.
6. Games will save you……..so will props
Students LOVE to play games. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy and anything you call a game is a game.
Some games I use;
Matching game (flashcards)
Find the card (flashcards)
Spell the word ( board and a marker race)
Ball games like Donkey
Fly swatters (beating the words that I call out)
Hangman
Scrabble letter games
Musical words (dance around until the music stops and then find the word I call out)
Sorting games
Dice games (throw a 6 means name 6 words of a category)
Props are also a great way of gaining interest in what you’re doing. Just putting flashcards in a container and making a big fuss of opening it is all they need to pay attention.
7. Knowing that your plan will always go out the window when you step into the classroom.
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No matter how great you are, something always happens that throws your plan off. A child gets sick on the desk, pees on the floor, a fight happens, whatever. Just go with the flow in the most organised fashion possible and if all goes to all, every child LOVES to draw a picture!
If you have any questions about anything, just let me know!
* All opinions are mine. I’m in no way an expert on teaching, these are just some things I’ve learned!

Emart Town- Ilsan

When regular Emart combines with Emart Traders, Emart Town is the result. On June 18th, one opened beside Kintex and my coteachers came back with stories of how brilliant it was.  I headed along myself to see what all the fuss was about.

Where is it?

This Emart town is in Daewha, Ilsan. It’s next to KINTEX. Honestly, unless you have a car, it can be a bit difficult. It is on the road opposite Hyundai Department Store. It’s very well signposted. If you want to go but don’t have a car, simply get out at Daewha station and get a taxi to Emart Town. It’ll be a 5 minute or so drive.

I believe the 062 bus stops there but cannot be certain.

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What can I buy there?

Everything! There is an Emart, an Emart Traders (for Costco style shopping), restaurants, a hairdressers, beauty shops, a pet store, an Electro Mart and possibly many that I’ve forgotten.

I went to the Traders section and was over whelmed by the sheer quantity of products available. I spent about an hour picking up my things but I could easily spend an entire day there.

Random Tip- The green trolleys are for the Traders section and the yellow trolleys are for the regular Emart.

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Do I need a membership card or special credit card?

No. The best thing about Emart Town is that you don’t need to be a member at all. You can pay in cash or by card. If you have an Emart points card, you can use it but if you don’t, no problem.

Worth a visit?

Definitely. There are a few things that make it a better shopping experience than Costco;

  1. The place is HUGE so while there are a lot of people, it doesn’t feel like that.
  2. No membership card needed.
  3. Great range of food. In my opinion, better than Costco.
  4. It has a regular Emart so if you don’t want 5 million of something, you can buy it there.

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Get involved with Irish music in Seoul!

Lately, I’ve had a lot of messages and emails from people interested in getting involved in Irish music in Seoul. I definitely won’t complain about this. It’s great to see the progress that Irish music is making here. When I started playing in Seoul, we were hard set to find a place that would hold a session. Now, we literally don’t have enough time or people to keep up with the demand.

If you play Irish music, sing or dance, you’re always welcome at one of the many sessions that happen in and around Seoul. Your first port of call should be the “Irish music in Korea” Facebook page. Request to join the group and then you’ll be up to date on the sessions that are happening.

Generally, every second Friday night, there is the Tulip Session in Myeongdong.

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Once a month, we have a session in Dublin Terrace in Gangnam.

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Finally, we have the weekly Sunday Session in the Wolfhound Bar in Itaewon. It starts around 4pm and ends around 8pm. This is my favourite session for so many reasons. Some of the best sessions I’ve ever had were in the Wolfhound.

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As with the nature of these sessions, we do extra sessions, we do less depending on the time of year and so on. If you have any questions about Irish music in Korea, feel free to email me or go to this website http://www.ceoltoirisoul.com/

*This information was correct at time of posting (June 2015)