Friday, January 16, 2009

Surviving Seoul: Review of the week

These are some living tips that will help you survive Seoul. They were announced on Soul of Asia on TBSeFM 101.3 this week by Sara Kim.

Here are the tips.

Did you know that if you have a sore throat you can just gargle with a half glass of hot water and a teaspoon of cayenne pepper? The cayenne pepper will kill all the bacteria in your throat that’s causing the pain. This will also work with pickle brine, lemon juice, or Tabasco sauce.

Now if you would like more traditional medical advice then I think you should call the medical referral service at 010 4769 8212 or e-mail them at There are English Speaking operators available that can refer you to general practitioners as well as specialists in dermatology; dentistry, PODIATRY, gynecology…basically whatever medical need you have.

If you are going to a hospital or to a clinic it might help to have your health insurance card. Your school should give you a health insurance card that says NHIC on it. If you don’t know if you have health insurance then I would call the nhic at 02 390 2000 that’s 02 390 2000. Get your school’s business ID number and your alien card. They should be able to check to see if you are registered.
You can also get more information about the National Health Insurance Corporation at that’s

Now back to what I was saying about insurance, it’s important to get it. And it’ll really help you with your payments. For example you’ll get 30 percent off of prescriptions and you can save 30-50% for outpatient services. And 10-20% for inpatient procedures.

Let’s take a quick break and when we come back, we’ll continue with our tips.


We are back. And I just wanted to remind you of the quiz question for the day. It is… and the winner will get a gift certificate to the amazing Tartine pie shop in Itaewon. Think Strawberry Rhubarb pie…Yum… Keep the texts a coming.
O.K. Let’s get back to tips. Let’s get into some labor law review.

As an employee, you are entitled to all the rights that a Korean citizen has under the labor law. Now you still have these rights if you are working illegally. The only problem being that if you file an action against an employer while working illegally, you might win, but you will also face consequences. Just keep that in mind.

Let’s review about maternity leave. If you have worked for the same company for a 12-month period, then you are entitled to maternity leave. A minimum of 45 days is given before and 45 days after for woman. For the father, he is also able to get 3 days of maternity leave.

So…I guess if you are Thomas Beatie, the man who gave birth to a girl, he would get 93 days for maternity leave.

The days that are taken off are paid and if a company refuses to grant maternity leave or salary, the employer will be sentenced up to 2 years in prison or fined up to 10 million won.

There is also time given if you need to take off to take care of a child that is under 3 years of age. The company is obligated to give 30 days leave.

Another labor law is that if you work a 12 month contract the school is obligated to pay the “toejikgeum.” If they fire you for unjustified reasons then I suggest you talk to a lawyer.

There is free legal advice at the Seoul Global center in City Hall offers on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2-5 and the Seoul Bar Association, the 서울지방변호사회 offers free legal advice for foreigners on Mondays from 2-5pm. The place is easy to find. Just go out exit 8 of Seocho Station.

In other news, the city of Seoul has appointed 20 real estate agents to specifically help the foreigner community. These agents speak a variety of languages including, English, French and Spanish. There is even one realtor in Yeong-deungpo that speaks English and Arabic. These realtors can help find an apartment or house and then go through all the necessary forms to sign the lease.

The city of Seoul putting on a show of social consciousness these days. They are planning an 802.1 billion won project to help the handicap by constructing better infrastructure for the disabled and for the improvement of subway, taxi, and the bus systems.

If that wasn’t enough, the City of Seoul is offering foreigner-specific taxis that will have drivers that will be able to speak English, Japanese, Chinese, and Spanish. There will be a 24-hour call reservation service available as well. These new taxis will have a special sticker or designs that will make stand out from regular taxis. These taxis will cost 20 percent more than regular taxis. They will accept credit cards and there will be fixed fare rates during the late hours and for distances to prevent quarrels.

Oh, another tip that I just discovered was that the Gwanghwamun post office is open until 8pm every night. So, if you really need to get to the post office then I recommend you head over to Gwanghwamun station and go out exit 5.

For those that don’t know already, Korea’s biggest holidays is coming soon. Seollal is the Lunar New Year in Korea and most of you will have the 26th and 27th off. So, what this means is that you’ll have a very long weekend.

Here are some places that you can go in the city that are more…traditional.

Gyeongbokgung Palace, located near Gwanghwamun, will have some special programs during this time. They’ll reenact some traditional rituals, games and perform some traditional folk plays.

Other palaces that will have events include the Unhyeonggung Palace and the Jongmyo Shrine.

And the final tip for this review is: any place that you see the “TAX FREE Shopping” Sign means that you can get the Value Added Tax or known as VAT in Korea back for up to three months after you make your purchase. This means that if you paid for a thousand dollar new camera then you will get 10 percent back or 100,000 won. Listeners, that’s nothing to scoff at for sure. The condition is that you have to leave the country, or go on a trip before the 3-month period expires.

Here is the short version of how you can get your tax back.

1. Buy stuff where they have a Tax Free Shopping Sign.
2. Get a Global Refund Cheque Reciept
3. Leave the country within 3 months of your purchase.
4. Get a Customs stamp at the Customs Declaration section at the airport.
Go to the Cash Refund office at the airport.