Gyeongbokgung Palace

625575_3921788214794_1436911079_nAside from being the economic heart of Korea, Seoul boasts many of the nation’s greatest historic sites. History buffs and aficionados will definitely want to visit Gyeongju city in the northern part of Gyeongsang Province for a greater in-depth look at Korea’s history, however Seoul should not be overlooked for its own historical exploits.

Gyeongbokgung Palace is one of Korea’s must see historic sites, and it is easily accessible via subway, bus, or taxi. Gyeongbokgung Palace is just a short walk from the Gyeongbokgung Subway Station or even Gwangwhamun Station. Tickets are a modest 3000 KRW (about 3 USD) and the palace is closed every Tuesday so plan accordingly. I recommend going earlier in the day to make sure you can see everything before closing time which varies between 5:00pm and 6:30pm depending on the season. Near Gyeongbokgung Palace you can also visit the statue of King Sejong, the creator of Hangul (the Korean written language) or just take a stroll around Gwanghwamun Square and its gardens and fountains.

45101_1474847042794_7504989_nGyeongbokgung Palace was built in 1395 under the Joseon Dynasty. It is the largest of the “Five Grand palaces” built during the Joseon Dynasty and is widely considered to be the most beautiful. It was rebuilt in 1867 after being burned to the ground during the Japanese invasion of Korea in 1592. Within the palace walls and behind Gwanghwamun gate you’ll be able to see the grand courtroom, the royal living quarters, as well as multiple reflecting pools and gardens. Be sure to see as much of the palace as possible as there are many wonderful photo opportunities to be had inside the palace. Guided tours are also available in English, Chinese, and Japanese but you’ll have to check the official website for more information

( http://www.royalpalace.go.kr/html/eng/main/main.jsp ).41098_1474851922916_980980_n

Whether you are coming to Korea for a short trip or will be staying for much longer, don’t miss out on one of Korea’s most important and historical landmarks. Its location is convenient for an afternoon trip and there are few other places that allow you to experience Korea’s rich history from one of its most prominent and influential dynastic periods on such a grand scale.

Advertisements

Seoul N Tower – Romance in Seoul

While Seoul might not be the first city in the world one thinks of when making a list of romantic capitals around the globe, romance is definitely alive here in Seoul. Seoul N Tower – formerly known as Namsan Tower—is the face of romance here in Seoul. No matter what time of day and no matter what time of year, Seoul N Tower is always full of couples of all ages.

261292_2003416456699_6796970_nUpon arriving at the top of Namsan Mountain and the base of Seoul N Tower,  it is easy to see why this place has become a popular date place for Korean couples and foreign couples alike. Seoul N tower offers one of the best views of Seoul—a 360 degree view of the entire city. It is especially beautiful at night. Just be sure to go when the weather is good and the sky is clear.

Seoul N Tower can be reached via bus or cable car near Myeongdong Station. If the weather is nice enough, you can also walk to the top of Namsan Mountain on a surprisingly quiet path considering that Namsan Mountain lies in the heart of one of Seoul’s busiest and most popular districts. Personally I prefer to take the cable car up and then walk down so that I can appreciate the view and the trees without losing my breath climbing up.

270253_2018077423214_6588962_nLike nearly all major landmarks in cities around the world, Seoul has capitalized on Seoul N Tower’s location and atmosphere, so there is no shortage of things to do while at the top of Namsan Mountain. Here you’ll find multiple coffee shops, gift shops, and even a small but welcoming wine bar. If you take the elevator up to the top you can view Seoul from the observation deck which provides the best view from the tower while grabbing a coffee or writing a post card. There are also multiple restaurants at the top of the tower, Hancook offers Korean food with a very worth-worthwhile buffet, n. GRILL offers a fine French dining experience, and THE PLACE offers a more casual Italian dining experience. Prices are not cheap but then again you are paying for the view and the experience. My personal recommendation is to go to Hancook. The Korean food might not be as delicious as some other restaurants in Seoul but the view can’t be beat and it is more affordable at about 40,000 KRW per person. When considering that this also includes the ticket up to the observation deck it is not a bad deal at all.

268503_2018076703196_7801646_nAt the base of the tower you will also have the opportunity to participate in the “locks of love” tradition. This practice has been popular throughout history and in all different countries. The act requires that a couple, or in some cases friends, purchase two locks and write messages to each other or promises to each other, after which the couple locks the padlocks together and onto a fence or in the case of Seoul N Tower, onto one of the many love lock trees. Although some may deem this kind of gesture to be childish, when standing in a forest of love lock trees one cannot help but be compelled to do the same, especially if you visit the tower with that special someone.

In short, Seoul N Tower is a great place for couples but also a great place to visit for anyone who wants to see Seoul from one of its greatest vantage points. Do not miss out on one of Seoul’s most famous and most beautiful locations. 264025_2003417656729_525333_n

The Visa

When getting ready to come to Korea, applying for a visa isn’t always necessary. Most citizens of countries from around the world are able to stay in Korea for up to 90 days without applying for a formal visa. For trips longer than that you’ll need to plan ahead and prepare a few documents in order to get a long term visa. There are many different kinds of visas available to foreigners in Korea and each has their own qualifications and stipulations prior to being issued. This article focuses on the F4 Visa.

The F4 Visa is limited to people of Korean decent. Adoptees are eligible for this visa because we were all at one point Korean citizens. Foreign born Koreans are also eligible for this visa type as long as at least one parent or one grandparent was or is currently a Korean citizen. Here is a link to the Korean Consulate’s page on the F4 visa for a list of all requirements and exceptions (http://www.koreanconsulate.on.ca/en/?b_id=77&c_id=340&mnu=a02b03).

The F4 Visa is one of the best visas a foreigner living in Korea can receive. Unlike other visas such as student visas (D2) or employment visas (Any of the E-type visas), the F4 visa, provided that you reach all of the initial requirements – namely that you are of Korean ancestry; there are no other stipulations to the visa. An F4 visa holder is free to enter and leave Korea as many times as they want, they can go to school here, or they can seek employment as they see fit. I have known many F4 visa holders who go to school to learn Korean and work part-time to make money on the side for travel in and around Korea. The visa does have to be renewed every two years but doing so does not require the holder to leave Korea during the application period. The F4 visa is noncompetitive in that there are not a limited number issued. If you qualify for the F4 visa you can receive one.

Essentially an F4 visa holder can stay in Korea for the rest of their life if they choose to without ever needing to apply for a permanent resident visa (F2). With an F4 visa you are eligible for Korean insurance and pension plans as well provided your employer here provides these benefits. In short, the F4 Visa basically grants you most of the rights of a Korean citizen without ever becoming a Korean citizen.

The Rundown:

In order to apply for and receive your F4 visa you will need to have the following documents and requirements fulfilled:

  • Complete the Visa Application Form
    • This can be found at the Korean consulate or immigration office in many of the major cities in Korea.
  • A valid passport from the country in which you are currently a citizen
    • The passport must have at least 6 months of validity
  • A recent copy of your family registry
    • This is important in that it establishes your ancestral ties to Korea and can show that you are not currently a Korean citizen. Be sure to check that your Korean citizenship was renounced prior to applying for the F4 visa. It seems like common sense to assume that your citizenship was renounced following your adoption to your home country, however there have been cases in which the citizenship was, unbeknownst to the applicant, still active. Your adoption agency should be able to help you with this.
  • Roughly 80 USD for the application and processing fee (Cash or Money order are acceptable)
  • One recent passport-type color photo

For non-adoptee foreigners with Korean ancestry, other documents are required.

  • The original birth certificate issued by the foreign country in which the birth took place.
  • A recent copy of the family registry proving that the parent or grandparent was a Korean citizen at one point and has since then renounced their Korean citizenship.
  • Any official documents showing the reason and date at which the parent or grandparent gained foreign citizenship (i.e. naturalization papers, citizenship card).

F4 Visa Vs. Dual Citizenship (Or in Some cases, regaining your Korean Citizenship)

Many Koreans may be asked during their time in Korea if they would ever consider dual citizenship or try regaining their Korean Citizenship. Of course the choice is completely up to the individual but I do have a few things that might be useful to consider when contemplating this important decision.

First, the F4 visa grants the individual almost all of the benefits of being a Korean citizen without any strings attached or any of its disadvantages. In saying this I do not mean to imply that there is anything inherently wrong with being a Korean citizen. As a country Korea has come a long way in maintaining and protecting its citizen’s rights and freedoms. However, as a foreigner the system itself can be confusing and once you regain your Korean citizenship you will no longer be considered a foreigner in the eyes of the Korean government.

Why is this important?  It is important in that being a dual citizen or in regaining your Korean citizenship you are no longer protected by the embassy or government of the country in which you grew up in. While this might not seem like a big deal, consider how complex the law can be and how quickly one can become a second class citizen when they are not a native Korean speaker. Another thing to consider is that you lose out on all of your benefits as an adoptee. For example you are for the most part, no longer eligible for educational grants or scholarships as a foreigner or an adoptee because you are no longer a foreign citizen. In many cases this also includes wide access to translation services offered to adoptees.

Before becoming a citizen of Korean, ask yourself why you are considering doing so in the first place? For many the reasons are symbolic and for others the reasons are much deeper than that. I myself very much identify with the Korean culture; I have Korean friends, I have Korean family, and in many ways I feel Korean. However at this time I do not speak enough Korean and have not spent enough time in Korea for me to say “yes, I am ready to be a Korean citizen with all of its responsibilities.” This is not to say that I do not love this country because I very much do. However, I believe that I can show my love for Korea on an F4 visa just as well as I can while being a dual citizen. There may come a time when I am ready to become a dual citizen, but I contend that being patient about this rather precarious situation is a better decision than acting rashly or too quickly.

Finally, in becoming a Korean citizen you should check to see if you are even eligible for dual citizenship. Some countries do not allow dual citizenship, Denmark being one of them. Becoming a dual citizenship is a large decision, but renouncing the citizenship of the country in which you are a native speaker and where you grew up is an even larger decision.

No matter what your decision is now, or in the future, know that for adoptees and for foreign born Koreans there are many options to look at and consider when trying to stay in Korea. Do your research, prepare the proper documents, and you’ll save yourself a lot of time, a lot of energy, and sometimes even some money as well. Best of luck and safe travels.