“The Korean Bank Heist of 2016”

Ah, as I sit here and contemplate what to blog about next, I am pleased to report that Mr. Kay and the VP are having a titillating conversation in Korean and I am banging loudly on my keyboard in hopes they will both stop talking and disappear forever…Nothing’s happening yet, but they are at an awkward silence in their conversation and both staring at my hands typing, so I feel like I can’t stop typing. Oh my god, I can’t stop typing. SO AWKWARD!!! and the VP just got up and scooted along. Anyways, after what has been a hectic day of trying to finalize my summer vacation plans (poor me, I know) and figuring out how to keep myself occupied since my classes are cancelled, I decided to tell the story of the great Korean Bank Heist of 2016. It involves me and my aforementioned co-teacher- the one who is divorced and has the baby. Keep up people.

One thing I should mention about Korea is that no one tells you anything. EVER. You have to know what questions to ask. You have to know the questions that you don’t even know yet. Basically, living here is living in a constant state of, “Why didn’t you tell me?” “You didn’t ask.” “How was I supposed to know to ask?! I’m just supposed to know to ask you every single possible scenario and outcome?” Yes, you have to know to ask the questions that you didn’t even know were questions. Back to the bank heist. In Korea, you can’t get a bank account until you get your Alien Registration Card or ARC. You have to apply for it when you get here and then wait about a week or so before it arrives and then you are good to go. Now, as I mentioned in a different post, my co-teacher is very hands off (except when she needs something or is at risk of getting into trouble) So after my ARC arrived, I had to ask her to take me to the bank. In Korea, the banks operate the very same hours you are at work. They are closed when you get out of work, so basically your only option is to take a half day off of work and handle your business then. Makes no sense, but that’s just Korea for you. I had to wait around until it was convenient for her to take a half day off of work. So we finally get to the bank and set up an account. Now in Korea, you can’t receive a debit card or send money home until you can link your account to a Korean phone number. This is odd because you can’t get a Korean phone number/plan UNTIL you have a bank account, so basically it’s a 3-step process:

  1. Get your bank account opened up
  2. Get a Korean cell phone number/plan
  3. Go back to the bank and get your debit card

Now there are some ways around this, but this was back in my first month here and I had no idea what those ways were. Also, I have T-Mobile and had no need to get a Korean phone or phone number because my plan works out here. I can still text everyone back home normally and here in Korea, I use Kakao , which is a messaging system everyone in Korea uses. You can make phone calls, video chat, and anything else you wanna do using this system. So I had no need for a phone. The bank basically gives you a bank book that looks like a passport and you can only use it to take money out of the ATM. AT THE SAME BANK YOU GOT THE BOOK FROM. You can’t just got to a different branch and use it to get money. Now, my co-teacher never mentioned this. All she told me is, “You need to get a phone number.” That’s it. We left the bank. she never mentioned how to get a phone or that we would come back once I did. Long story short, I got a phone on my own and sent her a message the very same day asking if we could take a half day and go back to the bank. Now, I was pretty frustrated because I still pay bills back home and can’t just wait for weeks on end. As that one commercial says, “It’s my money and I need it now!” I seriously did. I had to have my older sister cover my expenses back home and send money to me in Korea because I had no way to access my account. Luckily, my sister is kind enough and has the means to help me. but what if I had no one? Or as my sister put it, “What if some other person doesn’t have someone to help them out and they need their money?” And that’s why what happens next really upset me. So the day comes when we are supposed to go the bank. I want to mention that in Korea, taking a “half day” from work means leaving at 3:00 instead of 4:30 AND since we are done teaching by 1 or 2 at the latest, we are all just desk warming until it’s time to go home. Seriously, I considered just walking to the bank at 3 and then going home. No one would notice! My co-workers are usually taking naps or watching TV on their computers. I go to her office and she says, “Sobe, I just want you to know that the Vice Principal says this is a personal matter and you should not take time off of work for this.” I just stared at her because I wasn’t sure how to react. I was already upset and then she went and said that. Now in Korea, the VP has power. They are really respected and as my friends here say, “Everyone scuttles around like crabs when they see the Principal and VP.” The thing is , no one cares about the VP back home! I just looked at her like…AND? Like the Vice Principal’s disappointment means NOTHING to me! My thoughts are ONLY tell me if we’re NOT going, ya know? Like I couldn’t give less of a f*** what the VP thinks UNLESS it somehow hinders me from doing what I need to do! So I was already annoyed when we left and by now, it’s 3:30. The bank is about 15 minutes from our school. My co-teacher gets on the phone and calls her daycare to tell them she’ll be picking her daughter up early today…at 4:00  -__-. At that point I was done. The other thing is that Korean banks are like delis. you have to take a number and wait till you’re called. We were going at the end of the day, so there was a bit of a line. While we were waiting, my co-teacher just kept checking her watch and the wall clock and finally looked at me and said, “It’s because I said I would pick my daughter up at 4.” At which point, I just looked at her and thought…AND? I said nothing and just waited. We finally get to see a teller and I get my debit card. My co-teacher was not translating anything and was RUSHING the teller and myself. At one point, the teller was visibly flustered and we both just looked at each other and communicated how annoyed we were at my CT. She wasn’t translating anything the teller was saying. I also asked her to tell the teller how I could go about linking my Korean account with my American account and she just hustled me out and said, “You can do everything online.” Once we get in the car, she books it to the daycare center, but not before nearly getting us killed TWICE. I was fuming and was even annoyed at her daughter once we finally picked up the precious cargo. After that, my  CT knew I was pissed and started driving me home. I was so pissed, I just got out of the car at the light before she turned on my street and told her I would walk.

The worst part about everything is that we didn’t even get a debit card! IT WAS AN ATM CARD! So i still couldn’t do anything online, still couldn’t transfer money. All I could do now was use ATM’s everywhere, instead of at only one branch. Luckily, after doing research, I found out that my bank opens on Sundays for foreigners and was able to go in and fix everything on my own, using Google translate. I owe so much of my success (ha!) here in Korea to Google Translate. I told my co-teacher this after and her response was, “Oh, so is everything okay now?” That was a breaking point for me and I didn’t talk to her for a few weeks. I would just go to her class, do what she told me, and then  I would leave. The whole banking situation, mixed in with the fact that she tried to get me baptized and basically always left me hanging and having to fend for myself, made me really grow disdain for her. But now that I am way more independent out here and have better relationships with my other co-teachers, I know to just ask them. We are okay now, but she was a big reason that I considered leaving Korea in the middle of the night my first two months!

Anyways, I call it the Bank Heist because I was robbed of so much that day. Patience. The respect I had for my co-worker. And so much more that thinking about it irritates me to this day! This story isn’t the most entertaining, I realize BUT I NEVER read anything even close to this when I was researching Korea and this is a very real thing that happened to me, so if it brings someone else some peace from going through the same situation, then I’m happy. This blog is supposed to be an honest account of what I’m experiencing here, so if you’re not entertained, then go watch the new “Game of Thrones.” DON’T SPOIL IT THOUGH! And if you don’t watch “Game of Thrones,” I’m not really sure why you thought it was okay to read my blog…


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