After one full week of being in Korea, I would have to say that by far, the best experience I’ve had is the sense of community and camaraderie I’ve felt amongst most of the other adoptees I’ve interacted with. Sharing space with other adoptees who have returned to Korea has been empowering and validating.
My jet lag has subsided and I’ve been sleeping well. The KoRoot guesthouse has been such a welcoming home for me ever since I arrived, it will be hard to leave this Sunday. At the same time, I am looking forward to moving into my own apartment and beginning work with ASK.
I’ve secured a oneroomtel, which is comparable to an American studio apartment, only much, much tinier. Oneroomtels in Korea are very popular with students and transient people like myself, since the Korean system for renting apartments is much different than in the west. Also known as goshiwons, these single room accommodations can essentially be like living in a closet. Fortunately, I was able to find one that is much bigger than most, appropriate for my midwestern American standards!
In Korea, it is typical to have to put down a HUGE deposit in order to secure an apartment. By huge, I mean anywhere between $5,000 and $50,000- in addition to paying monthly rent. Usually, the larger the deposit you can put down, the lower your monthly rent. The owner of the property then uses this large sum of money to invest and make more money while you are renting. Once your housing contract ends, you get your money back. Since I will only be in Korea for about 4 months, it was recommended by other adoptees living here that I use Airbnb to find a place that doesn’t require a deposit.
Besides finding a place to live, I was also able to purchase a Korean SIM card to use in my American cellphone. Fortunately, there is an organization in Korea that helps returning adoptees with very practical things like obtaining a working phone. Global Overseas Adoptee Link (GOAL) is run by adoptees and is a definite must visit for first timer returnees like myself. GOAL provides assistance with many things, including birth family searches, language scholarships, mental health counseling, and citizenship matters.
While I was at GOAL, I also received assistance in applying for my F-4 Visa, which once issued would qualify me as an overseas Korean. There are certain benefits that come with an F-4, like the ability to remain in the country for three years without being sponsored by an employer or university.
I have mixed feelings about my status here in Korea. Having to jump through several hoops to regain legal status in Korea is annoying at best, considering I had no choice in the termination of my Korean citizenship in the first place. However, I’m grateful for organizations like GOAL and KoRoot that have helped me settle in.
My idea was to arrive in Korea a bit before I actually start working so I could be a tourist, find housing, obtain a phone, secure a visa, and so on. I am glad that I did this. It has been helpful for me to be able to take my time and gain a sense of normalcy here before I jump into what I’m sure will prove to be very heavy work.