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South Korea
Preface Last Updated: 8/5/2005 0:34 AM

Welcome to "The Land of the Morning Calm," a country with a people obsessed with nature, and with mountains in particular. Wherever you travel, you will see them out in the open air, clad in the latest adventure fashions.

According to the Koreans, the first of their kin was born in 2333 B.C.E. Less aesthetically-minded scientists believe Korea was first inhabited around 30,000 B.C.E., when tribes from central and northern Asia migrated to the peninsula. Under constant pressure from China, these tribes banded together to found a kingdom in the 1st century C.E. By 700 C.E. the Silla Kingdom of Korea was at its cultural stride, proliferating the country with palaces, pagodas, and pleasure gardens. But in the early 13th century, the Mongols reached Korea and pursued a scorched-earth policy. When the Mongol Empire collapsed, the Choson Dynasty succeeded, and a Korean script was developed.

In 1592 Japan invaded the country and was followed by China. The Koreans were routed, and the Chinese Manchu Dynasty established itself. Turning its back on a hostile world, Korea closed its doors to outside influence until the early 20th century, when Japan annexed the peninsula. The Japanese occupied Korea until the end of World War II. After the war, the U.S. occupied the south of the peninsula; the U.S.S.R. occupied the north. Elections to decide the fate of the country were held only in the south, and when the south declared its independence, the north invaded.

By the time the war ended, 2 million people had died, and the country had been officially divided. After a few years of semi-democracy in the south, martial law was declared in 1972. The next 15 years rollercoastered between democracy and repressive martial law, hitting a low in 1980, when 200 student protesters were killed in the Kwangju massacre. By the late 1980s, the country was at a flashpoint student protests were convulsing the country and workers throughout Korea were walking off the job to join them. Among the demands were democratic elections, freedom of the press, and the release of political prisoners. The government did not budge until President Chun suddenly decided to grant everything the protesters asked for.

Korean society is based on the tenets of Confucianism, a system of ethics developed in China around 500 B.C.E. Confucianism emphasizes devotion and respect or parents, family, friends, and those in positions of authority. Many Koreans attribute their country's remarkable success in recent decades to this attitude. In modern Korean society, Confucianism is most noticeable in relations between people. The Five Relationships prescribe behavior between ruler and subject, father and son, husband and wife, old and young, and between friends. If you fall outside any of these relationships, you do not effectively exist.

South Koreans have turned their hand to all artforms. Traditional music is similar to that of Japan and China, with an emphasis on strings. Traditional painting has strong Chinese and calligraphic elements, with the brush line being the most important feature. Most traditional sculpture is Buddhist, and includes statues and pagodas. Seoul is also a showpiece of modern and traditional architecture, including the city gates and the Chosun-era Kyongbok Palace.

The Republic of Korea represents a fascinating blend of the past and present. The Korean people are proud of their long history and unique cultural traditions, and they remain committed to preserving their heritage into the next millennium.

Korea and its capital, Seoul, offer a wide range of both cultural and recreational opportunities. By providing a lifestyle that includes a combination of both the unique and familiar, Korea will prove to be a fascinating place to live and work for anyone considering an assignment here.

The Host Country

Area, Geography, and Climate Last Updated: 8/5/2005 2:13 AM

Located on a peninsula squarely between China and Japan, Korea is a mountainous and ruggedly beautiful land of diverse geographical features. The Republic of Korea encompasses 34,247 square miles, or an area roughly the size of the State of Indiana. Seas form three of its boundaries: to the east is the East Sea; to the south, the narrow Korean Straits, and to the west, the Yellow Sea. The Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) forms the northern boundary, separating the Republic of Korea from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK/North Korea).

The capital city of Seoul lies some 30 miles south of the DMZ. In addition, there are the regional capitals for various provinces in the country. There are also several important seaports in Korea. Pusan, about 300 miles southeast of Seoul, is Korea's main seaport. Inchon, about 40 miles west of Seoul, is the second most active port. The cities of Pohang, Ulsan, and Chinhae are also key sites in commerce.

Korea's climate is marked by four very distinct seasons. The winters are dry and cold, with snow usually appearing in January. The advent of the cherry blossoms heralds spring season that can also be somewhat unpredictable. A brief monsoon season and high temperatures combine to make city life rather humid in the summertime. Autumn is easily the best time of year in Korea, when both the cities and the countryside benefit from clear skies and vibrant fall foliage.

Only 19% of the country is flat enough to be arable, and that land is farmed intensively. In addition, there has been a steady shift away from the farm and into urban areas. Two-thirds of Korea's population now live in its cities.

Population Last Updated: 8/5/2005 0:39 AM

Korea is one of the world's most densely populated countries. Government figures from 1999 estimate South Korea's population to be 46.8 million, and the city of Seoul's is figured to be more than 10 million. The average age of the population has increased slightly, but the numbers who have first-hand memory of the Japanese occupation or the Korean war continue to decline.

Since 1945, exposure to Western influences has increased dramatically, bringing with it a corresponding evolution in lifestyles, thought, and behavior. Western-influenced attitudes and dress are now common throughout Seoul, but the traditional ideals still hold considerable sway, particularly in the countryside.

Religious freedom is one of the tenets of Korean law. Buddhism (23%) and Christianity (25%) show the most adherents. Others combine practices from Confucianism and Shamanism in their faith.

The Korean language is very distinct from Chinese, but shares a similar grammar and word order with Japanese. The Department of State classifies Korean as a "super-hard language." Han-gul, the phonetic alphabet, is used almost exclusively in all facets of daily life, with occasional Chinese characters finding their way into various publications. Although not a tonal language (such as Chinese or Vietnamese), Korean relies heavily on the Confucian idea of rank and status within society, using various forms of address, expressions, and grammatical nuances to convey those ideas. However, as with any language, a working knowledge of the Korean script and basic phrases will certainly be ample for most residents.

In Korea, the first name is the family name, followed by a given name. Married women continue to use their maiden names but add the prefix "Mrs." Only when associating with Westerners will women occasionally identify themselves by their husband's surname. Koreans seldom address one another by their first names. It is very common practice here to exchange business cards upon introduction.

Traditionally, Korean homes were built of brick or stone around a courtyard, and had three to four bedrooms, a living room, and a kitchen. Bedrooms had charcoal-heated floors called "ondol." Windows were of glass, and sliding doors between rooms in the homes were latticed frames of wood covered with rice paper. Today, very few can claim to live in such housing. Most city dwellers live in high-rise apartments or in homes of cement block with tile roofing.

Traditional Korean food consists primarily of rice, soups, and the ubiquitous "kimchi," which is a mixture of pickled vegetables, red pepper, and garlic. Grilled meats, such as barbecued beef and ribs ("bulgogi" and "kalbi," respectively) are always popular. As with most of Asia, rice figures prominently in the Korean diet, not just as an essential part of one's meal, but also in traditional drinks. It is used to make "makkoli" (a light rice wine) and "soju" (a considerably stronger libation).

A Brief Political History. Throughout most of its history, Korea has been invaded, influenced, and fought over by its larger neighbors. To protect themselves from such buffeting, the Yi Dynasty kings finally adopted a closed-door policy, which earned Korea the title of the "Hermit Kingdom." Although the Yi kings showed nominal fealty to the Chinese throne, Korea was, in fact, independent until the onset of Japanese colonialism in the early 20th century. Japan actually annexed Korea in 1910, beginning an era of almost total control from Tokyo. This era was marked by an effort to replace the Korean language and culture with those of Japan. Japanese colonial rule continued until the end of World War II.

With the defeat of the Japanese in World War II, the peninsula was divided along the 38th parallel. Soviet troops accepted the surrender of the Japanese in the North, and U.S. troops accepted it in the South. This division was cemented when the U.S.S.R. refused to allow a U.N. Commission to enter the North and supervise free elections. Thus, the Republic of Korea was established only in the South. The U.S.S.R. established a separate government in the North, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (D.P.R.K.), headed by Kim Il Sung.

In June 1950, the D.P.R.K. launched a massive invasion of the Republic of Korea, which was halted at the Naktong River near the southeastern city of Pusan, and then reversed by the historic U.S. Marine landing at Inchon that September. Three years of bloody fighting followed, with massive numbers of troops from the People's Republic of China aiding the North, and troops of 16 U.N. member nations assisting the South. The truce signed on July 27, 1953 established a demilitarized zone along the 38th parallel.

A peace treaty has never been concluded. U.S. military forces remain in the Republic of Korea today to help enforce the Armistice and to deter aggression, pursuant to the Mutual Security Treaty concluded between the U.S. and the Republic of Korea in 1954. While an uneasy peace has been maintained on the peninsula since the Armistice, large armed forces confront each other across the DMZ and incidents continue to occur.

The Republic of Korea has had a stormy domestic political history. After 1948, short interludes of instability punctuated three long periods of authoritarian rule under Presidents Syngman Rhee (1948-1960), Park Chung Hee (1961-1979), and Chun Doo Hwan (1980-1987).

In 1987, a new constitution was drawn up in concert with all political parties. In the December 1987 election, a split between major opposition figures allowed Roh Tae-Woo of the Democratic Justice Party (DJP) to become Korea's first directly elected President since 1971, with just 36% of the vote. In the April 1988 legislative elections, the opposition parties together gained control of the National Assembly for the first time. In January 1990, however, the ruling DJP and two of the opposition parties merged to form the Democratic Liberal Party (DLP), which gained control of more than two-thirds of the seats in the Assembly.

In December 1992, Kim Young-Sam, former leader of one of the opposition parties that had merged to create the ruling DLP, was elected as the first civilian president in three decades. In his first year in office, President Kim implemented sweeping political and economic reforms, which signified a fundamental policy break from the previous administration, and which ended the political careers of several key officials from that administration.

President Kim Dae-Jung's historic election in 1997 represented the first time in Korean history that an opposition leader reached the highest office in the land. An internationally recognized human rights and democracy advocate, President Kim has made political and economic reform, together with the promotion of democracy and human rights, the watchwords of his Presidency. He has also reached out to North Korea with his policy of engagement, and, thus far, progress in expanding private-sector North-South contacts and cooperation has been great. He has also successfully pursued summit diplomacy with the U.S., Japan, China, and Russia, as well as other countries in Asia.

Public Institutions Last Updated: 8/5/2005 0:41 AM

Under the constitution, the Government is divided into three branches: the executive, legislative, and judicial. The President administers the country with the assistance of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, whom he appoints. All provincial and local officials are appointed and work under the administration of the Ministry of Home Affairs. The judicial branch consists of the Supreme Court, three appellate courts, three district courts, and one family court. In addition, the military services have special courts.

The one-house National Assembly has 299 members. Three-quarters of the Assembly members are elected from single-member districts, while the others are chosen via a nationwide representative system. Each party receives one proportional seat for every three seats won in the election districts. The constitution provides for direct presidential elections every 5 years and National Assembly elections every 5 years.

Arts, Science, and Education Last Updated: 8/5/2005 0:42 AM

Korea's 5,000 years of history have produced a rich and vibrant artistic heritage. The handiwork seen, for example, in ceramics, woodworking, architecture, needlework, and calligraphy showcases the high level of craftsmanship evident here. Indeed, Korea has designated several artisans as "Living National Treasures," to honor their contributions to the arts and crafts of Korea, and to pass their skills on to the next generation.

Museums and galleries located primarily in Seoul, but also scattered throughout the country, display the works of the Koguryo, Paekche, and Shilla Dynasties. These displays reflect the different impacts of regional interests and conflicts.e.g., Chinese influence during the Koguryo, Buddhist influence during the Shilla. Later on, the Yi Dynasty (C.E. 1392-1910) illustrated the Confucian mores.

Traditional music in Korea is quite distinctive, and is used primarily in religious rituals, combined with prayer and dance. Concerts showcasing traditional court and temple music are quite popular. The art of "Pan'sori," where a lone singer relates a story, often lasting for up to 8 hours, is also unique to the region.

Traditional dance is usually court, temple dance, or folk dancing, with highly stylized moves and musicals interpretations. Again, festivals and performances highlighting these dances are popular.

Korean research and development activities are centered in the scores of research institutes located in Seoul and elsewhere. These include the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIS), the Korea Institute of Industrial Economics and Technology (KIET), the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute (KAERI), the Agency for Defense Development (ADD), and the Korea Educational Development Institute (KEDI).

Education at all levels is a highly emphasized facet of Korean life. School children take their studies seriously, and there is enormous pressure from the family and friends to succeed. Government and private investment in education is heavy, particularly in technical schools and colleges, both of which have expanded exponentially in the last decades.

Numerous institutions of higher education were originally established through missionaries' assistance: Ewha Women's University (Methodist), Yon-sei University (interdenominational), Soongjun University (Presbyterian), and Sogang University (Jesuit). Of these, the most prestigious is Seoul National University (SNU). These institutions introduced Western culture to Korea during the early part of the 1900s, and many national leaders have since received their education from them.

Commerce and Industry Last Updated: 8/5/2005 0:42 AM

Korea is one of the largest of the U.S. trading partners, and, currently, our sixth largest export market, surpassing those of Australia, Brazil, China, France, and Italy. Imports to Korea are returning to precrisis (1997) levels, with strong growth expected throughout 2000. Concurrently, Korea also has been described as one of the toughest markets in the world for doing business, a place where firms must do their homework and take nothing for granted.

In response to the late-1997 economic crisis, the administration is implementing structural reforms, especially in the financial and corporate sectors aimed at putting the Korean economy on a more open, market-oriented basis. With the rapid improvement in the nation's economy, however, the pressure to press on with reform and restructuring has abated somewhat.

Despite these challenges, there are many outstanding export possibilities for U.S. goods and service providers, and new opportunities continue to abound. For instance, Korea will be Asia's third largest e-commerce market by 2002. Korea's e-commerce market is forecast to grow to almost $10 billion by 2003, making Korea the 10th largest e-commerce market in the world. The number of Korean Internet users is now estimated to be about 10 million more users than exist in Australia, Taiwan, Italy, Sweden, Netherlands, and Spain, and rapidly gaining on Canada and the U.K. The Korean market for U.S. nonmemory-integrated circuits and microassemblies continues to expand. Korea imports more integrated circuits than it does gas and oil.

In sum, Korea is undergoing a fundamental and revolutionary period of change. Although barriers remain, it is clear that Korea is gradually evolving into a more competitive, more transparent, more user-friendly business environment. U.S. exporters realize the strategic importance of being active in this key market and contribute to the vibrant commercial environment that is Korea.


Automobiles Last Updated: 8/5/2005 0:45 AM

Although public transportation in Korea is generally quite good, almost all employees import a vehicle or purchase one locally. Embassy employees with diplomatic status including A & T staff can import a personal car duty free at any time during their tour. They may also purchase a second vehicle if accompanied by their spouses.

Prior restrictions on the value or model of vehicle that could be imported into Korea have been lifted. Employees now can import the vehicle of their choice as long as it is for the bona fide personal use of the employee or family member. Given the narrow streets and crowded traffic conditions here, small, maneuverable vehicles that are easy to park are best. Employees having questions regarding the appropriateness or ease of maintaining a particular model should contact the Embassy's General Services Office (GSO).

Vehicles shipped to Korea should not be crated, and all-risk maritime insurance is recommended. The Embassy arranges for the pick-up of privately owned vehicles at the port of entry and for delivery to the GSO compound pending registration and licensing. However, the temporary vehicle plates may be issued after clearing customs upon request by an owner. Before driving a vehicle, an employee must have third-party, property damage, and liability insurance, which can be purchased locally.

To obtain a local drivers license, a valid drivers license issued elsewhere (U.S. or foreign) is needed. Otherwise, the local drivers test, which is considered difficult, must be taken. A Korean license is valid for 9 years & 3 months and is renewable. The fee for both initial issuance and renewal fee is 5,000 won.

Traffic accidents in Korea are a serious problem. The Republic of Korea has one of the world's highest traffic fatality rates per number of cars on the road, well over 10 times the rates in the U.S. and Japan. Pedestrian casualties are also high. There are many streets with unmarked crosswalks, and many crosswalks that are marked yet not observed by drivers. Pedestrians often exacerbate traffic problems by jumping into the street to hail taxis. Motorcycles make the situation even more hazardous, with a marked tendency to drive wherever there happens to be room which can even include the sidewalks.


Local Transportation Last Updated: 8/5/2005 2:18 AM

Official Transportation. Motor pool vehicles with drivers are available for official travel. Additionally, new arrivals can request official transportation for five trips, free of charge, to help them with settling in. Departing personnel can also request three official free rides.

Public transportation between Embassy housing on South Post and the Chancery is available, but considered inadequate. Therefore, there is a work shuttle bus service, provided to employees at cost. Schedules follow regular work hours. Additionally, there is a shuttle service between the Chancery and the GSO/Public Affairs Compound.

Local Bus Service. Local bus transportation in Seoul is inexpensive (for example, W800-900 per ride on a city bus) and offers an easy alternative for getting around town. However, schedules per se are nonexistent and buses can be extremely crowded during the rush hour. Routes are printed on the sides of buses-but in Korean script. A basic knowledge of the local language will be a great help in navigating your way around.

Subway. Seoul has a fast, safe, and inexpensive subway system, which is easy to understand. Routes handle both major city stops and areas well beyond the city boundaries. As with any large city, the subway is crowded at rush hour.

Taxi Service. There are three types of taxi service available for use by Embassy employees: local taxis and deluxe taxis are available throughout the city, and taxis run by AAFES are available for use on the base.

Local cabs are convenient and reasonably priced; all taxis are metered so bargaining is not necessary. Tipping is also not expected. Taxis can be hailed from anywhere on a street, although there are some taxistands near the larger hotels. When hailing a cab, beckon with your hand facing down. Cabbies will not pick up a rider if they do not wish to go to that destination; they will also be disinclined to pick up fares during their shift change (usually late afternoon). Local cabs are allowed on the military bases only to Embassy housing through Gate 52.

Deluxe cabs are clearly marked. Geared primarily for foreign tourists, the meter starts at W3, 000, and the drivers are said to have a grasp of Japanese and some English-language skills.

The Army Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) operates a fleet of cabs that have access to military installations and housing areas. Fees are metered, payable in dollars, and tipping is customary. The price usually can be two to three times the amount charged by local cabs.


Regional Transportation Last Updated: 8/5/2005 0:46 AM

Both highways and city streets are often heavily congested with cars, taxis, and buses. Construction projects are continuous. There are good roads from the airport into Seoul proper, and also to points south and east.

Intercity bus transportation is available throughout Korea. Modern, air-conditioned coaches provide inexpensive transportation to major cities. Schedules are available at both the Seoul Express, Dong Seoul Express, Sang Bong Express and Nam Bu Bus terminals.

The Government owns and operates the entire railway system and continues its efforts to modernize and expand railroad facilities. Korea has entered into the super high-speed train era with Korea Train Express (KTX), operating at speed of 300 km per hour. The well-developed system has first-class coaches available at reasonable fares. There is train service to all major cities. Night express trains have Pullman sleeper cars, and long-distance trains have a dining car. Licensed vendors are authorized to come aboard to sell refreshments.

Sea transport is essential to Korea because there are no open land borders. Shipping services are well developed, and almost all major foreign shipping lines regularly call at ports here. Usually, these are cargo or cargo/passenger ships. The principal ports are Pusan, on the southern tip of the peninsula, and Inchon, northwest of Seoul.

Many international airlines operate in Korea, and Korean carriers (Asiana and Korean Airlines) fly domestic routes. The schedules are convenient and the airfares are usually quite reasonable.


Telephones and Telecommunications Last Updated: 8/5/2005 2:19 AM

The Republic of Korea has made great strides in both its telephone and telecommunications services. Cellular phone service is available with many carriers and options to choose from. A wide variety of Internet services is available and prices are comparable to those found in the U.S. Prepaid phone cards are available at all AAFES concessions, and the price per minute back to the U.S. ranges from 8 to 10 cents a minute. The Embassy also provides International Voice Gateway that can be accessed from both the Embassy and your home. Rates are based from Beltsville, Maryland, using your ATT, MCI, or SPRINT card.

Telegram service is also available at post. International telegrams should be addressed to the employee, American Embassy Seoul. Personal telegrams received during office hours are delivered to the mailroom and forwarded to the employee. After duty hours the telegram is delivered to the Marine Guard on duty, who will contact the employee by telephone. The Embassy also has several fax machines, including one located in the mailroom; the number is 82-2-738-8845.


Mail and Pouch Last Updated: 8/5/2005 2:20 AM

Embassy Seoul relies almost exclusively on the military postal service, which provide parcel and letter delivery between Korea and the U.S. in 7-10 days. The mailing address for employees should be noted as follows:

Employee Name American Embassy Unit #15550-Section APO AP 96205-5550

Pouch services are also available. The pouch address is:

Employee Name Department of State 9600 Seoul Place Washington, D.C. 20521-9600


Radio and TV Last Updated: 8/5/2005 0:48 AM

Korean radio stations offer a wide variety of good musical programs particularly classical on both AM and FM stations. In addition to these local Korean channels, the Armed Forces Network Korea (AFN-K) broadcasts news, music, sports, and some U.S. radio programs. Voice of America programs and National Public Radio are available as well. Some employees use shortwave radios to pick up the BBC, CBC, Deutsche Welle, and others.

Cable TV, some with foreign programming, is widely available. The four Korean television networks offer a variety of programming, with a few either in English or with the benefit of subtitles for foreign viewers. The AFN-K-TV transmits a choice of CNN newscasts and U.S. television programs. The NTSC system is used in Korea, so a U.S.-make television set can receive local broadcasts. Hong Kong's Star TV Network is also available.

VCRs can be purchased and serviced at the military's Post Exchange on base. In addition to the video shops run by the Post Exchange, there are plenty of locally run video shops, which also carry popular releases.


Newspapers, Magazines, and Technical Journals Last Updated: 8/5/2005 0:48 AM

The Korea Times and the Korea Herald are the two English-language newspapers published in Seoul, with an obvious emphasis on Korean news. The U.S. military newspaper, the Pacific Stars and Stripes, is published daily in Japan and shipped to Seoul. All these publications are available for home delivery/subscription. In addition, the International Herald Tribune (Asia edition), and the Financial Times are now printed locally. Asian Wall Street Journal, and USA Today arrive a day late.

Most popular American magazines and recent paperback novels are available at the post exchange. Osan Air Base, about a 1-hour drive south of Seoul, also has a well-stocked bookstore.

The military libraries have good facilities, including reading rooms with magazines and newspapers. They carry a comprehensive assortment of technical journals and microfiche on numerous subjects. The Foreign Commercial Service has a library section open to the public, as does the Public Affairs Office.

In addition to these options, the Kyobo Building? block from the Embassy as well known for its wide selection of English-language titles. Although prices may be higher than in the U.S., the selection is usually quite good.

Health and Medicine

Medical Facilities Last Updated: 8/5/2005 0:49 AM

The main Health Unit is located on the fourth floor of the Chancery. An American-licensed full-time nurse practitioner, a registered nurse, staff the unit. The Health Unit provides basic medical treatment and immunizations. Referrals are made for more complex illnesses that require additional diagnostic procedures. There is a satellite clinic in the Embassy housing area on South Post.

Medically speaking, Korea is an advanced country. Hospitals are usually well equipped with state-of-the-art diagnostic and therapeutic equipment. Many Korean physicians have trained and practiced in the U.S. Direct-hire Embassy employees and their dependents are authorized to use the U.S. military facilities, 121 General Hospital. That facility offers treatment for routine illnesses and conditions. The fee schedule at the 121 General is subject to change; be sure to check with post's Health Unit to get the most updated prices. Specialized care is available at Korean hospitals, as well.

High-quality dental care, both general and specialized, is available in Seoul at costs comparable to those in the U.S. U.S.-trained orthodontists are available.

Optical services, including American board-certified opthamologists, are available at major university-affiliated hospitals at reasonable costs. The military Post Exchange stocks a wide selection of contact lens supplies. If special supplies are required, however, it is best to bring them.

The Health Unit neither stocks nor distributes over-the-counter medications. Prescribed medications for chronic conditions can be procured through the mail-order programs of most health insurance companies. The Health Unit can assist with this.

In general, specialized medical needs can be handled, but there may be cultural differences that can affect overall satisfaction with services. You may find Korean medical practices (bedside manners) somewhat different from what you are accustomed to: be prepared to discuss your medical needs and medical history. In Korea, it is normally regarded as the patient's responsibility to inform the doctor of any potential medical concerns. Don't wait until you are asked; you may not be.

Korean doctors do not always volunteer information about their diagnosis or treatment options. When asked, they are usually reluctant to give the patient such information. The doctors and medical facilities that we use, having considerable experience with foreigners, tend to be more forthcoming.

Korean doctors rarely tell the patient the nature of the medicines prescribed. The name of the medication, too, will most likely not appear on the package. You may wish to ask your doctor the name and type of medication he is prescribing before having the prescription filled at the pharmacy; the pharmacist may simply refer such questions to the doctor. In Korea there is no primary care system; all doctors are specialists. Be prepared to pay, in cash, at the completion of each visit.

Health and Medicine

Community Health Last Updated: 8/5/2005 0:50 AM

Seoul has air pollution levels that are considered moderate by U.S. standards. Hazardous levels are episodic and seasonal, not continuous. Photochemical pollution or smog results from the action of sunlight on motor vehicle exhaust producing ozone. This type of pollution predominates in summer. In winter, particulate and sulfur oxides, which result from coal-fired heating and industrial processes, predominate. Overall levels of winter pollution have decreased in Seoul by 50% in the last 5 years largely due to the switch to natural gas for heating and in industry. However, summertime smog has increased due to the increased number of vehicles in Seoul.

Respiratory problems are the major cause of clinic visits. The cold, dry winters are responsible for recurrent sinusitis, bronchitis, otitis media, and pneumonia. The best protection against these winter illnesses is humid air. Sturdy, cool-mist humidifiers are the best way to replace the moisture in the air. Humidifiers are available locally and in the Post Exchange. Employees would be well advised to purchase a unit for each bedroom before departing the U.S.

Food sanitation is not always up to U.S. standards. The food service facilities on military installations are inspected regularly and comply with U.S. requirements. Using off post restaurants needs some precaution. Locally purchased fruits, meats, vegetables need extra cleaning to be on the safe side.

Water on U.S.-owned property is potable. Water in the Yongsan Embassy Housing contains added fluorides at adequate levels. Water on Compounds One and Two do not contain fluoride and children under age 13 residing in these areas should take fluoride supplements. The Health Unit stocks fluoride drops and dispenses them on request.

Health and Medicine

Preventive Measures Last Updated: 8/5/2005 0:50 AM

Gastrointestinal illnesses are not generally a problem, but the incidence of Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and tuberculosis is rising. Anyone traveling to other parts of East Asia (e.g., China and Thailand), should get two series of Hepatitis A and three series of Hepatitis B vaccinations as they are prevalent in those regions. All American employees, dependents, and household help should be checked annually for TB status. The Health Unit also provides influenza vaccinations every October.

The regional medical officer makes regularly scheduled visits from Manila. The regional medical officer/psychiatrist from Japan also schedules regular visits.

Employment for Spouses and Dependents Last Updated: 8/5/2005 0:50 AM

The Korean Government allows special permission for spouses of U.S. diplomats to work for Korean employers. Foreign firms hire spouses who have appropriate business qualifications. Teaching English as a second language to businesses and private citizens can be a lucrative option as well; contact the CLO for the most recent hourly rates.

American Embassy - Seoul

Post City Last Updated: 8/5/2005 0:51 AM

Seoul has a population of more than 10 million people. It is located in the northwest part of the Republic, about 30 miles south of the DMZ, which separates North and South Korea.

The name derives from "Sorabol," the capital of the Shilla Kingdom. Seoul was established as the capital in 1392 by the first emperor of the Yi Dynasty. At that time, Seoul was surrounded entirely by the four hills that now simply form the boundaries of the downtown area. Today, the urbanized area extends well beyond those boundaries. The Han River flows through the southern part of the city and into the Yellow Sea.

As mentioned earlier, Seoul is the repository for Korea's history and culture. Part of the city's charm is the juxtaposition of traditional characteristics with modern life. For example, three of the major palaces in the city, Kyongbok, Changdok, and Toksu are all located in downtown Seoul within walking distance of the Embassy and the Compounds I residential areas. A walk in almost any city neighborhood will reveal not only concrete, high-rise apartments, but also small parks and traditional homes. Shops range from those high-dollar establishments catering to the expatriate community, to local "mom and pop" stores and streetside vendors peddling traditional snacks.

Seoul was a major casualty of the Korean war, with 80% of the city razed. Since that time, modern buildings have sprung up everywhere, and factories and industrial areas have mushroomed throughout the city and beyond. Hosting the 1986 Asian Games and the 1988 Summer Olympic Games boosted Seoul's image as a major venue for international conferences (hotels, tourist services, etc.). Seoul now looks forward to cohosting the APEC in 2005.

The Post and Its Administration Last Updated: 8/5/2005 0:52 AM

The U.S. Mission in Korea is housed in the chancery located in downtown Seoul. The building, originally part of the AID mission in Korea during the 1960s, has eight stories, limited parking, and sits squarely on one of the city's major thoroughfares, Sejong-Ro. GSO and Public Affairs have separate offices, located nearby on the Yongsan military base in favorable traffic, about a 15-minute drive from the Chancery.

The U.S. Ambassador is the ranking U.S. civilian official in the Republic of Korea, and the Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) is second in command. Administrative, Consular, Political, Economic, and Public Affairs Sections, each of which is headed by an officer of minister-counselor rank, represent the State Department. Other agencies at post include the IDepartment of Homeland Security's Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Department of Homeland Security's U.S. Customs Service (CUST), the Defense Attach?' Office (DAO), Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS), Foreign Commercial Service (FCS), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS). State's administrative section provides all administrative services to these agencies as well.

A large Joint U.S. Military Assistance Group (JUSMAG-K) is assigned to the Embassy. A colonel or other 0-6 level officer, who reports to the Ambassador, commands the unit. This program is designed to assist Korea's armed forces to maintain a modern, combat-ready military.

Although not under Embassy auspices, the U.S. military presence in-country certainly warrants mention. Some 37,000 troops are stationed throughout Korea. The headquarters for U.S. Forces Korea (USFK) is in Seoul and is commanded by a U.S. Army Four-Star General. That officer's responsibilities also include acting as the commander in chief, United Nations Command (CINC/UNC), and commander in chief, Combined Forces Command (CINC/CFC). A U.S.-R.O.K. Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed in Seoul in 1966 went into effect in 1967. That agreement established conditions for troops stationed in Korea and for DOD civilians.

Embassy Seoul's working hours are 0830 to 1700, Monday through Friday. The phone number for the Embassy operator is (82) (2) 397-4114.


Temporary Quarters Last Updated: 8/5/2005 0:53 AM

Post makes every effort to move newly arrived employees directly to their permanent housing. If necessary, temporary quarters are authorized. Official temporary duty travelers are usually booked in hotels, most of which are within walking distance or short cab rides to the Embassy.


Permanent Housing Last Updated: 8/5/2005 0:53 AM

The Embassy Housing Board makes housing assignments with the assistance of the General Services Office and in accordance with established policy. There are very few designated quarters, so specific housing cannot be promised to incoming personnel. As with any assignment, quarters are based on rank and family size.

Post will provide a Welcome Kit, free of charge, for your use until household effects arrive. It contains basic linens and kitchenware; cribs are also available upon request.

The Ambassador's residence, a five-bedroom home blending Korean and Western architectural design concepts, is located on Compound I. The house has separate living and dining areas for family, as well as spacious entertaining areas. The grounds include a swimming pool and clay tennis court, and the historic Legation House, that serves as a guest house. The remainder of the compound is being redeveloped as the site of the planned new chancery building and high-rise apartment housing units.

All Embassy personnel live in south post or in leased apartments.

South Post: This is an Embassy housing area post of the military base at Yongsan. Most Embassy staff live here, taking advantage of proximity to the DODDS schools and various community support services. Homes here are vintage 1950s cinderblock, ranch-style duplexes, with two to five bedrooms. They include living/dining room, kitchen, two baths, small utility room, family room, breakfast nook, storage area, fireplace, and lawn. Some of the yards are partially fenced.


Furnishings Last Updated: 8/5/2005 0:54 AM

All housing is furnished, to include dishwashers, electric range, refrigerators, microwaves, and washer/dryers. Additionally, lamps; carpeting; vacuum cleaner; twin; double-and queen-sized beds are provided. Baby cribs can be issued on a 90-day loan. Those homes with fireplaces are equipped with firescreens and tools. Power mowers are provided for those with lawns. Employees are responsible for maintaining their lawn areas.

Household effects (HHE) shipments should include any items that may make your stay in Korea most comfortable. Storage space is at a premium. Embassy issued furniture will not be taken back to make room for personal furniture. Additionally, a tour in Seoul finds many employees adding significantly to their weight allowance.


Utilities and Equipment Last Updated: 8/5/2005 0:54 AM

Many residences have small fireplaces; occupants are responsible for providing maintenance and, of course, their own firewood. Touch-tone telephones are installed in each residence.

Houses on the South Post compound are wired for 110/120 volts, 60 cycles. Those assigned to off post lease units outside will find them wired for 220V 60c and may require transformers. Electricity is reliable, so regulators are not a requirement.

Food Last Updated: 8/5/2005 0:55 AM

All employees purchase food and sundries from the military commissary on Yongsan Army Base. This commissary is the largest of its kind stocks items found in American supermarkets, including fresh fruits and vegetables, frozen foods, meats, dairy products, and various canned and packaged goods. Embassy employees are issued ration control cards upon arrival in order to have access to the commissary. Most staff find the monthly dollar and quantity limits quite reasonable.

Local markets provide an alternative to grocery shopping. Large supermarkets, usually located in the basement level of major department stores, have a wide selection of local produce and meats, as well as imported items the latter being quite expensive. Residents also have a choice of patronizing the high-end delicatessens and foreigner's shops, which offer a wide array of items. Neighborhood vendors will be less expensive, but their standards of handling and cleanliness may not meet U.S. standards. Although there have been no reports of serious illness from eating locally purchased produce, it is always wise to carefully clean all fruits and vegetables, and to handle meats/poultry/fish with appropriate care and common sense.

Liquor is readily available in Korea. Most Mission staff purchase beers, wines, and hard liquors through the military's Class VI store, which is located on Yongsan Military Base. Alcohol sales purchased through the military are rationed; most staff find the limits to be quite generous. Alternatively, liquor can be purchased from a variety of establishments throughout the city. Korea's local beer (OB and Crown) is reasonably good. Imported wines are available at various delicatessens and shops throughout the city; expect to pay an extraordinarily high price, however.

Clothing Last Updated: 8/5/2005 0:56 AM

In addition to dressing for a relatively conservative environment, employees should come prepared for the four very distinct seasons that Korea offers: from hot, humid summers to cold, dry winters. Fortunately, Korea exports a wide array of clothing items. It is easy to supplement a wardrobe here: from purchases at the military's Post Exchange, mail-order catalogs, local tailoring/dressmaking, and the local markets. Many American/European designer names can be located in the markets of Seoul (Itaewon, Namdae-mun, Tongdae-mun). These items are usually "seconds," however, and you need to be on the look-out for glaring flaws. Larger sizes (be it with clothing or shoes) can be difficult to find, although there are plenty of tailors and shoemakers in Itaewon who can happily create whatever designs you have in mind. Items that are easy to find are: wool and acrylic sweaters, knit shirts, leather goods, sport shoes, raincoats, jackets, parkas.


Men Last Updated: 8/5/2005 0:56 AM

Dark suits are appropriate for summer and winter wear. A conservative business suit is acceptable for most official receptions, as well as cocktail or dinner parties throughout the year. Formal clothing is rarely necessary. Those with definite preferences or who are hard to fit should bring a good supply or arrange to receive mail-order catalogs to replenish their wardrobes as necessary. Many have suits and shirts made on the local economy; service and standards are usually high, and prices are exceptionally reasonable. The Post Exchange on the base also carries name-brand men's wear, although the selections may be somewhat limited.


Women Last Updated: 8/5/2005 0:57 AM

Women in Seoul dress more conservatively than they do in the U.S. In deference to local customs, American women usually wear clothing that is not conspicuously bare although attitudes toward fashion styles are changing, showing too much skin is still considered uncouth. As with men's clothing, the Post Exchange does provide a good, basic supply of lingerie, stockings, and clothing, but you can also enjoy the experience of shopping in the local markets. Modern styles and attractive clothing are readily available and reasonably priced. Availability, however, will depend on what local factories are producing at that time. Larger sizes can also pose a challenge. In response to that, there are good seamstresses available, and many employees have had clothes made. As always, mail-order catalogs are a big help


Children Last Updated: 8/5/2005 0:58 AM

Various kinds of children's clothing are available at local markets and are reasonably priced. However, some parents find shopping for infants and pre-teens difficult. Most use mail-order catalogs to replenish certain items, although the Post Exchange does carry a reasonable selection of children's clothing and shoes. Shopping for teenagers will not pose any problems stylish brand-name items made for export are readily available and at good prices.

Supplies and Services Last Updated: 8/5/2005 0:58 AM

The Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) offers a sizable number of services to both the military and the Embassy staff, to include the Post Exchange, drycleaning/tailoring services, garden store, furniture store, cafeteria, mail order service from the AAFES catalog, flowershop, wrap & pack, and other concessions. Most staff use the Post Exchange at Yongsan for basic supplies and services. The "PX" carries a wide variety of merchandise, to include toiletries, cosmetics, medicines, housewares, linens, bedding, appliances, cameras, CDs, etc. In many ways, the PX is comparable to a Wal-Mart or K-Mart store in the U.S.

The Seoul American Officers' Wives' Club runs the Chosun Gift Shop, which is also on the base. Although with limited hours, it offers a fair range of handicrafts representative of the Asian region, to include knickknacks, jewelry, china, carpets, furnishings, and wicker.

Both the military and AAFES run beauty and barbershops, which provide the standard range of services at good prices. There are numerous beauty shops and barbershops on the local economy as well. However, the latter establishments may not have a staff fluent in English; bring a friend to help out, at least initially.

AAFES and the military have garage/auto maintenance services, but the quality of work is not always satisfactory.

Supplies and Services

Domestic Help Last Updated: 8/5/2005 0:59 AM

The days of inexpensive domestic help are long gone, and although many staff hire at least one maid, others have entirely foregone that option. Most domestic help are not Korean, but rather hail from the Philippines, Thailand, and Sri Lanka. If an employee is interested in having a maid, either full or part time, it is wise to start looking early—notify the sponsor ahead of time. For the most recent information about job descriptions, current salaries, and legal ramifications, contact the Community Liaison Office.

Religious Activities Last Updated: 8/5/2005 0:59 AM

Yongsan Military Base has services for the following faiths: Protestant, Roman Catholic, Episcopal, Jewish, and non-denominational. Roman Catholic Mass is also offered in Spanish. American and European missionaries, as well as military chaplains, can provide religious services and Sunday School services.

Seoul has several churches throughout the city, some of which provide English-language services. There is a Mosque near Itaewon market. Other faiths represented are: Seoul Union Church (interdenominational), the International Union Church of Seoul, and the Seoul Memorial Baptist Church. In addition, services are available for the Anglican, Greek Orthodox, Christian Science, Seventh-day Adventist, Latter-Day Saints/Mormons, Catholic and Lutheran faiths.

Contact the Community Liaison Office for more information on services and locations.

Education Last Updated: 4/23/2004 3:28 AM

Embassy dependents attend several schools in Seoul. Information on those institutions used most frequently is noted below. Please note that several of the following schools do not offer guaranteed enrollment to Embassy dependents, so applying early is essential. Information on other educational options is available from the CLO.


The Department of Defense Dependents Schools (DoDDS): It is located on Yongsan, where the majority of Embassy families live. DoDDS has both an elementary and middle/high school. Mission families have automatic eligibility to enroll their children; there are no waiting lists and no additional school fees. About 80% of Embassy children currently attend DoDDs. The DoDDS schools on the U.S. Military Base has Seoul American Elementary School, Seoul American Middle School, and Seoul American High School. First day of school usually starts on or about August 30th. Usually orientation for new students is planned a week before school starts.

Enrollment procedures for these schools will start after your arrival at Post; early registration is not allowed. However, it is advisable to contact the school in advance to inform them you wish to enroll your children, giving ages and grades. To register the children, you need to appear in person at the school registration office located in Army Community Service Building #121 on South Post. Your Travel Orders and the shot records for your children are required for registration. In case of the registration of kindergarten or first grade children, either the child¡¯s passport or birth certificate is also required.

Seoul American Elementary School (SAES): The elementary school program covers kindergarten to grade five. Children must be 5 years old by October 31st of the school year to enroll. SAES follows the U.S. curriculum but has many extracurricular activities. Enrollment is 1,111 students. Unlike many of the private schools in Seoul, it offers an extensive educational, physical, and behavioral specialist program. There is also a talented/gifted program. Afterschool care is available through the School Age Services (SAS) program.

SAES does not have a preschool for younger children but DoDDs does offer preschool for those with special needs. Surestart is similar to the Headstart program, and is available to children aged 4 years or entering kindergarten. It helps with concentration or social problems, and for children who may require ESL (English as a Second Language). There is also a DoDDs preschool handicapped program for children 3-4 years old.

For more information contact:

Seoul Elementary School

Department of Defense Dependents Schools

Unit 15549, APO AP 96205-0005

Tel: 82 2 7916 4378/4613

Fax: 82 2 7916 4606

Website: or

Seoul American Middle School (SAMS): The middle school program covers students in grades six through eight. The enrollments is approximately 580. The school follows the U.S. curriculum and offers a variety of extracurricular activities.

For more information contact:

Seoul American Middle School

Department of Defense Dependents Schools

Unit 15549 APO AP 96205-0005

Tel: 82 2 7916 5087

Fax: 82 2 7916 7349

Website: or

Seoul American High School (SAHS): The high school program covers grades 9-12. Enrollment is approximately 672. The school follows the U.S. curriculum and offers a variety of extracurricular activities. Approximately 80% of graduates pursue higher education. There are programs available for students with special needs.

For more information contact:

Seoul American High School

Department of Defense Dependents Schools

Unit 15549 APO AP 96205-0005

Tel: 82 2 797-3667/3666

Fax: 82 2 7918 8822

Website: or


Seoul Foreign School. Most Embassy children who do not attend DoDDS attend Seoul Foreign School. The school is located northwest of the Embassy, approximately 45 minutes by schoolbus from Embassy housing. The campus consists of two elementary schools (one American and one British), a middle school and a high school. SFS American elementary school provides program for children from Junior-K through grade 5. Children must be 4 years old by September 30 in order to enroll in the half-day JK program. All other programs are full day. SFS British elementary school follows the British system and accepts children from 3 to 12; it works closely with SFS middle school and children can automatically transfer. SFS Middle and High Schools follow the U.S. curriculum and offer a wide range of programs and activities-SFS has its own pool and auditorium. The high school also offers the international baccalaureate. SFS has extremely high academic standards and caters to high achievers. It does not offer programs with special needs. The school is very popular with the international community and should be contacted as soon as possible to secure a place. Currently, parents are out of pocket $1,000 per year for tuition and transportation. In addition, for new students there are application and registration fees totaling USD 500, which are due at the time of application.

In order to apply for admission:

Complete application forms (*)

Provide documents listed on Application Process Checklist (*)

Submit Application Fee (*)

(*) You can download the forms and information from school admission office website.

The school will not be able to consider your child's application until they have received all of the listed documents and fees. You can fax all the documents and mail checks to Admission Office. If you have more questions regarding application, please feel free to send emails to school Admission Office at

For more information please contact:

Seoul Foreign School

Admissions Office

55 Yonhi-dong, Seoul, Korea 120-113

Tel: 82 2 330 3100

Fax: 82 2 335 1857


British School can be contacted at the same address

Seoul International School (SIS). Post currently has no children attending Seoul International School. SIS provides programs from kindergarten through grade 12. JK students must turn 4 by December 31 of the school year. The campus is located about 40 minutes to one hour's drive from Yongsan base, depending on traffic. SIS follows the U.S. curriculum and offers a wide range of programs and activities, however, it does not provide programs for children with special needs. The school also has a large ESL (English as a Second Language) department catering to children who do not speak English as their native language.

For more information please contact:

Seoul International School

Songpa, PO Box 47

Seoul, Korea 138-600

Tel: 82 2 2233 4551/4552

Fax: 82 2 759 5133


Nursery Schools and Child Care. There are a few good preschools in Seoul, using both Montessori and social learning concepts. You can get recommendations from the parents of preschoolers and CLO will also be able to supply information in advance if needed. We have listed a couple of the programs below. Please contact CLO for information on others.


Mustard Seed Christian Pre-School. This is a South Post Chapel Program. Register as soon as possible, as the spaces for this school fill quickly. Check for current information.

Child Development Center. This is a new facility at Yongsan South Post, near Embassy housing. These facilities provide full-day and hourly-care programs for children ages 6 weeks through 5 years. The center can handle about 180 children and includes seven classrooms for different age groups and a nursery with cribs for 16 infants. The center's kitchen will prepare meals for children who are enrolled there. Graduated fee schedules for daily care are based on family income, which incorporates both rank and family financial circumstances in determining a family's ability to pay for childcare. Each family's costs are determined at the time of registration. All tuition and fee costs are paid at the center where the child is enrolled.


Special Needs Education Last Updated: 8/5/2005 2:24 AM


Unfortunately, there are very limited facilities and teachers available for children with special educational needs. Parents who have children in this category, and who are interested in bidding or have been paneled for an assignment to Seoul, must contact and send an Individual Education Plan (IEP) to the Embassy Health Unit as early as possible before arrival at Post. The Health Unit will coordinate review of the IEP with the appropriate school(s) to determine availability of resources and school acceptance of the child(s). Health Unit Nurse Catherine Kim's e-mail address is, Phone: 82 (2) 397-4140/4347, FAX: 82 (2) 397-4566. We understand and are fully supportive of the educational needs of all children at Post. However, to avoid complications of families arriving at Post without fully confirming adequate educational facilities for children with special needs before arrival in Seoul could result in non-acceptance of the child.


Higher Education Opportunities Last Updated: 8/5/2005 1:01 AM

A multitude of educational opportunities is available at post for spouses and dependents. Many take advantage of the opportunity to complete undergraduate or graduate degrees, as well as to learn Korean.

There are several avenues of educational opportunities available through the military base. The University of Maryland and Central Texas College offer undergraduate level programs. For example, the University of Maryland offers courses in Asian Studies, Business, Computer Studies, English, Govern-ment/Politics, History, Management Studies, Psychology, Sociology, and Technical Management. Alternatively, the Central Texas College offers Associate Degrees in Applied Management, Automobile Maintenance, Business Management, Computer Science, Food Service, Hotel/Motel Management, Law Enforcement, MicroComputer Techno-logy, and Office Management.

Additionally, Troy State University offers graduate degree programs. In general, the school year for these institutions is divided into five 8-week semesters, with classes meeting 2 nights weekly for 3 hours.

The Moyer Recreation Center is a U.S.-military facility that offers classes in arts and crafts. Power tools and photography supplies/equipment are also available for personal projects. Check the military newsletters for scheduling.

Recreation and Social Life

Sports Last Updated: 8/5/2005 1:02 AM

Koreans are sports enthusiasts, and nearly all participate in some form of athletics, including golf, tennis, skiing, hiking, and mountain climbing. Korean spectator sports include soccer, baseball, tennis, and hockey. Foreigners are welcome to attend the competitive sports events held at Seoul City Stadium. In season, the Seoul gymnasium has boxing, wrestling, basketball, or volleyball events.

The Eighth U.S. Army sponsors competitive leagues, including football, softball, volleyball, and basketball composed of units stationed at various camps in Korea and with those from the region. The Embassy softball team regularly competes in the military league.

"T" ball and Little League baseball teams are organized during the spring and summer months for military and Embassy children. In addition, the military recreation program offers football, soccer, basketball, bowling, swimming, softball, and cheerleading during appropriate seasons. The base has a weightroom, basketball court, and squash, raquetball, and handball courts. Embassy personnel often gather on weekends at South Post or Compound II to play volleyball.

Golf is extremely popular among Koreans. New golf courses are plentiful, and several are located a short distance outside the city. They are attractive and challenging, but quite expensive.

The base has a 32-lane bowling alley where equipment may be rented or purchased. Many Embassy personnel participate in a diplomatic bowling league, which uses the Yongsan facilities.

The base has 10 outdoor tennis courts and the South Post Embassy housing area also has a court. Compound II has an indoor court that can be used year round. All courts are equipped with lights for night tennis. Tennis equipment can be purchased locally or at the PX.

The base has two outdoor swimming pools that are open during the summer (Memorial Day through Labor Day). There is also an indoor pool that is open year round. Lifeguards are on duty, and pools are checked regularly. There is a spring and summer swim program for children. Red Cross swimming classes are held each summer for all age groups. The PX has a small supply of swimsuits for adults and children. Bathing suits and bathing caps are also available locally.

Ice-skating is available all through the year at an indoor rink in Seoul. It is best to bring your own skates. Korean hockey, figure, and racing skates are available, but they are not of the best quality and often do not fit American feet.

Skiing is a popular sport in Korea. Many Embassy families ski on a regular basis from January-March. There are several resorts within a 3-4-hour drive of Seoul. Weekend trips are arranged regularly through the USO and the Tour and Travel Center on base. However, many families drive themselves. Since natural snowfall near Seoul is unreliable, the closer ski resorts rely on man-made snow, enabling them to operate effectively for the whole season. All areas operate poma lifts and chair lifts, which are kept in good condition. Ski equipment rentals are available from the Collier Field House on South Post. It can also be rented at local resorts, although it will be expensive. Avid skiers may wish to bring their own equipment. It is possible to purchase equipment here, but the selection may be limited and expensive. A good selection of ski clothes can be made or purchased to order at the local markets, e.g., Itaewon. Ski helmets are not readily available in Seoul skiers are advised to bring their own.

Courses in the traditional Korean martial arts of Tae Kwon Do and Hap Ki Do are readily available. Classes are usually offered through the Yongsan Military Base and the DoDDS physical education program.

Hiking around Seoul is popular for Seoul-ites, especially in the spring and fall. The mountains and hills near the capital offer relatively easy climbs and good photo opportunities.

Recreation and Social Life

Touring and Outdoor Activities Last Updated: 8/5/2005 1:03 AM

Korea has a rich, varied culture. As mentioned earlier, there are palaces, parks, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout Seoul. Beyond the cities' limits, regional capitals host exhibits and festivals, and offer even more opportunities for the adventurous traveler.

Families with small children will be interested in the amusement parks and similar facilities geared for younger interests. Lotte World is a huge indoor amusement/shopping complex, and a zoo is located at Seoul Grand Park, located at the southern edge from the city. Everland is a family entertainment area with a modern theme park, zoo, outdoor and indoor water parks and winter sledding about an hour's drive from downtown Seoul. Near the provincial capital of Suwon tourist destination in its own rights the highly popular Korean Folk Village. At the Folk Village, traditional dress, buildings, and folk traditions are recreated, making a pleasant daytrip.

There are other travel options on the peninsula. For example, the southern city of Kyoungju, is noted worldwide for its historical importance as the capital of the Shilla Dynasty. Cheju Island, 60 miles off the south coast, offers waterfalls and fishing villages, as well as being a popular honeymoon choice for Korean newlyweds. For the mountain climber, the east coast of Korea offers a myriad of opportunities, most notable of which is Mount Sorak.

Recreation and Social Life

Entertainment Last Updated: 8/5/2005 1:03 AM

Seoul offers a wide range of choices for entertainment, from the very expensive, black-tie event to much more reasonable options. Plays, operas, ballet, and orchestral performances are held frequently throughout the year, and at venues around the city. Local artists, as well as "big-name" international artists, perform in Seoul. The National Theater, Sejong Cultural Center, and Seoul Arts Center and the LG Arts Center produce regular programs and schedules of their offerings, as well as ticket prices. Popular movies find their way to the local Korean theaters. First-run American movies are shown with Korean subtitles. The theaters are clean and quite modern, and prices for shows are commensurate with U.S. prices, if not a little less expensive. In addition, the military base at Yongsan has one movie theater, which shows American movies and often children's matinees.

There are ample avenues for the thespian in the family; the Yongsan Players is an active amateur theater group sponsored by the military. The Yongsan Chamber Music Society, which has Korean and American professional and amateur members, gives concerts. Shutterbugs will find many fascinating photo opportunities in Korea, and the PX (either through the Exchange facility or its catalog) has plenty of equipment and specialized film. The military's Moyer Recreation Center has facilities for developing black-and-white film. Seoul offers countless restaurants, bars, and coffeeshops, to suit everyone's taste and pocketbook. There are some publications that detail some of the more prominent establishments (see Recommended Reading); they provide a good "jumping off point" for exploring the city.

Recreation and Social Life

Social Activities Last Updated: 8/5/2005 1:04 AM

Social life in Seoul can be quite active for Mission personnel. Since the majority of staff and proximity of services are located on South Post, there tend to be many informal gatherings there. In addition, there are the more formal receptions, cocktail parties, and dinners. The American Women's Club is active in Seoul, drawing from both the military and Embassy communities, as does the Seoul International Women's Association (SIWA). The United Services Organization (USO) and American Red Cross (ARC) also offer volunteer opportunities. Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and a new Teen Center for older children offers a variety of family options. Supervised gatherings include barbecues, picnics, swimming, local tours, theater parties, and other activities.

Koreans generally enjoy socializing with Americans. Please refer to Recommended Reading for books that deal with some of the cultural nuances of entertaining, gift giving, etc. In addition to the massive U.S. military presence in Korea, there is likewise a huge expatriate community of third-country diplomats and businesspeople. Finding venues to meet these groups can be a challenge, but well worth the effort in getting different points of view about life on the peninsula.

Official Functions Last Updated: 8/5/2005 1:04 AM

Social functions in Seoul are similar to those in the U.S., except that a great many of the invitations are for the employee only. Protocol followed by the Korean Government approximates that of the U.S. Government. Senior Foreign Service officers and their spouses can expect invitations to official functions given by the ROK Government and by other diplomatic missions in Seoul. "Hail & Farewell" receptions are held periodically for Embassy personnel and spouses.

Special Information Last Updated: 8/5/2005 1:06 AM

Department of Defense (DOD) Personnel. The Defense Attache Office is located in the Chancery. DAO personnel live in Embassy housing areas and have access to the same services as Embassy personnel. They are, however, limited to the DoDDS school for dependent education. The Defense Attache has a dedicated five-bedroom house on South Post with two and a half baths, living room, dining room, kitchen, and servants quarters with bath/shower. All other DAO personnel are in the Embassy housing pool (See housing). All DAO personnel assigned to Seoul are limited to the household goods weight allowance prescribed by their respective service, grade, and rank, unless orders designate otherwise. See "Notes for Travelers" regarding the shipment of household effects (HHE).

Because of the large U.S. military presence in Korea and the frequency of official functions and contacts, attaches here wear their uniforms more frequently than at other stations. Fatigue or other appropriate field uniform usually is worn when performing fieldwork, and the appropriate dress uniform is required during official visits and social functions. Most types of military uniforms can be purchased at the military clothing sales store on base. Minimum uniform requirements are set forth in parent service regulations. Staff personnel wear civilian clothing most of the time. However, minimum uniform requirements as prescribed in service regulations must be on hand for possible use.

Mail should be addressed as follows:

(Name) USDAO American Embassy Seoul Unit 15550 APO AP 96205-0001

Post Orientation Program

Upon arrival in Seoul, your sponsor will escort you to the Human Resources Office, where you will receive a check-in sheet. This document details the various steps a new arrival should take to fully in-process; it includes registering with the Health Unit, the Financial Management Center, Communications, and the like.

Post periodically conducts an orientation program for new staff, their spouses, and adult family members. The program attempts to cover a wide variety of topics, with speakers from the expatriate community and Mission slated to discuss Korean-American political and economic relations, the objectives/organization of Embassy Seoul, and cultural differences.

Embassy Seoul does run a Korean-language program for employees, and, if space permits, dependents. Additionally, the University of Maryland holds courses in Korean language and Asian studies. The United Services Organization (USO), the Korean American Friendship Association (KAFA), and the Royal Asiatic Society (RAS) offer opportunities to learn more about the host nation.

Notes For Travelers

Getting to the Post Last Updated: 8/5/2005 1:08 AM

United Airlines and Northwest Airlines are the American carriers that offer regular flights between the U.S. and Seoul. In notifying the Embassy of your arrival date, be sure to consider the international dateline Seoul is normally14 hours ahead of Washington, D.C. (Eastern Standard Time).

Employees will be met at Incheon International Airport and assisted through customs and immigration by a sponsor. Processing is usually fairly quick and hassle-free. Post will provide official transportation from the airport to new quarters.

As with any assignment, bring personal documents, medications, and jewelry in your carry-on baggage. Checked baggage should include clothing and personal effects. Unaccompanied air baggage (UAB) shipments generally take 2 weeks from the U.S. This should include any household items or personal touches to supplement the post's Welcome Kit. Household effects (HHE) and vehicle shipments can take up to 45 days.

Mark airfreight, household effects, and car shipments as follows:

Full Name (no initials) American Embassy Seoul, Korea

Airfreight clearance can be expedited if you send a copy of the airway bill to the

American Embassy Attention: GSO/Shipping Unit. Fax: 82-2-796-0516

Airfreight is delivered as soon as possible upon receipt, or kept in a secure area if necessary.

Consign household effects and car shipments via the Port of Busan, Korea. If this is not possible, consign shipments via the Port of Inchon, Korea, mark baggage as follows:

FOR: American Embassy Seoul, Korea M/F: Name of owner.

Pack HHE in standard-sized steelbanded vans of sturdy plywood. Interiors of vans should be waterproofed to prevent damage, especially during the rainy season. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade requires that a declaration of contents, such as the HHE packing list, be attached to documents submitted for obtaining customs exemption, which usually requires at least 10 working days. Therefore, send the bill of lading and packing list to post as soon as possible for advance clearance.

As for your vehicle, all removable car accessories should be packed separately, sealed, and placed in the trunk. These items should be listed on the ocean bill of lading to facilitate claim action in case of loss. Put antifreeze in the car for year-round use, especially if it will arrive during the winter months (November-March).

Customs, Duties, and Passage

Customs and Duties Last Updated: 8/5/2005 1:09 AM

All diplomatic personnel are afforded free-entry privileges for their entire tour for accompanied baggage, unaccompanied airfreight, and household effects. Staff personnel have these privileges only during the first 6 months of their tour. Although not normally subject to baggage inspection, there have been instances where diplomatic passport holders have had carry-on bags searched. If an item is not permitted through customs, it is placed in bond. You will be given a receipt to present to the General Services Office, which will arrange customs clearance. No limit is placed on the amount of foreign currency you can bring into Korea, provided you declare it. Currency exchange facilities for American currency or travelers checks (not personal checks) are available at Incheon International Airport. Won, the local currency, cannot be imported. There is a departure tax of approximately Won 27,000 for all passengers, except for diplomatic passport holders who may apply to have the fee refunded at a special desk inside the departure hall.

Customs, Duties, and Passage

Passage Last Updated: 8/5/2005 1:10 AM

Personnel assigned to the Embassy in Seoul must have a valid passport and visa, preferably at least a 2-year multiple entry visa. No exit permits are required, nor are there any restrictions on travel within the country or other parts of Asia. However, keep your passport on hand for domestic travel.

Customs, Duties, and Passage

Pets Last Updated: 8/5/2005 1:11 AM

The 10-day quarantine period for dogs and cats entering Korea from the U.S. has been removed, but importing pets is still subject to the following conditions:

Dogs and cats from rabies free areas, such as Hawaii, will be released on the day of arrival into Korea. Puppies and kittens less than 90 days old from anywhere will be released on arrival day if accompanied by a valid animal health certificate. Dogs and cats more than 90 days old from rabies areas, such as the U.S., will be released upon the day of arrival, if accompanied by a valid animal health certificate that shows that the animal has been vaccinated against rabies at least 30 days prior to departure from the U.S. (and less than 1 year since the previous vaccination.) As always, notify the Embassy GSO section and the sponsor well in advance if your travel plans include pets.

Firearms and Ammunition Last Updated: 8/5/2005 1:11 AM

Although it is becoming increasingly difficult to find approved recreational shooting areas, U.S. personnel assigned to Korea may bring nonautomatic firearms and 500 rounds of ammunition with them. Firearms should be included in household effects, not in baggage, since Korean Customs authorities routinely x-ray luggage to detect firearms, and these may be subject to confiscation.

Before you ship any weapons to Korea from the U.S., obtain a certificate of registration, Customs Form 4457, from the nearest U.S. Customs Office. This will facilitate return shipment of your weapons to the U.S. Firearms owned by Foreign Missions or their diplomatic staff may not be sold to Koreans or to anyone else.

The firearm must be declared to the RSO prior to your arrival at post. Firearms must be certified in the name of the employee, rather than a dependent. When declaring a firearm, the owner must furnish the type, manufacture, caliber, and serial number of the weapon. Upon arrival at post, weapons must be registered with both the Regional Security Office and the USFK Provost Marshal's Office.

Weapons are limited to sporting pistols, revolvers, and shotguns. All need to be registered with the security officer upon arrival. Rental weapons are available through hunting tours. Ammunition can be purchased through the Post Exchange.

Security Information. Civil defense air raid drills are usually conducted on the 15th of each month. The drills are always announced in advance in English newspapers and AFKN. The alerts last about 20 minutes. During that time, all local business activities cease, and traffic comes to a complete standstill. If indoors, you remain there until the all-clear siren sounds. If you are on the street, you must go indoors or into an underpass or subway station for the duration of the drill.

Seoul is one of the world's largest cities and has criminal activities normally associated with large urban areas. Robberies and pickpocketing/purse slashings, especially those targeting foreigners, are frequent. Incidents of sexual harassment and molestation of foreign women have occurred. Home burglaries and car thefts are more common, but have not affected Embassy personnel. Police are considered capable and well trained.

Isolated acts of violence have been directed at U.S. facilities in the past. It is a function of political dissidence, and the organizers are mainly from a small but active group of radical university students. During periods of increased tension on university campuses, usually in the spring and autumn, Americans are advised to avoid universities and political rallies. The great majority of Korean people consider themselves to be friends of the U.S. Government and the American people.

Seoul is only 30 miles south of the Demilitarized Zone, one of the most heavily fortified and tense borders in the world. However, with the exception of incidents along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) and occasional attempts by North Korean agents to infiltrate the South, peace has prevailed on the peninsula for 50 years. However, should it ever be necessary, the Embassy and U.S. Forces Korea have worked together for plans to evacuate noncombatants from the peninsula. The Consular Section, American Citizen Services, has the most current information on Noncombatant Evacuation Operation (NEO) exercises.

Currency, Banking, and Weights and Measures Last Updated: 8/5/2005 1:14 AM

The official currency unit is the won, issued in denominations of 1,000, 5,000, and 10,000 won notes. Coins are 10, 50, 100, and 500 Won. U.S. dollars are accepted in the Itaewon shopping area and in some other locations that deal with tourists. All transactions at Post Exchanges and U.S. military commissaries must be conducted in U.S. dollars; some of the concessionaires on post will accept won in lieu of dollars. As of August 5, 2005, the exchange rate is approximately W1,011=US$1. This rate fluctuates almost daily. Personal checks can be cashed and won can be purchased at the Embassy cashier on Embassy weekdays. Bank of America has a branch on the Yongsan military compound, where U.S. dollar checking and savings accounts can be established. Won checking accounts can be opened at local banks. Travelers checks can be purchased at the bank on base, as well as at various local banks, including Citibank.

Taxes, Exchange, and Sale of Property Last Updated: 8/5/2005 1:15 AM

Mission employees may import vehicles into Korea for their personal use or for that of their dependents, but not for resale or transfer. Under current Korean regulations, an employee may own only one foreign-made vehicle at a time. A second car may be purchased as long as it is locally made, or locally assembled. Normally, a car imported duty free cannot be transferred or sold on the economy for 3 years from the date of customs clearance, unless the sale is to another individual with duty free privileges. After 2 years, the vehicle may be sold on the economy only upon transfer of the owner. However, exceptions are made in unusual circumstances, such as if the car is destroyed or seriously damaged, or if the employee is transferred before the end of 2 years. However, these exceptions are not easily granted. After 3 years, there is no Korean restriction regarding sale of a vehicle on the local economy. Prior approval to sell must be obtained from the Management Counselor.

All personnel must abide by the State Department regulations set forth in 22 CF 136 et seq., effective June 20, 1988, which prohibit profiteering. There are strict controls on the transfer and sale of personal property imported by personnel or purchased at the PX or commissary. Purchased items cannot be sold, used as gratuities, or as payment to persons not authorized use of these facilities. However, an item purchased at the PX not exceeding US$15 in value can be given as an occasional gift. No commissary item, regardless of cost, can be given at any time. The Embassy's rules concerning disposal of personal property are based on State Department regulations that prohibit profiteering. Personal property can be sold without restriction to individuals with duty-free privileges. Items valued at US$180 or less at time of purchase or receipt may be sold on the local economy. Items of higher value may be sold on the economy upon the employee's transfer, but this must be without personal profit as set forth in the above mentioned regulations. Applications to sell personal property must be approved in advanced by the administrative counselor.

Recommended Reading Last Updated: 8/5/2005 1:15 AM

These titles are provided as a general indication of the material published in this country. The Department of State does not endorse unofficial publications.

Crane, Paul. Korean Patterns.

Culture Shock! Korea.

Focus. Doing Business in Korea. American Chamber of Commerce.

Focus. Living in Korea. American Chamber of Commerce.

Insight Guides Korea.

Lee, Ki Baik. A New History of Korea.

Lee, O Young. Translated by David I. Steinberg. In This Earth & In That Wind.

Lonely Planet. Guide to Korea.

Lonely Planet. Seoul City Guide.

Oberdorfer, Don. The Two Koreas.

Rutt, Richard. Korean Works & Days.

Local Holidays Last Updated: 8/5/2005 1:26 AM

New Year's Holiday December 31, 2004 Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Birthday January 17 Seol-Nal (Lunar New Year Days) February 8, 9, 10 Presidents' Day February 21 Sam Il Jul (Independence Movement Day) March 1 Shik Mok Il (Arbor Day) April 5 Orininal (Children's Day) May 5 Momorial Day May 30 Hyun Choong Il (Memorial Day) June 6 Independence Day July 4 Kwang Bok Jul (Independence Day) August 15 Labor Day September 5 Chusok (Korean Thanksgiving Day) September 19 Kae Chun Jul (National Foundation Day) October 3 Columbus Day October 10 Veterans Day November 11 Thanksgiving Day November 24 Christmas Day December 26

Adapted from material published by the U.S. Department of State. While some of the information is specific to U.S. missions abroad, the post report provides a good overview of general living conditions in the host country for diplomats from all nations.
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