(Let me warn you, before you sit down to read something fun or cute like I normally post, this is not fun nor cute. There are no pictures. I wanted to make it funny, which is why I waited so long to post it, but I finally realized that I am not always funny or cute or even happy. This is a long, boring story, but it is from my heart and reflects the real issues I have as an adoptee, the ones I always hide. It doesn't have a good ending, because there is none. -- 6 Oct. 09)
As far as Americans are concerned, I consider myself to be rather wordly. I speak English, French, and Spanish (almost fluently) and have been to several foreign countries. I have many friends who are immigrants and I feel that I have always been interested in everyone's culture and want to learn as much as I can about their worlds. However, going through the immigration process here in Korea has taught me that I know nothing.
To the defense of the Korean government, at least it attempts to welcome people from other countries and grants many visas for them to work and study. In the US, I know many people who are left without the legal means to even go through the arduous process that I am about to recount.
I guess it started back in the States when I applied for this teaching job. To get an E2 Visa to work in Korea as an English teacher, you must already have a job. To get a job here teaching English for the Government while residing in the States, you must not only submit a rather lenghty 11 page application with an essay and lesson plan, but you must also send sealed transcripts, sealed letters of recommendation, a copy of your diploma, and a background check from the police, the latter of the two which must be notarized, authenticated, and apostilized. If you don't know what those things are, neither did I. It took me weeks to get all that stuff together and then months for the government to interview me, accept me, and finally send me a signed contract. At which point, I could go down to the Korean Consulate and receive an E2 Visa.
However, I am "special." Having been born in Korea, even though I was adopted, I can receive an F4 visa. This is a better visa because I did not actually have to have all that paperwork to receive my visa, my visa is good for 2 years instead of 1, and I can enter and leave the country as many times as I want within those two years without having to purchase a mulit-entry visa. (I did still need all that paperwork to receive my job though, so it was not as if I was getting out of any of the hard work.) I could just bring my adoption papers, naturalization papers, and my family registry to the consualte and they would give it to me. I did that all and I thought I was on the fast track to getting my visa and that I was good to go.
When I got to Korea, though, I found out that I have to get an Alien Registration Card. To get this card, you have to have a clean bill of health, a job contract, and some other papers, all of which were irrelavant, becuase I am supposed to get the purple card. The A.R.C. card, as people loveingly refer to it, is for E2 Visa holders. I get a purple card becasue I am an F4 Visa holder.
So I grab the ticket out of the correct machine, you know the one NOT for E2 Visa holders, and I sit down to wait. I waited about an hour, which is rumored to be relatively short and I went to sit down. He immigration officer, for lack of a more appropriate name, looked at all my paperwork and then started talking to me in Korean. I couldn't understand what he was saying, but I had so much documentation that I was sure that I had whatever he needed. I handed him paper after paper, and yet he still was asking for soemthing else.
The Officer looks at all my paperwork, and especially at my adoption papers, and then types some stuff in the computer and up pops my file. I am in the Korean computer. I really exist! I'm really Korean! I am personally so excited and I can't believe that I am a Korean and that maybe I haven't been forgotten by this country afterall. By now, I have given him everything, including my health report, a copy of my contract, and my original diplomas, but the Immigration Officer still wants more papers.
Then this random man cuts in front of me. I was sitting down in the booth, so I'm not sure how that happened, but all of a sudden the Immigration Officer is asking the stranger to translate for him. The stranger tells me that the Immigration Officer is saying that I have to go across the street and get something and that something I need is written at the bottom of MY family registry, which was still in the computer with my Korean name and birthdate. I ask, "Which building?" (We are in the middle of Seoul, a huge metropolitan city, with tons of skyscrapers) And the man tells ms, "Across the Street." So I dutifully gather all my papers and walk across the street.
I see a police station, and I think I have to go there. But it's closed. I see an open door right next store, and there is free water, so I grab a paper envelope full and look around. It looks like a health clinic, so I leave. I am so frustrated by now and feel so stupid for thinking I could do this by myself. (Don't forget that I had already gotten lost and walked up and down that HUGE flight of stairs.) And so I go back. As I was walkng out, I passed a Korean guy who I met at English Teacher Training, so I decided to ask him for help.
He was just finishing up, so I asked him where my family registry said I shoudl go. He couldn't understand it, so he asked his co-teacher to help. As she was reading it and trying to figure it out, she said that she would take me acrosss the street. As we were entering the "health clinic," my friend translated what his co-teacher was telling me, and then I just started crying.
He said something about how this paper was removing me from the family registry or something like that, but I had just had enough. I couldn't understand what he was saying, even though he was speaking English. I was so worn out from the day, that I just couldn't take anymore. But what?, I'm not Korean anymore?
So there it was. I'm just not Korean anymore. I can't look American and I can't be Korean, and most people say I don't even look Korean anyway. I guess I'm no one. I mgiht as well be an Alien, but, according to the Korean government, I'm not an Alien either.