Tuesday, February 28, 2017

How to Check your Kukmin Contribution via NPS Kukmin App

The National Pension System (NPS) of Korea or KUKMIN (국민) is one of the benefits that some foreign workers can avail while working in South Korea. Once the tenure in this country is over, you can get the lump sum of your contribution and bring it home.

If you want to update or check your Kukmin contribution, there are a lot of ways to do so, but I guess the easiest way is to use the NPS Kukmin app which you can download freely. Just search for the App called NPS, the logo should look like this:

CHECKPOINT: You must have an online banking account to use this app. This app will require your Certificate Number for Online Banking to show your Kukmin record. If you don’t have Online bank account, you can’t use this app.

Provided that you have an online banking account, here’s how to use the app:

     1.       Open the NPS app
     2.       Tap 개인전자민원 (the big magnifying glass icon besides NPS icon)

     3.       Then tap 가입내역 주회

     4.       You will get the login page. Enter your Alien Card Number and click the green button to login.

     5.       The next page will show your Certificate Number for online banking, just click it an then enter your Certificate Password (provided by your bank when you applied for online banking)

   That’s it, you will now see your kukmin latest contribution.

Monday, February 20, 2017

How Filipino(Or Foreign) Couples Get Married in Korea

“Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn't it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up.”
― Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 9: The Kindly Ones

Love indeed can mess you up. Sometimes, it catches you off guard. Sometimes it shows up in the most unexpected way in an unexpected place and in unexpected circumstances. Just like what happened to Marissa and Jonard.

They first met in a Korean language training center in Cebu, Philippines. Never in their wildest imagination that they would become a couple because Marissa was a Korean language teacher while Jonard was a student then. However, love knows no boundaries, because it was love at first sight for Jonard. As time goes by, the two developed special feelings towards each other. Marissa stayed in Manila while Jonard stayed in Cebu but the two continued to communicate with each other. They met again when Jonard went to Manila to review Korean Language and to take the examination. The two further developed romantic connection while they’re together in Manila. However, after Jonard passed the examination, he was offered a job to South Korea. It was a dilemma for Jonard because he badly wanted to get the opportunity to go and work in Korea, but he badly wanted to stay and be with his love. As opportunity knocks only once, Jonard went to Korea and grabbed the opportunity to work as a Factory Worker. The couple still continued to communicate despite the challenge of distance. Through the help of technology, Jonard proposed to Marissa. Marissa, on the hand, has found a way to follow Jonard in Korea. She applied for a student visa so she can continue her Master’s degree in Korea.   Once they’re together in Korea, the couple did not waste time, they immediately planned their wedding.

It’s funny how Korea was the reason why the two met up. Korea was also the reason why they’re separated by long distance. But Korea sealed their love in a marriage. It’s like a fairy tale with a happy ending. I was honored to be chosen as the Best Man for their wedding. I was able to witness that very sweet and memorable moment that they shared with us.

But how did the couple manage to set up their wedding in Korea? Marissa shared the process they’ve been through just to make the special day possible. In case you are planning to marry somebody while in Korea, this is the process that you must go through:

1. The couple must individually secure the CENOMAR (SINGLENESS) NSO & NSO BIRTH CERTIFICATE.

2.  Authenticate the said document via DFA Red Ribbon. You must have your Red Ribbon authentication at DFA-Manila Cubao Branch (Or any DFA branch that authenticates document. Please note that you can ask somebody to do this on your behalf.

3. After authentication of document, the couple can now apply at the Philippine Embassy in Seoul, South Korea. You might need to wait for about 2 weeks or approximately 10 days before the Philippine Embassy post your wedding schedule at the bulletin board .

4. The Philippine Embassy will first set the wedding at the office. Important things like the date of the wedding, availability of both parties, etc will be discussed during the application. The wedding at the embassy is necessary because the church requires the documents proving that the couple was married at the Embassy.

During the wedding at the embassy, you must be there 1 hour before the specified time of the wedding day. You must prepare the essentials of wedding like the ring, flowers, etc. You can also change into your wedding outfit right at the venue to avoid the hassle. You can choose to wear simple outfits like long sleeves and colored khaki pants for men and white dress for women.

In order to legalize the documents for this wedding, you must prepare the following requirements:

ID Picture (passport size)
A fee of around 50, 000 Korean Won
Copy of NSO Birth Certificate of both parents
Copy of NSO Marriage Contract of both parents

5. After you secure the documents for your wedding at the embassy, you can now plan your church wedding in Korea. Here are the requirements for a church wedding in Korea for the foreigners:

* The documents from the Philippine Embassy proving that you are married couple
*Seminar (5 hours to one day)

It’s a little tedious, but hey, what can you not do for LOVE? So if you have plan to marry somebody in the future here in Korea, you might find this post handy.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Loving Korea More Together With "LOVING KOREA"

There are a lot of reasons why a lot of people around the globe love Korea. There’s the Hallyu wave or Korean wave that entices the world with the kpop music, drama and movies. There’s Korean food that gained the interest of the gastronomic because it is unique and deeply rooted to the culture of Korea. And of course, there’s the culture that every culture vulture aspire to delve into. For these reasons and more, Korea is a country that you would really love to LOVE, and a newly founded community called LOVING KOREA capitalizes on this idea.

LOVING KOREA is a travel group founded and administered by three Korean wanderlusts. The goal of the group is to reveal the hidden treasures of Korea, and by hidden treasures they mean some valuable aspects of Korea that the locals and the foreigners must know.

SaranghaeKorea meets LovingKorea

Out of the several trips that Loving Korea had organized, I was able to attend two. The first was the Korean Traditional Medicine Tour and the Second was the Korean War Memorial Tour. I can say that what this group can offer is different from the others because I can feel the sincerity from them as tour guides. The first time I attended a tour, I felt like I was connected with the group because LOVING KOREA is just a direct translation of the name of my blog “SARANGHAE KOREA”. It was a coincidence; nevertheless, it’s a string that attached us. So I decided to meet up with Jun Seok, Jaemin and Young Jin to know more about LOVING Korea. In this interview, we will know about the people behind LOVING KOREA and the story behind this.

One of the many activities organized by Loving Korea last summer
(c) LovingKorea


The concept of LOVING KOREA started when a young Korean guy named Jun Seok Jung posted his idea of organizing such group on Couchsurfing. The idea came to him after his travel experience in Latin America.

Jun Seok: “While I was travelling in Latin America, I was thinking that to see local things is really nice for the foreigners”

So when he arrived in Korea after his Latin America trip, he posted on Couchsurfing about the idea and Jaemin Song, another Korean guy, saw the post and commented that he was interested to help materialize the idea. Jaemin’s decision to join Jun Seok in organizing a travel group was influenced by what he discovered during his 6 months trip in Europe.

 Jaemin: “Some locals don’t know about their place, and I was shocked. I was thinking about myself too if I know more about Seoul”

Jaemin talked about how people in Korea, both the tourists and the locals, always go to the same famous tourists spots. He wants to show that aside from the mainstream places, there are a lot to see in Korea. As he and Jun Seok were both looking on the same page after that brief conversation on couchsurfing, they immidiately arranged a meeting and prepared to organize the tour.

Jun Seok: “We first decided to research about Seongbokdung, visited the place, see the best route, etc.”

Another member of the team, Young Jin joined Jaemin and Junseok because he was inspired by Jaemin’s travelogue. He believed in the advocacy of the two guys to introduce Korea to the people and make people love Korea even more.

Young Jin:  “I want to really make good image about Korea, that’s why I started to join. I want to erase the bad image that Koreans made when I lived in Texas”

Why did you choose the name LOVING KOREA?

LOVING KOREA is a name coined by Jun Seok since he was the one started the idea. It’s just a simple name of the group, but for Jun Seok, he chose this for a reason.

Jun Seok: “While I was in Latin America and other countries, other people asked me about Korea but I couldn’t answer because I don’t know about Korea. So I said maybe I need to start this project to make people love Korea including myself, so I named it LOVING KOREA”

When Young Jin joined the group, he was not comfortable with the name.

Young Jin: “At first I thought the name is boring, but after joining and doing a lot of activities, it’s ok”

The aim of the group is to make other people and the locals to love Korea, and the Koreans.

What are the challenges you encountered so far in organizing the trips and tours?

At first, the three guys thought that the plan was easy. They realized that organizing a tour requires a lot of time and effort to make it successful. After the brainstorming, they were able to come up with the idea of organizing four walking tours just within the Seoul area.

Jaemin explained that they decided to introduce the Seongbokgung first, it’s a village in Seoul that shows the old Korea. Second, they organized a Medicine tour together with the folk museum tour, this kind of tour is all about Korean traditional medicine and academic. Third, a war museum tour, to introduce about Korean war and its effect nowadays especially the military duty. And last, the Core Korea which is all about the language, character and religion. For the Core Korea, they organized trip to Jongnyo Shrine, Hangeul Museum and even in Chinatown in Incheon.

The challenge of organizing the tour did not end at deciding for the theme and the places to visit. For them, there are a lot of struggles and difficulties that they encountered and conquered.

Young Jin: “It’s really tough for me actually because I am not really interested about the traditional Korea. Whenever I remember it, I couldn’t memorize, that’s why I couldn’t guide well. I can’t explain about the things because I don’t have many knowledge”

Jaemin: “We met a lot of obstacles, first is money, we meet several times to have meeting. We meet more than 30 hours per week on vacation. Since we have no funding, we spend our own money.  Second problem is with discovering local places for the foreigners. It’s hard to distinguish what is hidden that people want to know and hidden but people don’t want to know. Some culture is very deep but nobody knows because nobody wants to know. It’s hard to think in a foreigner’s view.”

Jun Seok: “The challenge for me was to learn new things. “

Junseok has to learn how to do video editing after his friend quitted Loving Korea. He learned it by himself. For him, everything was a first time including Video editing, photoshop and blog and managing facebook page.

What’s your most memorable trip with LOVING KOREA?

Jaemin explaining about Korean alphabet
(c) LovingKorea

Young Jin: “I think Core Korea. I think the Hangeul was very good because Jaemin was very good at it. A lot of people were moved by the way he guided."

Visiting an old village as part of Time Machine tour
(c) LovingKorea

Jaemin: “My most memorable tour is Time machine to Korea. It was my first tour. We invited people by Facebook and it was our first try to guide and everybody loved it. I still remember we kept checking the route and what kind of explanation we have to edit.”

Summer Activities at Ganghwado
(c) LovingKorea

Jun Seok:” I visited Ganghwado. I watched a TV show about Ganghwado and they show about one hidden place and they were making local things. They have program on how to make flower pancake. I visited the place with my parents. Then I decided to make a tour with Loving Korea. We first visited, then made a tent at 33 degrees, then the next day we visited again. We visited several times. It was interesting because it was our first time to build a tent under the heat of the sun.”

What do you think Loving Korea could offer that other travel groups couldn’t?

Jaemin: “The biggest point is we show them different places like Medicine museum. In our tour we edit our opinion, it’s not fact but our opinion and even more interesting.”

Young Jin: “ Our identity is to find hidden aspects to Korea for the people. We make a course, what place is good and attractive. We usually check all information and a lot of story and we want to make them lasts. We always search interesting story and not just boring information. We always make them comfortable, we have dinner together and just hang out.”

Jun Seok: “From the starting point up to now, there are many changes and obstacles that we didn’t expect. We are doing things as a guide and events. The most important thing is that we are Koreans, we say our opinions. I cannot know what you really want to do. I show first something as a Korean. Then second thing, we just didn’t tell a story, we share the story just like a friend with our own opinion.”

What are your standards in selecting places to visit?

Jaemin: “Guiding has to have a theme. If we don’t have a theme, it’s not like a tour, it’s just like walking. First we go to the places, sit and see what’s common things we could see from there. That’s how we make travel plans.”

Jun Seok: “The first point is that, it should be interesting. I visited many cities and Insadong many times, but if I will try to look at things in different, then it looks different.”

Young Jin: “Like what Jaemin mentioned, we have a theme. Since we are Koreans, we have some complaints about Korean things, or we can tell story which is interesting. If we feel it’s interesting, then it could be interesting to them. If we feel it’s an attractive topic, then we choose that.”
Jun Seok: “we first decide a topic, we search and then we visit. “

What impression would you like to leave to the people?

Jaemin:” I will tell people that Korea is not Seoul. I want to tell like some small parts, I want to make people realize about different Korea. I want to tell people that what you can see in the touristy place is not everything. “

Hiking and picnic
(c) LovingKorea

Young Jin: “In my case, to give a really good image about Korea. I think I want to have an image from them that I can be a friend with people very easily.”

Jun Seok: “Two Things. 1. That they enjoy it. 2. I want them to see that at least they see something different.”

For anyone interested to join future trips of LOVING KOREA, you can like the facebook page or subscribe on their YOUTUBE channel. For more information about this, please refer to the links below:

FACEBOOK PAGE: https://www.facebook.com/lovingkorea2016/
YOUTUBE CHANNEL: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCd-wof0ucwBOKR9vNSIrurA

I believe that this travel group is not just a group for the travelers, it’s also for the people who want to know more about Korea. In so doing, knowing more about Korea will also make you love this country even more. With that, I say that LOVING KOREA is not just a travel group, it’s an advocacy to introduce Korea to anyone interested. It’s like a book open for everybody who wants to read it. The group is now operating for one year, and for what it is now, I think that this is a promising project and will continue to be more successful in the future.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Ice Sculpture and Colorful Lightings at Hwacheon

The ice scupture of a dragon with the pagoda

If Princess Elsa was a Korean, I think the Kingdom of Isolation that she’s saying would be Hwacheon. This place is a hell of ice because everything freezes during winter including the river. This could be something deterrent to the lives of the residence of the place, but they found a way to capitalize on its cold weather.  Because of the frozen river, they were able to organize one of the biggest festivals in Korea, the Sancheono Festival or commonly known as the Ice Fishing Festival.

Aside from this festival, people can also enjoy the ice sculpture display at the Ice Illumination Plaza. This museum is just like a giant freezer because when you get inside, it’s full of ice. But don’t worry, these are not ordinary ice because it’s actually sculpted by the renowned Korean artists.

One of the menu interesting sculptures in the museum

We visited the Ice Illumination Plaza right after our fiasco at the Ice Fishing Festival. It’s just so near the venue of the festival, so we visited anyway. It was already freezing outside, going inside an ice museum was not a welcoming idea, but since it has ice sculptures inside and the entrance ticket was so cheap, it would be a mortal sin not to check it out.

Even the entrance is made of ice

The large scale ice sculptures taking into different forms and designs welcomed us as we entered the room. The sculptures were lit up in an assortment of colors making it more attractive and interesting. There are castles, palaces, fortress and even the statue of Buddha made of ice. I remember my visit to the Aiin’s world in Bucheon. The museum somehow looks like that as it features the small replica of some famous structures in the world, except that everything is made of ice.

Ice structures everywhere

If you pay attention to details, you will see that every side and curve was delicately and intricately carved to make it even more realistic. All sculptures are all beautiful, we felt like we were in the city full of ice with all the beautiful structures of the world surrounding us.

After taking a lot of photos inside the ice plaza, we went outside to go to our next destination, the Seondeung Street! The street is about 100 meters away from the plaza, it was brilliantly decorated by hundreds of Sancheoneo shaped lanterns which are made of hanji paper.

The Seondeung Street

Aside from the lanterns, there were LED lights emitting beautiful luminaries all over the street. We felt like VIPs as we walked in the well and beautifully lit street of Seondeung. However, since it is a street, there were a lot of cars passing. Taking a photo in the middle of the street is a matter of life and death. But we enjoyed the view and we can’t help but look up to the lightings while walking in the street.

LED lights and sancheono shaped lanterns

Hwacheon showed us the right way to enjoy the winter. It showed us various ways to have fun with the ice. And since winter has long night and short day, lights are the perfect partner of ice. It is even more beautiful if lights are in different colors and shapes just like in Seondeung Street.

A romantic pathway well lit by the LED lights

If you are interested to experience the Ice Plaza and the Seondeung Street Lighting, then you must go to Hwacheon on a winter. The street lighting usually opens late December and lasts up to mid February. You might want to check also the schedule of the Ice Fishing Festival so you can also include that in your itinerary and maximize your time in this winterland of Korea.

Hwacheon is located in the Province of Gangwondo. To go there via public transportation, take a bus from Dong Seoul Bus Terminal and get off at Hwacheon Bus Terminal. From the Bus Terminal, you can take bus number 7 and get off at the Front of Base Bus Stop. The Sancheono Ice Fishing Festival, Seondeung Street Lighting and the Ice Plaza Illumination are so near you can just walk from one venue to another.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Ski and More at Bearstown Ski Resort(베어스타운리조트 스키장)

Inside the ski jang of Bearstown Ski Resort

If you were born and grew up in a tropical country like me, the thought of trying some winter sports like skiing could be challenging, exciting and intimidating. So if ever you are in Korea on a winter day, don’t ever leave this country without at least taking one winter sport, and for that, I would recommend skiing.

Well, there aren’t any ski resorts or “ski jang” as what they call it in Korea in downtown Seoul, but if ever you want to really try this sport, the nearest ski resort in Seoul is the Bearstown Ski Resort(베어스타운리조트 스키장) . It is roughly one hour and a half away from Seoul. It is a very large complex located at this address: 27, Geumgang-ro 2536beon-gil, Naechon-myeon, Pocheon-si, Gyeonggi-do (경기도 포천시 내촌면 금강로2536번길 27 (내촌면) ). The advantage of Bearstown Ski Resort over any resort existing in South Korea is that it is very much accessible via public transportation. All you need to do is take Bus No. 11 from Gangbyeon Station. To take bus number 11, you need to get out of the exit 4 of Gangbyeon Station, and then cross the street and walk to the right. Then cross the street again until you reach the bus stop where you can catch Bus Number 11. The travel time from Gangbyeon Station is about 1 hour and 30 minutes.

This big bear will welcome you at the Bearstown Ski Resort

The entrance to the Bearstown Ski Resort is totally free. If you want to ride the lift so you can go up the slope, you need to buy a ticket from the ticket office. For the complete information about the prices of the ticket based on the time and the level of slope, you can CHECK THIS LINK for more information. At the Ski Jang, there are lockers, change rooms and rental shops for ski gears available for your convenience.

The courageous men taking on the ski challenge

As for us, we did not pay for the ticket because we decided to just ski in the practice area. We rented Ski gears at the nearby rental shop for just 10, 000 won ($10) for 4 hours. We did not invest that much on ski clothing and lift because we were there just to experience it. In fact, our primary purpose of going to Bearstown Ski Resort is to attend the Men and Women’s Conference for the Filipino Delegates in Korea. Since we still have time after the conference, some of us decided to stay for one afternoon just to try skiing. There are a lot of rental shops in the area, but we rented at the shop considerably far from the slopes, the good thing about these shops is that, they can offer you a free ride to the ski jang so you won’t be bothered carrying all those heavy ski gears.

It was not my first time to ski. I first tried skiing at Jisan Ski Resort in Icheon, but I admit I was not really that good because as what I’ve said, I didn’t invest much on this as I just wanted to try it. Although it’s my second time already, I still find it intimidating because it’s a hard winter sport, at least in my book.

This brave little kid is actually feeling nervious inside

When we entered the ski jang, my excitement turned into nightmare because it was so difficult to move around with my ski gears. Like any moment, I can fall and get injured. Then I saw other people who were probably trying the sports for the first time struggling to move around and stumbled on the snow bed. It looks like fun, but when you are actually experiencing it, it’s so scary. At first I was all so sissy because I was thinking of the possible fiasco this experience may bring to me, but I saw my friends doing it well like they were fishes swimming in the water, so I got motivated to man up too. They went up to the level of slope high enough to instill more fear in me, but they challenged me to come with them, and being the man of courage that I am, I went with them a little bit higher than I think I could manage, but it was a challenge for me.

Getting the hang of skiing and snowboarding 

I was so jealous at them, some of them were first timers, but I think they got the stamina, the energy and the will to do the sports. I wished to be like them, so I was there, at the middle of the slope, standing with them, looking down the hills. I am not afraid of height, but boy, I was so scared. One by one, they went skiing down the hill, and I was still there, standing, watching and listening to my heartbeart. They climbed back already to try another round, and I was still there, standing and waiting for nothing. They motivated me, so I observed again to make sure I am not making a single mistake. Then I decided to try it just for once. If I stumble and fall in the middle of the slope, it’s ok, I can still get up and try again (OR NOT!.. hahaha). I mustered up all the courage inside of me, and then I started sliding down the hill in a fast uncontrollable pace. The only thing I don’t like about the ski resort is that, there are a lot of people, and if you are skiing, there’s a big chance you’ll bump with somebody, and that would surely hurt. I was shouting while I was sliding down the hill for people to get out of my way. I think I shouted loud enough because apparently, they gave way for me. Now I have a problem!!! How to stop? That was my dilemma. I don’t know how to stop. So I maneuvered my ski so it will go into the direction where there’s flat area hoping that it will stop when I get there. But my ski won’t stop even at the flat surface, it could be because I skied too fast. So I decided to just hit the side wall, but the problem was, there were a lot of people standing there. So before I hit them, I shouted so loud again, thankfully, I hit the wall and not the people. It hurts though, but I just laughed it off. There’s ski patrol coming over to help me up, but I wanted to show I was man enough to stand up on my own, so the rescuer just backed off anyway.. haha

Despite of the hurt I got on my first fall, I climbed back up the hill (because we didn’t pay for the lift, we have to climb on feet and carry our ski gears), skied again. I tried several times, sometimes I managed to ski without falling, and sometimes, some minor shits happened. LOL. But I realized, that what’s make skiing even more fun and challenging. I can’t say I got the hang of it already, but if I still have another chance to ski, I would surely do it again.

At the cozy lobby of the hotel at Bearstown Resort

Aside from the ski jang, there are also other winter ski sports like sledding. We didn’t try it because we just think it’s for sissies and for the kids, but I think it’s fun too. There are a lot of accommodations at Bearstown Ski Resort. There are hotels and pension houses you can rent if you want to stay there overnight. And did I mention we went there for a conference? Yes, because there are also venues perfect for this kind of event. Right beside the ski Jang, there are hotels perfect for your accommodations if you want to stay there overnight. I just think it’s too pricey though for an average of 192,000 won - 354,000 won fee.

At some random Korean restaurant in the area

Restaurants and coffee shops are also plenty in the area. If you feel hungry after trying out different winter activities at the resort, you can just grab coffee, or burger or even Korean food at the restaurants nearby.

It was a fun and memorable day at Bearstown Ski Resort. I can feel the pain of stumbling and falling, but more than that, the experience worth it all. At least I know I can ski, not as good as the experts, but in my book, I can ski too well! haha