Registering your frustrations

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Registering your frustrations

The following is a tip on traditional Korean language and customs in response to a query from Ms. Goodwin, who wrote to us from Seoul:

Q. Ms. Goodwin:
I have been living in Korea for the past three years and I appreciate all the efforts that have been made to turn Korea into an “international hub,” and in general become more foreigner-friendly.

It seems to me, though, that what many foreigners living in Korea want aren’t tax rebates or English schools, but rather the ability to access the same services as Koreans. At the moment, however, we cannot.

Why isn’t it possible for foreigners to access Internet Web sites to buy things like movie tickets or to use those popular music portals? If you don’t have a Korean registration number, you’re out of luck. Why is it so hard to get a cell phone?

Every Korean living in the peninsula has a unique registration number, which is used for almost all legal documents and business transactions.

When Koreans open bank accounts, sign up for telephone service, or purchase property, the number is registered as part of the contract. Such prevalent use of the number makes it easy for authorities to track down records later.

Temporary visitors are given a foreigner registration number, but most of the time they cannot use it to access Web sites. Some portals, however, will give you a special number that will let you use their sites. But most of the time, you just have to get a Korean friend to sign up for you.

Foreigners have been able to buy their own cellular phones for a while, but companies require a hefty 200,000 won ($155) deposit.

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