It took me quite a while to figure out that—as a foreigner staying for more than 90 days—I need to register in order to enjoy the more fancy aspects of life in Korea (like opening a cyworld-account, soon to come…***). So I went to a place that sounds as if it came straight out of some Men in Black-nightmare: the Alien Registration Office.
Retrospectively, it seems mostly harmless, especially in comparison with what I heard about the German equivalent, the Ausländerbehörde. More poignantly, in Austria the same place is called Fremdenpolizei (“strangers’ police”). In fact this term is quite fitting, because that’s what it’s all about: making strange.
On a first look, the waiting room is like any other public office: waiting by numbers, despair in the face of formulas, and generally a rather bored atmosphere of random time killing. But the dullness is misleading—far from falling asleep, I glance around and perk up my ears.
I spy a missionary’s wife (how can she read a Korean paper, though?). I spy one more English teacher, routinely filling out his form (or maybe an army thug who fell in love with a local? probably a Canadian!) I spy a gyopo-family, back in the country of their fathers (would they have to come here?). I spy an “imported bride” from Vietnam (her ajossi is probably outside, smoking while crouching). I spy a German passport, in the hand of a freckled girl copying her credentials as eagerly as a secretary (probably a long-time intern at the Goethe-Institut). I spy a sweating guy, obviously not yet adjusted to the heat-wave that hits Seoul in the summer time, leaning forward as he touches his forehead, staring hard at his Korean textbook (level 4!), until no. 536 is called out.
I give my best: speaking Korean, listening closely, rebuffing undeserved compliments (can’t stop it), saying thanks and good bye as I leave, without looking back. In other words: Performing the Good Alien. I guess it is time to phone home (although it is night-time there).
— 19 July 2010 (月)
*** Errata: It is still there, a glittering room lost in time… go to www.cyworld.com/creutze and click on the “이곳을 클릭하세요.” (that’s “click here” in Korean) ! Don’t forget to leave a comment.