Busan Ferry Terminal: Scary Experience

“You should have been able to see everything as a tourist already, why do you need to come back again?

That’s what an Immigration officer asked me at the Busan Ferry terminal and then suggested I might be working illegally.

I'm not currently teaching English (had in the past) and was on my way to Japan to have my passport stamped so I could stay in Korea for another 90 days, but ran into a nightmare as I was trying to pass through immigration. I was pulled our of line and brought into an immigration office.

The first immigration officer didn't understand that I was visiting Korea on my passport and kept asking for a working I.D. even though I kept repeating...passport...tourist...not working. The second immigration officer trying to assist kept asking me to fill out unnecessary forms because he also thought I was working in Korea. The third immigration officer trying to assist finally understood that I wasn't working in Korea and then turned really "mean."

She asked why I needed to come back again and suggested that I was an illegal worker. She kept repeating that Canadians and Americans work illegally on their passports and that she would have to check with my past employers, etc. to see if there were any problems with my past stays in Korea. She asked me about my finances. It was difficult to offer a simple explanation without being ignored and making the immigration officer more angry.

It felt like an interrogation.

I had arrived early, but now my boat was leaving in 15 minutes. I pointed that out and the immigration officer said I could go but that she would have to check with my past employers, etc., and emphasized that she would see me again in the afternoon on my return trip from Japan.

Re: Busan Ferry Terminal: Scary Experience

That thrills me off.  I should have told them that I went on a same-day trip to a closest island in japan to shop Duty-free items for Chuseok gifts to my friends and family as most of seafarers had done, who went there with you as Korean tourists.

Re: Busan Ferry Terminal: Scary Experience

sadly, normal bro. back in 2005 i wasnt even allowed to get a work visa because i had been here "too long" without a work visa. even though there was no evidence of me teaching illegally and i was actually wanting to get a e2 visa i was denied. so i went to ulsan and they gave me one. busan no, ulsan yes. crazy random stuff here just makes you wonder. in the end i worked in ulsan for 2 months and then quit and came back to busan and got a visa. because i had one in ulsan, even though it was only for 2 months, the problem i had here before vanished. it is strange that koreans think korea is the bomb and everything is famous and the best but dont understand why anyone else would like to be here?

Re: Busan Ferry Terminal: Scary Experience

and talking about the ferry terminal, i was exchanging money there one time and while getting processed, i decided to get more money exchanged. the woman got angry and said in korean, "this is why i hate foreigners." now remember, this is a bank at the 'international' ferry terminal. i called the manager over and he just laughed like what she said was cute. try saying that to a customer at a bank in canada and see what happens. crazy shit.

Re: Busan Ferry Terminal: Scary Experience

Sorry to hear that.

My suggestion for foreigners (who can't speak Korean well) under a similar situation are:

1, Be very very polite and smile all the time (it doesn't matter how fake you look like), DO NOT argue or TRY to explain anything, cuz that won't work.

or 2, Act like you are very very vunerable and pissed (This really works for women, not sure it works for men or not)

Glad you did catch the ferry...

Re: Busan Ferry Terminal: Scary Experience


     I don't blame them, I hope they will get stricter, and get rid of all scam merchants working here(not you). Ones, who are working illegally and therefore, as a consequence, keeping all the Industry rates down.Go immigration, a good start, next for Hakwans.Keep it up!I don't understand why people think working here without the correct visa, is OK. 

Try(working illegally) it in other countries, see where it lands you. Korea has been tolerant for along time, hopefully they're tightening up the system.Thus, Koreans in the industry, can earn a fairer wage , for a fair day's work.Not that most foreigners care about them , it seems.I suspect most people only care, or aware, when they become entwined with a Korean.Sad, very sad.

Re: Busan Ferry Terminal: Scary Experience

I probably should mention that I'm a retiree with a generous pension and don't have to work.

At first, I couldn't figure out why I was being asked for an ARC and to fill out a reentry permit when I'm on a tourist visa, and then I couldn't understand why I was beiing asked why do I need to come back to Korea again and being checked on for working illegally.

Thinking about it now, probably a lot of the situation was due to language barrier and poor communication.

I asked one of the immigration officers if we could call the immigration hotline so they could interpret for us, but he refused.



Re: Busan Ferry Terminal: Scary Experience

i think it is a perfect example of why korea is so well known as a tourist hotspot in the english speaking world.  nevermind the language barrier, the form is in english, too

Re: Busan Ferry Terminal: Scary Experience

Hey JK, That sucks about your experience but immigration on a global scale seems to be a lot tougher and 'less friendly' nowadays. I cannot say I have travelled everywhere in the World but i've been to quite a few places and by far the worst immigration is the US in my opinion. I've seen them flat out harrass non-English speakers whilst waiting myself. Even to a fluent English speaker like me they were just arrogant, rude and very unhelpful...you can't even try to talk back to them because they will not listen and/or threaten action against you...despite the language barrier i'd take Korean immigration everyday and with the amount of people who try to illegally work here I can understand why they may be harsh...its just a shame that its against someone honest like yourself. Any Americans reading this please dont take this as an attack...just my experience of your immigration.

Re: Busan Ferry Terminal: Scary Experience

hey turns. i hate to say it but canada is right up there with the US. the last time i went back it was with my korean fiance and were only going to my parents place and vancouver immigration took her aside and grilled her for 3 hours. she thought i was a pimp and she was a prostitutute. i finally got fed up and demanded they call my parents just to verify a simple story. welcome to canada!

Re: Busan Ferry Terminal: Scary Experience

Paul, that must have been freaking hack of time there in family. The Douane officers wouldn't have treated you guys in such a terrible way, if they could have seen any proper documents with you two, would they? Is that K-2 visa for a Canadienne?

Re: Busan Ferry Terminal: Scary Experience

Quote, Presume guilty prior to providing any stay visa stamp on top of an entry visa. 

When nothing is on a passport as a laissez-passer, their regulations will not accommodate anyone's advantage.  I experienced a worse case than Joe's in Paris against terrorism.  Let us stop nagging about bad experience; get a lil positive.  What they do is the way how they manage their job.  I will think about what I need to do first.  I won't quote JFK.

Re: Busan Ferry Terminal: Scary Experience

hey Paul ~ how long was "too long" of tourist visa stay for you??  and did ulsan immigration not question you at all, since a previous rejection was on the record??

i was also recently rejected for an e-2 for the same reason, and accused of working illegally.  i was absolutely stunned.  i have 5 years of contract experience here, and asked why they think i would need to do that.  there's a reason why i had to "pass through korea" for as long as i did.  i appealed and explained in writing, with my x-korean girlfriend's side note and signature as well since she was the reason i had to renew my tourist visa 3 times.

she owed me about 8 million won!!  she borrowed this in 2007, and was supposed to pay me back in jan-feb 2009 when i returned for it.  while living with her, she finally scraped it together by june, 2009.  man, it was tense and frustrating. unfortunately, that's the beginning of monsoon season in nepal which is where i was going to trek.  so, i had to stay in korea and wait until late september for the next trekking season.

busan immigration has not replied to my appeal yet.  but upon delivery, they treated it like a joke.  i have no expectations from them.  do you think i should try changwon or ulsan as well??  does anyone else have any input??  thanks.       


Re: Busan Ferry Terminal: Scary Experience

Jonathan, please note e-2 visa is strictly for those who apply for to teach as a FT instructor in Korea. Usually debtor/creditor relationship is for a businessman not to be a teacher there. I have known a couple of NIKE engineer dealers, who collected pack of samples from KookJe Chemicals, and who regularly traveled from the North America to Busan during 1990s. They always flew over through Seoul to Busan not by boat though.

On the other hand, I feel terribly sorry about what you had been through prior to rejecting the prankish tropical weather with your ex.

As far as you've got all stickers from Japanese borders and stamps from Korean, I suggest you make a fresh new passport with updated full name on it. I believe the Immigration staffs on duty, working on their booth, do not have any direct excess to seek your past record. Presumed suspects only got invited to their office to track back to the past. The first impression counts first, and then your clean passport next!

If you like to run a new visa, go back to your country of original nationality to do that with no risk. Simplicity is the most valuable in Korean customs law.

Re: Busan Ferry Terminal: Scary Experience

hey john. i was here for 2 years without a working visa. i had a meeting here but without any evidence of me doing anything wropng busan would not give me a visa. i let them check my bank and everything. in ulsan, they had reservationbs but i told them i was here writing a book and living on money i made in canada. i said i was not poor. i showed them my book and after that, they gave me a visa. crazy how they can say no to you without any real reason. if koreans went on things by what they think, this country would be messed up....hold on- haha good luck to you. sucks but here you are guilty first for being a foreigner and secondly for actually liking korea. crazy stuff.


helen, i did have all documents. luckily, next time i go back she will have here residency stuff all done and of course being married now, our marriage certificate with us (from the canadian consulate). weird though that the perception of canada is loving but they treat first timers who are accompanied by a canadian in that way. problems with immigration every where. good luck to all.

Re: Busan Ferry Terminal: Scary Experience

wow paul !   maybe there's a shot.  i am guilty of foreign subversion, but not of liking korea.  but after 8 months in nepal, i need to chill, get some employer provided space, unpack my bags, and have hot showers on demand.  thanks, i'll look into it ulsan and changwon.

and thank you as well, helen.