The Tank Ain't Empty

Hometown USA 1997

JT told me I would need a tourist Visa valid for five years, good for 90 days and renewable for the same length every time I entered the country. This kind of renewable Visa is a great way for illegal English teachers like JT and his brother to get around Korea's immigration laws. To get a legitimate work Visa you have to sign a contract with a Korean employer for at least one year. That gives the employer so much power over you that it is hard to make the kind of money illegals make, it's also hard to come and go as you please, and you have to pay taxes too.

One downside to this tourist Visa scam is really an upside for many teachers who work in Korea under the table: every three months illegals have to make a "Visa Jump" where you have to leave Korea and re-enter to get your 90 days renewed. "Visa Jumping" can be expensive, but it enables the restless traveler/teacher to go see a different country--if only briefly--every 90 days or so. It's a great excuse to get away to Hong Kong, Thailand, Guam, wherever. And Japan is only a three-hour boat ride or a short flight from some Korean ports.

At least that’s how JT sold it to me.

Personally, I really only intended to stay in Korea for the three weeks, or so, that it would take to substitute teach JT's brother's classes, but I also wanted a few free days to kick around the peninsula. Perhaps drop in on a few old haunts down in Pusan. How could I go wrong; I could scratch my itch to get out of town, see an old buddy in an exotic locale, make some straight cash, and return to Korea for the first time in 10 years.

"Oh, by the way," he asks, "you do still speak some Korean don't you?"
"Well I haven't really tried in years, but I'm sure there's enough still in the tank."
"Good. 'Cuz Korean women are the most beautiful women in the world but I can't communicate with them."

Oh, that's where I come in.

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