Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Shopping in Korea

There is this realization that I do things in Korea that most people wouldn’t even consider trying to do. The Irish and the One want to move into a different apartment, so I go around and find a real-estate agent and negotiate to get a new apartment for them. This requires some walking about, getting in and out of strangers' cars, and generally relying on the Korean I know not to lead me astray. Surprisingly enough, this works out more often than one would believe.

When anyone asked me I said with all honest that I didn't actually speak that much Korean. This was true. I didn't really speak that much Korean. What I did very well, however, was refuse to give up when I wanted something. I believed that if I wanted itand I have a basic understanding of what I need to dothan there was no good reason why I should not be able to get what I wanted.

Perhaps it was conceited, but it worked.

So it was that I found myself standing on the street after dinner, about an hour and half before my ticket to Harry Potter, wanting a smartphone.

My reasoning for this was simple enough: going out to the sticks, living in a love motel for five weeks, and the chance of being completely without a WiFi connection were enough to make me want a smartphone. I knew that with a smartphone I could link up my computer to the data connection and have WiFi. And WiFi was what I really wanted. It made sense to get a smartphone.

The Irish, having nothing better to do but to tag along, came on my little adventure. While the most likely place to go in Daegu would be Phone Street, I decide to eschew Phone Street for some of the various phone shops on the main strip. We walked together into the first one and I just asked for what I wanted.

Smartphone pirohada.”

ARC isseyo?

Crap. This was when I realized that I not only didn’t have an alien registration card, I also didn’t have my passport, as both of these forms of identification were currently residing at the school and I wouldn’t get them until Monday. But I really wanted my phone to be much smarter before Monday.

With this in mind I wondered how exactly I was going to pull of the getting of a phone, but pushed on.

Yeah, ARC isseyo, jiggam opseyo. Number ara.

The guy asked me what type of visa I had. So I told him.

“No. No smartphone for you. Only this.” He held up my phone.

I’m pretty sure that the only answer that guy liked to give to waygooks was that based on the visa it was impossible to get a smartphone.

I wasn’t buying that.

We said okay and walked down the street to the next phone shop. I walked in and walked straight up to the smartphone counter. A friendly, much older, Korean guy walked up to me.

I told him what I wanted.

“Yeah, okay okay.”

He asked about my ARC and I told him I didn’t have it with me.

“Okay. Okay.”

He grabbed my phone, asked me what I wanted, and started the process. The only big demand I had was not changing my phone number. They guy promised that it wouldn’t happen and ran off with my phone. I deleted pictures, took the SD card out and waited. The Irish and I had discussed my situation while we waited.

“You don’t have your ARC?”


“Isn’t that going to be a problem?”

“So far, not so much.”


“Yeah, I’m pretty sure technically this is illegal as all hell, but hey, he is doing something.”

“You really think you are going to get a smartphone?”


The guy came back over and asked for my ARC number, which I give him. He was able to quickly verify that I had in fact had an account with SK for several years and had no intention of changing it up anytime soon. He seemed pretty confident and had me sign a contract on several dozen pages. We talked for a while about a phone number. He told me the number wouldn't change. I was pretty sure he was lying. We went back and forth for a while and he disappeared.

He asked about my enhang.

Enhang. Crap I know that word.” I turned to the Irish. “I know I know that word. Enhang.”

“Yeah...I don’t know.”

“Crap. I know I know that word. Crap.”

I played this dance in my head for a while, trying to figure out the word. Finally the guy came back over, grabbed my credit card, and wondered off again. I was wondering about the time, but we still had about forty minutes before the show. “Bank!” Bank, enhang means bank!

The Irish figured there was no time like the present for boozing, so he left me to negotiate while he went and picked up a couple of bottles for the movie. I negotiated some more and finally determined that the guydespite all promises to the contraryhad in fact changed my phone number. This annoyed me, as now I would have three business cards that would all need to be updated with new phone numbers. To pay for this misstep, the guy gave me a free smartphone cover as a consolation prize. Ah well.

As he explained, I would have number forwarding for at least one year, after which time I would need to update my number. While still not amused, it did result in him handing me a smartphone, while I sat and waited for my credit card and the Irish to come back.

The guy walked over with a business card and explained that tomorrow I would need to have my school fax over my ARC and passport info. I told him no problem. He said this three more times while I waited, and I said three more times that it was not a problem; I would fax everything over.

When the Irish arrived I showed him my phone.

“Cool. Can we go?”

“I’m waiting for my card.’

The guy came over and said something else. I was totally distracted by the shiny lights and oooh ap store...droolllll…

Ten minutes later, the Irish asked again if we could go.

“I’m waiting for my card.”

Then I remembered they guy coming over.


I opened my wallet. My card had been in my wallet for the last ten minutes. Genius. I asked the guy if we could go, and received an affirmative, so I collected my new phone and the Irish, and together we wandered into the muggy Korean night to go catch a movie.

In the morning I sent an email to the school and asked them to fax over the documents for me. As I wrote, I thought rather amusedly to myself, that while my mission was almost certainly impossible, I managed to accomplish it completely, with a minimum of fuss and a minimum of Korean ability. Sometimes it was just all about being willing to engage and be completely incapable of taking no for an answer.

This message was sent from my computer using the phone as my WiFi connection, because, as predicted, my love motel room has no interwebs.


Maladaahn said...

This is fantastic! The ending is the best!

Maladaahn said...
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