Visa for China in Seoul
19th June. Today we tried to get a visa to China in Seoul. It was our first contact with China and reflects on many similar travel stories in Asia. It is one about patience and time. Getting things done in many Asian countries require both, in abundance.
Back to the visa for China. I couldn’t find affirmative info on the net, so the first thing I did was to write an e-mail to the Chinese embassy about a week ago to ask if it is at all possible to get a visa whilst visiting Seoul. One e-mail address turned out to be outdated and bounced right away. I used another one listed on the embassy’s website.
No response to this day.
We were going to inquire in person and traveled down to the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the Republic of Korea.
Location: 54, Hyoja-Dong, Jongno-GU, Seoul, 110033, Korea
Office Hours: 09:00-12:00, 13:30-17:30, Monday-Friday (except holidays)
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org (didn’t work, so I used) email@example.com
Website: http://kr.china-embassy.org/kor/ (Korean)
Greeted by a white piece of paper which states that visa matters are dealt with at the Chinese consulate in Seoul, we left for a trip across town, to get to the consulate.
The embassy must get puzzled tourists a lot, because someone made the effort to write this info page. Enough not to update the official website.
The Chinese consulate is located near the ropeway station, at the foot of the mountain on which the Seoul Tower stands. Google Maps advised to take a bus and it was easy to find the bus station. It was more difficult to board the bus, which just ran past the station without stopping, taking over other buses, which were sort of blocking the bus stop. Anyhow, it was now faster to take the metro.
The red flag is the place of the Chinese embassy.
The metro is a good way to get around Seoul. It carries beautiful people sharing Korean beauty secrets. Only, they aren’t secret in Korea.
We arrived at the Chinese Consulate: 50-7, No. 2 Street, Namsan-dong, Chung-gu, Seoul
Tel: +82-2-7567300, 7550453, 7550456
Office Hours: 9:00-11:30, Monday-Friday and 13:30-15:30, Monday-Thursday (except holidays)
Here, we found another, short and brisk notice on the door: ‘You should apply through travel agency’.
Okay, so the Chinese consulate has some kind of cooperative approach to share the process of visa applications with agents.
Basically the consulate does not accept individual applications for tourist, business, work, nor student visas. Therefore, one has to apply through travel agencies.
The Chinese Embassy provides a list of travel agents. I popped the Korean website into Chrome to get all street names translated http://kr.china-embassy.org/chn/lsqz/ls_qz/ls_qz_13/t229558.htm (Korean). The visa should not cost more than 20,000.
As we walked up the hill, we were wondering about numerous travel agents with big banners that promised to deal with visas in English. Now we knew why and marched downhill again.
This was the first agent. We walked in but communication was not possible due to a categorical lack of the advertised.
Our next try. English lacked on signs but was proficiently spoken by the agent. The men behind the counter closely examined our passports, turning each page carefully as if expecting to find something. Residency in Seoul. Non-Korean applicants need an alien registration card in South Korea (ARC) with at least 6 months remaining validity.
We did not have that card. With our South Korean tourist visas, this was going to be ‘difficult’, he said.
Let me translate that Asian term for you. Asians find it difficult to say ‘no’ or ‘impossible’ even if they mean ‘no’ or that things are ‘impossible’. Which in India for example can lead to overpromise-underdeliver scenarios and cause misunderstandings in inter-cultural communication. This agent knew western communication rules and added a more concrete clue by shaking his head.
Conclusions: China is making it difficult and costly for tourists to enter.
Solution: We will try to apply through Hong Kong. It is also possible to apply for a visa in Bangkok but may be more of a bureaucratic effort.
In the meantime we decided to ride the ropeway to the Seoul Tower. Stay tuned for smoggy, I mean stunning views!