Finding out available assignments where your family may go is always nerve-wracking, and one place you may not expect on the list or to receive is a PCS to South Korea, as most of the time, it’s a one-year unaccompanied tour. Last year my spouse discovered we would be moving to the “Land of morning calm,” and we arrived a month ago. So if you just found out you’ll be PCS’ing to South Korea, here are what spouses stationed here at Osan Air Base wish they would have known before they came.
A sad reality for many military families stationed in South Korea is that getting animals in and out of Korea can be difficult or impossible in some situations. Many families opt to leave their larger dogs with loved ones in the states. Check regulations on what animals are allowed to fly and when, and remember your pet will need accommodations if the travel day temperature is above 80 degrees. FAVN is a rabies titer you will need at least six months before arrival, so the sooner you get it, the better.
Mornings have slow starts here as most things aren’t open till 10 or 11 am. Although the apartment buildings are tall, greenery and crops are planted everywhere in nooks and corners. On days ending in 4 or 9, Farmer Markets are located near the main gate, filled with good food and items to purchase.
Korea is very accommodating for children as well. Many wonder if they should bring their family, and although getting command sponsorship can be tricky, the culture here is extremely welcoming, and there are off-base immersion preschools where your kids will thrive.
The air quality here can fluctuate from clear days to days you want to mask because of pollution. Having air purifiers throughout your house will help keep your home and air clean for your family.
Although the sky is polluted, they are against littering, so Koreans focus on sorting and recycling trash, plastics, metal, paper, glass, and food. If you do not follow the guidelines, you may receive a fine. There are specific bags for trash and food you can buy at the local market, and the rest can go separately in clear plastic bags.
Although there are some exceptions, most families will move into an apartment. Many apartments in Korea have wallpaper installed, so nailing items on walls is usually a no-go. Some places come furnished, whereas, in others, you’ll need to bring your items. Bring rugs as most places have tile or wood floors.
Most apartments for rent in Korea have a small convection oven, so some pans will not fit. Another thing to be aware of is there are no dishwashers or garbage disposals. You’ll need to scrap your food into the food bag and hand wash your plates. Put on gloves and “Summer Hits of the ’90s” to embrace the cleaning mood, and you’ll have your kitchen spic and span in no time.
And of course if you are looking for your next home, stateside that is, connect with MilHousing Network! We help military families connect with military real estate experts throughout the US!
A trusted lender is also a must! Lenders like Veterans First Mortgage who specialize in VA loans can help you determine wether home buying is within your budget! They will guide you through each step. From getting prequalified to signing closing papers, they have experts to help you meet your home buying goals!
The Korean Electronic Travel Authorization or K-ETA is needed for all non-military members to arrive in S. Korea, and it is relatively easy to apply online. Make sure to do this process at least 72 hours before arrival. You will need to arrange your No-Fee Government passport on base before arriving, but you’ll get your sofa stamp at the airport here in Korea.
Google Maps doesn’t work here, so you’ll navigate through apps like Naver, Waze, and Kakao. You’ll need a T-Money card which you can get at the newcomer’s orientation. The T-Money card is how you will pay for bus, train, and cab rides, and you can quickly load money onto your T-Money card at any transportation station.
The Korean government leads trips for Americans to travel and explore the vast array Korea has to offer, and every month ITT and Outdoor Rec have dozens of trips you can join for a variety of price points.
There are many opportunities to learn Korean, both on-and-off base, and English and Korean chat classes are free and fun ways to make new friends and practice the local language. Drops is an app many have found helpful in learning the Korean words and phrases you’ll use most often.
Anyplace you move to will take some getting used to, but as someone who has only been in South Korea for a month, I can tell you I’m not only thrilled to be here, but I can’t wait to see what else this country has in store for the rest of our tour here.
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