Can’t Find Concert Tickets? You’re Not Alone

Expats – at least those fresh off the boat – often bemoan the difficulty of buying concert tickets here.

With the likes of Oasis, Jamiroquai, Maroon 5 (and Weezer!) starting to show their faces Seoul-side, it’s high time we all learnt how to get past our language problems.

As Muse, Kasabian and Nine Inch Nails know, interest in Western music is at an all time high in Korea, which means the need to get tickets early is almost as pressing as it is in the rush for those magic Seo TaeGi or Drunken Tiger passes.

If you live in Seoul, ticket-buying’s not too difficult if you know where to go. Bandi and Luni’s bookstore (in Gangnam and Bundang) or Kyobo bookstore (in Gangnam, Bucheon and Jogno) are good places to start, with each branch selling tickets for a selection of events and usually able to provide service in decent English.

In other cities it’s also common for major bookstores to stock tickets (Kyobo in Daegu, for example), though tickets for events elsewhere are rarely held.

Alternatively, turning up at the venue with a calendar and the name of the artist spelled out in Korean has worked for me in the past, too. It’s worth noting that a lot of bigger events have an early bird price if you buy a few months in advance, which will usually save you 5,000 to 10,000 won.

For those living a long way from the venue, online ticketing is the way to go. Some good places to start are ticket.interpark.com or ticket.auction.co.kr.

If you don’t have substantial Korean skills, you’ll need to rope in a friend to guide you through the online booking steps. If you’re lucky, they might lend you the use of their credit card – in exchange for the cash, of course – to get your reservation through. But if not, most companies accept payment via the easy to use English language bank transfer options available on most Korean ATMs. You’ll probably need to take the supplier’s account details to a branch of your own bank to make the transfer, though some banks allow transfers from cards connected with other banks. You’ll also need a Korean address to have the tickets sent to; most employers will allow you to use their details if you have any doubt.

It’s worth noting that the booking isn’t always confirmed when you complete the online process. Confirmation can involve a follow up phone call from the company you purchased from, or in some cases ticket purchase is confirmed when the bank transfer is received.

Check the policies carefully. The sites can also prove troublesome when it comes to registering: Alien registration numbers are required, and we’ve found they’ve been accepted or declined at different times and on different sites, with various levels of success.

The phone options have no such requirements, so if it’s proving too difficult, InterPark English ticket reservations can be contacted on 02-1544-1555 (press #2 for English).

With so many concerts cancelled in Korea, there might well be times when you need to return your tickets, too. Summer Breeze Festival (featuring The Prodigy), Flower Power Peace Festival and 50 Cent’s Korean date were all announced last year, but never took place.

It’s always worth keeping a close eye on official websites to check the status of any concert right up to the day before you head off. If the worst does happen, those who paid by bank transfer should wait a week or two before getting in touch, as refunds are often automatic. If you bought your tickets in another way, get back in touch with the point of sale as soon as you can. The promoters are legally required to refund your ticket money, though you’ll probably lose out on any booking fees.

As published in the Korea Herald, 15th December 2009. Click here to view original

Young Koreans look to Ireland, U.K. for school

DUBLIN, Ireland – “As a little girl, I always had an image of England as a place where people wear top hats and dandy suits, and walk around umbrella in hand,” said Kim Do-young.

“I always believed there was something out there in a foreign country, just waiting for me.”

At 26 years old, Kim lives by the motto “seize the day,” and has only returned to her native Korea twice in over ten years. She’s one of an increasing number of young Koreans looking to expand their horizons on foreign shores, seeking a different type of education and a slower-paced lifestyle.

Kim chose the United Kingdom – and the industrial town of Coventry – as her new home.

As the geographical center of England, Coventry is mockingly nicknamed “the car park of Great Britain,” and Kim admits she sees it a little like a “black hole.”

“For the locals, it’s the center of the earth,” she adds. “But you can get almost anywhere in a day, and the Cotswolds and other scenic farming areas are within easy reach.”

After going through school, university and now entering employment in the United Kingdom, Kim concedes “the longer I stay, the less likely it is I’ll ever go back to my homeland.”

But even after 10 years there are still things she misses. “I’m surprised how little fish English people eat, considering all four corners of the country are surrounded by the sea. I miss my family of course, and I’ve had to tone down my spice-loving palette. At the end of the day, though, people are the same in terms of living.

“They eat, they work, they watch TV, they laugh, they cry, they go to the toilet and they sleep. The difference is that in Korea everything happens faster with ten times the intensity. In Coventry you get to do everything slow.”

Of course most expats do intend to return home.

Ham Ryul-suk – a former Gwangju resident – chose Dublin, Ireland as his destination, and sees himself as a more short term resident. “I expect to stay two or three years,” he says. “Until I’m satisfied with my English level, I probably won’t leave. English is more important now than other things.”

There are other benefits too, though: “In Korea I earned about 1 million won a month. For that I’d have to work 40-45 hours a week, minimum. Here I can make double that, and I only have to work 20-30 hours a week. Of course, the price of living in Ireland is higher, but whether I spend the money or not – at least to some extent – is up to me.”

Having lived with his parents right up until his move to Ireland, Ham met a host of domestic challenges head on. “I have to make meals, wash dishes, wash clothes, clean my room … in Korea, my mom did all of that. I miss my family. Things are not easy at home, and I miss Korean food and friends too.”

Overall, however, Ham seems to enjoy his new life.

“Dublin’s very cosmopolitan. I speak to people from many countries every day, and I have to speak to them in English. Sometimes I don’t want to, but in the long term it’s always an opportunity and a great benefit. At first I used to freeze when I tried to talk to people in the street. In my first week I walked into someone, and I couldn’t think what to say.

“He said sorry even though I knew it was my fault. I think the people here are very kind, gentle and polite. I’m no longer afraid to talk to foreigners. I have changed my life, and my personality. Now I feel brave, I believe I can do anything.”

The cosmopolitan streets of English-speaking Western Europe, it seems, are a new refuge for Korea’s enthusiastic youngsters to seek out an education in languages and culture, with many looking increasingly likely to stay put.

As Kim puts it, “I could write a book about it. Every day’s an experience. I still have problems sometimes. Like at university, when a friend told me a professor was going on sabbatical.

I confused the word with ‘Sabbath,’ and said I didn’t know the professor was Jewish. But we all laughed about it. I still think the biggest challenges are yet to come, but at the end of the day I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

As published in the Korea Herald, August 25th 2009.

link: this article on the Korea Herald website