US Military: Connect to Life in Korea with Your FRC (aka ARC)

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This blog is a rough overview of how US Military personnel may use a Korean Foreign Residency Card to make life easier in South Korea. The following blog is not an in-depth look at each US Military personnel’s unique situation based on their own moderating variables.

Please message us at southofseoul@gmail.com with any details that could be added to this blog to help US Military personnel in the future.

Although all foreigners living in South Korea follow a similar process ( the South of Seoul blog represents a wide variety of foreign communities), this specific blog post has been developed for the US Military personnel and will be updated with information related to unique experiences related to such issues as 1) SOFA visas, 2) being active duty, and 3) how living on base may impact the following information.

The facts appear to be that families of soldiers, DOD contractors, and others associated with the US Military but not enlisted directly in the USFK -have more room to make personal life choices within the Korean systems. Those enlisted directly with the USFK should speak with their individual leaders to determine their course of action regarding life in South Korea.

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About the Foreign Registration Card

This is the 2nd blog in a series by South of Seoul to inform US Military personnel about information related to having a Foreign Registration Card (FRC) while living in South Korea. Apart from US Military personnel who live in South Korea under the SOFA, the Korean government requires long-term foreign residents have an FRC which is similar to a Social Security Card. Although US Military personnel live in South Kora under SOFA, many may apply for the FRCs during their time living in South Korea. You can learn how US Military can apply for FRC cards here.

Once the FRC has been acquired, here are the next steps to make life easier by solving issues US Military personnel experience related to:

  • vaccine verification
  • hotel booking
  • food delivery
  • online shopping
  • paying for public parking
  • buying sporting tickets
  • taking money out of ATMS
  • paying via bank transfers
  • etc

Let’s learn about the steps to connecting your FRC to services.

How to Connect Your FRC to Koreas Social Support Systems to Make Life Easier

Once you have acquired your FRC you will need to take the following steps to integrate your life into Korea’s social systems.

1: Connect Your Phone Number and Your FRC

Estimated Time: If you already have a phone, maybe 30 minutes. However, if you are buying a phone it can take 1-2 hours to get all the paperwork completed and the phone setup.

In order to connect with Korea’s banking and health systems, you need to have a smartphone registered in your name in South Korea. This can either be a monthly plan or a contract. However, the phone can not be a disposable / burner phone.

Here are two experiences by US Military affiliated persons:

We went to the on Osan Air Force Base KT store and told them we need our ARC cards attached to our phones. I don’t think it took her but a few minutes to update pur accounts. Then we were able to update in Kakao for our QR codes.

Melissa, Contractor with the USFK (5 Years in South Korea)

When I received our FRC card I asked the KT office on Camp Humphreys to add it to our phones which we opened with an ID number associated with US Military. The on-base KT office said we needed 3 months of paid phone service before they could change to using our FRC number.

Katie, Military Spouse (2 months in Korea)

2: Get a Bank Account

Estimated Time: Set aside 1-2 hours for managing the language barrier and setting up all your banking services.

Ideally, you have your FRC and phone before getting your bank account. We recommend creating a Korean bank account with either Hanna Bank or KB Bank. These two financial institutions have solid English banking apps that will allow you to easily send bank transfers and pay online. The majority of South of Seoul volunteers prefer Hanna after over a decade of experience with a variety of banks.

When you get your bank account you MUST ask the bank to set up your online and smartphone banking during the appointment. You can not do this yourself from home. You will regret not doing this as smartphone banking is what makes life work smoothly in South Korea.

Pro-tip: Learning the new systems for Korean online banking can be a truly frustrating and stressful process. However, once you are signup life gets easy after that. We recommend having a person show speaks Korean and understands Korean online banking help you with setting up your online banking systems.

3: Setup Kakao Wallet and Kakao Pay

Kakao is life in Korea. Specifically, Kakao Wallet and Kakao Pay are life in Korea. Once you have your FRC link to your phone and Korean bank account, you are now free to fall in love with life with Kakao. Kakao Pay makes ordering things online just a few simple clicks away. Watch this video on how to signup:

7: Download Apps and Shop!

Popular apps that you can now use with your FRC/Phone/Bank/Kakao Pay system:

  • Coupang (like Amazon) – Korean but searchable in English
  • CoupangEats (food delivery – Korean / English
  • Yanolja (Korean hotel and activities booking site) – Korean

Covid-19

NOTE: The following are no longer relevant as they are from the Covid-19 restrictions that were in place pre 2022. They have been retained for historical interest.

Get Kakao Talk Shake!

Estimated Time: 5-10 minutes depending on your technical skill level

The most commonly used contact/trace QR code is likely the Kakao version, however, Naver and PASS also have QR check-in codes that work across the country. Get your easy-to-access shake-and-scan Kakao QR code like this!

For US Military personnel, you don’t need to have your vaccine registered to start using the Kakao QR code check-in. However, you will need to show your Form 49 when you scan your Kakao QR code until you finish registering your vaccine in the next steps.

Pro-Tip: In order to have Kakao QR codes work your Kakao account, your Kakao account must be linked to your phone number which is linked to your FRC. If you have a Kakao account registered to only an e-mail account or a Kakao account linked to a phone number registered under a US Military ID number – you can not use the QR check-in function. (If South of Seoul documents changes in this system, we will update the blog)

Register Your Vaccination with the Public Health Center

Estimated Time: To fully complete this process (assuming you have your FRC and smartphone) it may take 1 hour. However, it all depends on the business of the Public Health Center (보건소)

When one registers their information with the local Public Health Center, it can theoretically be done with or without an FRC. If the vaccine is registered without an FRC only a paper verification certificate will be given. If the vaccine is registered using an FRC both a paper printout and the COOV app become available.

A blog documenting how to register vaccines a local Public Health Centers coming soon. Each Public Health Center manages such registering foreign vaccines in their own way.

Keep in mind, South of Seoul publishes articles about what Korean public policy allows in relation to those associated with the US military living in Korea. Our work does not speak to US Military rules for enlisted USFK persons. Information is always changing and South of Seoul updates blogs as access to new information presents itself.

Download the Coov App

Estimated Time: You will need a person who speaks Korean to help walk you through this, but it should only take 30 minutes or less.

Once you have registered your FRC with your phone number and registered your vaccination at a Public Health Center, you will be able to download the COOV App. The COOV App is a ‘vaccine pass’ used in Korea to track and verify COVID-19 vaccination status.

Logging into COOV can be a challenge. Registration is in Korea and you can’t take screenshots to translate in Papago (this is how many of us navigate signing up for apps in Korea). Please find a Korean-speaking person to help you.

Once you register for the COOV app they do have an English interface that you can use.

One big benefit of the COOV app is that it also syncs with your Kakao Wallet. This means that when you scan your Kakao QR code at a restaurant for contact tracing purposes, it also validates your vaccination status at the same time. More about Kakao Wallet coming up after banking!

1 thought on “US Military: Connect to Life in Korea with Your FRC (aka ARC)”

  1. Hi. I’ve read this article and could understand better about US military personnel’s life in Korea as a Korean.
    I just contacted Coupang to check if there’s any App of English version. But the answer was ‘NO” .
    I assume that you may be able to place orders with Google Translator Function only in your PC….

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