Korea: A Nightmare on Banking Street

Everyone has to go to the bank. But not everyone has to go to the bank in Korea and THAT is an actual nightmare.

Banking in Korea is something I leave until the last possible second and if I don’t go to the bank, well I’m screwed to say the least. I either won’t have a travel card abroad which is a problem for obvious reasons. Or my loan company will be ringing off the hook hounding me about the next payment like a thirsty, ravenous, money-hangry beast.

Before you continue reading this anecdote of banking in Korea, I want you to listen to a little snippet of what banking in korea actually feels like – hell on earth

The whole event always starts a few days BEFORE I even have to go to the bank. I mentally prepare myself – do some yoga, find my chi, and make sure my Feng Shui is OK.

zen wes anderson GIF by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Day 1:

The day before the entire debacle, I call the English line, which is an adventure of its own. Mainly because whether or not the person on the other end actually speaks English is a game of Russian Roulette – even though I’ve called the English line. To speak in English. To find out banking information. In English.

In this specific scenario, I had to make sure 100% my global card would, in fact, work abroad since Korea is the supreme ruler of banking screw ups. I could not afford to get stuck in Thailand with no money when I need all the beach margaritas and sunblock the world has to offer!

Lo’ and behold, they tell me my global card isn’t actually a global card. Even though it said “Global Banking” on it.

I’d signed up for it last year before I went to Canada and it didn’t work there either. By “global” do they mean globally around Korea? Excuse me, huh!?

3 hours later

They tell me I have to go to a head branch to fix the problem. They give me the address (which is not an address its “downtown near exit 3, across the road,  on the left, three wolf whistles past the jungle gym”) and tell me to go tomorrow because the bank closes in an hour. Nice!

Exhausted from hours of misinformation and bad news, I need to rest my battered body.

Day 2:

I wake up bright and early and head to the bank first thing. If there’s one thing every expat knows, it’s that banking requires a minimum of all eternity. I go to the head branch (because apparently that makes a difference), get my ticket, and wait. Hang tight for a brave clerk as the rest of them get shifty eyed and scatter like scared fish because the big loud foreigner has arrived to wreak havoc.

“Here to terrorize”

I call the English line again and pass the phone to the clerk hoping it’ll make everything go smoothly (it won’t). I sit awkwardly, twiddling my thumbs solving life’s greatest mysteries. 3 minutes later the English Line tells me “Ma’am, you’re at the local branch. You have to go to the head branch”.

HUH?! Do you remember earlier in the story about the exit 3 and jungle gym directions to the HEAD BRANCH?!

I was told YESTERDAY that this location was a head branch! I swear they all just band together and play Fluster the Foreigner.

The English Line then tells me the location of the “supposed” head branch. So I gather the archaic landmark based address and head over there and repeat the process:

  1. Call the English Line
  2. Get a ticket
  3. Wait in line
  4. Sit with a clerk, contemplate life
  5. Awkwardly pass the phone to the clerk

Of course, get told once again that I’M AT A



That the main branch was the first bank I went to. Are you kidding me?! I swear this is a Jigsaw trap!

leigh whannell GIF-downsized.gif

Day 2.5:

In a ball of blazing fury and with the rage of 20 Joffrey Baratheons inside me




THE “head branch”.

Are you tired yet?

Keep in mind that at this point I’m about 3 years and 6 lifetimes into my banking journey and in serious need of some food, peace of mind, and 72 glasses of wine.

I finally make it to the forking “HEAD BRANCH”. The one I was at first thing in the morning, just the beginning of Operation: Give Me My Money.

From here on out, I had to actually interact with the bank clerks sans English Line. What fun!

The Only Useful Information From Peasant Prachi (ever)

(which actually can be pretty helpful, most of the time)

Korean Tourism Help

Nong Hyup English Line: 1644-4000 ext. 9; press 1 for English *

General English Translation Line: in Seoul: Call 1330   Outside Seoul:  Call area code + 1330

*quality English not guaranteed


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What’s the most insane banking experience you’ve ever had? Have you robbed a bank?! Let me know in the comments or email at alieneatingblog@gmail.com!


    • alieneating

      I know right?! The best part is if you want to take money out using your bank book, since your bank card is the flightiest creature out there, you have to update your entire bankbook first! And Lord knows, I haven’t updated that thing for 6 months! I’m glad you enjoyed the post!

  • Hours and Miles

    I’m going to the bank this afternoon, but I’m dragging my co-teacher with me. So here’s hoping it doesn’t devolve into a game of fluster the foreigner lol. This is all so accurate ><

    • alieneating

      Good luck! I swear having a co-teacher come with you is so hit or miss lol. Sometimes all my problems are solved and it’s done in a solid minute. Other times I’m pretty sure I walk out with more problems, not even knowing what banking was actually done.

  • Laketra Chick

    I got annoyed and I’m laying comfortably in my bed just reading about it lol! I can’t imagine actually having to live this. Kudos to you for not giving up while on this wild goose chase! It seriously sounds like they were giving you the run around. So frustrating!

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