PCSing to Korea Q&A (Part 1)

What?!  We have Orders to Korea? 

CONTRIBUTED BY TRISH   For more about PCSing to Korea read Part 2 of her article HERE.  (Her website has loads of fun and helpful info too!)

korea moving to korea van -- koreaye.com

Q&A – Part 1

So, you just got orders and you are moving to Korea.
OMGosh… you are moving to KOREA.
WHAT?!? That wasn’t on our list.
Freak-out mode starts.
The only thing you have heard about Korea is how much it stinks and how far away it is.

Relax.  I’m here to tell you that Korea is one of the hidden gems of the Army.
It truly is the “Land of the Morning Calm.”
Embrace it.
Love it.

Now pull up your boot straps and get ready for the ride of your life. 

I’ll answer some of the most common questions I have received from people over the years and I will do my best to answer these questions open and honestly. I will be answering them from an Army spouse point of view.  I know there are a few differences for each branch.

NOW, please note these are MY OWN thoughts and ideas.   And beware that I am an optimist.  I try to see the good in everything and I try to make the most out of every duty station – not only for me, but for my family, friends and all I come in contact with.

We just got orders to Korea and we are moving in 6 weeks!  What do I do I do first?

  1. Breathe.
  2. Have a glass of wine.  I don’t care what time it is.  Sit down and have a drink.
  3. Breathe again.
  4. Get ready to have the time of your life!

Do the houses come furnished? I know we can’t bring all of our stuff and I wouldn’t anyways but I don’t even know where to start. What is the housing like there?

Let’s start with ‘what is the housing like?’  –  SMALL.  VERY SMALL.  There are 6 of us in a 4 bedroom that is about 1200 square feet.  Thank God we love each other.

Let’s start with, what you are not allowed to bring – you are NOT ALLOWED to bring big appliances like washer, dryer, refrigerator and freezer.  (I did bring a mini fridge for drinks!) Post provides all of these things.

Post will also supply all big furniture if you choose not to bring your own.  Items they have for your use – broken down by rooms:

Dining room:  Table, chairs, buffet, china cabinet. 

Living Room: Very uncomfortable couch & chairs, bookshelf, end tables, coffee table and desk. 

Bedrooms: beds – Queen for master, twins for kids rooms – they also have some bunk beds.  They also provide mattresses.  Some people complain about these, but for our family they work just find.  (Just as a side note, king size beds do NOT FIT in most of the apartments on post and if you do by some miracle get it up your staircase, you will only have a bed in your room.  True story.)  They also provide per room, night stands, dresser, chest of drawers, and mirror.

Since you have an express shipment,  a regular shipment, stuff you want to bring with you, and items for storage…how in the world do you keep all of that straight?

My best advice is to make a list of what you want shipped in each shipment.
Start with what you can’t live without.
What you want to put in storage and then –
What you are going to pack in your suitcases. 

Once you have a pretty clear idea of what goes where start separating items into different rooms.

Your Express Shipment Ships last.  This is the shipment that gets to Korea FAST. It goes by plane. These are the items you will need to keep to survive where you live now and they are the items you will need right away to begin setting up your new home. This is the shipment that should be about 1,000 pounds worth of stuff. This shipment ships later than your bulk shipment. You should plan on shipping this stuff 2-3 weeks prior to your move and then it should be in country waiting for you when you arrive.

What do you recommend bringing in your express shipment? 

Toys
Extra clothes (check out the weather in Korea so you are prepared for it!)
sheets
enough kitchen stuff to get you by for up to 6 weeks
shower curtains & rings
towels
trash cans
small TV
Apple TV
Vonage or Skype VOIP phone (if you want to inexpensive phone calls to the states)

How do you know what 1,000 pounds of stuff looks like?

Honestly I’m a bit of a freak and I put things in a laundry basket and weighed them on a bathroom scale.  It worked well for me. 

This is what my express shipment looked like:

moving to korea express shipment -- koreaye.com

Main shipment (ships out first) – I sent this shipment out 8 weeks prior to our arrival and it was here in country 2 weeks after we arrived. That is right; it took 10 weeks to arrive.  If you are moving during off season your things may arrive early – moving during peak season, you might be waiting much longer!  I have a friend that it took 3 months for her things to get here.  Be PREPARED for anything!

moving to korea2 -- Koreaye.com

Storage, anything you can live without for 2 years. Once things are in storage it is amazing how you realize you can live without them!! When we moved back to the states we ended up getting rid of more than 1/2 of the things we had in storage. This is typically the last piece of your move.

Who pays for storage?
If your soldier is in the Army, the Army pays for all storage – it will be stored where ever you are moving from.  I’m assuming the same holds true for the other branches of the military.

How many bags do they let you check? Carry on? We have 2 car seats, a pack n play, bottles and formula. Do you suggest bringing those things and just clothes/toiletries on the plane?

Each family member can check 2 bags of 50 pounds each….the active duty person can have one bag that is 70 pounds and one that is 50. Each person can have a carryon bag as well. Honestly I wouldn’t bother with car seats – now I know your babies are young and this might freak you out, but once you get here you don’t use them if you don’t have a car. You can’t put them in cabs or buses or on the subway….this might be one thing you can do without – or you can have a family member send to you in the mail. If you feel you need them, bring them…but generally they are not used unless you have a POV.
I might opt to send the pack n play in the express shipment. There is a loan closet & it is amazing how giving and caring the military community is here – let your sponsor know you need one when you arrive and I bet they can find one for you.
Bring bottles and formula. They will let you bring enough formula on the plane for the trip, but they need to know in advance. Check the rest. Our commissary is totally stocked with formula.
Yes, clothes, toiletries…you will probably be in the Dragon Hill Lodge for a few days before you get to your house. Pack like you are going on vacation for a few weeks.

I’ve heard you can’t shop at the Commissary, PX or Shoppette until you have your Ration Card.  Is this true?

Unfortunately yes, BUT the good news is that there is a way around it!  Just carry a copy of orders with you EVERYWHERE YOU GO!  You can get into and buy things at the PX, Commissary and Shoppettes  for 30 days after arrival if you have orders – and they must have the command sponsor part with your name on them.  Easy as that.  While we are on the subject, always having a POA on this post is a good idea too.  Just sayin’ – you never know when you are going to need it.  

Should I get my international drives license BEFORE I get to Korea? 

Really there is no need.  It is super easy here, you can do it on a walk in basis or you can make an appointment.  But once again you are allowed to drive ON POST for 30 days before you get your international license as long as you are carrying orders with you.

Do you have more questions?  Please feel free to submit them in the comments section and I will do my best to answer them on my next installment of  “What?!  We have Orders to Korea?”

Good luck with your move and I look forward to seeing you around the peninsula! 

30 thoughts on “PCSing to Korea Q&A (Part 1)

  1. Trish says:

    OK….just a side note on the ‘driving’. One person must have a Korean license to pick up or buy a car. The other person can drive for 30 days with orders.

    My husband got his license right away so he was able to go pick up our car. I drove around for almost the entire 30 days before getting mine.

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  2. Tava says:

    The thrift shop on post is a hidden gem as well (or used to be, and I’m talking about Yongsan)… you can often get a lot of what you might need there… And check the bulletin boards around post, especially at the food court. Lots of things for sale. And check for expat communities on facebook. I am still a member of such communities and someone is always moving and wanting to sell their stuff.

    I had no complaints with the base couch and chairs, and we did ship our king bed over and it fit fine, but we lived on the economy at Hannam Tower, which is a GEM! Walking distance to post, next to Hannam Village for the pool and mini-commissary, indoor pool and playground, outside playground and walk to Itaewon. Right on the 110 bus line (which is awesome) and just outside of subway stop. Can’t say enough fabulous things about THAT location!

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  3. Tava says:

    The thrift shop on post is a hidden gem as well (or used to be, and I’m talking about Yongsan)… you can often get a lot of what you might need there… And check the bulletin boards around post, especially at the food court. Lots of things for sale. And check for expat communities on facebook. I am still a member of such communities and someone is always moving and wanting to sell their stuff.

    I had no complaints with the base couch and chairs, and we did ship our king bed over and it fit fine, but we lived on the economy at Hannam Tower, which is a GEM! Walking distance to post, next to Hannam Village for the pool and mini-commissary, indoor pool and playground, outside playground and walk to Itaewon. Right on the 110 bus line (which is awesome) and just outside of subway stop. Can’t say enough fabulous things about THAT location!

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  4. Roxanne says:

    Both Tanya and Trish speak of housing and bedroom size….before you ship that king bed, call the housing office and find out where it looks like you’ll be housed, on post or off post…this can change from day to day and being stuck with something that doesn’t fit stinks….make sure you can go off post or into another housing situation first and if that rental place is still approved to rent to you…dealing with housing about a CNA (certificate of nonavailability) to get an off post place can be a world of odd fun (NOT!) and your spouse’s job can and will dictate some of this too.

    Trish, thanks and I remember being there seeing those piles! Happy day and cheers my friend!

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  5. Katie says:

    I can’t wait for you to post part 2! There seems to be such a limited supply of info on pcsing to osan. Thank you for all the tips! We’re moving there this summer. I’m so nervous!

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  6. Ashleigh says:

    This was awesome!

    Can I ask, however, those who are in Korea with Command sponsorship, what ranks are your husbands?

    My husband is in AIT and his job is in the signal corps. He volunteered for Korea and checked the box for “command sponsorship” and “AIP.”

    He is an e-3, and we have a toddler together. We really want to go to Korea but we are worried his low rank will get him denied, in favor of higher ranking families

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  7. Tamara says:

    So can you bring a big screen tv in your express shipment? And what are the rules on car shipment? Thanks 🙂

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  8. Kassia says:

    Hey Katie! I’m sure you’ve already gone ALL over Facebook, but there is an Osan AB Spouses Facebook page that is VERY helpful! I’m at Osan and we just PCS’d in about 6 weeks ago 🙂

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  9. Kassia says:

    Hi Tamara,

    I believe the max size for your TV in express is 32 inches… but i’m not 100% on that.

    If you are allowed to ship your car (command sponsored typically), this website is helpful: https://www.whereismypov.com – and depending on where you’re coming FROM you’ll have to find the closest port to send your car out. Ours came from Baltimore and took around 6 weeks.

    Good luck!!

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  10. Tequila says:

    We’re pcsing to Yongsan and we’re Air Force. Freqking out, we have 2 kids ages 1’and 3. Not much info has been given due to the fact that this assignment was just sprung on us so I’m curious to know if all military branches have the same rules. Still waiting to hear back fom my husbands sponser.

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  11. kelly says:

    Hi Tequila! It’s a crazy move but don’t freak out! Yongsan is a really supportive community and Seoul is a cool, energetic and family friendly city. There are loads of things to do here with kids! I’m not sure about all the rules for the different branches as far as housing goes. When are you due to PCS? Do you have any specific questions? I have a couple of Air Force friends here. I’ll see if they can help you. 🙂

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  12. Tequila says:

    We fly out on the 20th of January. Curious to know how big the homes are, what’s the wait list like for child care?

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  13. kelly says:

    Do you know if you’ll be on base? The sizes of the homes vary depending on what neighborhood you’ll be living in. I don’t know if you had a chance to look at this post, but here’s a good idea of the housing in the Black Hawk Village neighborhood. And this link has floor plans to the on base housing with associated pay grade.https://www.housing.army.mil/ByInstallation/FloorPlans.aspx?baseId=259

    Off base housing can be small to quite spacious. (We have a four bedroom). There is some REALLY nice off base housing. The wait for child care, I believe, is pretty long if not dual active duty. Here is some info for Yongsan area childcare/preschools. The CDC contact info is listed. http://koreaye.com/2013/05/preschool-options-in-seoul.html

    Sorry the info isn’t more specific. Hope it helps a little bit though. Keep shooting out questions though! 🙂

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  14. Suzi says:

    Tequila, hate to say it, but housing is really dependent on rank. Depending on what your husband’s is will determine where you’ll live.

    On the plus side, friendship is NOT rank dependent. 🙂 Welcome to Korea! Even though child are can be hard to come by on the base, there is lots to do with kids in town! Let us know how we can help — we’re here for you!

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  15. Tequila says:

    THANKS Ladies. My husband is looking to live on post, he’s an O2 and I’ m so over the rank thing but that’s another conversation:) we are putting some stuff in storage just in case but you know how it is with kids, you take a lot of just in case things. I’m not sure what to expect ladies just a hot mess right now. I’m hoping all the information is for all branches of service since this is a joint base. Thanks again for the info!

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  16. kelly says:

    Tequila, so sorry! I wrote a response earlier, but I guess it didn’t go through! You’ll be able to find a cell phone on base here with a Korean carrier. There are a couple place to get your phone: the PX, the Dragon Hill Lodge (the big hotel on base) and the One Stop shop near the Starbucks. (Am I forgetting somewhere, anybody?) If you have an iPhone, you can bring that, I don’t know the ins and outs of unlocking it or whatever you have to do to get it to work here. I have an old Samsung Galaxy Smartphone using 3G and the plan is much cheaper than it was when I left the states. Plenty of 4G plans, but not sure how those compare to stateside prices.

    To get a lot of your questions answered, be sure to check out our Facebook Page called “Korea Ye Q&A Forum” and also the wonderfully informative page called “Sites in Seoul”. Also, one of my friends tells me there’s a page for Air Force spouses called, “Air Force Spouses, Yongsan”. Good luck. I hope you are getting excited!!

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  17. Lesa says:

    What is the wait time for enlisted soldiers for on post housing? I know it can always vary.. but is there an estimate time?

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