Working a Home Business In Korea


One of the top grievances of being a military spouse is, “How am I supposed to have a career when we are moving every 2-3 years?” Many spouses have answered that by starting their own home business, either by focusing on a unique talent and creating a business around that or by getting into direct sales.

I do not have personal experience with either of these, but know several friends here in Korea who do, so I interviewed them for their expertise in order to help those of you who may be interested in doing the same thing, but aren’t sure where to start.

Photo by Beth Eldreth-001

Name & Type of Business:

*Kelly – Jamberry Nail Wraps

*Jenica – Scentsy Independent Family Consultant

*Beth – Premier Designs Jewelry

*Marisa – Artist & Photographer

*Christine – Designing Beaded Gemstone Jewelry (Bessie Jane’s Favorites)

Did you start your business prior to coming to Korea or once you were stationed in Korea?

*Kelly – I did not start my home business until I moved to Korea.

*Jenica – I started my business before coming to Korea.

*Beth – I started before we were stationed in Korea.

*Marisa – I started my business after living in Korea for a few years.

*Christine – I’ve had my business on and off for over 10 years.

Photo by Jenica Watkins-001

Do you have to register your business with the Garrison before you may start selling? If so, would you *briefly* explain how this is done, and who you must speak to in order to register your business?

*Kelly – Garrison approval is required before starting any home business in Korea. It is imperative that you explain what makes your product unique, because it cannot compete with AAFES on post.

*Jenica – Yes, I did need to get post approval and have my business approved in order to share Scentsy and Velata products. A form needed to be filled out, a letter typed up explaining my business and products, and product list all needed to be submitted and processed through JAG in order to be approved.  Once approved, there are guidelines that need to be followed.

*Beth – Yes there is a letter you have to fill out to be Garrison approved. It is an easy form that you can find on the Home business support FB page under files. You can fax it, scan and email it or walk it in. It takes about 2 weeks to get approval.

*Marisa – (Marisa has the unique experience of having lived and worked on Yongsan, and now is at Camp Humphreys) Yes.  The procedure has changed over the years.  The last time I applied for Yongsan, I had to email the POC and she responded with some questionnaires.  In Camp Humphreys however, they do it differently.  First thing, I had to attend a Home Based Enterprise Class at the Army Community Service.  A questionnaire will be provided.  I think the most important part of the application to get approved is the need to explain thoroughly in details that your HBE (Home Based Enterprise) does not compete with AAFES and MWR.

*Christine – I wanted to do business at various post functions so I had to register with the Garrison. I grabbed the files off the Yongsan Home Business Support page on Facebook, filled them out, and sent them in to Garrison POC. It took me about 30 minutes to download the files, fill out the form, write a brief letter explaining my type of business and intentions, scan it, and email it. It took about 2 weeks to hear back.

Photo by Marisa Johnson-001

What opportunities do you have to work your business in Korea? (home parties, online, etc)

*Kelly – I am a vendor with the spouses club on post. I also do home and online parties, on post bazaars, and coffee groups.  We are not supposed to sell to people on the economy unless they have a SOFA stamp. We can also use the Facebook page for Yongsan home business owners.

*Jenica – I was already aware of post regulations and rules prior to our move to South Korea.  I was also informed of how I would have to ‘work’ my business differently to follow both post and Scentsy company rules. [approved vendor opportunities as mentioned above… home parties, bazaars, etc]

*Beth – There are great opportunities for home based businesses here. Women love home parties! The AFSC [American Forces Spouses Club] is a great group to get into for the monthly luncheon and the vendor shopping. Get in fast and secure your booth for each month. The holidays are great for bazaars, and of course there is Facebook for online sales and catalog parties and events.

*Marisa – In the past, I have done crafts parties at home.  I participate in Bazaars and Luncheons. I joined International Artists Community to have exposure off base, have done several exhibitions with some of the artists in the community.

*Christine – In Korea, I do the American Forces’ Spouse’s Club luncheons once a month and special bazaars the elementary/high school puts on. Contacting MWR and ACS and getting their schedule of events helps, too. I have not done any of the functions they have had vendors at but it is a possibility. Since I’m a one-woman show, I can’t provide the incentives for in-home parties like other brands do but having Garrison approval allows me the option if it ever came up.

Do you receive any special allowances bringing a home business (such as housing, mailbox, additional weight limit in household goods…)?

*Kelly G – You may receive shipments here, but are not supposed to use your [husband’s military] APO box for business.

*Jenica – No special allowances, however a home business may put items in the soldier’s professional gear per regulation [meaning the weight of your professional products won’t count against your household goods weight.]

*Christine – I was given 50 pounds of “Pro Gear” (specific to dependents) that was not included in our weight allowance. That allowed me to bring all of my supplies, most of my tools, and all of my reference material.

What is something that you wish you had known before bringing/starting your business in Korea?

*Kelly GThe small community here is not conducive to building a team under you because of the competition for customers. This was a newer product and it has taken a lot longer to get going than I thought it would.

*Beth – I wish I would’ve known more about the mail and postal system here. It can be hit or miss with my orders arriving on time or at all! I have had to do many re-orders or ship to my address because it never makes it to their address. I am lucky that my company is great about this and my customers have been very patient but it’s also a hard way to run a business.

*Christine – I wish I had known more about how easy it was to get Garrison approval. I spun my wheels for quite a few months asking all the wrong people the wrong questions before I stumbled upon a random Facebook post. This is only my second duty station with my husband so I’m still getting used to how this all works but I have learned so much while here in Korea. I also wish I had known how amazing the prices are here for beads, yarn, fabric, and the copious amounts of notions! I wouldn’t have been so worried about stocking up Stateside…. I’m now just worried about stocking up here in Korea!

*Any other info or tips you’d like to share?

*Christine – If you have a business outside the big brands that have websites to take orders for you, sign up for Propay. It takes anywhere from 1 week to about a month for your business to get processed and get your card swipe and the fees are slightly higher than Square but not high enough to impact pricing. You will still get the same portable benefits and a reader but you don’t have to worry about hiding your location and forfeiting your income if they track you. You might be in another country but [you still need to] run your business within laws/regulations; it’s stressful enough, don’t add to it.

Do you own a home-based business here in Korea? What have you learned about the process – pros and cons – that you can share with the rest of us?

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