CONTRIBUTED BY CHARISSE WINDEBANK
My husband and I are both GS employees here in Korea; we had sold both of our vehicles prior to coming over and when we first arrived I started looking to buy a car. I was scouring the Daegu online flea markets on Facebook when I stumbled upon a car dealer named Alex Hy Jo. He had great reviews from past clients, so I decided to contact him with my request. (You can reach him here on his personal Facebook profile.)
Alex doesn’t work with a particular car dealership; he works with all of them. He basically serves as a liaison between buyers and dealerships. His fluency in English gives him the opportunity to be a free agent, so to speak. We had a great experience working with him to buy a Kia Morning, and when my husband finally began his job we soon realized that due to our different work schedules we would soon need a second car.
We contacted Alex once again. My husband was in search of a Hyundai Veloster with a gray matte finish. He had been hoping for a manual transmission, but an automatic was the only one available. Thankfully this ended up working out well; with the congested traffic flow here in Korea it would have made driving a stick shift more difficult. He soon realized this when we took the car out on its first road trip.
Within four days of contacting him, Alex was able to find exactly what my husband wanted. The bank was a bit slower with dispersing the money in our account, but within a week we were proud new owners of a 2013 Veloster. It has a sun roof, 3rd door for getting our son in and out of the back seat, a navigation system (unfortunately in Korean), surprisingly spacious trunk space, and Bluetooth to pair his phone (even in spite of the language), to have hands-free calls and listen to music that is loaded on his cell phone.
I had a chance to drive it and I must admit I thoroughly enjoyed it. Much better pick up and speed than my Kia. We are extremely happy with our purchase and my husband was even thinking about taking it back home with us. Unfortunately, the cost of converting the dash display to reflect miles and shipping would be much too expensive; it will be wiser to just sell it and purchase another one once we arrive back in the US.
The process for buying a car on the Korean economy is simple once you’ve found the one you want.
Here are the steps I took once Alex located our cars for us:
- Test drive and personally inspect the car for any damages. We confirmed that, it is in fact, in great condition and the car my husband really desired before we called the bank. Photos do not do justice when it comes to seeing it in person.
- Since this is our second car, we had to type up a memo stating the need for it. The memo needed to be turned into the DMV at Camp Henry. If you enter through the main gate, take a right at the stop sign and follow the road that runs the perimeter of the base. Once you see the back gate, take a left and it is the same office that DBIDs and the ration control office is located. We are normally only allowed to have one car unless there are circumstances that creates a “need” rather than a “want”. This step will only be necessary in this instance. No memo is needed for your first car.
- Obtain insurance from your company or a local Korean insurance agent. We opted for the latter under the advice of a colleague. He mentioned that it may be to our advantage to have a local agent just in case we did get into an accident; it’s easier to deal with a local office and one who can speak English. If you decide to go with a local agent, we contacted David Kim with Samsung insurance (formally AIG); he can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org. He was able to have us insured and emailed me proof of insurance within hours.
Note: Local companies will only take the payment for the entire year and do not allow monthly payments.
- In most situations you will need to pay cash for a vehicle – Koreans do not generally accept checks or credit cards, so you’ll have to make arrangements with your bank to withdraw that amount, either at once or in increments. The cost of our car was $15,000; can you imagine carrying that much cash? Make sure to keep it somewhere safe until you’ve handed it over!
- Schedule a time to pay for the vehicle.
- If purchasing from Alex, he will need a stamp from Camp Henry DMV on the bill of sale that will allow him to have proof of new ownership. We met him at the Camp Henry main gate and I escorted him to the DMV office.
- Once he received the payment and the stamp on the bill of sale, he then unregistered the car from the Korean DMV.
- Then I took the car to be inspected on Camp Walker car care center, located next to the gas station. If you enter gate 4, take a left at the stop sign, turn right on the street right before the gas station which will be on your right. Then the car care center will be on the immediate right. It will cost $20 for the inspection, but if it is a fairly newer car, it will only take 5-10 minutes. All the inspections cost the same no matter the age or condition of the car.
- After inspection, take the documentation (stamped bill of sale, proof of insurance, memo allowing a second car, and proof of inspection from the car care center) back to Camp Henry DMV along with 10,500 won to pay for the license plates. It’s really very easy!
Both my husband and I are GS employees and will potentially be here for 5 years. We signed up for a three-year tour with the option to extend for another two. In our situation, we believe it was to our benefit to buy better used cars rather than going with a “hoopdie”. By the time we are ready to leave, we will have both cars paid off and can easily sell it to other incoming US Army soldiers or employees.
We also have to consider our two-year-old son; we would rather have reliable cars that will not break down anytime soon with a toddler in tow. If I had to do it again, we would still buy both cars, and I happily drive my Kia Morning rather than a more disposable car. We also keep in mind that when we left for Korea, we sold both of our vehicles back home and have no additional cost of a house. We truly left our lives and started a new one here, which helped make this decision for our family.