Quarantine in Korea
Written by Sarah Müller
These are really crazy times, but I didn’t want to stop planning… and now I’m here in Korea! Hi, I’m Sarah and from Germany. At the moment I am in Korea for my internship and would like to give you a little insight into my entry process in the days of Corona at the end of April 2021:
At the Consulate in Frankfurt (where I had to apply for my visa) they told me that I have to stay in a quarantine hotel for 14 days and that I need a negative test result for the flight.
2 days before the flight I did the PCR test, the (negative) test result came at night – that calmed my nerves a bit!
The preparations for my visa etc. were complicated sometimes, but everything worked out and I could fly. At the airport, I had to wear a mask the whole time and it was quite empty. I didn’t have to wait in line for the security or anything else! When I was sitting at the gate they took my temperature, on the flight itself I had to fill out some documents like information about my stay like my address, my contact in Korea, etc. The flight was quiet, I even had a row to myself.
Arriving at the airport in Incheon at 9.30 am, we were sent to counters where the documents and visa were checked again. Fortunately, there were separate rows for foreigners and the staff could speak English really well. I was supposed to download the quarantine app, but it was completely in Korean. But the nice employee set everything up for me and then called my boss to make sure I was working for him in Korea. After that, my visa was confirmed and I got a little piece of paper with the length of my allowed stay. After stepping through the doors with my suitcase I was led to the group of people who will stay in quarantine as well. But I noticed that I was the only one with 14 days quarantine, the rest got a quarantine exemption (probably because of work). After 10 minutes of waiting the bus arrived, the luggage was loaded and they told us our destination, but I only understood the hotel and not the place. So I had to stay curious about the final place where I will spend the next 14 days.
After almost an hour’s bus ride, we arrived at the Ramada Hotel in Yongin in the South of Seoul and were greeted by the employees in full bodysuits. Our suitcases and hand luggage were disinfected and we had to fill out documents (again) that we agree with the self-payment of the quarantine, that we measure our temperature every day etc. We were also supposed to indicate food allergies or vegetarianism. I was seated separately from everyone else… Now the other “guests” realized that I would be spending 14 days here and felt bad for me. One of the staff came up to me and asked me to show him my app. It turned out that I needed a different app for the stay in the hotel than the one from the airport, but this was settled quickly thanks to the help of the employee. And fortunately, the new app was available in English.
Then it was time to pay exactly 1.680.000 Won (~1.240 Euro) – actually cheaper than I thought. At the Embassy I got told to prepare myself for paying max. 2.100.000 Won. The employees were all very friendly, I got a lunch package and a snack bag and was taken to the elevator. Arriving on the 9th floor, I saw my place for the next 14 days: two beds, a TV, two tables, and a comfortable armchair. I even had a bathtub. A kettle and refrigerator filled with water completed the room. Only a wardrobe was missing, so I was quite happy about the second bed, where I could spread out my things. What made me very happy was the view from my room of a green area and the Everland Amusement Park.
I was also given a paper with an explanation of the daily schedule: before 10 am we have to take the temperature and answer the questions about my health in the newly installed quarantine app every day. Breakfast is at 8 am, lunch at noon, and dinner at 6 pm. They place the food outside and we are allowed to bring it into the room when we want. In the evening we had dinner for the first time. And it was really good! Sure, it wasn´t hot anymore, but a big portion and they also tried to change the meals in the following days. In general, I have to say that the food was amazingly good and most of the time I even had some leftovers. All the food packages came with water and juice.
On the first full day in quarantine, I was called by the corona center in Gangnam, because they will be responsible for me after quarantine. They just asked me about the name and the address of my hotel. Also, an announcement was sent through the loudspeakers around 9.30 am every day that smoking is not allowed in the hotel and that we should please measure our temperature. A bit scary was the sudden alarm tone of my mobile phone around 11 am – a warning from the Korean government that new cases have been registered in Yongin and that I should please let them know if I get symptoms. The tone was so loud and I was really surprised at the beginning, but it’s a good idea to keep the people informed. I got this message the whole 14 days around 11 am.
Before my journey started many people asked me what I would do against going crazy all alone in one room for such a long time… I have to say that the 14 days went by much faster than I thought. Take some work with you or something to do in general! I had to write a paper for my studies, these 2 weeks were perfect to finish this work. I also practiced Korean, prepared myself for my internship, read something, did workouts, and watched movies and series. And of course, I talked a lot with my family and friends in Germany via Video Call – that works quite well despite the time difference (and the Korean wifi is great!). Zapping through the Korean TV program is also very interesting. I usually listened to a music channel while I was writing my essay. And when I had the urge to go outside, I watched the people walking by and tried to decipher the signs of the stores from my large window. So don’t worry, you can always find something to do! In my opinion, the most important thing is to mentally prepare yourself for these 2 weeks, because you can’t change the situation anyway, so try to make the best out of it. Nevertheless, I was more than happy when I could finally go outside again and start my adventure in Korea…
I hope I could give you a small overlook of the quarantine in Korea and take away the fear if it is still ahead of you 🙂