All Air Busan BX 123 passengers were already standing in cabin aisle to prepare to get off the plane. After one of flight attendants coordinated with ground staffs, finally an aerobridge perfectly sticked in the fuselage and the door was safe to open. Not long , then I followed the lead of passenger line to get out of the cabin.
Throughout the aerobridge, my worries weren’t as bad as when I entered Narita International Airport a few days ago. “I’ve been to entering Japan several days ago, It isn’t possible if I can’t enter Korea,” I thought to calm myself. I continued to steadily walk through corridor after corridor at arrival hall of Gimhae International Airport Terminal 1. Continued following signboards to immigration counter. After finding it, I immediately stucked to back end of one of the queue lines. I still look relaxed and full of smiles. And didn’t think that the drama had just started
I took the leftmost queue, tourists from China seemed to dominate in front. They looked very smooth going through immigration staff. “Looks like this will be easy”, I finally came to a conclusion. I was now at the head of queue, waiting for a female Chinese tourist to finish her process at counter. The bespectacled male officer quickly approved one by one Chinese tourists from earlier.
“Neexxxttt”….He called out with his eyes still staring at computer screen
Immigration Officer : “Have you been to South Korea before?”
Me : “Not yet Sir, this is the first time”
Immigration : “Where did you visit before South Korea?”
Me : “Malaysia, Taiwan and Japan, Sir”
He started suspiciously watching me.
Immigration : “Which other countries have you visited?”, he handed me a paper and pen for me to write
I started writing one by one until I copied eleven names of countries I had been to.
But his reaction was so unexpected, he just shook his head. I didn’t lose the initiative when he behaved like that. From inside my backpack, I took out my old passport which had one of its covers cut off, “You can check it out here, Sir”.
Immigration: “I don’t need this”, he pushed my old passport with his index finger at me as a sign he didn’t want to see it
Damn…..“Dag dig dug”, my heart started beating above its usual rhythm.
Immigration : ”Please take out your wallet!”
That short snapping made me automatically crouch with my hands rummaging through all contents of my backpack with an added panic. I got my wallet in a few moments, indeed I put my wallet in the innermost part to be safe.
I started to stand up and handed over my worn out wallet….Hmmhhh, a wallet with peeling leather upholstery on some ends. Made me helpless. The immigration officer began to open my wallet and counted each sheet in it. He shook his head when he only found 120,000 Won notes.
He started to stand up and walked out of immigration counter box and started to close the queue with a standing barrier and hung the words “CLOSE” in the middle. All tourists who queued behind me were asked by him to move to a counter next to him. Every tourist regularly moved while sadly looking at my misfortune, some looked astonished and curious.
“Wow,” my voice began to wry.
The immigration officer immediately stepped back into the counter and put my wallet in front of him. He started to stare at me intently.
Immigration : “Do you bring an ATM?”
Me: “No, Sir”…. My mind refuted, “Isn’t it that I already have a Visa, why bother?”
Immigration : “Credit Card?”
Me: “No, Sir”….My mind was muttering again, “Isn’t it important that I have enough money to travel in Korea?”
Immigration : “ID Card?”
Me: “No, Sir”….I thought back to fight, “Isn’t the ID Card for tourists a passport?”
Immigration : Browsing firmly with red face, “Aiissshhhh….No ATM….No Credit Card….No ID Card….You only have a small amount of money…. You can’t stay in Korea”
“Ouch, Deportation”, I thought to myself instantly.
Immigration : “What do you do in your country?”
Immigration : “Show your business card!”
Me: “I don’t bring it, Sir”
Immigration : ” Aiissshhhh …”
He started rubbing his forehead and eyes, not believing he had met a tourist like me. Now he had closed my passport. He stood back up and called his friend. Quickly his friend came over and started talking seriously leaving me on the verge of being deported.
I didn’t know what they’re talking about, it was definitely about me. I noticed he kept shaking his head and his friends occasionally looked at me like a suspect….Aahhh, this situation was really uncomfortable and made me nervous. But I tried my best to put on a calm face. I even prepared to clarify before he decided anything.
OK, he had finished his dialogue with his friend and sat back at the immigration counter. Before he uttered a word, I began to make a final plea. No matter what the result….
Me : “ I have a return ticket, Air Asia 5th January, from Incheon to Jakarta. I will stay at Kimchee Guesthouse Busan and Kimchee Guesthouse Seoul….these are my itinerary and my budgeting during in Korea.”
The immigration officer was angry and put a finger to his mouth… “Shhhhhhh”, a sign he was asking me not to babble too much in front of him. But the good thing was that he was willing to read my itinerary and budgeting sheet.
Me : ”Please Sir, I am just a backpacker…..just for sightseeing Korea this time….No more….Please…..I will go home….Believe me!”, I begged begging.
The immigration officer looked back at me, this time he really looked me in the eye, maybe he was testing my honesty. He seemed to be starting to feel pity. He started flipping through each page of my new passport and my old passport which a second ago he pulled from in front of me.
Immigration : ”OK, You can….You can….But promise me to return to your country!…. Or you’re in big trouble”
Knock….The arrival stamp was clearly affixed on my passport….Oh, what a beautiful moment that was.
I was very relieved
This was a valuable lesson that in the future I would become a backpacker who was more detailed and prepared things very well. After that incident, I always carried a business card, ID card, credit card (even though its limit was small) and an ATM (even though the values were minimal) every time I traveled to another country.
Thanks to good preparation, I was greatly helped by the existence of that cards when facing similar random checking at Woodlands Checkpoint in Singapore seven months after this incident.
The incident was over, I stepped out of immigration counter triumphantly.
Welcome Busan, Welcome South Korea!