A PCS Guide to Camp Walker South Korea

Apsan Love Bridge in Daegu

When you PCS to South Korea, you will have some struggles. And because a very good friend of mine is en route and these are some of the things we talked about. In short, you won’t find a lot of information BEFORE you PCS. I didn’t find much info before our PCS to Camp Walker in Daegu, South Korea. But don’t let that scare you. Keep an open mind and bring your senses of humor & adventure and you’ll be just fine.

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Our PCS to South Korea

Camp Walker, Daegu

You WILL miss home, family, and friends. As well as the common conveniences of shopping, watching your favorite shows, and eating familiar foods. In addition to being unable to communicate basic things. And you won’t find out too much about apartment hunting until you get here.

You will meet people who will sell you a violin concerto about how terrible life is in Korea. They’ll tell you how rude the people are. And list all the stores that won’t ship APO. And some of that is very true. But that’s all a part of the Korean experience. Conversely, you are not alone and NO TWO PCSs will ever be the same.

Curious minds want to know. Have you relocated to South Korea? What’re your impressions about the country, your PCS, your housing, etc… Send me a brief note.

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On the Move

South Korea Here We Come

An eight-hour drive from Virginia to New York to drop off the second car because the military will only ship one. Then a cross-country flight from New York to Seattle with an overnight layover and no view of the Space Needle. A grueling 12-hour flight from Seattle to Japan and another two hours from there to Seoul South Korea.

The first week, in April we said goodbye to all of it and flew more than 7,000 miles outside of our comfort zone to Seoul, Korea. Three days later I sat on the front seat of a bus to our new home for the next 2 years—Daegu, Korea. We’ve PCS to South Korea and looking forward to living in Daegu. In addition to a heck of a lot of travel on the peninsula and throughout Asia.

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An American Expat in South Korea
Moving to Daegu 

Just like that… you’re an American ex-pat living in South Korea.

The bus ride from Osan AFB to Yongsan was the most terrifying ride of them all. I was tired of being cramped up on all the flights that got us to our current destination, so I decided to sit on the first row seats on the bus. The worst decision I could have ever made. And one I won’t ever make again while I live and breathe in Korea.

While my husband, who had been to Korea twice before slept, I gritted my teeth, held onto the handrail, gasped at the bus driver’s abrupt braking, endless lane changing, and excessive speed as we made our way out of Seoul. I was a mess. And I tried not to look and relax, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t close my eyes even though I was tired from the flight, the customs briefings, the waiting, and the more waiting for my husband to finish the initial in-processing in which I waited on the bus with the other spouses.

Terrified, I sat there unable to close my eyes. The driver, in flip flops I might add, slammed on the brakes. He changed lanes without signaling– with what seemed like reckless abandon. However, my husband slept all the way. This was his third tour to South Korea.

Military Spouses aren’t Monolithic

A few of the spouses had been to Korea before and others hadn’t left the United States before. Two of them had kids that freezing to death in the chilly night air after leaving Texas and California respectively with only shorts and flip-flops. Granted it was early April, so I have no idea why those kids didn’t have on a pair of jeans and sneakers.

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Dragon Hill Lodge
Seoul

We stayed at the Dragon Hill Lodge for three days while Steven received numerous briefings regarding pay, local customs and rules, and regulations specific to Korea. I even attended one briefing on language and customs. To my surprise, I was the only person in the lecture hall not in ACUs. Was I the only spouse interested in the new country we would call home for the next few years?

The Lodge itself was nice. There were several restaurants to choose from, free WI-FI, a pretty Asian garden, shops and it was close to the Exchange via a taxi stand in the front of the hotel. And three days later we packed up our belongings yet again and loaded them onto another bus bound for Daegu. This time I chose seats in the middle of the bus.

Daegu and Camp Walker

The public transportation here in Daegu is great. We learned early that the buses, subway, and monorail get you just about anywhere you want to go, so we got to explore much of Daegu before the car arrived. We jumped into the overseas lifestyle of public transportation but there’s nothing more liberating than having access to your own personal conveyance.

My car arrived with an unstable battery because the alternator we had just replaced before leaving America failed. A week later, with a new alternator and it was good to go.

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Camp Walker Lodge

The lodging in Daegu wasn’t quite as nice as the one in Yongsan so we got out as much as possible.
No kitchen, a small refrigerator, thin walls, no WIFI in the room, and a door to the adjoining room that apparently was only rented to guests with babies. Had I known it would be home for the next three months I may have asked to be moved.

But hindsight is 20/20. Camp Walker has two restaurants—the Hilltop and the Evergreen. There’s a Subway, Anthony’s Pizza, Smoothie King, Burger King and you can get a burger at the Bowling Alley too. There are a few options right outside the gate and also at Camp Henry. That may seem like a lot of choices, but trust me it’s not when you live in lodging for more than three months.

They are currently building housing for families on Camp Henry because there isn’t enough on Camp George. It’s where many families, especially those with children, are assigned lodging. Soldiers work on Camp Henry. They live on Camp George or on the economy. And most of the facilities and some housing is located on Camp Walker. However, housing on Camp Walker won’t be available for some time. We had called housing months ago to find out we were not being assigned quarters. We would be living in the economy for the first time overseas and I was excited.

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The Hunt for an Apartment
Housing 

There is housing on Camp George, but it’s limited. And right now most of the families who get it have school-age children. They broke ground recently on a large housing project on Camp Walker that’s supposed to be ready in 2017.

We knew prior to arriving that we would be living on the economy. It might be the only chance we get to live in a high rise, so we were very excited. The apartment search began almost immediately after attending a housing briefing. It prepared us with the process and the numerous forms we had to complete. We left that briefing with more questions than answers. But we made a few calls to the local real estate agents and began looking at apartments.

Realtors in Daegu
Suicide Alley

Let me step back a moment and say that prior to leaving the US, I tried to gather information on the real estate market with little success to save a real estate company called Kool House. They had a pretty elaborate website with pictures, maps, and floor plans. So that’s where I started first. Sunny at Kool House showed us one of the first apartments we saw and quickly surmised we were only interested in high-quality digs. She made us laugh when she said she wouldn’t show us any “hoopties” a designation usually reserved for cars, but hey we were in Korea and words don’t always have the same meaning.

We ended up working with 3-4 different real estate offices and saw at least 20 apartments that had many of the things we wanted but none of them were exactly right. I even frustrated one realtor so much she complained about how picky I was to her son right in front of my face.

It took approximately 3 months to find our apartment, a downtown high rise on the 15th floor. We explored the city, hiked a few mountains. Although we’ve ridden the KTX fast train to Seoul a few times to shop, eat, and party. But we didn’t take our first flight until the weekend before we moved into our place.

What I Want in a Home

I didn’t think I was asking for too much. We both wanted an apartment downtown. So we could walk to cafes, restaurants, and shopping. I wanted a nice modern kitchen, four bedrooms, and a view, which meant I wanted to be on a high floor. So why was she showing me apartments with peeling wallpaper, tiny elevators, on the floor apartments with courtyard views?

After a while, I just stopped returning her calls. In the end, I called Mr. Kim at Prime Realty. We met him at his office right outside gate #4 on a road nicknamed Suicide Road. We climbed into his “hoopty”, made a U-Turn, and drove a block and a half, I kid you not, to the absolute ugliest apartment building we saw during our entire house hunt. I wouldn’t get out of the car. He made a few calls, informed us that he didn’t have anything else at the moment, made the U-Turn back to his office and we parted ways.

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Moving Into Our Apartment

Our air mattress was punctured in transport. So we slept on the blankets that first night. We really missed that sumptuous bed and those velvety linens at Jeju. Housing was able to deliver a bed the next day, but it was just as hard as the floor.

And our household goods, well that’s a story in itself. Turned out the parent company that subcontracted for our furniture to be picked up in Virginia was not paying its bills or its subcontractors. So when our stuff arrived in the country, the original transportation company denied delivery. It took housing almost a month to find an alternate transportation company. In the meantime, we filed an inconvenience claim against the shipper. It allowed us to purchase some much-needed items like TV, dishes, linens, etc., etc. Our furniture was delivered almost a month after moving into our new home.

To our dismay, we over packed for the compact apartment we chose. So we contracted with yet another Mr. Kim to store our extra belongings for the next two years. The majority of the storage was pictures and paintings that we couldn’t hang. Our apartment has beautiful wallpaper, wood-paneling, concrete, and marble walls.

I’ve made my peace with the clothesline, recycling police, and traffic in and out of my building. But I still don’t use the oven much. If I do, I set it to #2 and hope for the best. My neighbors are still friendly. They bring me lots of kimchi which I wish they would stop doing. I have enough for 2 years. However, I love my heated floors. But not the dust bunnies who roam them like tumbleweeds across the open prairie.

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Getting Settled In

I’ve even found a place for everything that is both decorative and utilitarian. Sure I use the extra freezer in my “kimchi kitchen” as storage. And that darn washer combo dryer thing frustrates the heck out of me. But we just returned from our first-weekend trip away. I am excited to return home to my own bed and to find everything is still hanging on the walls. And for the first time. I’m returning to a bed much better than the one I left on vacation. Only the people who have slept in a Korean bed will really understand why.

Kimchi flows instead of milk and honey, mass transit is thorough and cheap and malls stay open on Christmas. Yet, more times than not, there is an unpleasant smell coming from the sewer grates. No amount of preparation will get a taxi driver to understand you. And everyone drives like they just received their learner’s permits. Oh, by the way, hot is not a temperature, its a flavor here. There are 5 degrees of heat on most menus.

Despite all the above, I am really enjoying our life here as an ex-pat. I’ve written a few articles on Daegu, our apartment, my job search, the people, and the process of acclimation to it all. I like the city. Daegu is a relatively small city here in South Korea compared to the megacities like Seoul or Busan.

Or share your story in the comments below. I placed a note on my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/duffelbagspouse with lots of information and phone numbers to housing, lodging, etc.

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11 thoughts on “A PCS Guide to Camp Walker South Korea

  1. Thanks for all the info! My hubby just left March 6, 2018 to Daegu -Camp Carroll! Im still in Virginia! I be heading out end of year once things get settled! It all happened fast!

  2. Hi! I love your story. I’m also about to join my US Army husband in South Korea this Sept. but my problem is I have my C3 tourist visa that will expire on Sept. I am yet to upgrade it to A3 or dependents visa and get a SOFA stamp. I wonder if you can please help me how can I get an A3 visa in South Korea and how long would it take?
    Thanks in advance. Best regards

    1. Hi Jess, if you are not a US citizen you should get in contact with the State Department. I don’t want to tell you the wrong thing. I went to JAG and they were the ones who initiated the process of getting my SOFA stamp. And thank you for reading and your support for the blog. Make sure you LIKE me on Facebook too, there are many helpful tips there as well. http://www.facebook.com/duffelbagspouse... hope to hear you make it to Korea real soon!!

  3. Hi. I have been here for a month. I am a student at Yeungnam University. My question is off-topic a bit and I apologise in advance. If you wouldn’t mind, please let me know where in Daegu I can purchase African / African-American hair products or where I can find Salons.
    Secondly, I have heard of a place called Weagun but I cannot find it by google. Do you know it? How can I access it using public transport? Thanx.

    1. Hi Saudah, I hope you were able to find what you were looking for. I don’t know how I missed your question, I apologize immensely.

  4. It is our second time in Korea and unlike last time, we have one year old now. It was a lot of hassle and frustration but we made it here. Not to mention that the space A flight added the extra nightmare to the pcs move. Honestly I don’t know how we did it but we are here now!
    We are settled now and trying to explore this big city!

    1. I remember those days traveling with kids and I don’t envy you except when you get all those wet, sloppy kisses!!

  5. You’ve had the opportunity to travel to such beautiful places! Happy you’re enjoying yourself in South Korea 🙂

  6. My husband and moved from my home of South Carolina in 2015, our first move ever in16 years. Needless to say I had a difficult time leaving my family, friends, and job. However, once I arrived here in Virginia I met the most amazing people who helped me get through it all and I am truly grateful!

    1. I cannot believe you homesteaded somewhere for 16 years. Which makes it easy to understand your feelings. But not moving around in the military is definitely a lost opportunity that you will look back on and be even more grateful!! Thank you for sharing and please come back real soon.

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