This past Thursday, things were going just like normal almost an hour into my first class when there was a knock at the door. One of the Korean counselors, Apple (that is really her name), was standing there with a strange man. She leans to me and in a whisper says "The police are here and they want to see your ARC."
ARC stands for Alien Registration Card. It is a card that I had to go to the immigration office and get during my first week here. It is proof that I am legally allowed to live and work in Korea.
I told Apple that my ARC card was in my bag in the teachers' lounge. As I walked down the hall to go get my card, I saw 3 other men standing around the school. The whole time I kept thinking, "What did I do? Why do they want to see my card? Am I trouble? What did I do?"
I got my card and walked back to my classroom. The man standing with Apple smiled at me and showed me his shiny and very official looking badge. I offered my ARC to him, he briefly glanced at it, and nodded with a slight bow of the head and a smile.
And that was it. As I went back into my room to start class again, I noticed Apple and the man knocking on the door of the teacher across from me.
Of course, all of my students were extremely intrigued. I just explained that the police had wanted to see my ARC. Luckily this was the same class that I had shown my ARC to last week. We had started reading a story about a Native American girl named Jessica that has aliens come to visit her in the middle of the night. She wakes up her parents to tell them and the whole family goes with the aliens to their planet Zeldo. On Zeldo, the alien king, King Ziggi Ziggi, asks them to do a rain dance since their is no water on Zeldo. Jessica and her family do not know how to do a rain dance so they go back to Earth and ask the Native American chief to come to Zeldo. He goes, does the dance, it rains on Zeldo and all the aliens love Jessica. This is not a joke. This is a real story that I have to teach.
Anyway, I had told my kids on the first day we read this book that teacher was an alien and had a special alien card. I hyped it a lot and told them that I would show them my alien card if they did a good job reading. When I did show them my ARC, they got a real kick out of seeing it since it has both my picture and Korean writing on it.
At break that day, all of the talk in the teachers' lounge was about the police visit. It turns out that they were immigration police doing a random check. The English teaching system in Korea has a bit of a reputation for being somewhat corrupt with lots of schools hiring teachers who work under the table without the correct visas. The police checked to make sure that all of us had our ARCs and then they left. The Korean counselors and our manager never said another word about the incident.