The Lump-Sum Pension Refund

Monday, November 16, 2015

A beautiful day! I picked up Kevin from the airport and we took some time out of our day to drop by the Korean Consulate in Washington, DC. One of the benefits of teaching in Korea, at least for some nationalities, is the lump-sum pension refund.

If you are working at a public school or a private hagwon, your employer will deduct a percentage of your total pay every check and deposit it into your pension account. The contribution will be matched by your employer. Citizens of countries that have social security agreements with Korea (like America, Canada and Australia) are eligible to receive a refund of the total pension (including the employer match) after they leave Korea. Working a year would generally award you with at least $2000.

There are multiple ways to apply for the pension refund, the easiest being within 30 days of leaving Korea, while you are still there. Due to our circumstances, which I promise I will actually write about, Kevin and I must apply for it from abroad.

To submit the pension refund application from abroad, the following items need to be completed:

  1. Application for lump-sum refund
  2. Application for overseas remittance
  3. A copy of the passport (we included the photo page and the page with our exit stamp)
  4. Proof of your bank account (e.g.:bank statement, voided check)

According to the National Pension Service website, one must notarize and apostille ALL the documents (yes, even the passport and bank account info. I called the pension office in Korea to confirm this); or, bring the documents to the local Korean consulate to be attested. And that brings us back to today.

With paperwork in hand, we drive to the beautiful Korean Consulate on Massachusetts Ave. The parking lot is full of Hyundais with diplomat license plates and there’s a statue of a Korean American pioneer out front.  We walk inside. Boom. Korea. It’s as if we were transported across America and across the Pacific to the little peninsula we pretty recently called home. Or, rather, “home.”



A beautiful day at the Korean Consulate in Washington, DC.

Written and verbal English was very limited here and despite our efforts to explain the lump-sum pension refund and “attesting the paperwork,” the consulate was unable to help us. They wanted us to furnish our alien registration cards which were confiscated by immigration when we left Seoul, as expected. Ultimately, they said we should get everything apostilled and send it to Korea. So much for saving time and money!

We got everything notarized for $30 each and will send it to the Authentications Secretary for apostille, for another $30. Then, we will mail it off to Korea and wait for the wire transfer of our hard earned won —> USD!

If anything goes awry with the remainder of this process, I will be sure to update this post accordingly. Hopefully it’s as simple as this!
Edit: Everything worked out as planned! Our paperwork was delivered at the end of December. In late January, I called the local pension office to get an updated status. They wired us the money a couple weeks later in February. Success! 

Need information on receiving your Korean lump-sum pension refund? Check out the National Pension Service website HERE.

Teaching ESL in Korea? Make sure to contact the pension office to make sure your employer is making the contributions and that you are registered at your correct salary. There are too many cases of employers taking it out of your paycheck and then pocketing it, or taking it out of your paycheck based on the percentage of your pay, but submitting it to the pension office based on a lower pay  and pocketing the difference (this is what happened to us). Call monthly!!




2 thoughts on “The Lump-Sum Pension Refund

  1. Pingback: Why We Left Korea | The Daily Snap

  2. Hello Ashley! My name is Anthony. Early this year I returned from South Korea from teaching too. I was in a peculiar situation and was not able to receive my pension. I’ve been trying to research how to apply and everything and I keep getting roadblocks. This post is the closest I’ve seen that has a first-hand knowledge of how similar my situation is going.I know this post is two years old and at this point, this is probably a shot in the dark. I was wondering if I could get your advice? My email should be attached. Hope to hear from you.


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