Lost a Wallet in Korea? Here’s What To Do!

One of the most frustrating things that most people are bound to experience is losing a wallet. It is even more frustrating when it happens in a foreign country.

Well, it happened to me in Korea. Twice. I’m alive. You will be, too!

I want to write an informative article about what to do if you lose a wallet in Korea. This is based on my personal experiences in a large metropolitan city. Your situation may be different.

In case you were wondering, yes, I got my wallet back both times. I applaud Korea and its rather honest and thoughtful citizens. I’ve heard similar stories of people getting their wallets back, so I suppose it is more common to happen in Korea than in, let’s say, America. This is what I recommend to do:

okay1. Breathe. It will be okay.

2. Retrace your steps (well, duh). At a store or a restaurant, say “지갑을 잃었습니다. (jikab-eul ireosseumnida)” (I lost my wallet – okay, this is the real tip I wanted to give). If it’s not there, give the person your phone number in case it is found

3. Cancel your cards. You know how it is using a card to pay for things at your local Mini Mart. You can draw a big smiley face and that still counts as a signature. Heck, even some cashiers sign for you. So it is easy for just anyone to use your precious card. Cancel them right away. Google your bank hotline number and give them a ring. Both of my banks (NH and KEB) had English speakers and I assume most of them do. They will cancel your cards. The next time the bank is open, go into a branch and get a replacement card. Bring your passbook and a form of ID. It is a rather easy process.

4. Head to the nearest police station. Get a Korean friend to come with you’re not confident with the language. You can find police locations by typing in 파출소 or 경찰서 into Google or Naver. Any one will do as they are all connected. Bring your passport or some form of ID. You will fill out a report describing your wallet and its contents

5. Check out this website: Lost 112. There are photos of recent items turned in, but this is country-wide. Still, it doesn’t hurt to check.

You need a card to show that you're an alien.
You need a card to show that you’re an alien.

6. Get a new ARC (Alien Registration Card) at the Office of Immigration. Bring your passport, a passport photo, 30,000 cash, and a book/some patience because there might be long lines. After applying, It will take three weeks to get the new card.

I read advice that you should get your ARC replaced immediately, but I would wait two weeks. My coteacher told me that if a wallet is found, anybody can put it in the mailbox and the post office will deliver it to the person if there’s an ID inside. She lost hers and it came back two weeks later. Well, I waited for nearly two weeks full of hope, answering every phone call, but no luck. So I trekked over to the Immigration Office and did a bunch of boring paperwork for a new one.

I went home to find a notice on my mailbox from the post office. It turns out that my wallet was found! I had to arrange to get it delivered to my school for 3,300 won. I couldn’t cancel my new ARC, so that’s another 30,000 lost.

But, my wallet came back to me in one piece. Nothing was missing except cash. Even though I went through the trouble of getting everything replaced, I’m glad to have the wallet back as it was a gift from my boyfriend.

The first time I lost my wallet, the entire thing was returned to me at my front door, including all of the cash and coins, the very next morning after reporting it to the police at midnight (I lost it on the bus).

That is one nice thing about living in Korea. I always feel relatively safe. If my wallet is missing, it is more likely because of my own carelessness than someone stealing it.

Hope this brief guide is useful for somebody. If you are reading this and didn’t lose a wallet, take note and be extra cautious so you don’t make the same careless mistake as me. Put your contact information in English and Korean inside the wallet.

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6 comments

    • Love this about Korea! On the Lost112 website, I even saw a post that someone found 1,000 won and is looking for the owner… wow.

  1. Thank you so much for this article! My sister is working in South Korea and just lost her wallet! Panic insues. Hopefully this will help her!

  2. I lost my wallet on my last trip to Seoul and it was pretty clear that someone must have stolen it. It was such a shame because I have always had a strong faith in Koreans.
    Before that incident, I’d always felt safe in Korea because of their honesty and the fact that my mother had several incidents like that. She dropped her wallet on a bus and when she came back to look for it, someone had already handed the wallet to the bus driver so he could put it on the dashboard, waiting for its owner to claim it back. The second time was my 9th trip to Korea when we forgot our carry-on luggage which had $3000 inside at the time in front of a toilet near the main exist at Incheon Airport. We only realised after getting back to our apartment in Hongeun-dong and asked one of our friend who works at the airport to check if it was still there. So even after 2 hours sitting alone in the airport, the carry-on suitcase was still there, no one has even touched it. In both of the incidents, NOTHING was stolen from my mother’s wallet or the suitcase.
    This time when I came back, I guess I was being careless because of my previous experiences. I and my partner went shopping in the Doota building in Dongdaemun around after 9pm. We left all of our stuff in a locker at Dongdaemun Station, which included my camera backpack (which was getting rather heavier after one whole day of walking) and our shopping bags. So I was holding my wallet by the time I walked into that shop on the B2 level. We went in and the salesperson was showing me a couple of shirts so I went to the fitting booth to try them on. While I’m changing on a few things, I’d open the door and step out so my partner could give me some comments, and I only stood right in front of the door so there was no chance for anyone else to walk inside but me. My memories were blurry but my best guess was that I put my wallet on the small shelf in the booth, where later on I would leave all the shirts I was trying at. So when I stepped out another time, the same salesperson came inside and took all the stuff I on the shelf out so another customer could use the booth. This is when things got complicated. According to my partner who was sitting right outside at the time, she did not see the salesperson holding my wallet along with the bunch of clothes and the salesperson also claimed that she wasn’t aware of my wallet at the time. The other customer tried on a pair of pants and then left the shop. I was excited with all the clothes so my mind forgot about my wallet until I needed it to pay for everything. We couldn’t find it anywhere, the shop staff even searched under piles of clothes but it was gone. Note that we did check the CCTV after the incident took place and we could clearly see that my wallet was still on my hand when I was walking into the shop, so it was absolutely positive thaf my wallet was stolen there, not anywhere else. We also check the footage of the customer who went in after me but we couldn’t find anything. I asked the security guy if I should report to the police but he said that even if we did, the police would just look at the CCTV and there would be not much else they could do. It was around 12:15am when it happened so by the time that we concluded our search it was 1:30am or something. Seeing that there was no point of being there anymore, we left the building. We had to take a taxi home because the station was closed by that time. The day after that, we came back to retrieve our stuff in the locker and I saw the police booth right in front of Doota. The male officer was very fluent in English and helped us make a report of my missing wallet. He was very helpful and asked for my email in case they found it after we had returned to Australia. There’s a funny thing when I mentioned that my wallet was a Salvatore Ferragamo to help with the search, he and the female officer looked at each other like “oh then there’s not a high chance you’ll get it back”. My mother’s wallet was also a designer one so I guess for the 7 years that I was away, Koreans have gotten less honest than before? My wallet had around 500000 won, AU$ 200 and 3M VND, plus 2 credit cards, one debit card and my Australian driver licence, plus that the wallet itself costed $400 when I bought it. In total I lost around AU$1000 on such a shady incident, and the cherry on top of that bitter sundae was that it happened on my birthday. We tried to trace back but there could be only 2 ways it could have happened: either the other customer took my wallet and hid it inside his clothes or the salesperson must have done a serious hide and swap. We are already back in Melbourne for a week and there is still no email from the Dongdaemun police so there is no hope to get my wallet back.

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