This half a year is pretty busy for me. My passport is expiring, my Japanese driving licence is expiring, my trip home this December will be the last before my Hungarian driving licence expires next year, and my visa will have to be renewed as the new year starts as well. So much paperwork alone gives me more headaches than I’d like, but the bureaucratic procedures are often the least of the problem.

To add to the mix, I’m scheduled to visit Korea in a month on a business trip. Thing is, Hungarians need at least 6 months of validity remaining on our passports to enter the country without a visa. My current passport clearly doesn’t have that much left. Here starts my little story.

First, I emailed the Hungarian consulate in Tokyo, asking for an appointment to renew my passport. Their emails were short and on the point, just how should be. However, after I received their first reply, in a few minutes I got another email – from some Japanese person I don’t know, asking about visa to Hungary. Apparently they managed to forward some other client’s email to me, with name and email address included, and there was no follow-up on that. One.

As I was told that getting my new passport could take up to a month, I decided to ask the Koreans what should I do in case my passport doesn’t have the required term of validity left. First, I emailed the Hungarian consulate in Seoul about this – who “enlightened” me that visa to Korea is entirely the jurisdiction of the Koreans so I should ask them. They ended their email pointing out that “though if your passport is valid for 6 months you don’t need a visa” – which was the whole point of my inquiry, leading me to believe that they either didn’t even read my original email or simply failed to comprehend it. Two.

I still did as told and contacted the Korean consulate in Tokyo. This is where the real fun begun. I guess I was naive to email my inquiry to a foreign embassy in English (instead of Japanese), because the emails I received from them in response were written in such horrible broken English that I haven’t seen since my mandatory university English classes. But it gets better. Not only were their emails an English teacher’s nightmare, they failed to answer any of my questions. I believe I explained quite clearly what my issue was, but their responses… well.

First, I got an email telling me that in my case I need a visa – and then proceeded to list the requirements, that included my passport being valid for 6 months and having an invitation letter (even though I told them I’m visiting as a tourist to keep things simple). Then, before I could react, I got another email telling me that my passport has to be valid for 6 months to get a visa, but I don’t need a visa to visit as a tourist. Then right away a third email telling me to ignore the second and copy-pasting the first email’s text over again.

Since I still didn’t (and don’t) know the answer to my question, I replied to them just asking about the two issues on the list (eg that I need a passport valid for 6 months and the invitation letter), to which I got a response telling me that depending on my nationality (which I clearly stated in my first email) I may not need a visa to visit at all, clearly showing that once again they either didn’t read my email, or an army of ignorant office clerks are replying to my emails in competition without having any idea what I’m talking about. I decided to go the safe way and sent my question in the plainest English I could possibly produce, only stating the bare facts and asking my question. This was a week ago – I’m yet to get a reply. (I stopped counting.)

Due to these quite fundamental problems communicating with the Koreans (or at least attempting to), I asked the Hungarian consulate if I could apply for my new passport at a sooner date than previously agreed, so I got another appointment and got that sorted out. Now to hoping that it actually arrives before my trip to Korea so I won’t have to run more rounds with the Koreans.