UPDATE (17 December 2013): Although I am no longer living in Korea, I occasionally get updates on the situation. Apparently for expats in Korea can arrange for a month worth of coverage through AIG/Chartris, though apparently another moronic, restrictive change recently occurred to the laws governing travel insurance policies sold in Korea, and they only can offer a month of coverage to expats. If you still want to buy through AIG/Chartris, a commenter who sent me an email recommends contacting 이인용. Be warned, you will likely be required to claim that your trip is for business, rather than pleasure, to be eligible for the insurance.
However, if you want more than a month of coverage, you may find you have better luck with international services online, which are not subject to Korea’s ridiculous and idiotic laws. One especially worth mentioning is World Nomads, who are pretty much the only place who can sell you a travel insurance policy if you’ve already gone abroad and don’t have official coverage anywhere else. They’re who I deal with, and I recommend them highly.
Personally, on priciple, I would no longer be willing to buy insurance from a Korean provider. The laws are too stupidly restrictive and discriminatory. (A Korean citizen an buy six months of insurance for a pleasure trip on the spot, by comparison. This is shameful, in an international airport in a country with over a million expats living and working in its borders.) I suggest putting your money in the hands of companies operating in countries with sane laws, if at all possible: the Korean companies don’t want your business badly enough to push for reform, so don’t give it to them.
UPDATE (13 April 2012): According to commenter Brendon Carr (below), the one insurance company that was able to sell insurance to non-Koreans traveling to their home country (Chartris) was “ejected from the airport” and now no matter how fluent you are in Korean, no matter how long you have lived in Korea, if you are traveling to your home country, you cannot get travel insurance.
I think it’s time we expats started bugging the Incheon “International” Airport until this is rectified. At the very least, they could get Chartris back. Assuming Chartris is willing to come back. (Why did they leave?)
UPDATE (7 August 2011): Well, that serves me right for complaining so long after the annoyances. They sorted it out sometime in July, according to someone at the Korean office, who offered an “apology for the inconvenience.” I just wish they’d sort out the inconveniences faster next time: it doesn’t take six months to translate a few basic documents.
ORIGINAL POST: That’s right. And I think we should complain about it. Technically, we’re not supposed to be SOL. But at least as of a couple of months ago, we still were. I forgot about it until now. It may have changed. I sincerely doubt it.
Either way, I just remembered never having lodged my complaint with Chartris about the institutional stupidity I’ve encountered trying to buy insurance the last two times I went on a trip outside Korea. For those who don’t know… the law changed in January or February, so the one company equipped to sell travel insurance to non-Koreans (Meritz) was no longer allowed to do so, and, conversely, the one company operating at the Incheon “International” (ahem) Airport that is allowed to sell insurance to non-Koreans — Chartris — wasn’t set up for it.
(Or, rather, to buy insurance you need to claim to be fluent in Korean.)
Which might have been understandable in February; the clerk got snippy and said something about, “Would American insurance companies sell insurance to people who don’t speak English?” Uh… yes? She assured me the documents would be translated soon.
By May, though, they still hadn’t been, which, I have to say, was not much of a surprise. Not much of a surprise at all. While a couple of Westerners I know are fluent, they’re the absolute minority, and this brings to mind the comment that one Quebecois friend paraphrased to me — something a Quebecois politician once said about the reason why doctors in Montreal need to be bilingual: “Going to the hospital shouldn’t be a language test.” Well, I can fully accept that going to the doctor in Korea is sometimes a language test (it would be for a Korean in Canada too, after all), but buying international travel insurance in an international airport for international travel should not be a language test, and should not be available only to citizens or longterm residents of the country where said airport happens to be located. (And very few people who are not Korean or long-term residents of Korea can speak this language, obviously.) Indeed, many long-term residents in Korea, like me, still don’t read or speak legalese well enough to lie and buy the insurance on the roundabout.
If you, like me, think this is a problem, then you might consider contacting Chartris. This would be one place to do so. I advise picking a different country than Korea, though, since you never know: they may just delete the email when they see it’s in English.
For those curious about what I wrote in my email, see below, but please don’t cut and paste my email. I’m sure that a short few lines, such as:
Hey, why is it that while Chartris is the only insurance company legally allowed to sell travel insurance to non-Koreans in Incheon International Airport, in South Korea, but the Chartris desk at that airport keeps turning away non-Koreans unless they can speak Korean “fluently”? They said the documents would be translated months ago, but it hasn’t happened. Can someone fix this, or does nobody care about the money being lost… or how bad it’s making Korea look? It should be embarrassing for an international company to be operated this way, but nobody’s done anything in months!
… would suffice.
My own email was longer, and I’ll include it in the extended section of this post for those curious.
I will update this post if I get any new information, a response, Korean rent-a-gangsters storming my apartment, or whatever.