I am not going to go over every step that is needed to properly out-process your installation/unit. You will receive an out-processing packet that should include every step you need to take to get over to South Korea. I am going to try and highlight the important steps that need to be started as soon as you receive your assignment and hints and tips for spouses and families.
Sorry this is a huge wall of text but these are all things I learned the hard way. I hope this helps you get to South Korea more smoothly.
Command Sponsorship and Medical
Get a Sponsor
Get an APO Box
Shipping a Car
Shipping Household Goods
Packing Your Bags
Shipping Pets to South Korea
For an online Shuttle Bus Schedule and map for USAG Humphreys, go to the USAG Humphreys Webpage then Resources-> Community Information -> Newcomer’s Information then scroll to the bottom for a link to the most recent Humphreys Garrison Map and Bus Schedule. I can’t link it here since the web address often changes.
Here is my reference Guide for House Hold Goods to store in the states or to bring to Korea. This is subjective and will be different for each family.
Clarification of Important Terms
Sponsor – Soldier, civilian or contractor hired or stationed at an installation. Dependents will often be asked for information about their sponsor. Spouse’s should have their sponsor’s social security number memorized, they will always need it!
Sponsor – Not to be confused with the bread winner in the family but another use of sponsor is the civilian or soldier who assists an individual and their family with their move/PCS. Read more about sponsors and what they can do for you here.
It is very important to head to the levy brief as soon as possible. There is a lot of information that SM’s need to get started and it can take weeks to prepare packets for medical or to make appointments. If it’s allowed, I would suggest that both the spouse and the service member attend.
Command Sponsorship and Medical
Go over to my command sponsorship page to learn how families can gain command sponsorship to South Korea.
Get a Sponsor
Please read “What to Expect from a Sponsor” for a more in depth view of the Army Total Sponsorship Program at Humphreys.
Having a sponsor is extremely important when coming to South Korea. A sponsor from the service member’s/ civilians assigned unit should send an email 60 days out from report date. A sponsor can
– Answer any questions about South Korea and the gaining unit
– Get you an APO mailbox so that the SM can begin forwarding mail before the PCS
– Meet arriving solciers and civilians and their families at Camp Humphreys and help begin in-processing and introducing them to the area.
If a sponsor has not contacted you 30 days out, go to the 8th Army Korea webpage and look up the DSN’s to ask for a sponsor.
Sponsors can’t answer all the questions, so find official social media channels and unit pages. Facebook tends to be the power house for units and facilities here in Korea so check out my must have Social Media list here.
Get an APO Mailbox before arriving
Did I mention Sponsors can get an incoming soldier/civilian a mailbox before they even step on the plane? If you don’t have a sponsor, get in touch with your unit and find someone who can help. It’s as easy as having someone bring a copy of your orders to central processing and emailing you your new APO box. Our sponsor had no idea they had the ability to do this and it was a lifesaver to get our deposit check from our previous landlord waiting for us in Korea when we arrived. Encourage your unit/ sponsor that this is possible and you’ll be all set. Go to USPS.com to start forwarding your mail right away.
Note: When out-processing Korea, there is no mail holding (at least that was what I learned on January 2018, may have changed by now). Be sure to do the reverse and have your sponsor set up a PO Box in your next unit the same way. If you don’t have a sponsor, call the on-post USPS office of your gaining installation and ask them the steps for obtaining a PO Box for a forwarding address.
Shipping a Car
Read my post “POVS on the Peninsula” to get a better idea of what it’s like to own a car at Humphreys and in Korea.
Shipping a car was probably the easiest thing we had to do. It takes about a month for it to arrive to South Korea and pcsmypov.com gives a great checklist on exactly what is needed. Do not skip any of the steps from PCSMyPOV.
- I have seen people bring their huge SUV’s to Korea and they are able to park it in tiny spaces. I personally wouldn’t bring a truck to Korea but most Koreans drive mid-size/compact SUV’s and they can park just fine. Plus, those who have a truck get the most beer when friends need help with moving.
- Be sure to have all paperwork ready ahead of time! If there is a loan or a lease on the car, the lending bank will need to approve and send a typed and signed letter giving you permission to ship the vehicle overseas. Depending on the bank, this could take a few weeks.
- Keep vehicles insured while in transit. Often, vehicles with a loan or lease require insurance at all times. USAA, AIG and Geico Military offer international insurance in Korea. Ask about the storage rate for shipping in transit.
- Empty the car – The only items allowed in the car are floor pads, jumper cables and other items that are essential for the car. Removable objects such as paperwork in the glove compartment, car seats, and household goods need to be removed and shipped with HHG. Do not try to put anything extra in the car.
- Change the oil and do maintenance on vehicles before shipping
- The tank must be below 1/4– If the tank is above a quarter, expect to drive around for an hour trying to use up gas.
Shipping Household Goods
Please read about Onpost and Offpost Housing at Camp Humphreys to help with any decisions for Household Goods.
Household goods will be sent out in three different shipments: Household Goods, Non-Temporary Storage and Unaccompanied baggage. Single soldiers/ Geographical bachelors and non-command sponsored families are allowed 25% of their normal weight allowance. Command Sponsored families are allowed 50%. There are two reasons for this: overseas shipments are expensive and housing in Korea is considerably smaller than it is in the states. When signing a lease for a house, either off-base or on-base, housing will set up a loaner furniture shipment. They will deliver and pick up loaner furniture for the SM and family at the beginning of their tour, after their HHG has arrived and at the end. If more furniture is needed or extra furniture needs to be returned during that time, it is up to the SM to find a means of delivery.
Notes on borrowing furniture at Camp Humphreys:
- The shipping office will drop off the furniture at the beginning of the tour and will pick up furniture after HHG is delivered and again at the end of the tour – any additional furniture or extras that need to be returned must be done so by the sponsor.
- Loaner furniture can be used for the duration of the tour for free. Any damage to the furniture will be charged at the end of the tour.
- It is Heavy! Prepare ahead of time where each piece of furniture needs to be placed, I swear my easy chair had bricks in the bottom of it.
- Bring computer desks and chairs with HHG, don’t store it – I was surprised that there were no options to borrow an adult sized computer desk and chair. There are only children’s desks available.
- There is a limit to how many pieces of furniture a family can borrow – it is based upon the number of family members and furniture is limited to each room. Only one sofa for one living room etc.
- Washers, Dryers and Ovens are available to borrow.
- All borrowed electrical appliances will use the standard American 120V. Most offpost villas and apartments will have converters for American sockets but there will only be one or two per room.
- The beds are Korean beds, and that means hard as a rock– You know the Tempurpedic commercial with the lady bouncing on the bed with a glass of wine that doesn’t spill? Replace that soft foam with a piece of plywood, the glass of wine still doesn’t spill right? Nope but that’s because I drank it to take away the pain of sleeping on a Korean mattress. The beds are incredibly hard! I had a Korean teacher who once told me that when he immigrated to America he could never go back to Korean beds, American beds were so soft and amazing. If the HHG weight limit isn’t a concern, I highly suggest bringing mattresses to Korea but be sure that the loaner office has the bed frame you need. No King size frames are available.
TIP: Contact housing before getting here and they will send you a list of items available from the loaner office. Over on my “Offpost and Onpost Housing” blog post, I uploaded a loaner furniture worksheet from 2017. I also have a spreadsheet listing what items to bring and what items to leave behind in storage.
Start early when preparing household items and furniture for shipping. SM’s and families must be prepared for movers to come 3 different times, all the while keeping everything organized into three different shipments. Below are my suggestions for items that should be in each shipment. I have heard of people bringing all of their furniture and others (like myself) who have left it all behind. Do the research and decide what works best for you.
- To set up shipments for House Hold Goods- Bring a copy of the orders to the Personal Property office and get approved to use the DPS system from Move.Mil. If login isn’t working, call back to make sure the orders were put into the system. The DPS system is really confusing to use. Here are a few tips I learned from it:
- Be sure to read all of the provided materials and power point slides to learn how to use it. Fill out the profile and input the orders BEFORE setting up shipments.
- Call the Personal Property office to ask what the target address of the NTS and HHG/UB is.
- Provide an emergency contact from the states, either friends or family. Make sure the contact is reliable in case you are in-transit and unreachable.
- When we used the system, it stated that we were only allowed 25% of our weight. Our local Personal Property office was unhelpful and insisted that this was true regardless of what our orders or the Joint Travel Regulation stated. Don’t beat your head against the wall like we did, it is just an error with the new system. Just know that your orders and the JTR trump anything that the website may state. If you have questions or concerns, call your personal property office or your regional JPPSO to confirm.
House Hold Goods (HHG)– This will be the bulk of your items that will go to Korea. These items will be locked into a crate and shipped via boat. It will take about 2 months for your items to get to South Korea and go through customs. You want to get enough into HHG so that you only have the essentials left. You will have one more shipment (Unaccommpanied baggage) to get the last of your essentials over to Korea.
What to ship in HHG:
- The majority of kitchenware
- Spices and dried goods – Don’t give away the baking powder and Thyme. Depending on the movers, it is possible to ship it with HHG.
- All furniture going to Korea and not to storage – Bring your mattresses, trust me!
- Out of season clothing – if it’s July then ship all of the winter clothes now.
- Extra Linens – Set aside one set of sheets for each bed, a few towels and dishcloths for Unaccompanied Baggage. Everything else goes into HHG now.
- Any non-essential bathroom items – Consolidate to one bathroom and ship extra towels, bath rugs, jewelry cabinets etc.
- Non-essential electronics – We shipped both TV’s over as well as other living room items like speakers and extra monitors.
- All of the toys – Keep out a few favorites but it’s safer to get the toys on the boat than to accidentally store them for two years.
- Non- essential Pro-Gear – Try to ship as much pro-gear with Unaccompanied Baggage, not HHG, as possible. It’s best to have everything the SM might needs a few weeks after arriving in Korea than waiting a few months for HHG to bring essential pro-gear.
Non-Temporary Storage (NTS)- Any items that can be lived without for two years or more. This should be most of the furniture. Ask your Personal Property office for the address when setting up the NTS shipment.
What to send to NTS:
- Household Furniture- Housing will provide loaner furniture. Look over the 2017 Loaner Furniture sheet on my “Offpost and Onpost Housing” Blog post.
- Outdoor/ lawn equipment and furniture – Probably won’t have a lawn in Korea, so store it.
- Tools and large workshop equipment – Chances are there won’t be a garage either, store it.
- Books, encyclopedias, comic books etc – Personally, not having my library for 2 years is heart wrenching. But books are too heavy and will kill your weight allowance.
- Extra kitchenware – Space is at a premium in Korea so you may want to store pots and pans you don’t use.
What NOT to send to NTS:
- Electronics – Electronics and appliances do not do well in storage. And in two years any electronics will have been replaced with newer and cheaper models on the market. No one wants to see an Xbox 360 come out of storage 3 years later.
- Foods or liquids – Not allowed.
- Clothing, Linens and toys – Unless it is an heirloom, No one wants to pull out those skinny jeans and try them on again after two years. Just donate them.
- Pro-Gear- Everyone needs an extra set of ACU’s when it’s time for a ruck march in Korea. Do not store any professional items, bring them to Korea.
Unaccompanied Baggage (UB) – UB ships by plane and is meant to get those critical items that a SM and family will need as soon as the lease as signed. This shipment usually takes 2 weeks, mostly due to customs. No food stuff or liquids can be shipped in UB and there is a smaller weight allowance for it.
What to ship as UB?
- All essential items that were saved from HHG that can’t fit in luggage- this can include essential electronics (like a desktop computer), a small set of essential kitchenware and linens like blankets, bed sheets and towels. Put an extra set of sheets and towels in luggage if there is room. We had our UB and HHG timed that they arrived at the exact same time. Not so useful when we had to buy sheets and towels to use for the two weeks it took for things to arrive.
- Pro-Gear – Most of the pro-gear should be in UB. Do not go to a new unit and have essential items missing on the first day.
Example Shipment Timeline – This is what we did and it worked like a charm! Almost no wait for our shipments.
- Send HHG two months before Flight- This meant that our large electronics (TV’s), majority of the kitchen, linens, bathrooms, books and book cases were gone. We lived judiciously but we still had all of our furniture for comfort and one set of blankets and sheets for each bed. We could use our furniture until the NTS shipment.
- Send the Car one month before Flight- The car was waiting for us in Yongsan before we arrived to South Korea. In the meantime in the states, we had a second car that we drove until we gifted it to a family member before our flight.
- Send out NTS one week before Flight- All of our books, furniture, outdoor equipment and extra kitchenware went to storage and the house was empty enough to begin cleaning and preparing to move out.
- Send UB three days before Flight- Now we were living out of our suitcases. We sent important pots and pans, sheets and blankets, computer, gaming consoles and other bulky items that can’t fit in our luggage. The house is empty and the last of the cleaning can be done.
- After we arrived in South Korea, we moved into our new house in 2 weeks and received both our HHG and UB on the 3rd week. We arrived on the week of Lunar New Year, otherwise the timeline would have been faster by one week. We lived in the house on loaner furniture and out of our luggage for only one week.
- What we messed up – I regret not having packed fitted sheets, hand towels and washcloths. We had to buy new bed sets when we moved into the house for the loaner furniture while waiting for HHG and UB.
Packing the Luggage
Each family member, even the baby if they are paying for a seat, are allowed two pieces of luggage weighing 75lbs. We were allowed 8 pieces but I was worried that that would be too much to handle so we had 6 as well as 2 car seats. If you have to fly commercial for any reason, you will have to pay for the excess weight (50lbs is the normal limit) and claim it later. Be sure to confirm this with Transportation before packing those bags.
In your luggage you may want to have:
- Fitted sheets, light blankets, small pillows and other linens
- Small electronics and other forms of entertainment
- Warm clothing – Even if traveling in the summer a light jacket or a sweatshirt may come in handy depending on layovers or the temperature in the plane.
- Essential Pro-Gear – No one wants to bring their dress blues on a plane with them but it’s probably a good idea. This includes 1-2 sets of uniforms, boots, PT sneakers, dress shoes, Berets, belts etc. Don’t be unprepared!
- A camera – Japan is absolutely gorgeous from up above!
Shipping Pets to South Korea
Shipping pets to South Korea and back to the states isn’t easy. Traditionally, cats are seen as vermin and dogs as working animals so it is a relatively new trend to keep them as pets in the house. There are homes that accept pets offpost. In 2015, a $300 rabies test was added to the list of requirements to bring pets to South Korea. Go to Korea’s 65th Medical Brigade Webpage to learn how to ship your pet to South Korea.
See anything need fixing? Am I missing something? Email me at SigFlipsTheTable@gmail.com or leave a comment.
If interested, I would love for a guest writer to cover shipping pets to and from Korea.
Updated: August 10, 2017 – Added Links and fixed spelling errors.
Updated: Dec 1, 2016 – Fixed Links, added APO mailbox info. Updated In-processing info and included links to the Total Army Sponsporship