IKAA Korea Gathering FAQ

More information to be added to the FAQ page in the coming months

Link to the recording of our Jan 2023 online virtual information session

Back to Korea Gathering Info Page


Who is the IKAA Korea Gathering open to?

The IKAA Korea Gathering is open to all adoptees ages 18+, their spouses/partners, family, and friends, and community supporters. Programming is primarily aimed at adult Korean adoptees, and like previous years, the Korea Gathering will be providing family oriented programming as well. There will be attendee limitations to certain events. For example, the nightly socials will be limited to adults and other sessions may be limited to adoptees only.

What is the IKAA Korea Gathering?

A research conference, a film & creatives arts festival, a friends/family reunion, a motherland trip, or a summer camp? The Korea Gathering takes elements from these areas to create a truly unique weeklong experience. During the week, we will highlight topics of interest in the adoptee community and also highlight the decades of adoptee-driven community action led by community builders, researchers, and activists. Many of whom have volunteered countless hours to innovate and enable services and support for the community.

Do I need to attend all the programming?

No, and we don’t expect you to! Our community is diverse and attendees will have varying interests. The Korea Gathering was designed in the spirit of “choose your own adventure.” Like a buffet, we will be offering many things. During the week, you can choose to participate in what’s meaningful and interesting to you. This includes exploring Seoul with other adoptees! We don’t expect you to attend everything that is offered!

The experience can be very exciting and emotional, so we recommend taking the time you need to relax and practice self-care during the weeklong event.

What if I am new to the community and don't know anyone else going?

The 2023 IKAA Korea Gathering has newcomers in mind! We will have intentional programming for newcomers that includes virtual sessions to help connect attendees prior to Korea and a newcomers only welcome event which was well received in 2019. An attendees only group chat will also be launched. If you’re new to exploring Korea, IKAA will be providing guidance on how to navigate Seoul and recommendations on what to eat and things to see and experience.

Will there be childcare?

As much as we love children, IKAA is unfortunately unable to provide childcare during the week. All parents are responsible for ensuring the safety and wellbeing of their children during the Korea Gathering.

I would like to review my adoption file / I would like to initiate a search for my biological family. How do I do this? Can IKAA help me with my birth search?

IKAA does not provide direct birth search assistance. There are a number of agencies and organizations in Korea who help with this service.

The National Center for the Rights of the Child (NCRC) is the Korean government agency responsible for overseeing birth family search. During the summer of the upcoming Korea Gathering, NCRC and adoption agency family search services may be in higher demand than usual. For adopted Koreans who are interested in pursuing a family search this summer, please review the NCRC family search guidance and materials and reach out to NCRC as soon as possible to increase the likelihood that there will be enough time and resources.

Adopted Koreans who are interested in performing a birth search this summer should reach out to NCRC at root4gathering@ncrc.or.kr by May 2st, 2023.

More family search information can be found on the Adoption Services Center Website

Questions: contact NCRC by emailing root4gathering@ncrc.or.kr 
(Please submit the request form for family search services)

If you need additional help with your search, you can also contact Global Overseas Adoptees’ Link (GOA’L), a longstanding adoptee-run organization in Korea. Once again, demand for these services may be higher than usual this summer and those interested in utilizing these services have a greater chance of success by reaching out early.


What's included in the registration fee?

Registration includes access to all Korea Gathering programming throughout the week and access to special virtual events prior to and after the weeklong event in Korea. Some sessions may have access restrictions (adoptee only, adult only, etc.). Attendees cover their own travel expenses and accommodations. There will be a traditional Korean food community dinner event and a few of the other events will include appetizers / snacks and refreshments. In general, meals will not be provided; however, we will be providing guidance on where to eat. Seoul offers a wide variety of food at different price points!

What is the cancellation policy?

Full refunds (minus any processing fees) will be available on request until the end of March 2023. Refunds are not guaranteed afterwards.

Are there student discounts?

Unfortunately we will not be able to provide student discounts.

If I volunteer, can I receive a discount on registration?

Unfortunately, due to the fact that IKAA is run by an all-volunteer board, it is not possible to receive discounts for volunteering. The registration fees go towards activities, food, meeting space, and operational costs.

What if I am an adoptee living in Korea?

We are excited to be collaborating with adoptees living in Korea for the 2023 IKAA Korea Gathering! IKAA is offering a special rate at $80 for adoptees / children of adoptees who are living long term in Korea. Please reach out to info@ikaa.org for more information.


Where should I stay for this event?

We recommend that attendees stay near COEX for convenience. There are multiple hotels which are walking distance to COEX. See the full map and list/links of nearby hotels here. They range in size, amenities, and price point. Past Korea Gathering participants have also stayed at Airbnbs and Guesthouses. Overall, participants have many options for accommodation and can stay in close proximity to other attendees.

Traveling in Korea

Do I need a travel visa?

You must have a current passport from your home country to enter the Republic of Korea, and it must be valid for at least 6 months from your date of departure. It may take some time to obtain or renew, so don’t delay. Most conference participants coming from Western countries can travel to Korea without having to obtain a tourist visa prior to entry. Upon arrival at Incheon International Airport, Immigration & Customs Officials will issue an arrival confirmation (they no longer stamp your passport) that allows you a visa-free stay for a limited period of time – Americans (up to 90 days), Canadians (up to 6 months), many Europeans (up to 90 days) and Australians (up to 90 days).

Those eligible for visa-free entrance have previously been required to obtain a Korea Electronic Travel Authorization (K-ETA) to enter Korea. However, as of April 1, 2023 K-ETA is no longer required for 22 countries/regions due to a temporary exemption. Please check this link to the official notice for detailed information.

If you still need to apply for the K-ETA, then you can access information about, and apply for it on the official government website. You can apply for the K-ETA at most, three months prior to your date of departure, and it can take anywhere from 1 hour to 2 weeks for approval. The cost is 10,000원 (KRW) per person, and it is valid for multiple entries over a 2 year period (or unless your passport expires).

We would suggest double checking before coming to Korea, by contacting your local Korean consulate or embassy. You can also visit the Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade website for information about required travel documents (if any) or to find your nearest Korean Consulate or Embassy (please click HERE if you are not sure of your nearest Consulate or Embassy).

I don’t have international roaming on my phone / plan. What are my options to stay connected?

Having a mobile phone during your trip to Korea can be extremely helpful. Making calls from your hotel room can often be prohibitively expensive, even for local calls.

There are options for foreign travelers to get a Korean SIM card, both at Incheon (ICN) Airport and within Seoul. SIM cards can either be physical cards or digital (eSIM). Make sure that your mobile device is either unlocked or your phone company will allow for a foreign SIM card. Most older phones will not support an eSIM, you will have to check the website to make sure that your phone can support an eSIM.

They also offer a WiFi router, also known as a WiFi Egg, which works with up to 7 devices, with a daily rental fee.

With unlimited data/WiFi, you can easily call home for free via apps like Whatsapp or KakaoTalk (the most common communication app in Korea), and can similarly contact fellow Gathering participants for free via these apps. You will also have regular access to maps, Facebook, Twitter, and whatever other sites and features you cannot live without.

If none of these options are within your budget, Korea does have a very good Public WiFi network. You can also access WiFi from places like McDonald’s and Starbucks.

How do I get a SIM card or portable WiFi in Korea?

You can either purchase a SIM Card or WiFi Egg online before your trip or at the airport. They are also available at retailers found throughout Seoul, but your best bet is to pick them up at the airport.

For SIM: You can use sites such as Link Korea, Korea SIM, or Klook to find good deals for SIM cards. SIM cards can be either physical or digital (eSIM). SIM cards are rented for anywhere between 5 and 30 days and start at about $19 per card (for Unlimited Data only, no phone number). You can choose from the three big telecom giants in Korea, KT, SKT, or LGU+. People tend to have strong opinions one way or another on which company is best, but in general you’ll get good service no matter which company you go with.

For WiFi Egg: You can use sites such as Link Korea, Korea SIM, or Klook to find good deals for the Egg as well. Plans start at around $2.00 per day per device. Keep in mind that this is another item that you would have to carry around with you, so if you want to streamline how much you have with you, then the Egg may not be for you. Some AirBNB rentals come with a WiFi Egg in their rental agreement!

How do I get around the city?

Getting around the city can be super easy! Using either Naver Map or KakaoMap, or any Korean Subway App is going to be a must to download. Naver Map and Kakao Map are most widely used in Korea. Both have access to the subway maps for all major cities in Korea with subway lines. IKAA will be sharing out saved locations via Naver Map. If being underground isn’t your thing, then Naver Map works really well for navigating the city on the bus! Buses, like trains, will have stops in Korean and English. Pay careful attention to what stop is upcoming and keep track of where you are on your phone. Be aware that there is a TV in the bus, so try not to get too distracted by the absolutely amazing TV commercials. See this page for a summary of common Korean travel apps.

To use public transportation in Korea you will need a T-Money card. These can be bought in the station, at convenience stores, and other retailers like ArtBox or underground stores, and the base cost of the card is KRW 2,500 (but you can get cards with special designs, brands, or even BTS cards at an extra cost). In addition to buses and subways, the T-Money card can be used in many taxis and convenience stores all across Korea. To add money to your card you will either have to go to a subway station and use the reloading machines (they have an English option) or go to a convenience store (GS25, 7-11, CU). The only way to add money to your card is with cash.

Do I need to be able to speak Korean?

While speaking Korean isn’t absolutely necessary, it’s advised to be able to speak a few lines.There are a ton of amazing apps that are readily available to help you learn Korean, along with a multitude of Instagram and TikTok Influencers teaching Korean. The major phrases to learn:

Hello – 안녕하세요 [An-young-ha-say-yo]
Please give me this – 이것 주세요 [Ee-go chu-say-yo]
Helpful in restaurant settings. Point at food, say phrase
I don’t speak Korean [very well] – 한국말 [잘] 못 해요 [Han-guk-mal [chal] mot hey-yo]
Thank you! – 감사합니다 [gam-sa-ham-ni-da]

If things get tough, then use Papago. You can use Google Translate, but you’re going to get slightly better translations from Papago.

Do I need to exchange money for Korean Won?

The currency of Korea is the won (KRW / ₩). Although exchange rates fluctuate, approximately 1 USD = 1,248.1019 KRW, and 1 EUR = 1346.4375 KRW (as of February 2023). You can access a handy exchange rate converter at:http://www.xe.com (or Google) for up-to-date information.

The easiest way to get KRW is to withdraw cash from global ATMs in Korea using your home debit/bank card (a.k.a. check card). The exchange rate applied to ATM withdrawals is usually good and comparable to that of banks. However, keep in mind that your bank and/or the ATM from which you withdraw funds might also assess a user fee. Also, not all ATMs are global, however, you can find them at the airport and in most large bank branches and subway stations that clearly display the international cards that can be used at them to withdraw money (and they typically have a sign saying “Global ATM”). Lastly, make sure that your debit/bank card can be used internationally – this may be indicated by displaying the Visa®, Mastercard® or Maestro® logos, etc.

There are also many money exchange places located in Insadong, Namdaemun, Dongdaemun, and other various points around the city. They usually have better exchange rates than the bank. If you are someone who prefers to have cash on them at all times, bring some ready cash to exchange. For those who do not like to carry cash, you’re going to have to start as you will need cash for the smaller establishments, some food stalls, and, most importantly, to top off your T-Money card (transportation card).

In addition to ATMs at Incheon (ICN) Airport, there are a number of various banks within close proximity to COEX, and ATMs (including Global ATMs) in the subway station accessible through the basement of the hotel, so you won’t have to worry that you might not be able to find one.

Traveler’s checks are not accepted everywhere, but they can easily be exchanged for KRW at banks, hotels, and the airport. Where can you get the best exchange rate? Usually banks give the best rate, and hotels give the worst rate. However, at the bank, you may encounter some challenges if the employees don’t speak English very well, whereas at hotels, all the front desk staff speak English, although many banks now have an international desk to accommodate non-Korean speaking customers.

Finally, credit cards are usually accepted at most stores, hotels, restaurants, bars, etc. – the most common cards being Visa® and MasterCard® — although many smaller establishments still prefer cash. Also keep in mind that some credit cards have foreign transaction fees.

In Korea, how old must I be to enter a bar?

The legal drinking age in Korea is 19 years of age.

What airport should I fly into?

Most international flights will arrive at Incheon International Airport, either to Terminal 2 (Korean Air and SkyTeam airlines), or Terminal 1 (other airlines). There is also Gimpo International Airport, which generally is home to shorter flights (domestic and nearby Asian countries). Transportation from either airport into the city center is readily available and accessible by public transportation.

How do I get from the airport to my accommodations?

General Transportation Information (Incheon): https://www.airport.kr/ap_cnt/en/tpt/pblctpt/pblctpt.do

From Incheon you have several options:

  1. Seoul Metro – Your least expensive option. The Airport line (dotted blue) goes to both terminals. From Incheon Airport Terminal 2 to Seoul Station:
    1. Cost: around 4,750KRW
    2. TIme: 1+hour
  2. AREX – Slightly more expensive, but still definitely one of the more cost effective ways to get from the airport to the city. From Incheon Airport Terminal 2 to Seoul Station:
    1. Cost: 9,500KRW for Adults, 7,500KRW for children. (If you buy a Discover Seoul Pass, you can get one trip on AREX free)
    2. Time: ~51 minutes
  3. Limousine Bus – This offers a slightly more customizable way to get into the city. The bus will have multiple stops that are not just Seoul Station. You can take either a standard bus or a deluxe/KAL Limousine bus (bus #6703 will bring you to COEX). Click the link to find out more.
    1. Cost: dependent on where exactly your end destination is. Costs will be displayed at the ticket kiosk. Kiosk locations are listed in the link.
    2. Time: anywhere from 45 minutes to 1+ hours depending on where you are going and time.
  4. Taxi – A taxi will take you directly to your hotel without having to navigate the metro with your luggage. Taxi stand locations are listed in the link, but they can be found just outside the doors. You will have to find the Seoul Taxi stand, 
    1. Cost: base fare is 3,800KRW for the first 2 kilometers (1.2 miles). A 20% late night surcharge is added between the hours of 24:00 and 4:00.
    2. Time: dependent on traffic
  5. International Taxi – You can also use the International Taxi stands that are located right before you exit the airport.
    1. Cost: based on which zone you will be going to (chart in link)
    2. Time: dependent on time and traffic

Weather and Dress

What will the weather be like?

The summer months of July and August are the hottest of the year and extremely humid. Summer brings “monsoon season” to Korea, which means heavy rains from the end of June through July. Usually, the rains stop around the beginning of August, although it varies from year to year.

What is the dress code?

You usually only need to bring light clothing and possibly something warmer for indoor use (in the air conditioning). The Opening Ceremony and Reception will be business casual. No formal wear required this year. If you forget to pack an umbrella, there are numerous shops that sell them all over Seoul.