Our car finally arrived in Seoul yesterday. It was supposed to be a very happy occasion. We really missed our car and were anxiously waiting for it to arrive so we could drive around and see more of Korea. (The subway is not very convenient for families with small children.) I arrived last night to pick up the keys, license/registration, and got in to drive it home. I backed the car up, put it into drive, and started driving forward. That’s when I heard a disturbing "thump, thump, thump" coming from the undercarriage of the car. "Oh no!" I said wistfully, and I parked it immediately. I went back to the vehicle receiving office and told the manager about the strange sound coming from my car. The office manager and a mechanic came out to look at it. The car’s body was in great condition, but it obviously had a possibly serious mechnical problem. I was really worried that my baby needed a lot of repair work. The mechanic told me that he could diagnose the mechanical problem the following morning. However, he also told me that they could not fix it and that I might need to take it to a repair shop to fix. I left the car at the vehicle receiving office and caught a ride home with a colleague. My wife was understandably distraught. She called the insurance company to see what we would need to do to file a claim in the Land of the Morning Calm. We weren’t overly worried because the insurance company would cover everything except a modest deductible. Still, we were annoyed that our car was damaged during shipment overseas and that we might have to pay for something that happened while the car was out of our possession. I was told that this is quite common. Vehicles shipped overseas are secured with straps to prevent rolling, and they sometimes sustain damage while being shipped thousands of miles in a container ship. Unfortunately, they can sustain damage if the straps exert too much pressure on the vehicle. Most people receive their vehicle(s) without incident. We were among the unlucky few.
The next morning I went back to work. At lunchtime I checked my E-mail and found two important messages waiting for me from the vehicle receiving office. The first one explained that the on-site mechanic was able to fix the mechanical problem. Our car’s U-Joint had been crushed, and they replaced it for us free of charge. I was ecstatic for a brief moment…and then I read the second E-mail message. It stated security guard at the vehicle office had left his car in neutral and had neglected to put on the emergency break. The guard left to do some work, and while he was gone his car rolled and struck our vehicle. The back end of our car sustained body damage from the impact. I couldn’t believe it. Two incidents in two days! I wondered whether our car was cursed. Perhaps it was angry that we shipped it overseas. At the end of the day, I went back to the vehicle receiving office to discuss repair options with the manager. The office personnel felt terribly about what happened and pledge to make amends. They arranged to have body work completed in two weeks, after spare parts arrive. They also agreed to furnish a rental car while our car is being repaired. Fortunately, we don’t have to put in a claim to our insurance company for any of these repairs. I also was able to drive our car home tonight, much to my delight. The damage doesn’t appear too conspicuous, but it will cost several hundred dollars to complete the body work. I am happy that my employer is doing the utmost to make sure everything is done right.
In the future, I may think twice about shipping a car overseas again. I could have bought a cheap car here in Korea and sold our car in Washington, D.C. However, I decided to ship our car overseas because it is already paid for, and it’s very reliable. Still, Korea can be hazardous to one’s vehicle. People here generally drive too fast, and even most Koreans I’ve talked to admit that Koreans don’t pay attention to the rules of the road as much as they should. Parking spaces are so tight that vehicles inevitably get scratched. Pollution and road conditions can also wreak havoc on a vehicle. The majority of the cars I’ve seen on the road have numerous dents and dings befitting multiple fender benders. I don’t want our car to be a casualty in Korea. It will take my wife and me a few months to feel comfortable driving in Seoul traffic. We may not venture far from home for awhile, and we may still consider buying a cheap car here for those longer trips. In the meantime, we are very glad to have our vehicle.