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  • Writer's pictureKirk

My Beef-Stick Blunder - Illegal Import Mistake

Updated: Oct 24, 2023

This was a first for me. Busted by beef sticks. You’ld think I was smuggling drugs into South Korea!

When I travel I cut down on travel expenses for meals as I outlined in this post:

I typically eat the free breakfast at the hotel, and if it has a club lounge, I eat for free there in the evening. I don’t eat lunch, but I do bring snacks with me. Not being big on carbohydrates, one of my snacks is Slim Jims.

On this trip to South Korea I had about 30 or so of these with me. But, as we were descending into the country I vaguely heard the flight attendant mention beef jerky on the intercom. South Korean English is hard for me to decipher so I didn’t catch the rest. Curious, I went to the flight attendant to inquire. I was informed it was illegal to bring beef products into the country.

Well, I’ve traveled a lot and never heard that before. Maybe I just never paid enough attention to the declaration paper given. But now I’ve got these sticks and I’ve got to declare them. No big deal. That’s what I thought anyway.

I checked the box informing I did indeed have beef products on the declaration form and even pulled one out of my backpack to show them when declaring goods. I hoped they would just let it go, but, as you can guess…no.

I was sent to the machine for imaging of my bags. Yeah, the same machines that cleared my bags to board the plane to enter the country! Then they opened my carry on bag and my backpack and started pulling everything out.

That’s happened before, no big deal. But then they started looking at all my prescriptions. That made me nervous because I carry some pills in a plastic bag with no identification. They inquired about every pill asking what it was for. Was that even legal? Am I supposed to discuss my enlarged prostrate to all in ear shot? Is high cholesterol a crime?

Anyway, I explained to their semi satisfaction, but it led to more questions. Did I have any marijuana with me? Not only that, but they asked about my drug usage. When I informed I didn’t do any I was asked if I had ever smoked marijuana before. What? How could that possibly be a relevant question?

Now I was getting nervous. What was the purpose of this line of questioning? Had they found something someone had planted? I kept thinking of those old “Locked Up Abroad“ episodes and began to picture what Korean jails would be like.

But thankfully it didn’t go any further. They started pulling out the beef sticks and then left all my stuff just lying out. Then they told me to put it back in. Not an easy task when you pack for 4 weeks in one carryon bag and small backpack and it has to be stuffed back in and zipped up. But, not their concern.

Then they said something that really ticked me off. The lady said “Next time don’t try to bring illegal items into this country”. Really? I had declared the items! I had even pulled one out to show them when I came to declarations! I never tried to bring them into their country. I should have just left them on the plane.

As angry as I was I said nothing. No reason to escalate. I just nodded in agreement and kept stuffing stuff in my bag. But then she tells me to do that over at another table. So, I have to make several trips with loose items to continue the stuffing elsewhere. Oh well.

I thought how much easier if I hadn’t declared the beef. They never would have caught it at declarations. But, I didn’t want to run afoul of their import laws so I did the right thing, I suppose.

Anyway, when I got to my hotel room to unpack, guess what? They missed some!

But I’m not going back. You can watch me on the next episode of “Locked Up Abroad”, if they ever bring it back, wearing government issued South Korean prison clothes.

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