Registering Your Name Seal (인감 도장)
Any general seal/stamp is referred to as a dojang (도장), registering a personal seal with the government classifies it as an ingam (인감). Many vendors in Insadong sell hand carved name seals. The handles come in a variety of materials and designs. These are often purchased as a souvenir and are just a novelty item to residents in Korea until they are registered with the government.
You do not have to spend a lot of money on a name seal and any seal that meets specific requirements can be officially registered. Less expensive seals are usually machine carved using computer software for the layout of the characters. More expensive name seals are hand carved and have more decorative and/or elaborate handles. If you would like to get ink for your seal, most major stationery/office supply stores in Korea carry it.
Below is an excerpt from a district office in Korea regarding the registered name seals:
“In Korea, a registered seal impression and Certificate of Seal Impression are necessary to carry out financial transactions (sales of real estate, bank loan, etc.). The seal used for such transactions must be identical with the registered seal. The seal protects its owner's legal rights and property. Only one seal can be registered and the seal cannot be replicated. Loss and negligence of the registered seal can incur serious consequences. Seals should not be lent carelessly. Foreigners can carry out business in Korea by owning registered seals.”
Requirements for Registering a Seal
Width and length of the seal have to be more than 7mm and less than 30mm. With circular seals, these dimensions apply to the diameter of the seal.
Seals should not be made of materials that give varying impressions (copper or rubber).
The name on the seal must be identical with the name on the Certificate of Alien Registration. Transcription of the name in Hangul is acceptable. That is, if your Korean name is on your Alien Registration Card, you can register a seal that shows your Korean name. You could instead register one that is a non-Korean name transcribed into Hangul. But remember, only one seal can be registered to any one person.
Company names and job titles are prohibited on a personal name seal. That is, if your name is Hyunwoo Kim, CEO of Hyundai, you can only use Hyunwoo Kim. You cannot put “CEO” or that you work for Hyundai on your personal name seal.
Sample seal with edge requirements
Red Ink used for name seals - can be purchased at most major office supply/stationery shops
Name seal handle made of stone
Registering Your Seal
I registered my name seal earlier this year. Below is my experience at the Seodaemun district office (서대문구청), your experience may vary slightly. You must register your name seal in the district immigration has on file for you.
At the Seodaemun district office, I entered at the first floor and immediately turned left to enter the Civil Affairs and Passports Office (민원여권과). Inside that office there is only one station for foreigners labeled 면허 외국인인감 (Licenses and foreigner seal registration). I did not have to take a waiting number. The employee told me to wait until the previous person had finished. You can show the following sentence to the information desk or clerk if you need help: I am a foreigner, I want to register my name seal and it's my first time: 저는 외국인인데 인감을 등록하고 싶어요. 처음이에요.
When it was my turn, I handed the clerk my passport, alien registration card, and name seal. After a few minutes, the clerk made an impression of my seal as well as an impression of my left thumb print.
After the registration, the clerk asked how many 인감증면서 (Certificates of Seal Impression) I wanted. The clerk might say: 인감증면서 몇 장 드릴까요?/인감증면서 몇 장 필요하세요? (How many certificates shall I give you? How many certificates do you need?).
Then, another clerk had me sign for the certificate. The fee per certificate is KRW 600.
Certificate of Seal Impression
The process should be similar at any district office (구청) or citizen center (주민센터).
If you want to change the seal you have registered bring the following to your local district office:
Alien Registration Card
If you ever need to receive more 인감증면서 (Certificates of Seal Impression). Visit any district office, community center, or city/county office and bring the following:
Alien Registration Card
KRW 600 per copy
If you need assistance with registering your name seal, contact the G.O.A.’L Community Mentor!