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SEOUL — Thinking about earning a few bucks on the side as a model in South Korea? Before checking with an agency, check your visa status and check in with your command.

Most active-duty and DOD civilian employees covered by the status of forces agreement cannot legally obtain outside employment, according to a U.S. Forces Korea legal opinion requested by Stars and Stripes.

However, a SOFA-status person married to a South Korean citizen can obtain an F-2 visa or a permanent resident alien F-5 visa. Those with South Korean ancestry can apply for an F-4 visa. Those visas confer full rights to obtain employment in South Korea.

Most active-duty and DOD civilian dependents can get a Korean work visa, according to the USFK opinion. But contractors and their dependents under SOFA status cannot.

“Employment visas are for employment by a specific [South Korean] business,” the opinion stated.

In any case, military members who qualify must follow their service regulations regarding employment.

“This usually entails some form of supervisor or commander permission for the off-duty employment,” according to USFK’s legal opinion.

Multiple sources at the Korea Immigration Office gave far less clear explanations, however. Some said servicemembers and civilians cannot get employment visas, only to add that it is “not impossible” to get an E-6 working visa, which is specifically for work in the “arts and entertainment” industry.

Some modeling agencies, like Hwarang Info-tainment, say they will help the right SOFA-status prospects get legal documentation.

Other modeling and acting agencies balked at questions regarding work visas.

During a festival last year on Yongsan Garrison, the POSONE I’ntl Model Agency set up a booth to recruit models from the base. Applicants filled out information forms and employees manning the booth snapped headshots.

The agency’s president, Gina Seo, declined to talk to Stars and Stripes about the business when contacted by phone in late December. She said “everybody knows about the rules” before ending the call.

On English-speaking Internet bulletin boards, a few agencies looking for models sometimes indicate that they aren’t too picky about having the right visa.

Foreigners who violate the visa requirement aren’t at risk of deportation, a spokesman with the Korean Ministry of Justice said. They could, however, face fines and first-time violators who promise not to do any further illegal work can keep their SOFA status, he said.

No one has been prosecuted in at least six months for violating SOFA status because of off-post work, a Korea Immigration Office spokesman said.

Hwang Hae-rym contributed to this report.

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