WANTED for Illegal Dumping: Throwing Out Furniture In Korea

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The other day le boyfriend broke my computer chair – my fancy black leather computer chair (which I may or may not have inherited from a previous teacher, who may or may not have picked it up from the side of the road). Okay, so the old thing wasn’t all that fancy, but it was amusing coming home and hearing the tale of how he leaned back a bit too far, snapped the legs off, and landed backwards on the ground. I need to keep my eye on that one…

So what did I do with the broken chair? I took it downstairs to the basement and tossed it away with the rest of my garbage, of course.

WANTED for Illegal Dumping: Throwing Out Furniture In Korea. Wanted for throwing garbage.
WANTED for Illegal Dumping: Throwing Out Furniture In Korea. Wanted for throwing garbage.

I took a few days off work, celebrated my birthday, and forgot about the entire matter. Imagine my surprise when I walked into the elevator midweek and found this notice…now that looks like my chair!

Of course it was written in Korean so I had no idea what it actually said. I ripped the paper off the side of the elevator and took it to work for one of my Korean co-workers to translate. She giggled before she was able to give me any kind of explanation.

“You have until Tuesday to put a tag on the chair or they are going to play CCTV and find out who did this.”

That’s right. My building has cameras monitoring your comings and goings, and apparently also what you throw in the trash…

Korean garbage tags that you need to put on your garbage
Korean garbage tags that you need to put on your garbage

I’m sure on a roll in Korea. First the fiasco where I got locked out of my apartment and now this.

It turns out that if you want to throw away furniture in Korea, you first have to go down to the city office, register with them, and buy garbage tags. So that’s what I did. I walked down there in the searing heat, showed the receptionist the photo of my decrepit chair, she gave me a form to fill out which was entirely in Korean (I don’t even know my phone number, let alone my address!), and then I paid a grand total of ₩ 4,000 which comes to less than $4.

Crisis averted. I’m glad to say that the garbage police didn’t come knocking on my door even though I was two days late in meeting their request.

LESSON LEARNED: Just throw your furniture out on the street like all the neighbours seem to do.

Kidding! Just pay a few thousand won and have your furniture disposed of properly. But seriously, what’s up with all the trash I’m finding behind apartment buildings?

Exhibit A:

Illegal dumping of furniture in South Korea
Illegal dumping of furniture in South Korea

Exhibit B:

Illegal dumping of furniture. Trash in Yongin, South Korea
Illegal dumping of furniture. Trash in Yongin, South Korea

Have you found that throwing out your garbage can be complicated when you’re abroad?

Join the Conversation


  1. says: Waegook Tom

    Hahahaha oh throwing out trash in Korea! I’ve had a couple of good finds, though – a chair and a bookcase. I was throwing some trash out once when an old man started yelling at me. I pretended not to have a clue why he was angry, bowed, and went on by with him yelling after me.

    I’ve thrown some bigger stuff out before (basically a GIANT suitcase full of old crap) and it was there for about 2 weeks before it finally disappeared – guess I was luckier than you. No CCTV threats were made.

    1. says: thatbackpacker

      Who knew tossing out garbage could be so complicated?! It always feels like an FBI mission going down to the basement, even if it’s just for a small bag of trash. I still haven’t bought the special bags – they haven’t caught me for that…yet!

  2. says: Jaime

    I can’t stop laughing… wow. That is just crazy, but I love how organized they are to even have this system. I mean shit at home we can barely get how to hand out Drivers Licenses right I can only imagine the mess that a trash pick up tags would cause.

    P.S. I love the photo of you holding the wanted sign… you look like a rock star.

    1. says: thatbackpacker

      They are organized, I’ll give them that. The other country that I can think of where they are pretty picky about their garbage is Germany. They even sort their glass bottles by colour!

  3. Oh man! Hilarious!! When I was leaving Japan I ended up with a bunch of things I couldn’t seem to get rid of or sell – a carpet, chair, and coffee table spring to mind – so the night before leaving I snuck it all down the stairs and just left it on the street! By morning, most of it was gone, but I now wonder if the rules are the same in Japan as in Korea…

    1. says: thatbackpacker

      Who knew disposing furniture could be so tricky! I would have done the same. I’m glad my current apartment came furnished. I won’t have to worry about that – so long as I don’t break any more pieces…

  4. says: Tiffany @ theUnimaginedLife

    It would seem that your “neighbors” have found a (totally discreet) way to avoid paying their *furniture garbage fees*…. 🙂

    and I second Jaime…you absolutely look like a rock star.

  5. says: Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

    Ha ha ha! This is AMAZING. In our condo in Nashville, they had tons of signs posted in the garbage area about not leaving random unwanted/broken furniture about, but most of it was ignored. Most people (including ourselves) left things there that other residents in the building would snag if there was anything worth taking… We did this when we were moving, with the exception of our couch which was SO awful that we knew that even for free no one would want it. We found out that we could take it to one of Nashville’s waste disposal center and get rid of it for free… If not for my dad’s huge van, however, I am not sure how we would have gotten it there, though!

    1. says: thatbackpacker

      Sometimes you do find some pretty decent furniture on the side of the road. I know my friends have snagged a few pieces. But that pile of trash behind my house, whoa, not much worth salvaging there! 😉

  6. says: kerri

    Hahaha, I can sympathize with everything in this post. I will confess to doing a lot of midnight sneaky garbage tosses in my early days in Korea, and only recently learned that I have to buy garbage bags in which to throw out my garbage… this post is a hilarious take on what is one truly baffling aspect of Korean culture 🙂

    1. says: thatbackpacker

      I have heard about these garbage bags, but they are quite elusive! I tried a few convenience stores and supermarkets in my area and come out empty-handed. I’m still sneaking my trash down in regular bags……shhhh!

  7. says: Tee, Passports and Postcards

    That’s hilarious! Who knew they had rules like that and I’m guessing people avoid fees by dumping it outside?

    1. says: thatbackpacker

      The fees aren’t that high so I don’t understand why they pile their junk behind the building. I’m guessing it’s just the hassle of going down to the city office to register…

  8. says: Ceri

    Wow, that showed you, you criminal! Hahaha.

    In my hometown, if we want to get rid of furniture, all we have to do is take out to the lane behind our house and it’s gone within half an hour. Yup, that’s how awesomely dodgy our town is. 😉

    (BTW, I’ve literally spent the last hour and a half reading all your posts. 😀 Love your blog!)

  9. says: Tarun

    Haha! Loved it. Quite strange but efficient. It is the same in Japan. They do it the same way as Koreans plus the midnight sneaking thing too. Haha.
    I love this efficiency and strangeness of these Asian countries unlike my own country where you can literally throw away anything and no one will bother.

    I wish all countries were as efficient as Korea and Japan and Germany as well in this regard and many others.

    Btw Audrey I really enjoy your posts especially about Korea.

    Keep it up.
    God bless

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