|Many South Koreans who live in the Phú Mỹ Hưng area in HCM City’s District 7 send their children to the Korean International School, which is located in the area. —VNA/VNS Photo Mạnh Linh|
By Gia Lộc
HCM CITY -- It’s a late afternoon on a recent Saturday and a store in the Phú Mỹ Hưng urban area in HCM City’s District 7 is filled with customers from South Korea, looking for new clothing and shoes.
Just opposite the clothing store is a South Korean coffee shop serving drinks and offering a selection of books for Korean readers, many of whom live in the neighbourhood.
Such sights are common on the streets of Bùi Bằng Đoàn, Nguyễn Đức Cảnh, Phạm Văn Nghị and others in Phú Mỹ Hưng, a suburban area outside HCM City.
Many South Korean restaurants, spas, shops and a supermarket serve the large South Korean expatriate community in the area. Many of them have signs in Vietnamese, English and Korean, and have staff who can speak Korean.
Grace Choi, 42, who moved with her husband to live in the area, said she could enjoy her country’s food and drinks at local shops and her children were able to attend schools nearby.
“I visited Việt Nam once before. A year ago, my husband said he was coming to work here, so I felt comfortable following him,” Choi added.
Ryan Jung, 47, also of South Korea, initially moved to neighbouring Đồng Nai Province in September 2001, when the Korean expatriate community in HCM City was much smaller. Many of them lived on D2 Street in the city’s Bình Thạnh District or the K300 residential area in Tân Bình District.
In 2004, when Kênh Tẻ bridge was built, connecting District 4 to District 7, more South Koreans moved from other districts such as Bình Thạnh and Tân Bình to the Phú Mỹ Hưng urban area.
Other new bridges, including Nguyễn Văn Cừ, Nguyễn Tri Phương and Chánh Hưng, have also made travelling between the districts of 1, 4, 5, 8, and 7 much easier in recent years.
Nearly 30-50 per cent of the residents living in Sunrise City apartment buildings in District 7 are South Koreans, according to Jung, who lives in the building.
Many South Koreans have also chosen to live in the An Phú area in District 2, which has many new apartment buildings.
According to the South Korean Consulate General in HCM City, nearly 100,000 South Koreans live in HCM City and neighbouring provinces, including Bình Dương and Đồng Nai.
|Many South Korean restaurants, spas, shops and a supermarket serve the large South Korean expatriate community in the area. Many of them have staff who can speak Korean in the Phú Mỹ Hưng area in HCM City’s District 7. — VNA/VNS Photo Mạnh Linh|
Jung said that he left South Korea to work and live at a Đồng Nai-based factory.
“I do not have any difficulties living in Việt Nam. I have a comfortable and good life here as I would in South Korea,” he said, adding that Việt Nam and South Korea share similar cultures and religions, which makes it easier to live here.
After three years of working in the country, Jung’s company said he could return to South Korea, but he decided to stay in Việt Nam.
In 2008, the factory in Đồng Nai Province was sold to another owner, so Jung started his own business.
“Living in any country is the same. It’s very important to meet and work well with each other,” he said, adding that Vietnamese friends and his staff had helped him develop his business and learn the language.
“Việt Nam has become my ‘native’ country, like South Korea,” Jung said.
His children, who attend international schools in HCM City, do not have to suffer the pressure that often exists in South Korean schools, he added.
“They have more time for physical activities, including swimming,” he said.
Hwang Dong Won, who has lived in the Phú Mỹ Hưng area for two years, said that he was able to quickly find a good job related to his management major in university because the economy here is booming, with many foreign enterprises, including Korean companies.
Although Won likes living here, he sometimes feels uncomfortable. He faces difficulty, for example, with red tape in buying items like a motorbike.
According to the South Korea Consulate, Việt Nam became the third-largest country attracting investment from South Korea last year. More than 2,700 South Korean enterprises are operating in Việt Nam’s southern region.
Choi Hansol, 28, who studies Vietnamese at the HCM City University of Social Sciences and Humanities, said that he wanted to learn the language so that he could live and work as an actor in Việt Nam, which is experiencing rapid economic growth.
“Two years ago, I travelled to Việt Nam, and after returning to South Korea, I wanted to come back to live. My brother runs his business here,” he added.
Because of their busy work schedules, many South Koreans in HCM City and other areas celebrate Korean holidays and occasions in Việt Nam with their traditional customs and foods, sometimes with spouses they met and married while living in the country.
As long as the economy continues to prosper, more people from South Korea are expected to come to work in Việt Nam, and possibly stay and live for many years, or for a lifetime. For now, they mostly live in the areas where many other Koreans live, especially in Phú Mỹ Hưng, where families with children, in particular, feel comfortable and safe. — VNS