October 02, 2007 09:21
Six-year-old Chang Yeon-dong speaks fluent Chinese with accurate pronunciation after only six months of learning Chinese. Daily communication is no problem, and he even understands cartoons in Chinese, all thanks to a babysitter who takes care of him from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. His mother Kim In-jung (37) fired the former nanny at the end of April and hired Wu, a 38-year-old ethnic Korean from China. The new babysitter's duties are similar, but Wu, an elementary school teacher from Qingdao who came to Korea in 2005 leaving her nine-year-old daughter with her mother, only speaks Chinese when taking care of Chang. In Korea, she has also given private Chinese lessons to college students, who recommended the babysitting job.
As China rises, so does the language. Many parents believe early teaching of foreign languages is better for effective acquisition. There have long been Chinese maids in Korean households, but now college graduates or former teachers like Wu are popular employees. Parents seek well-educated domestic staff who can teach Chinese to children as well as doing household chores. One babysitter agency says it gets one or two calls a week from people who want college-graduate babysitters capable of teaching Chinese. On job sites for foreigners, ads also seek Chinese graduates who will do household chores, nurse children and teach Chinese.
◆ Three in One
Kim says Wu "can take care of children and teach Chinese as well as doing the housework. It's like catching three birds with one stone." The boy also learns English in a kindergarten and in a private institute, but it is hard to let him go to a Chinese institute as well. For Chinese women in Korea, babysitting while teaching Chinese is an attractive job.
One 42-year-old ethnic Korean woman from China has lived with a family in Hannam-dong since September as a maid-cum-babysitter. She was a music teacher in a middle school in Harbin, and after coming to Korea in 2002, she worked as a Chinese teacher at an institute in Jongno. As revenues dwindled because there were too many Chinese teachers, she became a live-in babysitter at the recommendation of an acquaintance. She came to Korea to pay for her 13-year-old daughter's education in China. "I know it seems strange in Korea for a college graduate to become a babysitter. But I earn twice as much as other Chinese babysitters since I can teach Chinese as well," she said. In addition, it is also an advantage to live in the employer's home since housing prices are very high in Seoul.
◆ No Diploma or Personal Reference
Park (32), who lives in Daechi-dong, has struggled since last month to find a babysitter who can teach Chinese to her four-year-old daughter but has yet to find one. "There are many applicants who want to do it, but it's very difficult to find a Chinese woman with a college degree and a good background," she says. She has met four of them, but two couldn't verify their college diploma, and all four said they did not know how long they are going to stay in Korea. Currently a Korean graduate student who majored in Chinese and studied in China takes care of Park's daughter and teaches her Chinese for three or four hours a day.
Nor is it easy to find a well-educated Chinese woman who is also good at housework, less so one with good references who is not an illegal immigrant. So far, people seldom hire babysitters who teach Chinese via employment agencies. Most are hired at the recommendation of acquaintances while studying in Korean universities or teaching in private institutes. And many of them are illegal migrants who were hired without going through the official process. A staffer from a babysitter agency said, "Recently, the number of parents who seek babysitter to teach Chinese has increased, but we can rarely find qualified ones with good references. If one qualified babysitter appears, all the parents eagerly compete to hire her."
- Copyright © Chosunilbo & Chosun.com