August 26, 2010 07:29
For around 30,000 Vietnamese women who came here after marrying Koreans, Nguyen Thi Kim Huong is a person to turn to for advice and guidance.
Kim Huong came to Korea 16 years ago when she married Ahn Won-joon and works as a translator at a law office. But her free time is taken up counseling other foreign wives. "I meet about a dozen women a week for counseling," she said. "Once I even gave advice via mobile phone at 3 a.m."
Kim Huong was born in 1973 during the Vietnam War. Her mother was Vietnamese and her father was a Korean soldier. But shortly after she was born her father left Vietnam without even saying goodbye. She was raised by her mother and met her Korean husband while working at a restaurant in Vietnam in 1994. When she said she was going to Korea, her mother begged her not to. But she insisted. "I wanted to live in the country of my father and succeed," she says.
Her life in Korea was not easy. Her husband, who ran a small printing shop in the southeastern port city of Ulsan, owed W100 million (US$1=W1,195) and the couple's first home was a tiny underground cellar converted into a flat. She got her Korean citizenship in 1996 and gave birth to a beautiful daughter, but money trouble led to frequent fights. She even considered returning to Vietnam but endured, gaining strength from the thought of her mother.
Ahn ended up closing down his printing shop in 1998, but Kim Huong paid back all of his debt by working at a fruit vendor, bakery and restaurants. She gave birth to their second daughter in 2002 and bought an apartment in Ulsan in 2005. Two years later, she came to Seoul and began working as a translator at a law firm, hoping to broaden her world.
Other Vietnamese housewives who saw her success began to come to her for advice. "It was difficult at first, but I realized they needed someone to talk to," Kim Huong says. She even stepped in to break up fights between couples and has helped save more than 100 international marriages.
After succeeding in the land of her father, Kim Huong is preparing for a new challenge. She plans to take an exam to work in the external affairs division of the National Police Agency. "I know about the problems faced by foreign brides and illegal immigrants and I would like to be their guide," she says. "If I become a police officer, maybe I'll even be able to find my father."
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