January 03, 2012 10:09
Cosmetics stores, shops and restaurants in the shopping mecca of Myeong-dong, Seoul, have long been hiring Chinese-speaking staff to cater to the influx of Asian tourists, and now convenience stores are jumping on the bandwagon by hiring a growing number of Chinese or ethnic-Chinese.
Four part-time employees of a GS25 store in Myeong-dong are Chinese students after owner Ahn Jong-chan, 46, decided his workforce should reflect this new tourist demographic.
"Because the number of Chinese tourists has risen sharply in recent years, I started hiring Chinese part-timers three years ago, and all of them are doing their jobs very well."
Meanwhile, among the eight part-time workers at a 7-Eleven in the same neighborhood, four are Chinese students, two are Japanese students and the remaining two are Korean. They work on a shift basis, with the Korean staff covering the weekday mornings when there are fewer tourists from China and Japan. During the afternoons and weekends, the Chinese and Japanese staff take over.
One Chinese traveler who bought refreshments from a store in Myeong-dong was more than satisfied with the policy, "Most of the convenience stores in this area have Chinese part-timers, so it’s easy to ask questions and buy things," he said.
With the number of Chinese travelers to Korea soaring, part-time positions in grocery and other stores in downtown Seoul, most notably Myeong-dong and Gwanghwamun, are quickly being filled with Chinese students or Korean-Chinese staff.
The number of Chinese tourists jumped from 1.34 million in 2009 to 1.88 million in 2010. Last year, over 2 million Chinese tourists visited the country as of late November.
One Chinese student who works shifts at a store in central Seoul said, "Even part-time teaching positions at private language institutes have tough requirements, making it hard to juggle working and studying. At convenience stores, it is easier to earn some pocket money while studying at the same time."
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