Mushrooming Chinatowns Lead to Culture Clash

      January 19, 2012 07:38

      The growing number of Chinese people coming to live in Seoul has led to the formation of "Chinatown" neighborhoods in various parts of the capital. But this growing influx is also triggering complaints by locals, who claim the waves of foreigners are causing property prices to drop due to an increase in crime and other problems. As of September last year, the number of Chinese staying or living in Seoul was 702,830, up 20 percent from 589,239 in 2010.

      Local residents of Yeonnam-dong in Mapo district formed a committee in 2008 opposing the Seoul city government's plans to turn some part of the city into a Chinatown. Committee members visited the offices of candidates planning to run for parliamentary seats in the upcoming general elections in April to argue against the plan.

      Wie Chun-bok, head of the residents' committee, said, "The creation of a Chinatown would cause congestion in our neighborhood and it would lose its quiet, residential vibe, causing property prices to drop."

      The neighborhoods surrounding these areas are also attracting ethnic Koreans from China. Lee Jin-young at Inha University said, "More and more ethnic Koreans from China have come to Korea since the government began offering them work visas in 2007."

      The three-year work visa allows ethnic Koreans from China or Russia as part of the Roh Moo-hyun administration's policy of embracing ethnic Koreans who were displaced either during Japanese rule or during the Korean War. Their work visas are extendable, allowing them to stay in Seoul for long periods.

      Garibong-dong in Guro district, southern Seoul, is home to 38,000 ethnic Koreans from China, while around 19,000 live in neighboring Daelim-dong in Yeongdeungpo district. They also began to move to Bongcheon-dong in Gwanak district, also in southern Seoul, with their population in the neighborhood rising to about 18,000, up 8,000 from five years ago.

      Meanwhile, the neighborhoods of Yeonnam-dong and Yeonhui-dong in Mapo district have traditionally been home to many Chinese residents for generations, while Jayang-dong in Gwangjin district, eastern Seoul, looks like another new Chinatown with around 3,000 Chinese living there.

      There are around 11 such large-scale Chinese neighborhoods in the country, including the large Chinese communities in the western port city of Incheon and the southern port city of Busan.

      "More and more Chinese have been forming their own communities and the trend has been growing in the last two or three years," said Woo Byung-kook, a professor of Dongduk Women's University. "This has led to a culture clash with existing residents."

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