April 20, 2015 12:58
A growing number of young Koreans are moving to Northern Europe instead of the traditional destination of emigrants, America.
In the past Koreans emigrated mostly to the U.S., Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand or Western Europe, and most were in their 40s or older.
But now Northern Europe has become a popular destination for Koreans in their 20s and 30s who graduated from prestigious universities and work for major conglomerates. They are looking for foreign countries that offer solid welfare benefits and where the rights of citizens are well protected.
The trend stems from growing disillusionment with the intense competition in Korean society for limited opportunities.
According to the Foreign Ministry, the number of Koreans living in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden doubled from 2,123 in 2007 to 4,113 in 2013.
Until recently, Northern Europe was viewed as terra incognita. Sammy Lee, an immigration consultant, said, "The main criteria for selecting a country to emigrate to are social welfare, educational opportunities and a clean environment."
In the past the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand were thought to offer all of these and also welcomed immigrants, but they are becoming more xenophobic, and now young Koreans are looking further afield.
Korea forged working holiday pacts with Denmark in 2010 and Sweden in 2011 that led to more young Koreans going there to work for up to a year. Around 300 benefited from the pacts.
The U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand meanwhile tightened immigration requirements in recent years.
A major appeal of Northern Europe is that there are fewer Koreans already there, while the U.S., Australia and New Zealand already have substantial Korean immigrant populations. The new breed of highly educated emigrants want to avoid the often staid Korean communities there and enjoy a greater sense of independence.
However, Koreans who live in Northern Europe warn that thorough research must precede any move to the region. "Northern Europe is a great choice for those who enjoy living in quiet surroundings but could mean hell for people who enjoy the hustle and bustle of city life," Lee said.
Many Koreans considered emigrating to Northern Europe but changed their destination to Germany or the Netherlands due to their more urban environments.
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