Seoul's Global Village Centers Oases of Calm for Expats

      June 25, 2012 07:51

      Seoul's Seorae Village is often dubbed "Little France" for its high concentration of French expatriates. As many of them struggle to acclimatize to life in Korea, a help center was set up in June 2008 under the name "Global Village Center." There are now seven such centers in the capital.

      The facility in Seorae Village helps about a dozen foreign residents in the neighborhood overcome problems they encounter living in the country -- be it setting up cable TV or paying for parking tickets -- while also offering Korean language and culture classes.

      The first such center opened its doors in January 2008 in Yeonnam-dong, Mapo, and the most recent was established in Yeongdeungpo in September 2009. All run language classes and offer advice on everyday life in Seoul, offering services tailored to the specific needs of foreigners who live nearby.

      Children show aprons on which they wrote their names in Korean during a class at Seorae Global Village Center in Seoul in May 2012. /Courtesy of Seorae Global Village Center

      The center in Yeonnam is located near a high concentration of Chinese residents. It offers classes helping people prepare for the written part of their driving exam and gives lectures on how to adapt to life in Korea. The one in Yeoksam targets foreigners who come to Korea to do business and runs seminars related to finance and investment.

      The one in Seorae Village offers classes on wine and European cuisine that are popular among foreigners in the vicinity, while the one in Itaewon gives more practical courses, such as how to use Korean smartphone apps.

      The center in Ichon-dong, an area dubbed "Little Tokyo" for its large Japanese expat population, organizes lectures for housewives and children. The one in Yeongdeungdo caters mostly to ethnic Koreans from China and runs educational programs to help them with their job hunting. The one in Seongbuk focuses on cultural exchanges such as global cooking classes as a cluster of embassies are located there.

      The number of people using the centers in Seoul has been steadily increasing from 78,442 in 2009 to 141,426 in 2011.

      "We've received a lot of positive feedback about the centers' various programs and information on Korean language and culture that foreigners need in their everyday lives," said Kim Myung-joo at the Seoul Metropolitan Government. "We plan to set up more facilities to assist foreign residents in Seoul."

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