On Sundays, there is a special place in Seoul where you can find a South Asian market as well as a cathedral that conducts mass in a foreign language.
With the growing presence of South Asians in Seoul, both Filipino and Vietnamese neighborhoods have formed in the city.
Let us take a look at the places in Seoul, a city with four distinct seasons, inhabited by people of South Asia, people who have come from countries with much hotter climates.
From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every Sunday, Hyehwa-dong’s Dongsung High School becomes immersed in an energetic atmosphere. From under green tents, Seoul residents hailing from the Philippines sell fresh vegetables, tropical fruit, and everyday necessities from their native country.
A wide range of delicious street foods, including bananas, candied foods, coconut juice, longganisa (sweet sausage), and tocino (sweetened cured meat), command the attention of everyone who happens to pass by.
Filipinos from throughout Korea come here on weekends to enjoy authentic Filipino food.
The Filipino market in this neighborhood has its origins in the Filipino-language mass conducted at Hyehwa-dong Cathedral, a tradition that continues today. This mass began at Jayang-dong Cathedral in 1995 and spread to Hyehwa-dong Cathedral the following year.
With numerous Filipinos gathering for mass every Sunday, an outdoor market naturally formed near the cathedral grounds. It is a place where Seoul residents from the Philippines can hear news of their native country and find some temporary relief from any homesickness they may feel.
Lee Yejin came to Korea from Vietnam as a marriage immigrant over 11 years ago. She now goes by her Korean name.
Lee runs a small grocery store in Wangsimni called Asian Mart. She recalls, “I had a hard time adjusting to life in a foreign country. But, here, I could meet people from my home country, with whom I exchanged information and became friends. It was by meeting fellow Vietnamese people that I was able to get through those difficult days.”
For the Vietnamese residents of Seoul, it was in Wangsimni that they met to support one another and endure the hardships of living overseas together, and it still remains a popular gathering spot today.
The Wangsimni area is home to several Vietnamese-run restaurants. Those interested in authentic Vietnamese food should definitely try the rice noodles sold here.
As there is a Vietnamese restaurant on almost every major street and weekday subway trains are full of both Korean and Vietnamese passengers, it is easy to find traces of Vietnam in Seoul.
After Korea and Vietnam established diplomatic relations in 1992, many Vietnamese moved to the rising economic powerhouse that Korea had become. Currently, there are about 6,000 marriage immigrants, over 10,000 children of multicultural families with a Vietnamese mother, over 3,000 international students from Vietnam, and 70,000 Vietnamese workers in Korea.
Also, as one of the world’s leading investors in Vietnam, Korea is investing a significant amount of manpower and capital in the national development of Vietnam.