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No. of Korean Students in China Falling Due to Weak Won

Posted December. 01, 2008 08:24,   


“Due to the ever-weakening won, I cannot drop by Korean restaurants. I just eat Chinese food at cafeterias for five yuan (0.73 U.S. dollar).”

Jang Eun-sil, a Beijing Language and Culture University student, says she only eats at cafeterias, adding, “Korean students recently face many difficulties in China.”

▽ Turning frugal

One Korean studying translation at a Chinese university has his hair cut by a Korean-Chinese barber for just 30 yuan (4.39 dollars). He said he shuns going out with friends to drink since he has to spend 100-130 yuan (14.65 to 19.04 dollars) each time.

North China Electric Power University student Song Eun-ju no longer buys clothes in China. Since she has to pay at least 250-300 yuan (36.62 to 43.95 dollars) to buy a piece of clothing in China, she chooses to buy them in Korea.

Students who can continue to study in China are said to be lucky. Others have had to quit because of surging tuition and returned to Korea. Since September, around 10 percent of 60,000 Koreans who studied in China have returned home.

▽ Spillover effect

As more students quit studying and return to Korea from China, private institutes, travel agencies and real estate agents serving Korean students in China face grave challenges.

Though the Chinese Proficiency Test is only one week away, classes at private institutes in Wudaokou, which help students prepare for the test, have seen enrollment drop from 100-200 students to just 10-20 students.

A source at a large-scale private institute said, “Foreign students have cut their spending on private tutoring first. Students subscribing to our program have decreased around 30 percent. But, many institutes have seen enrollment cut in half. They are literally about to collapse.”

The real estate market is doing no better. An apartment with two rooms used to cost 4,000-6,500 yuan (586 to 952 dollars) but the price range has fallen to 2,300-4,000 yuan (337 to 586 dollars). A studio apartment that used to cost 3,000 yuan (439 dollars) now goes for 2,000-2,600 yuan (293 to 381 dollars).

Travel agencies catering to Korean students in China are in worse shape. One agency in Beijing said, “Usually, many tourists head for Zhangjiajie, Guilin and Hainan in fall and winter. Recently, however, no Korean student has visited us to visit these areas.”

▽ Entrepreneurs leaving China

A Korean trader signed a lease to stay in an apartment in Wangjing where many Korean businessmen reside. Though the leasing period was to end in March next year, he returned to Korea a few days ago. The penalty for breaking the lease was 3,500 yuan (512 dollars), but he said he would face bigger difficulty had he stayed in China longer.

A source at the Association of Koreans in China said, “The number of Koreans has decreased from 60,000-70,000 to less than 50,000 in Wangjing.”

In the Korean autonomous prefecture in Yanbian, demand for the Korean won has surged as many Korean residents in China have purchased the Korean currency to sell it when its value rebounds.

orionha@donga.com bonhong@donga.com