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Longstanding group serves Koreans in Hong Kong

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Korean Residents Association of Hong Kong's Chairman Cho Sung-keon, at the group's office in Sheung Wan, April 30, talks about the association's prize possession ― a framed paper that has the signatures of Koreans in Hong Kong who met on Jan. 3, 1948. The association was launched the following year. Korea Times photo by Kim Bo-eun
Korean Residents Association of Hong Kong's Chairman Cho Sung-keon, at the group's office in Sheung Wan, April 30, talks about the association's prize possession ― a framed paper that has the signatures of Koreans in Hong Kong who met on Jan. 3, 1948. The association was launched the following year. Korea Times photo by Kim Bo-eun

Korean Residents Association of Hong Kong plans to launch scholarship for students in need

By Kim Bo-eun

HONG KONG ― Hong Kong's handover to China by the U.K. and the Asian financial crisis were some of the major events that made headlines in the city in the past decades. But those events are fairly recent milestones compared to the history of the Korean Residents Association of Hong Kong, which has stood through thick and thin since its founding.

The group supporting Koreans has a surprisingly long history in Hong Kong, being established in March of 1949 before the opening of South Korea's consulate in the city in May the same year.

The Korean Residents Association of Hong Kong was founded after around 40 households moved to the city from mainland China after Korea was liberated from Japan's colonial rule on Aug. 15, 1945.

Hong Kong had its heyday in the 1990s as a trading hub and financial center, attracting foreign nationals from around the world, including Korea.

But exports of light industry items from Hong Kong to China fell in the 2000s, with China importing these items directly. This led to Koreans involved in that business leaving the city.

The association's chairman Cho Sung-keon said the number of Koreans on secondment to work in Hong Kong also began to decrease decades later, as Korean companies and agencies here increasingly hired local staff.

More recently, Koreans running businesses, including those in the tourism sector, saw their operations affected as the number of visitors decreased amid pro-democracy protests and then stopped arriving altogether as the city introduced strict COVID restrictions.

This resulted in many Koreans returning to their home country. There are 15,926 Koreans with Hong Kong visas as of the end of April, but less than half are currently living in the city.

"Those who do not have family or relatives in Korea ― mostly those who came to Hong Kong decades ago ― have no choice but to stay. But life has become increasingly difficult for them due to high residential costs and tuition fees for their children," Cho said in an interview at the association's office in Sheung Wan.

This is why Cho decided to create a scholarship for students in need. This was one of his election pledges. Cho was elected as the association's leader in March.

The association plans to receive applications for the scholarship by the end of this year, once it has prepared the funds in cooperation with Korean companies in Hong Kong. The association's board members are also personally contributing to the fund. It will be the first such scholarship to be created by the Korean association.

"I decided to run for the chairman position, given I also benefited from the association in the past decades, as I raised my children here," Cho said.

Cho arrived in Hong Kong in 1993 to export Korean textiles to China at a time when trading companies around the world flocked to the city.

A framed photo at the association's office shows key figures of the Korean International School of Hong Kong taken in 2019. Korea Times photo by Kim Bo-eun
A framed photo at the association's office shows key figures of the Korean International School of Hong Kong taken in 2019. Korea Times photo by Kim Bo-eun

The association is also closely involved with Hong Kong's Korean International School (KIS), as the association's leader doubles as the chairman of the school's board.

KIS was established in 1994 as the first school of its kind that runs curricula both in Korean and English. It started as a school teaching subjects in Korean, based on the needs of workers dispatched from Korea for only a few years. The school eventually became an international school with approval from Hong Kong's government. Because the curriculum is taught in Korean, Korea's education ministry funded part of the costs of building the school's campus, and still continues to fund the school's operations.

In addition, the association is involved in operating a "Saturday School," set up in 1960, offering Korean language classes to children of Korean descent who grew up in Hong Kong.


Kim Bo-eun bkim@koreatimes.co.kr


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