Koreans in Vietnam: Meet One of the Biggest Expat Demographics

You’ll find expats from all over the world here. But let’s take a closer look at one of the biggest and most influential groups. After all, the data suggests growth will continue.

The influence of Korean culture on the people of Vietnam has grown significantly since their countries established diplomatic relations in 1992. In 2015 alone, Vietnam welcomed a massive 1.1 million South Korean tourists. And it is home to 100,000 permanent resident Koreans in Vietnam.

Recent figures also show that Koreans comprise 70% of students learning Vietnamese at Vietnam universities. It is hardly surprising, then, that the ‘Korean Wave’ of culture continues to spread among the people of Vietnam.

How did the trend of Koreans in Vietnam begin?

Koreans in Vietnam
The flourishing and mutually-beneficial relationship between these two nations was certainly not a foregone conclusion. In fact, it has been dubbed the
Pacific Miracle. The Cold War, which ended as recently as 1991, plotted Vietnam and South Korea as foes.

Ironically, war — the very thing that kept the nations apart — is what led to such a South Korean presence in Vietnam. Koreans fought on both sides of the Vietnam War. After the fall of Saigon in 1975, failed evacuation attempts meant that many were unable to leave.

Fast forward to the modern day, and these settlements have developed into thriving communities such as Phu My Hung. The District 7 enclave is aptly named Koreatown. The heart of Koreatown is said to be Pham Van Nghi Street, where you can find everything from grocery stores and restaurants to traditional medical clinics and schools.

The majority of everything here is Korean in some sense, be it their ownership, culture or design. This forms an excitingly atmospheric home-from-home for South Korean expats in Vietnam. It also provides an enticing glimpse and taste of Korean culture for Vietnamese locals who cannot afford to travel to Korea.

Why is there such a big Korean community in Vietnam?

Koreans in Vietnam
The enthusiastic adoption of all things Korean has resulted in
South Korea becoming Vietnam’s biggest foreign investor

Samsung is leading the way in such investments, with other Korean companies like Lotte and CJ following the business trend. The presence of Samsung factories provides jobs for over 160,000 natives and accounts for a huge 11% of Vietnamese exports.

Also riding the Korean Wave of cultural influence are many opportunity-seeking cosmetics brands. They have rightly identified a Vietnamese desire to emulate Korean skincare and beauty regimes. Innisfree and The Face Shop are but a couple of providers of these products, and they can be found in most major cities in Vietnam.

Stores such as Minigood and Mumuso are also known to stock many Korean cosmetics along with pretty much anything else you could be looking for, from homeware to stationery. Recent controversy has arisen, however, surrounding the authenticity of these shops. It turns out many are Chinese-owned copycat brands posing as Korean.

Time to eat

Koreans in Vietnam
Google Trends shows a steady rise of web searches for “Korean food” in Vietnam, slowly separating itself from the typically sought after “Japanese food.”

So where to find this food? Phu My Hung, naturally!

Restaurateurs are happy to provide a plethora of dining options to satisfy their needs. These include typical Korean dishes such as bibimbap, kimbap, beef soup, fried chicken, barbecue and chewy rice cakes that are exceedingly popular among the younger generation.

But you can find Korean food in districts 1, 2, 3 and others as well. We recommend Kitchen Seoul. The restaurant made a name for itself because of its aged meat and elegant atmosphere. Just tell them you want to cook your own food on the table grill, if you want your beef to be medium rare. 

Several chains of Korean restaurants have popped up over recent years as well. They include Don Chicken, Brand Busan, and Hancook Korean Fast Food.

A hunger for Korean culture

Koreans in Vietnam
There is an apparent hunger among the Vietnamese people to consume and take on aspects of Korean culture.

The Vietnam Economic News reports that across the 65 TV stations in Vietnam, an average of more than 20 Korean TV series are broadcast every day. 

K-Pop is huge in Vietnam as well. The music genre has been snowballing in popularity since the early 2000s. One reason: Lotte VK-Pop Super Star. The show first hit here screens in 2014 and is about training young Vietnamese hopefuls to become Korean-style singers with a panel of famous Korean judges.

Young Vietnamese girls, in particular, join fan clubs for their favorite respective K-Pop idols. They spend considerable amounts of time and money hoping to meet their Korean idols when they visit Vietnam.

Continued growth of Koreans in Vietnam

Last year, Korea welcomed 40,000 Vietnamese brides into the country looking for a bachelorThere has also been a significant increase in the number of Vietnamese taking classes to learn Korean.

These trends will likely lead to even more Koreans in Vietnam, and we are unlikely to see this wave break any time soon.