The Korea Herald

ssg
소아쌤

[Hello Hangeul] Korean proficiency highly sought after for jobs in Vietnam

Korean-speaking jobs' lucrative pay fuels language learning boom among Vietnamese youth

By Choi Jae-hee

Published : May 13, 2023 - 13:49

    • Link copied

(Left) Dang My Anh and Pham Hai Yen, students in grade 10 at Marie Curie High School in Hai Phong’s Ngo Quyen district, pose for a photo after an interview with The Korea Herald on Feb. 9, 2023. (Choi Jae-hee / The Korea Herald) (Left) Dang My Anh and Pham Hai Yen, students in grade 10 at Marie Curie High School in Hai Phong’s Ngo Quyen district, pose for a photo after an interview with The Korea Herald on Feb. 9, 2023. (Choi Jae-hee / The Korea Herald)

HAI PHONG, Vietnam -- In this coastal city in northern Vietnam, it's said that having English skills can double your salary, while having Korean skills can triple it. Although the saying may be somewhat exaggerated, it certainly captures the high value placed on proficiency in the Korean language.

Korean companies and institutions are prominent employers in the city, running immense factories, leading a variety of business projects, and they attract top-quality manpower with solid compensation.

Pham Yen, a 15-year-old student at Marie Curie High School in Hai Phong’s Ngo Quyen district, is learning Korean as part of her future career plan.

“I want to work at a Korean company after college graduation just like my mom, who currently works at one of the many Korean firms in Hai Phong,” Yen said in a recent interview with The Korea Herald.

“I think becoming fluent in Korean will be a great advantage” in terms of job opportunities.

Korean companies in the city, which has a population of about 2 million, employed some 40,940 people in 2022. Of these workers, more than 90 percent, or 39,230, were Vietnamese, industry data showed. According to the Hai Phong Economic Zone Authority, Korean firms accounted for 40 percent of the city’s total foreign direct investment last year.

Among the first and largest Korean firms to set up factories here, LG Group has poured $7.24 billion into the region since 2015, with its flagship unit LG Electronics producing home appliances and auto electronics for the global market.

Yen said her goal is to first get into the Korean language department at the University of Languages and International Studies under Vietnam National University (VNU-ULIS) in Hanoi.

Her classmate, Dang My Anh, dreams of a career in the entertainment industry and spoke of the opportunities she believes Korean skills could bring her.

“I'm interested in music and fashion, especially those of the K-pop industry. I believe being able to speak Korean will open up more opportunities," she said, mentioning the “synergy” between her artistic talent and language skills.

Students in grade 10 at Marie Curie High School listen to a lecture on the Korean language on Feb. 9, 2023. (Choi Jae-hee / The Korea Herald) Students in grade 10 at Marie Curie High School listen to a lecture on the Korean language on Feb. 9, 2023. (Choi Jae-hee / The Korea Herald)
Yang Su-yeon, a Korean language teacher at Marie Curie High School teaches Korean phrases about directions on Feb. 9, 2023. (Choi Jae-hee / The Korea Herald) Yang Su-yeon, a Korean language teacher at Marie Curie High School teaches Korean phrases about directions on Feb. 9, 2023. (Choi Jae-hee / The Korea Herald)

The two teen girls’ Korean learning accelerated after entering Marie Curie High School last year, where Korean classes are offered to students in grade 10 and 11.

It is among nine schools in the city that offer Korean courses as part of the curriculum, with a total of 888 students currently learning, according to the Korean Education Office in Hanoi under the Korean Embassy.

No longer just for factory jobs

According to a survey conducted by VNU-ULIS on its 754 graduates in 2021, the monthly wage of Korean majors ranged between 10 million to 15 million Vietnamese dong ($424-$636), almost twice the average monthly salary of Vietnamese workers in large cities, which was estimated at 6.42 million Vietnamese dong.

Tran Thi Huong, the dean of the faculty of Korean language and culture at VNU-ULIS, stated in an interview with The Herald that the department is facing difficulties in recruiting and training future lecturers and professors because graduates with Korean majors are often able to command significantly higher salaries than what professors earn in the country.

Nguyen Anh, a Korean major graduate of VNU-ULIS who works for the Korea Institute for Advancement of Technology’s branch office in Hanoi, described Korean proficiency as the most sought-after qualification for employment in Vietnam today.

“While Korean-speaking personnel were mostly employed by Korean companies’ manufacturing plants in the past, now they are regarded as highly qualified job candidates in various business sectors, including services, IT and education,” Anh said.

"Nowadays, graduates in Vietnam who hold bachelor’s degrees in the Korean language typically earn 1.5 times more than those who major in other foreign languages such as English, Chinese and Japanese," she added.

Korea’s Ambassador to Vietnam Oh Young-ju noted that corporate investment and jobs for Korean-speaking workers fuel the demand for education, which in turn increases public interest in Korean business, culture and language, creating a vicious circle.

Oh Young-ju, Korean ambassador to Vietnam (The Korea Herald) Oh Young-ju, Korean ambassador to Vietnam (The Korea Herald)

“This market-driven demand for Korean language learning gained further momentum as the global popularity of Korean content continued,” the envoy said.

Korea is the largest foreign investor in Vietnam, with accumulated registered capital of nearly $80 billion, data provided by the embassy showed. There are currently about 9,000 Korean companies operating in the country, led by Samsung, LG, Hyosung, Hanwha, Hyundai, CJ and Lotte.

“The current proliferation of the Korean language in Vietnam is largely backed by Korean public agencies, including the Korean Education Office in Hanoi and the Korea Foundation. For the sustainability of Korean education here, we need more Vietnamese schools, teachers and scholars who are willing to take the initiative in research and the education of Korean,” Oh said.

Meanwhile, the envoy placed high hopes on the role of Korean-speaking Vietnamese in public diplomacy.

“Vietnamese talents in various industries who are proficient in Korean could become opinion leaders and cultural bridge-builders who bridge the gap between the two countries,” she said.