Let's face it, they are everywhere now! Being a keen observant on the changing cultural landscape and the growing tide of globalization, I firmly believe that sooner or later the world would be a much different place in a few years time. Many Filipinos have went abroad in search of better living. Many see hopelessness in our own country. Despite the unfavorable circumstances, there are foreigners who are interested in visiting our country and even staying here for good.
Corrupt government and failed institutions plus bad peace and order situation haven't stopped them from going here. The Koreans have become the largest foreign influx the country has faced ever since we had Spanish, Americans, and Japanese invaded our shores. In fact, the Koreans in the Philippines is the largest diaspora of such ethnic group in Southeast Asia. Philippine immigration officials place the number of Koreans in the Philippines at about 240,000 (only one-sixth of the figure are documented) while their Korean counterparts recorded 115,400 of their countrymen in our country. Whatever the case, the Koreans accounts for 600,000+ tourist arrivals in the Philippines.
Welcome to the Philippines (필리핀에 오신 것을 환영합니다)
There are many reasons why they came here but we have to understand that they have cultural contacts with the Philippines even before this so-called "Korean invasion." In fact, the earliest contact were believed to be in the 8th century AD. Koreans serving under the Imperial Japanese armed forces even had their stints here especially during the most ferocious battles of the war including the Battle of Manila. During the Korean War, Filipino troops under UN command helped saved South Korea from North Korean total victory. Despite our shared history, few of us know about it.
The growth of the Korean economy has allowed its citizens to afford to go abroad quite easily and one of the reasons that encouraged Koreans to visit and stay in the Philippines is to learn English. Being a predominantly English speaking country, we are the best choice for foreigners who want to learn the language at the fraction of the cost. Retired Koreans who want to invest their money on business decide to set up shop in the country and within a few years, Korean-specialty stores have sprung up like mushrooms from Baguio City to Davao. Korean parlors, convenience stores, restaurants, Internet cafe, and English language schools have became the fastest growing foreign-owned businesses.
We Filipinos are hospitable by nature but the sad thing is that these foreigners have taken advantage of our weak implementation of our laws by setting up businesses at our expense. Some of the undocumented aliens may have got away from prosecution and deportation. There is no racism intended here but the tide of change has definitely created conflict. Popular misconceptions of Koreans have become local talk that some of us may brand them as "smell, noisy, undisciplined, and obnoxious." Bad press coverage may tend to cultivate ill-feelings against them as many of them are usually involved in drunken rage, physical and verbal altercations with taxi drivers and cops, and shady business dealings. Not all of them are like that, it is just the fact that we tend to blow things out of proportions when bad incidents happen. Though, I haven't met any Korean that I love to hate still some of these thoughts may merit a certain degree of truth.
I love my Filipino teacher! (내 필리핀 선생님을 사랑 해요!)
Perhaps, the biggest cultural exchange program in recent years has been the English language teaching relations between Filipino English teachers and Korean students. There is no denying that their entry has created a new industry specially dedicated for them. The establishment of these specialized language schools gave rise to the growth of Korean establishments like Internet cafe, beauty parlors, churches, apartment and condominiums, tour agencies, restaurants, and convenience stores. Even our shopping malls have Korean specialty area in our own groceries.
I must admit that even our favorite pastime has been invaded with the entry of Koreanovelas, K-pop, and Korean fashion perpetuated by boy and girl bands. Ready-to-wear clothing stalls and stores are transformed into Korean surplus shops that even rivaled cheap Chinese goods stores. There is an indelible imprint in our culture that left a Korean identity into our hearts as we learn more things about them from taekwondo to kimchi, from bulgogi to sayings of anyeong haseyo, and emulating the beauty and fashion of Korean celebrities to speaking their language itself. We are ultimately transformed into something people in the past won't probably agree.
Whether we like it or not, Koreans will forever create an interesting change of scenery to our lives for years to come!