Category Archives: Inside Seoul’s Filipino Community

Korea is home to 50,000 Filipinos who often face long hours and adversity. Each Sunday Filipinos come together in Seoul to run a market, attend mass, get medical care, and enjoy a taste of home. Now the market, a unifying element of this determined community, faces closure.

Usually Hyehwa-dong is known for its cafes and theaters. On Sundays, a slice of this area is transformed into a supportive community for Filipinos and the bustling streetside market is just the beginning. Nearby, Filipinos take communion at the Hyehwa Catholic Church, send money home to loved ones at a bank opened just for them, and wait in a high school hallway for free medical care from the Raphael Clinic. Convening with fellow compatriots for a welcome taste of home is a weekly ritual for many Filipinos.

Now, the city is on the verge of shutting down the Filipino Market and removing a vital part of the supportive network Filipinos have created in Hyewha. Beneath the surface of this spirited community lies the untold stories of migrant laborers and separated families. In this project we shed light on their lives.

A Day at the Market

A walk around the Hyehwa Filipino Market garners many sights and sounds. Filipinos amble about before and after church talking loudly to vendors and friends. Korean, Tagalog, and English waft through the air while vendors push their products. A handful of American expats are usually on hand to sample the delicious Filipino foods being sizzled up on the grills and woks and to buy imported goods that are hard to find anywhere else. But why take our word for it? Listen and see for yourself just what the Hyehwa Filipino Market is really all about. Continue reading

Posted in Inside Seoul's Filipino Community | 3 Comments

A Culture of Support

Many if not all popular guide books about Korea mention the Filipino Market in Seoul’s Hyewhadong, including Lonely Planet, and Rough Guide. In a cultural that emphasizes it’s so-called single race, Hyewha sticks out as a landmark. Our team of journalists decided to venture out to the market one weekend, not to eat delicious Filipino food or buy Filipino goods (though we did do that), but to see what this market was all about. We wondered why this market only exists on Sundays, why is it in Hyewha, and is this just the tip of a massive iceberg? Of course, it was. Over the following three months we spent a considerable amount of time talking to migrant laborers, community organizers, as well as fathers and mothers, working abroad to help at home.

In this International Underground podcast you will hear from some of those people who are working on the forefront of an ongoing battle regarding the Employment Permit System, complicated by language and cultural barriers. The system was put into place by a man many now know as the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon. According to our sources, Mr. Ban wanted to make Korea’s the premier standard for imported labor policy in the world. Despite what is written on paper, many problems still remain. Continue reading

Posted in Inside Seoul's Filipino Community | 1 Comment

A Place to Call Their Own: Seoul’s Raphael Clinic

Every Sunday a waiting room in Raphael Clinic, a charity clinic in Seoul’s Hyehwa neighborhood fills with people from countries spanning the world. Filipinos speaking in Tagalog sit beside Chinese patients chatting in Mandarin. Conversations in more languages, from Vietnamese to Russian, create a low hum in the line of people winding up the stairs to the clinic’s entry. With a population of over one million foreign workers in South Korea, every Sunday a small slice of them find their way through this line to the Raphael Clinic, run by approximately 300 Korean volunteers. Ranging from doctors and lawyers to medical students and teenagers, once every week this team works together to offer free medical services to foreign workers. Continue reading

Posted in Inside Seoul's Filipino Community | 7 Comments

Finding a Home in Hyehwa

Ruel Neri spends six days a week working 12 hour days at a factory to support his family back in the Philippines, but on Sundays he works at a Filipino market that appears in the Hyehwa neighborhood of Seoul. The market keeps him connected to the community that has grown to support the 51,000 Filipinos working in Korea. It also helps temper the uncertainty he and many other Filipinos face at their job. Now his connection to the market and the larger community is in danger. Continue reading

Posted in Inside Seoul's Filipino Community | 7 Comments

A Sunday at Seoul’s Raphael Clinic

Experience a Sunday at Seoul’s Raphael Clinic through images. Continue reading

Posted in Inside Seoul's Filipino Community | 3 Comments