Vietnamese in South Korea hard hit by floods amid Covid-19 effect

By Anh Ngoc   August 11, 2020 | 03:21 pm PT
Vietnamese in South Korea hard hit by floods amid Covid-19 effect
A resident wades through a flooded street amid heavy rain in Gwangju, South Korea, August 8, 2020. Photo by Reuters/via EPA.
Heavy flooding has added to the woes of many Vietnamese in South Korea already suffering the financial and vocational impacts of the new coronavirus.

"80 percent of our farm got heavily damaged, with only a few chilies and okra remaining, forcing us to exit the vegetable season early," said Tuyet Nhung, a Vietnamese farmer in Damyang Gun District, South Jeolla Province in the southwest of South Korea.

Nhung married a South Korean eight years ago and started growing beds of spinach, okra, amaranth and chilies on her 3,000-square-meter farm to supply the local Vietnamese community and a local supermarket.

Floods and landslides triggered by heavy downpours in South Korea's central and southwestern regions have killed 31 people and left 11 others missing in just over a week, forcing over 6,000 to evacuate, South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency reported on Monday.

"When I woke up on August 8, I was shocked to see the water covering my car's wheels. The surrounding roads were heavily submerged, preventing anyone from moving," she said.

"The next day, when I visited the vegetable farm, around 20 minutes from my home, I could only stand outside watching as the waist-deep water destroyed the crops," Nhung shared. "I was saddened since all my efforts were for naught."

Damyang Gun has never been hit by such a heavy flood, with few locals foreseeing the consequences.

However, she feels luckier than many other Vietnamese in Damyang Gun who, with their homes inundated, were forced to relocate to temporary shelters. According to Nhung, the community has banded together to collect funds for those currently in dire straits.

In the last few years, around 6,000 Vietnamese have married South Koreans, according to the South Korean Embassy in Hanoi. Vietnam has overtaken China as the country sending the largest number of foreign brides to South Korea.

Ly Nha My, a student at nearby Gwangju Women's University in Gwangju Province, lost her part-time job on a farm after the heavy downpour affected many houses, companies and industrial parks near the river.

"The farm where I work was completely flooded. The owner is distraught with the loss. Like me, many laborers are now without a source of income," My said.

Taking advantage of the summer vacation, My wanted to earn a little more money to cover her living expenses, but the Covid-19 pandemic had forced restaurants and shops to close or cut staff.

"Hopefully the rain will stop soon so we can return to work," My said, adding students like her have no idea how to survive in South Korea amid the Covid-19 threat and flooding.

Living in Gwangju for the past three years, Thanh Van, a graduate from Chonnam National University, has also never witnessed such heavy flooding.

Van's school in the city center was also flooded, though the water receded after a few hours.

About a month ago, she had grown worried when Gwangju became South Korea's second biggest Covid-19 hotspot.

On Sunday, Van was just happy to see the sun shining, though she received a storm warning from the provincial office. Typhoon Jangmi, the fifth typhoon of the season, made landfall in the southern part of South Korea and is moving northeast.

"This year, natural calamities are really unusual, happening in the middle of the new coronavirus crisis, making life of Vietnamese in South Korea even more difficult," said Van.

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