Meet up with Thai students in Korea!  

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2018 is the remarkable year for Korea and Thailand as it marks the 60th anniversary of the diplomatic relations between the two. Thailand was one of the first group of nations to recognize the newly independent Republic of Korea in 1949 as well as to dispatch regiment to support ROK during the Korean War (1950-1953). Ever since, in 1958, when the official diplomatic relations were formally established, the two countries have continuously strengthened and developed bilateral cooperation ranging from political, economic, socio-cultural, science and technology and tourism relations.

Thailand is working to develop a closer ties with Korea, particularly on the people-to-people dimension. Through multilateral cooperation, ASEAN-Korea Center has rigorously contributed to promote trade and investment between Thailand and Korea, but also to boost mutual understanding through people-to-people contact, cultural as well as knowledge exchanges.

Regarding the peoples relations, there has been an increasing trend of Thai students coming to study in Korea. According to Korea Immigration Statistics, over fifteen years from 2000 to 2015, there has been a tenfold increase of university students – surging from 34 persons in 2000 to 351 persons in 2015. Also, in 2016 the number of students was risen to 451 which accounts for 28% increase from the previous year. With this growing number of Thai students in Korea, there also came the increasing social networking activities among Thai student community via both virtual space (internet and SNS) and physical space (social or public events).

Thai Students Association in Korea [ชุมชนนักเรียนไทยในเกาหลี] is the sole forefront Thai student organization to bring together Thai students who are residing in different universities of different parts of Korea. With the increasing number of students who come to study in Korea, Thai student community felt the need to come up with a platform that can accommodate Thai friends to stay connected. “Network has become a valuable capital for us, and it was quite helpful for me to adjust myself and settle my student life here”, said Amy (B. Pummali), a Committee member of the association. The association annually holds membership training (MT) and orientation session for new incoming students. Through the social media platform, the association updates news on scholarship, job opportunities, cultural activities, and news from the Embassy. Amy further mentions that the committee member is planning to organize career workshop and cultural exchange programs. “We are also looking for ways to institutionalize our association. It is important to make sure that the group will not die down for the long lasting benefits of future students as well.”  

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Participants of the several past activities agreed that the association has opened space for them to expand their social networks. They could share their academic and career experiences with each other. To improve its contribution, they suggested that collecting rough data on Thai student profiles would enable the association to create suitable programs according to the needs of different student groups. “Majority Thai students live quite dispersed throughout Seoul and other major cities in Korea. Thai student database  would allow the association to engage more actively and inclusively with more clusters of Thai students at different schools” said Chonlapat, senior B.A. candidate. “During my first year of stay in Korea, gatherings in the Thai student community made me feel like being in my home country. However, I wished that the association would have devised more programmes corresponding to different groups of students, more variety of information corresponds different groups of students, such as incoming  students, exchange students, regular/ long-term students, job-seeker, etc.” suggested Rachata, B.Sc. graduate.

Thai Students Association in Korea illuminates the changing dynamics of foreign student body in Korea and how they try to empower themselves ‘from within’. This can regarded as the way they collectively seek to adjust and adapt their livelihoods in Korea. The association works closely with Royal Thai Embassy, and occasionally collaborates with the Department of Thai Studies at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. This growing Thai community and its flourishing engagement with the Korean students shows positive signs for mutual understanding and future cooperation between the two.  

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Reference:

2017 ASEAN Korea in Figures

Thai Students Association in Korea: FB @Thaistudentkorea

Interviewees:

Rachata Soranakom B.Sc. graduate, Yonsei University

Chonlapat Pattararittigul, B.A. candidate, Ewha Womans University

Amy Bussaraporn Pummali, B.A. candidate, Seoul National University  

 

Article by: Silsupa Wiwatwicha

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