Seoul Searching In South Delhi-e3300

Real-Estate Entry of large South Korean firms has seen thousands of its nationals flooding Indian cities, with nearly half of them located in Delhi and NCR . As Korean restaurants, shops and clubs open up to cater to this large expatriate community, rental scene, too, has benefited, says Vivek Shukla Recently, in the wake of a very fruitful trip to India, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak explored the possibility of more investments by Korean companies into India . But, during his very hectic schedule here, he would have hardly been informed by anybody that the swelling expatriate community from his country is doing yeoman service in pushing rental scene in Delhi and NCR. The list of South Korean companies with heavy investments in India include POSCOIndia (subsidiary of South Korean steel producer POSCO), real estate giant Maire Assets Global Investment, Parry Confectionary, MOBIS, Poss Delhi Steel Processing Centre, along with various manufacturing subsidiaries of LG, Hyundai and Samsung. As the number of South Korean firms heads northwards, the number of South Korean expatriates too is swelling commensurately. If realty experts are to be believed, South Koreans have outnumbered all other nationalities, for the sheer numbers concerned. There would not be any good South Delhi colony where you will not find some South Korean families, they say. They are in large concentrations in places like Green Park, Shanti Niketan, Vasant Vihar, Uday Park, Defence Colony and other such areas. According to Korean Association of India (KAI), there are close to 8,000 South Koreans in Delhi, and 2,000 more if you add the numbers in NCR. Importantly, the total number of KAI looks very impressive as apart from employees from South Korean firms and diplomatic staff, a large number of students have also come here for studies. We get more requests from South Koreans for suitable rented accommodation than any other expatriate community, says Devinder Gupta, chairman of realty advisory Century 21 India, adding, They are extremely hard bargainers and fight for every penny. I can tell you from my long experience that they are the most demanding tenants. The entry of large Korean firms has also flooded other Indian cities with Koreans. Chennai has been home to many Koreans since the Hyundai plant opened there in 1995; but Delhi and Bangalore have become the new hubs, with Korean restaurants, shops and clubs opening up. According to Anil Makhijani of South Delhi based Mak Associates, They (South Koreans) prefer to stay in brand-new homes in South Delhi, Gurgaon, Noida and Greater Noida. They do not live in houses that were earlier occupied. They consider living in previously occupied house as ominous. Apart from brand-new homes , they ensure that the house they live in should have a bathtub. These are two most important requirements of Koreans. Alimuddin Rafi Ahmed, MD of ILD Developers, says that they are trying to convince office bearers of KAI to use their good offices to tell their compatriots to live in ILDs readyto-enter flats in Gurgaon and Sohna. As Korean firms have many offices in these two NCR cities, they would find our flats very suitable. They are spacious and brand-new. We can provide them any other facility which they ask for, he says. Some realty firms may also follow suit. KAI was formed around 50 years ago, when three Koreans moved to New Delhi after being released from prison in their war-torn country. Today, the association has nearly 8,000 in Delhi alone. KAI president, Kim Myung-Bo, recently took over from the original founding president, Hyuan, whose home is still Delhi. Unlike Hyuan, most Koreans in India are here only because of their jobs and leave after three or five years. Chennai was the earliest hub of the Korean community in India, thanks to Hyundais decision to open factories there in 1995. Koreans concentrated largely in the Kilpauk township, which has acquired the nickname of Little Korea as a result. However, the centre of gravity shifted away from Chennai as later communities in Delhi and Bangalore experienced rapid growth after 2000. More than half of all expatriate Koreans in India live in New Delhi. Another fifth live in Mumbai, according to 2005 consular statistics. The community in Chennai has also continued to grow; by 2009, media estimates suggest that as many as 3,000 Koreans may be located in the Chennai area alone, up from about 700 in 2006. Devinder Gupta says that as many South Korean restaurants have opened in the national capital and NCR, they prefer to live close to them. You would find many Korean restaurants in Green Park, Diplomatic Enclave, Gurgaon, Khel Gaon Marg and Kingsway Camp. In all these areas, South Korean restaurants like Gung, The Palace, Kumgang Gonie, K2 MGF Plaza, Aim Cafe are doing brisk business. South Korean families throng them. All these restaurants offer authentic Korean cuisine. Rakesh Tiwari, a tutor attached with Tutor Guru (a coaching institute), says that Koreans based in this part of the country are unique compared to other expatriates in the sense that many of them take the service of some Hindi tutor to teach them good Hindi. So, when they leave India, they have a fairly good knowledge of Hindi. Another realty expert says that though expatriates from other countries are not coming to Delhi in the same numbers they used to until a couple of years ago, they (Koreans) are still arriving here without any pause or break. Of course, due to them, the rental scene is still very good. 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