Korean Community Grows as Hyundai Plants Develop In Montgomery

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By Heather VacLav

With Hyundai adding nearly 900 jobs at its plant in Montgomery, more people may be coming to work in Alabama from South Korea. Since Hyundai started manufacturing in Montgomery a decade ago, the Korean Community has been growing rapidly and integrating more diversity into the Capital City.

 

Jeanne Charbonneau, Montgomery’s Korean Family Support Coordinator, works to ease Korean families’ transition in Montgomery. Friday, Charbonneau worked with wife and mother Hyo Jung Yun, to set up medical registration so her two sons could go to school.

 

Montgomery is calm, the people are kind, so it is good,” Yun said smiling about her new home. Yun’s husband works at Hyundai Power Transformers, her family moved to Montgomery in December 2011.

 

Yun’s family is one of about 73 Korean families Charbonneau supports. “You will be amazed at how fast his English will progress [in pre-school],” Charbonneau said to Yun explaining Montgomery’s schooling.

 

“I help them get their utilities turned on, their water in their name, their electricity. Are they Dixie Electric [or] are they Alabama Power? Those are just little things that if English is your second language, they can be big hurdles,” Charbonneau said.

 

While Charbonneau says she is there for every question or concern, it’s the developing Korean community and local businesses that truly support immigrants.

 

The Stratford Square Plaza on Easter Blvd has a number of Korean businesses, including grocery stores, restaurants and medical care. Dr. Moon Choi, a private practice Acupuncturist, has an office in the plaza, he from South Korea to Montgomery, following his brother, who works for Hyundai Heavy Industry.

 

“I like Montgomery,” Choi said. “It’s calm.” Like many other Koreans, Choi speaks broken English, and has had trouble adjusting to America’s culture.

 

“I speak English no good, they can’t understand,” Choi said. “I try, [but] they don’t understand. But this Montgomery, Montgomery people are very kind.”

 

Another business Koreans connect with is the Seoul Market, a Korean grocery store. Young Pabino started working at the store when it opened about eight years ago. Pabino moved from South Korea to Montgomery more than 20 years ago and says Seoul Market makes Koreans feel more comfortable in the community.

 

Montgomery is [my] second home… I am comfortable,” Pabino said. While Hyundai did not move her here, she feels like the company is very important to Montgomery’s economy.

 

“We needed Hyundai to stay here,” Pabino said.

 

Hyundai's third shift will start in September. To Learn About Job Openings At Hyundai, visit the Alabama Industrial Development Training website:

www.aidt.edu



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