Just tonight my dad asked me if we feel the effects of the current world economic crisis. We do. Our mornings consist of a quick look at the exchange rate of won to dollar online and our nights consist of getting an economic update from NBC Nightly News on ITunes. Both usually leave us with a mild case of indigestion.
When we first arrived in Korea in August 2007, it was good to be an American working in Korea. Let’s call this our “Gilded Age.” For every 1,000 won we sent home for the first 6 months or so, we would get about a $1.15 or more. We would always have more dollars than won, even after it covered our transfer fee. Transferring money home was magical. Almost like some instant interest Leprechaun was hooking us up.
These days, however, it is much, much worse. Let’s call this our “Panic of 2008-09.” Now 1,000 won is about $0.68. Now we think we are getting hijacked somewhere between here and New York.
But we still have our jobs and our paychecks. Many Koreans are feeling the crisis in worse ways. In January, Koreans asking for unemployment insurance hit a record high. The unemployment rate increased by 2%. Not good for a job market that is already tough to break into. Also, my friend that works for one major Korean company talks about how much his job has slowed down. He works quite a bit abroad and has found his sales dropping considerably. Hopefully we aren’t looking at 1997 all over again.
Despite the effect on Korea, life continues to be normal here. Even if things get too bad, we have enough rice and kimchi to last us until August.