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Student Voice

1 January 2018



Mount Primary students Irene and Ryan Jung have schedules that most Kiwi families would call busy, but for this South Korean family there is plenty of time for fun.

Back home, parents Sumee and Young worked all hours of the day and had little time to spend with their young children. The kids were just as busy, juggling strict school schedules with after-school Academy that went well into the evening.

In a rare move for South Korean families who usually rely on one parent staying behind to earn money, Sumee and Young saved and budgeted so that they could come to New Zealand together with the kids.

“They grow up so fast and we weren’t spending any time with them. We wanted more family time.” - Sumee

Approaching the end of their second year, the family has become so besotted with the Kiwi lifestyle that they are now hoping to stay here long-term. 

Growing up in South Korea

Irene, eleven, and Ryan, six, grew up in Suwon, South Korea – a city where the population of Auckland crammed into an area the size of Tauranga. Living in a densely-packed city, the kids were accustomed to tall buildings and lots of crowds.

“Suwon is a historic city with lots of landmarks and historical palaces. There’s a parade every year and we all dress in traditional costumes as kings and queens.” – Irene

Sumee and Young were so busy back home that Young’s parents usually cared for the children. As a flight attendant for Korean Air, Sumee could be away from the family for up to fifteen days at a stretch while Young, a software engineer, often worked from dawn until well past sundown. The couple only got four or five days holiday a year.

The Pursuit of a Family-Friendly Life

Unsatisfied with the amount of time they got to spend as a family, the couple budgeted, scrapping staple programmes like Academy, in order to move to New Zealand as a family. They are aware that moving the entire family is rare for South Koreans.

“Other families come here for education, and the mum comes as a guardian. Education is important, but it’s not our first goal. We think life with both parents is more important.” - Young

Sumee had been to New Zealand in her capacity as a flight attendant and was blown away by the country’s blue skies and rolling green hills dotted with sheep. They were drawn to Tauranga for its reputation as a smaller city right on the coast.

A Wonderful Education at Mount Primary

Family time is the priority, but education is still very important to the Jungs, who are thrilled with the education their children are receiving at Mount Primary School.

“We’re really satisfied with what they are learning. Teachers always ask ‘why’ and make kids think for themselves. In Korea, they tell you what to do, how to do it. There’s more inquiry here.” – Sumee

“There’s two reason Koreans come here: education and character building. New Zealand is really good for character building in children.” – Young

"My favourite class is maths. I like measuring, weights and rulers." - Ryan

Where Kids can be Kids

In Korea, school is so strict and there’s little time for play. Here, the kids run around every day, climb trees – I love to see that. They’re always hungry because they’re always running! They’ve grown a lot here.” – Sumee

Irene tell us one of the first things to stand out about school in Tauranga was the number of playgrounds.

“I love the playgrounds here. They are so big! And I like having fields instead of sandpits at school.” – Irene

Perseverance Pays Off

When the family first moved to Tauranga at the start of 2016, Irene adjusted quickly and her English abilities blossomed. It was a different story for Ryan, who was only five. Starting school is hard enough for Kiwi kids, but Ryan was also launched into a new culture and language.

“He cried every day. We moved here for the children, and we were questioning if it was the right move. But after three or four weeks, Ryan got more confident and started to settle.”

A shy and sweet little boy, Ryan is starting to come out of his shell and is loving life in Tauranga. He has friends and has earned himself a soft spot in the hearts of many teachers.

Full but Balanced Lives

Though not regimented like they were back home, the children’s schedules are filled with plenty of extracurricular activities like swimming, English tutoring, surfing and Scouts.

“I love Scouts. We do sports and sometimes trips. A couple of weeks ago we went to the marina and learnt about life jackets. Last week we had a campfire.” - Irene

Six-year-old Ryan is itching to follow suit and learn to surf with Hibiscus surf school – his parents just want him to grow a little bit more before sending him into the sea!

Korean and Kiwi Communities in Tauranga

Tauranga hosts one of the biggest and most vibrant Korean communities in New Zealand and the Jungs have found the community, The Korean Times in particular, very supportive.

That said, Sumee and Young are keen to experience the local culture. Along with their Korean support systems, they have built up a network of Kiwi friends and immersed themselves in Kiwi life. Unable to work on her guardian visa, Sumee spends her days volunteering with places like Good Neighbour.

"People have been very nice to us and I like doing something good for the community in return." - Sumee

Life in New Zealand compared to South Korea

“In Korea, we lived a three-hour drive to the beach. I had only been two or three times. Now it’s only a three-minute walk.” – Irene

“I love seeing the blue clear sky here. It’s the best thing in New Zealand. In Korea, there is lots of pollution – you have 20 million people living on land the same size as the Bay of Plenty. The sky was always grey and we could never see the stars at night.” - Young

The buzz of life in their compact Korean city is distinct to Tauranga’s relatively sleepy feel, but the Jungs love the pace of life here. Of course, there are things they miss from their homeland.

“I miss family – grandparents and cousins – and my friends. I also miss Korean street food, like tteok-bokki.” – Irene

Sumee misses Korean canteen, which supplied the children with a nutritious hot lunch for free every day at school.

Future Plans

The original plan was to come here for two years. Young saw the move as an investment, as returning home fluent in English would enhance his job opportunity.

“New Zealand is better than we expected. We have changed our plan and hope to stay here longer term. I have applied for a student visa and am studying IT at Aspire 2 International.” - Young

“A lot of people want to come here, but I think most of them are not brave enough to give up everything we had in Korea.” - Sumee

To the Jungs who cherish their family time, fun outings and quality education, it was well worth the risk.

Want to learn more about studying in tauranga?

Join us on Facebook and contact Regional Relationship Manager Melissa Gillingham for more information:

Melissa Gillingham

 Regional Relationship Manager

 Education Tauranga

 Tel: +64 7 571 1401 ext. 707 | Mob: +64 21 724 272    
 Address: Private Bag 13057, Tauranga 3141, New Zealand  
 Email me