She only meant to stay here a year or two, but this year marks Anne LaDouceur’s 11th in Korea. With her pet project, Korea4expats, an e-mail newsletter and Web site, LaDouceur has found a reason to stay.
LaDouceur’s bimonthly Korea4expats e-mail newsletter and Web site, http://www.korea4expats.com, has become a gateway to vital information on life in Korea for many expatriates here.
More than 5,000 people, mostly expats, receive the newsletter, which provides tips and information about Korea. LaDouceur compiles and updates the data on her Web site on a regular basis.
The 58-year-old French Canadian’s goal is to see Korea4expats become as clear, complete and balanced as possible. This way, LaDouceur said, foreigners can arrive here well-prepared for their new lives.
“Once here, [they can] get as much out of their time in Korea as possible,” LaDouceur said in a recent e-mail interview. “I’d also like to contribute to making Korea a more attractive and more easily traveled tourist destination.”
The project dates back to more than six years earlier when LaDouceur was working at an Itaewon branch of Housing and Commerce Bank, which later became Kookmin Bank. Her job was to help provide banking services for foreigners.
“A lot of the people who came into the bank to open a new account were newcomers to Seoul and they would ask me all kinds of questions about life in Korea,” she said.
LaDouceur, who had already been writing a column on banking in Korea for KScene magazine, was inspired by her customers’ queries. Thus, she began a column in another magazine, Bridging the Gap magazine, where she answered questions about Korean culture and daily life here.
Hoping to help expats in a more organized way, she started collecting information about Korea through reading, research and word of mouth from other people. She said much of the information was available on the Web sites of government agencies.
She then began to e-mail the information in a newsletter that was initially sent to only a few people she knew.
But soon, the mailing list grew as the newsletter was shared from recipient to recipient. It is now mailed to “more than 5,000 people, many of whom forward it to their friends and colleagues,” she said.
Last July, LaDouceur created the Korea4expats Web site with the support of a local company, Asiance Korea, after about a year of preparation.
The site is still new and more information will be added. Its content are well organized.
The compilation is a rare source of information in English about the country for those who can’t read Hangul Korean script. Comprehensive English-language resources are few and far between in Korea.
As the single content provider to the Web site, LaDouceur says she works hard to find accurate information.
“The challenge has always been in finding the information, in knowing that it exists and discovering where to go to get it,” she said.
Her efforts have been returned with feedback with a lot of thank-you messages, she says.
“Probably the most gratifying is when people who don’t know that I’m involved with Korea4expats start to tell me about it and to recommend that I check it out,” she said. “That’s been happening a lot.”
Through her long stint in Korea, the Northern Ontario native now easily calculates years in the Asian zodiac system.
By that reckoning, LaDouceur will mark her 12th year here in 2009, the Year of the Ox, her sign, she said.
Despite her long stay in Korea, LaDouceur said she still finds aspects of the country that enchant her.
“I have visited almost every country in Asia, but have found that I prefer living in Korea and making short trips to other places,” she said.
LaDouceur said she may eventually leave one day, but not anytime soon.
“Life in Korea is never boring ― sometimes frustrating, often chaotic, always fascinating and busy,” she said. “I’m constantly learning something new and meeting interesting people.”
By Moon Gwang-lip Staff Reporter [email@example.com]