For the Wild Geese families who are staying on here, cost-cutting is the order of the day.
Like many others, Madam An Li Ae, 41, has relocated to new quarters. She moved out of a three-bedroom condominium in Serangoon last October and into a three-room HDB flat in the area. She and her two sons, aged 12 and 15, share the flat with another kirogi family.
Like most kirogi mums, she has been getting $4,000 to $5,000 a month from her schoolteacher husband in South Korea for the past five years. But she will not get as much in a few months' time.
'After the won's value dropped so much, I cannot afford to fork out $3,000 a month just for condominium rental,' she said.
Associate Professor Kang Yoonhee, a sociologist at the National University of Singapore who does research on Korean migrant families, notes that many kirogi families have downgraded to HDB flats in cheaper areas.
Some provide 'homestays' for unaccompanied Korean students here to supplement their income.
Gone are expensive tuition or enrichment classes. Five out of seven kirogi mothers interviewed say they have cut it out entirely or switched to cheaper alternatives.
Mrs Natasha Park, 34, says she has stopped her two sons' weekly tennis and piano lessons, which used to cost her $40 an hour.
She has also terminated the services of the boys' English and Chinese private tutors, who charged $30 an hour, and enrolled them in group lessons at a tuition centre for half the price.
Indeed, some local tuition agencies here note that since the start of the recession, the number of Korean students has tripled.
Grocery shopping for many is now done in local supermarket chains like NTUC FairPrice and Sheng Siong.
'The food does taste a little bit different, but I can save up to $300 a month by switching from more expensive supermarkets,' said Mrs H.K. Moon, 39, who is here with two sons and a daughter.
Five out of six Korean supermarkets interviewed confirm that fewer Korean customers are coming in and they have seen a drop in business of at least 10 per cent.
Finally, cherished trips back home to South Korea and visits from fathers have been reduced or put on hold.
Said Mrs M.K. Lee, 36: 'My husband has stopped visiting since September last year, and we now talk on the phone only once every three days. We communicate mostly by e-mail. My sons miss their father a lot, but there is nothing we can do.'Source: Straits Times, 15 Mar 2009
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