Former corporate immigration lawyer from New York Amy Sinner-Park owns and runs the Modu concept shop
Photo: Mike Zenari
Whilst the number of South Koreans who call Luxembourg home is still relatively small, the creative and entrepreneurial spirit associated with South Korea is abundantly prevalent.
Delano spoke with two South Koreans who have learnt to called Luxembourg gajeong (home in Korean).
Amy Sinner-Park was born in New York City, but she comes from a proud heritage of Koreans and regularly takes trips back to Seoul to visit friends and family.
“Even though I grew up in the USA, my parents always installed Korean values in our family. I never understood until later in my life why my parents always ate Korean food, despite the abundance of international cuisine in NYC,” she laughs.
“Now, I have the same love of Korean food as they do and need to get my fix, be it cooking at home or on my travels.”
Amy moved to Luxembourg permanently in 2014 after meeting her Luxembourger husband in Berlin. “We tried living in NYC for a while, but after two years, New York really wasn’t for my husband, and so he convinced me to move here,” she explains.
“At first, it was really tough. I had been a corporate immigration lawyer working all hours of the day and night and suddenly I found myself in sleepy Luxembourg, with few transferrable skills and the need to do ‘something’ meaningful.”
Amy had always wanted to be a social entrepreneur and over the years had developed a love of shopping for philanthropic items.
“Shopping just lost interest for me and then I found this whole market where you could purchase items that actually gave something back to the world.”
In December 2017, she opened The Modu Shop on côte d’Eich in Luxembourg City. “Modu means ‘all’ in Korean. I wanted to offer people a different shopping experience, where they can purchase something that ‘gives back’ in some way to society.” Amongst the items Amy sells are socks made by Conscious Step and Article 22 jewellery made by artisans in Laos from undetonated bombs.
Like Amy, Seungeun Park, or Semi to her friends, moved to Luxembourg with her partner. That was in 2007 and she began working in fintech, a popular sector for many South Koreans. Born in Seoul, Semi completed an MBA in Hamburg before moving to Luxembourg.
Unfortunately, due to the financial crisis of 2008, Semi lost her job and found herself in a similar situation to Amy.
“I became very depressed and did not know where I belonged or what to do in Luxembourg,” she explains. “I realised that I was missing that sense of community or belonging that so many expats experience. So, I began my French and Luxembourgish classes with zest, keen to make new friends and build a new life for myself.”
The Luxembourg government’s increasing interest in the fintech industry allowed Semi to open her own company Luxko in 2018. It supports Korean businesses coming to Luxembourg or Luxembourg companies wishing to break into the Korean market.
South Korea is renowned as one of the world’s most innovative countries and Semi supports this not only from a business perspective but by volunteering at the Korean School of Luxembourg, which meets on Saturday mornings in the premises of the International School of Luxembourg.
“At the moment, we only have around 40 members, but we hope to gain more interest from prospective teachers, students or sponsors, who see the potential in the South Korean market.”
Like Semi, Amy also had the need to build a social network in Luxembourg. She started the Facebook group, Asian Women’s Network of Luxembourg, hoping to meet a few like-minded individuals; now, they have over 300 members. “It’s nothing official,” Amy explains. “Just a bunch of us meet up once a month, usually for a food-related activity.”
You don’t need to be an Asian woman to join, an interest in Asia is enough. “One evening, a French lady joined us for a meal at a restaurant asking if she was at the right place for the Asian Women’s Network. You should have seen the look on the waiter’s face when she ordered her menu in perfect Cantonese.”
Both Amy and Semi believe that Luxembourg has an environment ripe for entrepreneurial spirit. “Yes, it’s small,” states Amy, “and there are disadvantages to that. However, the opportunity to create something unique, creative and progressive is definitely here. You just need to find your passion and market.”
This article was originally published in the November-December 2018 edition of Delano Magazine.