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Global Real Estate Association of Seoul (GRAS) Chairman Kim Dong-young, fourth from right, participates in a meeting between GRAS and the National Association of Realtors (NAR) of the United States at a hotel in Seoul in June 2023. Courtesy of Kim Dong-young

Kim Dong-young, chairman of the Global Real Estate Association of Seoul (GRAS), is certainly a trustworthy person for foreign nationals to ask for help when they are new to Korea and want to buy a home in the nation’s capital.Kim, 68, has been in the real estate business for more than 10 years after retiring as the head of a branch office at NH NongHyup Bank, one of the country’s five major lenders. He got interested in offering services exclusively for foreign clients as he developed his career, amid a faster influx of foreign nationals whose number reached a record 1.43 million in 2023.He obtained a realtor’s license in 2016, seven years after the Seoul Metropolitan Government began to nurture qualified real estate agents specialized in housing transactions for a range of foreign nationals.

“And I had a bigger vision to serve foreign clients as the world has been getting smaller and people are moving freely to live in other countries,” Kim told The Korea Times this week.He correspondingly has been chairing GRAS, which consists of the aforementioned real estate agents, since July 2021.Recognized by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, the association began as a group of 20 real estate businesses but is now large enough to be divided into eight groups of firms by regions in Seoul.It also has guest members from Busan and Ulsan.“Offering quality services for would-be homeowners from abroad is crucial, as many of them otherwise will struggle with paperwork, including financial documents, and housing policies,” Kim said.The list of certified real estate agents is available on the GRAS website.Each agent can speak English or other foreign languages, being able to sufficiently explain tricky terms and conditions to clients from corresponding countries.

For instance, Kim can speak English, Chinese and Japanese.He pointed out that getting acquainted with the preferences of clients according to their nationality is also key to running a successful business.According to Kim, Americans tend to search for a spacious home, no matter whether it is old or new.Cleanliness is a priority for Japanese would-be homebuyers, while Singaporeans are keen on room layout and space for furniture.French opt to live at Seorae Village, a neighborhood in Seoul’s Seocho District that has housed a French community for decades.Kim expressed hope to expand the GRAS equivalent to the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the largest group of U.S. real estate agents representing 1.5 million members.He explained that his association is closely working with NAR. Among the recent activities were a meeting between the two sides in Seoul in June 2023 and Kim’s attendance at a NAR-hosted conference in 슬롯 Anaheim, Calif., in November.

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