VIE-STYLE

German law professor recounts life in Việt Nam

Prof. Simon has actively helped train law scholars in Hà Nội Law University, where he has been working as a lecturer since 2015. Before that, in 1991, Prof. Simon had worked with Việt Nam’s Ministry of Justice.

By Lê Hương

At first sight, with their humble appearance, Prof. Jurgen W. Simon and his wife may look like a retired couple spending their leisure time in Việt Nam.

Only few people know that Prof. Simon has actively helped train law scholars in Hà Nội Law University, where he has been working as a lecturer since 2015. Before that, in 1991, Prof. Simon had worked with Việt Nam’s Ministry of Justice.

As soon as the German Law Centre was established at the university, Prof. Simon was invited to give lessons there on insurance law, the new generation of Free Trade Agreements and investment law in Viêt Nam, public law and civil law, and intellectual property law.

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Prof. Jurgen W. Simon (left) receives the Honourable Medal For the Cause of Vietnamese Justice from Minister of Justice Lê Thành Long at a solemn ceremony in the Embassy of Việt Nam in Berlin in November 2022. Photos Courtesy of the Prof

Prof. Simon said he has had good relationships with his students, such as Nguyễn Minh Nhật, who has co-written some academic papers with him, such as “Việt Nam’s approach to Covid-19 treatment”.

Nhật was trained as a lawyer and then went to Germany and worked for a law firm specialising in intellectual property, earning a very good income.

Prof. Simon is also close with his student Linh Chi, with whom he published, “Legal aspects of nanotechnology vs. Covid-19” and “Overview of gestational surrogacy in Việt Nam” in a global journal and other articles in Germany.

“I got along well with the two of them, but also with other students who showed great interest in the lessons and whom I occasionally invited for dinner,” he said. “I am still in contact with some of them.”

He had been a tenured full professor of Civil Law, Economic Law and Environmental Law at Leuphana University in Lower-Saxony, Germany.

He has published about 250 books and articles in ten languages including Vietnamese.

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Prof. Simon with the students in Hà Nội.

Getting things in return

Simon has recently been given the Honourable Medal For the Cause of Vietnamese Justice from the Minister of Justice at a solemn ceremony in the Embassy of Việt Nam in Berlin as the first German Professor making a significant contribution to the co-operation between the justice sectors of the two countries and to justice training in Việt Nam.

“I was very delighted to receive the medal from the Minister of Justice,” he said. “I felt very honoured to have it. It is highly appreciated that Việt Nam honoured me for having done something for the country.”

Simon said his life in Hà Nội was wonderful.

“I felt like I was at home here,” he said. “First, I had my intensive life at the HLU. Then, I did a lot of cultural events in Hà Nội with my wife and had some flights to other cities in Việt Nam.”

Simon especially likes Hoàn Kiếm Lake and its surroundings.

“The streets with their trees are marvelous,” he said. “But the traffic is now very heavy.”

He said in 1991, he could easily cross the road amid many wonderful bikes at that time.

Simon said local customs are very different from Germany.

“For example, weddings and funerals are totally different,” he said. “In Vietnamese houses, the first floors are always for the motorbikes or cars and the families work there, they eat, watch TV or sing songs. Wonderful, I like it very much.”

Simon said he often starts everyday with phở gà (chicken noodle).

Then, he works with his students and finally he goes home to eat his dinner.

“We had a lot of neighbours and friends, also from the university,” he said. “And then we travelled all over Việt Nam, as far as Phú Quốc, HCM City, Huế, Sa Pa, Ninh Bình and Hạ Long Bay.”

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Prof. Simon and his colleagues in Hà Nội.

Experiencing history

In 1991, he was asked to visit Việt Nam and teach there.

“Since this time, Việt Nam has not left my heart, until today,” he said.

He admitted that his life experiences have been significantly shaped by Việt Nam’s different culture and customs.

“I experienced the history of Việt Nam, but also its modern habits,” he said.

Prof. Simon is fond of Vietnamese painting and poetry, from Nguyễn Du with his masterpiece “The Tale Kiều”, to Hồ Xuân Hương and Bảo Ngọc. –

Theo Vietnamnews

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Prof. Simon in a birthday party with a family in Hà Nội.