The Korean slice of the Big Apple

December 14, 2017

Puedes encontrar la versión en español aquí

Original text by Karla Montoya Mondragón

English Translation by: Harry Simon Jr.

Once upon a time there was a magical place, a portal in the concrete jungle of Manhattan where with just crossing the street you could enter into a whole new universe, a universe full of food, advertisements, music and a different way of life. Perhaps, this could be seen as a fairy tale introduction, however, this magical place exists and I am about to tell you its name: Koreatown Manhattan (맨해튼 코리아타운).

Koreatown Manhattan is the product of the huge number of immigrants from the Korean Peninsula who came to the United States of America, mainly since the 1950s. During this time the Korean people were running away from the war between North and South Korea. In the 1960s and 70s more Koreans arrived looking for jobs and the sense of political security denied under a military dictatorship.

According to the last census made in the United States of America in 2010, the Korean population had around 1,423,784 habitants, representing the 0.5% of the total population. You may think this is a very small percentage, but let me tell you that this quantity places America as the second country, the first being China, with more Korean people outside of the Korean Peninsula.

New York, with a population of 153,609, is the second state with the largest number of Koreans; California having the biggest with 505,225. In the beginning, these immigrants settled in the borough of Manhattan; nowadays, the Korean people are migrating to New Jersey and the borough of Queens.

Koreatown Manhattan is located on the Westside of Manhattan on 32nd street between 5th and 6th Avenue. Just a few blocks away from it, you can find iconic NYC landmarks and locations like the Empire State Building, the worlds biggest Macy’s store, Penn Station, the Madison Square Garden and the Garment District also known as the Fashion District, to just name a few. Koreatown is in the center of the tourist area off the Big Apple.

At first, this area emerged as a residential community for the first wave of Korean immigrants; now the area is primarily a commercial district with a reputation as one of the best places to enjoy an authentic Korean food, to buy 100% Korean products in the supermarkets, to eat the traditional Korean bread in the bakeries or just take care of yourself in one of the spas.

A little tour around K-Town

Do you want to learn how to speak Korean? Take care of yourself with K-Beauty products? Or just trying to get exclusive merchandise from your favorite K-Pop artist? Well, this is the place for you! You will find schools here to learn the language, beauty stores selling exclusively Korean beauty products and also, you can cultivate your intellectual side in Koryo Books. Koryo Books is a book store that has literary works in every genre, all of them written in Korean, as well as great amount of products from your favorite KPOP artists; and for the kids they have didactic games for those parents who want to teach to their kids the Korean language or to keep practicing their native language.

Though, if what you really want is to show off your beautiful voice, Koreatown has a great number of Karaokes or norebang (노래방) that let you experience the night with a Korean style. This is one of the reasons why Koreatown is a hotspot for nightlife in Manhattan.

Alice, Pre-k teacher born in America with a Korean heritage, believes Koreatown is “a space that is always evolving… a place own by and for the Korean people in New York”. A zone that gives a sense of identity to the new generation of Korean-Americans and at the same time this place permits to the differents races and cultures experience the Korean culture first-hand; in the words of Alice “It gave me the sense of my culture way before I went to my  parents country”.

With a reputation as one of the most important destinations to eat an authentic Korean dinner or to enjoy a night out at the norebang, Koreatown Manhattann is a magical place in which according to the story, all who dare to enter will enjoy a fairly tale experience and will leave with memories to live happily ever after.

In the borough of Queens exists another Koreatown in continued expansion, a place mostly residential with different kind of businesses owned only by Korean people, also known for having a relax and more traditional environment, would you like to know more about Koreatown Long Island?

Leave your comments below and 안녕히 가세요 Annyeonghi-gaseyo (“Good bye/Go in peace”)