Ethnic Enclaves: Koreatown, Manhattan, New York City by Jacob Chang

Koreatown in Manhattan is named for its high density of Korean people. Its heart is centered in the Garment District at the intersection of West 32nd Street, 5th Avenue, and 6th Avenue. As of the 2010 Census, there are approximately 20,000 Koreans living in Manhattan.

Immigration into NYC

The first wave of Korean immigration started in 1903, with the Korean-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce. It ended in 1907 with Roosevelt's "Gentleman's Agreement", which restricted immigration and made it very difficult for citizens of Korea and Japan to leave their countries.

President Harry Truman repealed the "Gentleman's Agreement" in 1948, sparking a new wave of immigration. As a result, throughout the 1950s-1980s, a huge number of Koreans moved to the United States, settling in enclaves like Koreatown in New York City.


The rapid growth of the US economy provided incentives for many people in other countries of the world to immigrate and search for new opportunities. Thus, Koreans came into the US to find success away from a faltering Korea. In the 1980s, as economic conditions began to improve, many Koreans chose to stay in their home country, signaling the end of mass migration.

Koreatown was never specifically indicated as an area for Koreans to settle. However, its location in the Garment District and proximity to popular landmarks such as the Empire State Building and Madison Square Garden made it a prime destination for Korean immigrants. As Korean businesses such as bookstores, restaurants, and karaoke bars began to open, it became convenient for new immigrants to come to Koreatown, and created the ethnic enclave.

Unique Features

Koreatown is reminiscent of Seoul itself, with its Hangul signage and myriad of Korean restaurants, hair salons, clubs, and fashion stores. The Korean influence is certainly felt through the Korean cuisine served at the restaurants, the Asian fashion sold in stores, and the karaoke clubs, a trend brought to the United States from Korea.

Korean barbecue is one type of Korean cuisine that has permeated the United States and become extremely popular. Diners are given raw marinated meats to cook themselves on built-in grills. There are countless restaurants serving Korean barbecue in Koreatown.

Korea Way

Korea Way is the segment of West 32nd Street between 5th and 6th Avenue, and is considered the heart of Koreatown. According to New York City's Korean Chamber of Commerce, there are more than 100 small businesses active on Korea Way. Its high density of Korean restaurants and active nightlife scene has transformed Korea Way into a major tourist destination.

It is helpful for new arrivals into the United States to settle in ethnic enclaves for many reasons. First, it is easier to live in an area where one can use their ethnic language, rather than English, which they might not be fully fluent in. Also, businesses that open up in these enclaves will closely reflect similar ones in one's home country, such as bookstores, restaurants, and bars. Finally, it is most comfortable for people to move to a place with similar individuals, and immediately have a community to be a part of for support and guidance, before fully joining America's melting pot.


Created By
Jake Chang


Created with images by brian_topping - "Koreatown" • Unsplash - "statue of liberty landmark liberty" • adrian8_8 - "Koreatown" • Chun's Pictures - "Koreatown NYC" • Thomas Sauzedde - idirectori - "Korean BBQ" • cj171 - "Koreatown NYC" • Arch_Sam - "Empire State - New York City"

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