On West 32nd Street at the intersection of 5th and 6th Avenue in Manhattan, New York, you will find an ethnic enclave that goes by the name of "Koreatown". With countless signs featuring Hangul, a high Korean population and a myriad of Korean restaurants, boutiques, grocery stores and clubs, this ethnic enclave is a tiny piece of Korea located smack dab in the middle of New York City.
Due to the "Gentlemen's Agreement" between Japan and the U.S in 1907, immigration of laborers from Japan and Korea (Japan had full control of Korea at the time) was restricted. Following the "Gentlemen's Agreement" of 1907 was the Immigration Act of 1924 which limited the annual number of immigrants to 2% of the number of people from that country who were already living in the U.S. With low numbers of Koreans already in America, this law made immigration from Korea into the U.S virtually impossible.
In 1952, the Immigration Act of 1924 was revised which allowed Korean immigration into the U.S. As a result of the Korean War in the early 50's and the Immigration Act of 1965 (which abolished immigration quotas), Korean immigration into the U.S was at an all time high. Opportunities to study abroad, join family members who were already in the U.S and find higher paying jobs were all crucial factors in deciding to immigrate to the U.S for Koreans who, at the time, were under a military dictatorship. Being close to universities and having high "tourist traffic" from Midtown landmarks made west 32nd street and the area surrounding it a perfect place for Korean immigrants.
Korean Barbecue is one of the staple cuisines of Korea that has become very popular in the U.S. At a Korean Barbecue, meals are served family style and diners are given marinated meat to cook themselves on a charcoal or gas stove that is built into the table. Korean Barbecue restaurants can be found all over Koreatown (miss KOREA BBQ being one of my favorites!) and they help keep Korean culture and cuisine in tact. .
Another staple of Korean culture that has become popular in the U.S and that can be seen throughout Koreatown is karaoke bars. Karaoke bars are essential to night life in Korea and Koreatown. Korean karaoke bars are called 노래방 or "noraebang" which translates to singing room. A singing room is exactly what the Korean karaoke experience is. Instead of singing in the middle of a bar infront of people you do not know, Korean karaokes give you a room which you can rent out so you can sing comfortably in front of your close friends.
Why live in an Ethnic Enclave?
It is helpful for new arrivals to the U.S to live in or near an ethnic enclave because it is easier to settle down somewhere that is familiar to you. Ethnic enclaves offer a home away from home in the sense that immigrants can speak in their native tongue and are offered an environment to live in that is somewhat similar to where they came from. Having the ability to join and get support from a community with people who are similar to you is essential in integrating into another country and culture.