•    The History of Koreatown   


    With the passing of the Hart-Cellar Immigration Act of 1965, Koreans began flocking to the US in large numbers. According to the Census in 1990 and 2000, that immigration is still occurring. The number of Koreans in the city has increased by 16,755 from 1990 to 2000.

    Refer to Demographics and Statistics for more information.

    With this flock of Koreans coming into the city come many non-English speaking workers. Because of this, they got jobs in small businesses such as grocers, convenience stores and garment factories because it did not require them to be proficient in English. Eventually, when the Korean immigrants saved up enough money they opened their own small businesses in places such as Koreatown.

    Koreatown began forming in the late 1970’s when Korean business owners started the redevelopment of West 32nd Street. Why were Korean business owners so attracted to this area?

    Formation of K-town

    Like many immigrants, Koreans came to the U.S. with very little money. The Korean government had placed a limit of $1,000 on any immigrant going to the U.S. until 1979, when they increased it to $3,000. This may explain why Koreatown started developing in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Furthermore, the low rents and high foot traffic due to the proximity of the Empire State Building, and districts such as the Garment District, Korean immigrants saw this area as an ideal place to set up shop.

    Where did new Korean immigrants get the money to start their own business? They relied on their relatives who’ve already established themselves in the U.S. Furthermore, recent Korean immigrants have been found to sell off their property in Korea to start anew in the U.S. and finance their business.

    Koreatown has its origins in a bookstore and several restaurants. The bookstore that started it is known as Koryo Books and features many Korean books as well as other merchandise. The first Korean restaurant on the street (at least they claim to be the first), is Kom Tang. Kang Suh is another restaurant that opened up for business in Koreatown. Refer to A New Korea: Businesses of a Blooming Culture for more information on these businesses.

    There was no formal plan to create a Koreatown, but due the gathering of many Korean restaurants, grocers, and other businesses, this area became known for its Korean presence. In addition, the most commercially dense part of Koreatown along 32nd Street became officially known as Korea Way in 1995.