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Koreatown, Manhattan
Koreatown at night (2013)
Koreatown at night (2013)
Country United States
State New York
City New York City
Borough Manhattan

Koreatown (Hangul: 맨해튼 코리아타운), or K-Town, is an ethnic Korean enclave in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, centered on 32nd Street between Madison Avenue and the intersection with Sixth Avenue and Broadway, which is known as Greeley Square. The neighborhood in Midtown South features over 150 businesses of various types and sizes, ranging from small restaurants and beauty salons to large branches of Korean banking conglomerates. Koreatown, Manhattan has become described as the "Korean Times Square" and has emerged as the international economic outpost for the Korean chaebol.

Historical background

Historically, Manhattan's Koreatown has been part of the Garment District. Koreatown is primarily a Korean business district, but the neighborhood has experienced an increase in Korean and European traffic as well, and the resident Korean population in the area has grown concomitantly. There was never a formal plan or agreement to create a Korean commercial district in Manhattan. However, given the high tourist traffic stemming from nearby Midtown Manhattan landmarks like the Empire State Building, Macy's Herald Square, Penn Station, Madison Square Garden, the Garment District, and the Flower District, it was a convenient location for Korean immigrants to settle. Initiated by the opening of a Korean bookstore and a handful of restaurants in the 1980s, Koreatown sprang into being. With their success, an additional stream of Korean-owned businesses took root in the neighborhood, coinciding with increased immigration from Korea; and with rising demand for the prime location, overall property values in the area increased as well.


USA-NYC-Korea Way
The Korea Way sign illuminated at night, with Hangul (한글) translation

From 2000 to 2010, the Korean population of Manhattan (co-extensive with New York County) nearly doubled, to about 20,000, according to the 2010 United States Census. Along with the Koreatowns in nearby Bergen County, New Jersey (in Palisades Park and Fort Lee) and Long Island (extending eastward from Flushing, Queens) in New York City, Manhattan's Koreatown serves as the cultural nexus for an overall Korean American population of 218,764 people in the New York City Metropolitan Area, the second-largest population of ethnic Koreans outside of Korea.

Korea Way

Koreatown manhattan 2009
"Korea Way" on West 32nd Street in Manhattan's Koreatown

The heart of Koreatown is the segment of West 32nd Street between Fifth Avenue and Sixth Avenue, officially nicknamed Korea Way. Korea Way features stores and restaurants on multiple stories, with independently run establishments reaching up to higher floors, exuding an ambience of Seoul itself. The New York City Korean Chamber of Commerce estimates there to be more than 100 small businesses on Korea Way. Signage in Hangul (한글) is ubiquitous. Koreatown's central location and high density of crowded restaurants, bars, karaoke clubs, and spas on Korea Way have rendered it a major tourist attraction and a center of nightlife in Manhattan.

Korea Way features numerous restaurants that serve both traditional and/or regional Korean cuisine and Korean fusion fare (including Korean Chinese cuisine), several bakeries, grocery stores, supermarkets, bookstores, consumer electronics outlets, video rental shops, tchotchke and stationery shops, hair and nail salons, noraebang singing bars, nightclubs, as well as cell phone service providers, internet cafés, doctors' offices, attorney offices, banks, and hotels. Approximately fifteen 24/7 restaurants conduct business on Korea Way. Numerous Japanese restaurants have also emerged in Manhattan's Koreatown. Although Korea Way continues to represent the heart of Koreatown, situated between Broadway, Sixth Avenue, and Fifth Avenue, Koreatown itself as of 2015 has been expanding further eastward from Fifth Avenue along East 32nd Street, toward Madison Avenue in Midtown Manhattan.

Development as a Korean dining destination

Approximately fifteen 24/7 restaurants conduct business on Korea Way. As commercial rents have risen, more Koreatown restaurants have had to maintain a 24/7 presence or to expand in size to make their operations financially viable. Historically known as a more tourist-oriented alternative to the residential and somewhat suburban Flushing and Murray Hill, Queens in the nearby Long Island Koreatown, Koreatown in Manhattan has since developed a reputation as an authentic Korean dining destination.

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