Occupying a few blocks in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, Koreatown is a neighborhood that’s dominated by Korean culture. This ethnic enclave is lined with modern restaurants, cafes, shops, and other businesses that resemble the contemporary vibe of Seoul, South Korea. Karaoke bars and other modern clubs also make Koreatown one of the top nightlife destinations in NYC.
Koreatown Features and Highlights
Official municipal records indicate that Koreatown is home to well over 100 businesses that primarily cater to the local Korean population. Most of the owners and patrons of this district are originally from South Korea. This compact neighborhood essentially brings the urban flair of Seoul to the streets of the City that Never Sleeps.
If you’re looking to taste authentic Korean dishes, then Koreatown offers plenty of options for your palates. Some of the fusion restaurants serve a combination of Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and other Asian dishes. Popular in South Korea and neighboring countries, karaoke bars also line the streets of Koreatown. Chic bars, lounges, and dance clubs also define the sizzling nightlife of this neighborhood that rarely experiences quiet time.
From K-Pop music and Manhwa publications, the shops on Korea Way and the adjacent streets sell authentic items that are popular in South Korean culture. Of course, the local grocery stores sell exotic items that are actually quite ordinary by Oriental standards. Traditional herbal supplements, beauty products, and other household items are on the shelves of stores that mostly cater to Korean immigrants. However, curious New Yorkers and visitors are more than welcome to shop around for products that aren’t readily available in chain supermarkets and pharmacies.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Midtown Manhattan was home to the Garment District. The decline of the textile industry in NYC led to a major transformation of the area after World War II. By the 1980s, large waves of immigrants from the Korean peninsula settled in NYC. These new arrivals quickly established small businesses and other ventures on 32nd Street. This relatively narrow thoroughfare became unofficially known as Korea Way in the early 1990s.
In 2007, a sign was posted along 32nd Street to mark the short stretch as Korea Way. Since then, Koreatown has been one of the most exciting ethnic districts in The Big Apple. Korean communities from the entire New York City metropolitan area flock to this small neighborhood that’s nested among modern skyscrapers, including the iconic Empire State Building.
Location and Transportation
Running through the heart of Midtown Manhattan, the famous Broadway defines the western flank of Koreatown. Carrying only southbound vehicle traffic, 5th Avenue marks the eastern edge of this neighborhood. Additionally, West 33rd Street and West 31st Street form the other borders of the ethnic enclave.
Situated at Greeley Square, the 33rd Street station offers convenient access to Koreatown. This underground hub is served by Port Authority Trans-Hudson (PATH) trains that primarily carry commuters between New Jersey and New York City. Operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), buses also stop along the 5th Avenue stretch of the district.
The side streets in Koreatown are relatively narrow, so parallel parking is extremely limited. You’re highly encouraged to walk or use a bicycle to navigate this dense area that’s lined with dozens of small businesses. Additionally, Koreatown is located only a few blocks away from New York Penn Station, which has New Jersey Transit, Long Island Railroad, and New York City Subway service. Long-distance Amtrak trains also stop at this important rail complex that’s situated under the famous Madison Square Garden.