The name ‘Ktown’ conjures up thoughts of cities like NYC and LA. However, a recent article by CNN blog Eatocracy suggests otherwise. Just in the last decade, Gwinnett County, a suburb of Atlanta, has seen its Korean population double, bringing the total number to about 22,001 (however the KAAGA puts the figure close to 80,000!). Why the South? Among other reasons such as affordable living costs and climate, similar moral values seem to be a particularly compelling factor.
Jay Eun, president of the Korean American Association of Greater Atlanta (KAAGA) commented:
It’s the Southern hospitality. I think that’s what makes us want to live here. Koreans are very family-oriented people – we value family, just as they do here in the South. Also, the Bible Belt – the religious atmosphere of the South – is very appealing.
A look at Gwinnett County’s new strip mall and shopping complexes emphasizes the area’s strong Korean presence, with its scores of Korean businesses, from grocery stores to shops and restaurants. Despite the signs all being in Korean, the businesses—especially hair salons—are often frequented by just as many non-Koreans. With Korean food’s increasing popularity, bulgogi is a household name these days.
Michael Park, vice president of the KAAGA said:
For most non-Koreans, their first introduction to Korean culture is through food. This being the South, that encounter will most likely be Korean BBQ–an introduction that can be somewhat misleading, considering the Korean diet consists largely of fish and vegetables.
Food is a potent means of bridging the gap, not only between the different members of the community, but between generations of Koreans. Perhaps the next few years will bring fame for other traditional Korean dishes, ending the BBQ reign.
[Photos: Angie Walton/CNN]