Despite the geographical proximity of Mongolia and Nepal, these countries feel world’s away from Korea. However, some descendants of Genghis Khan, from the great grasslands of Mongolia, and inhabitants of Mount Everest, called “the rooftop of the world,” have carved out places for themselves right here in Seoul.
Let’s take a look at Seoul’s Mongolian and Nepalese neighborhoods, which clearly display the unique characteristics of their home countries.
Gwanghui-dong is a neighborhood in Seoul’s Jung-gu district that is filled with Mongolian restaurants, cafés, grocery stores, beauty parlors, shipping companies, and international remittance companies. On weekends, the streets are full of Mongolians, who come to purchase food products and everyday necessities from their home country.
This is the best place in Seoul to find that distinct Mongolian atmosphere.
When Korea and the USSR established diplomatic relations in 1990, Russian offer agents came to Dongdaemun in droves to buy cheap clothing. Eventually, some of them settled down in Gwanghui-dong, a nearby neighborhood with plenty of available housing. Later on, merchants from Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Mongolia—countries that all share the Cyrillic alphabet—also began to arrive in the Dongdaemun area.
As time passed, these Russian merchants left the area, and Mongolians began to flow in. The ten-story New Geumho Tower building was nicknamed “Mongolian Tower” due to the significant presence of Mongolians there.
The first Mongolians to settle in Seoul were the family members of the Mongolian ambassador. The family set up a cell phone shop and offered consultation services to Mongolians unfamiliar with Korean culture, which attracted even more Mongolian people to the city.
After Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia, Seoul is home to the second largest Mongolian population in the world. Due to the lifestyle of the nomadic tribes in Mongolia, few of them move to foreign cities. Nonetheless, in a manner befitting their status as the descendants of Genghis Khan, the Mongolian citizens of Seoul are adjusting to their new surroundings while maintaining their cultural identity.
Changsin-dong, a neighborhood in Seoul’s Jongno-gu district, is home to several Nepalese restaurants: Namaste, Himalayan, Everest, and Yamuna.
The chefs of most of these restaurants use masala, a mixture of various spices, to recreate the taste of traditional Nepalese dishes.
Nepalese people began settling in Korea in the 1990s. Having grown rapidly since then, the Nepalese population today is over 3,000.
On weekends, Nepalese people congregate in Changsin-dong, which is located behind Exit 3 of Dongdaemun Station. Originally, Changsin-dong was populated by Nepalese workers hired by small sewing factories and accessory/jewelry importers. However, after the sewing industry fell into decline, the majority of the Nepalese population moved elsewhere.
Every weekend, Nepalese visitors still frequent the Changsin-dong area, where you can see the busy everyday lives of the Nepalese population at the small sewing factories, leather wholesale businesses, and aged villas and inns.