South America, featuring countries famous for coffee, the samba, the salsa, wine, and soccer, is a continent located halfway around the world from Korea. Nonetheless, it has a major presence in Seoul.
Africa’s presence in Seoul began with the formation of an African community in the city in the 1990s, when Africans started coming to Korea to find work. And Korea’s relations with Oceanian countries are based on the strong bond of friendship forged with Australia, which sent troops to fight in the Korean War.
Discover the passion and vitality of these three continents here in Seoul.
At least 30 hours away by plane, South America is the continent farthest from Korea geographically.
Although it is so far away, the cultures of several South American countries have blended with that of Seoul with great enthusiasm.
While the presence of Koreans in South America is relatively strong (approximately 60,000 in Brazil and 26,000 in Argentina), the South American population in Korea remains small.
However, some Koreans have had memorable and enjoyable experiences of South American culture in Hongdae, the largest source of South American culture in Seoul. Located only five minutes on foot from Exit 8 of Hongik University Station (Subway Line 2), Sabor Latino and Macondo are two famous Latin bars in the area.
Numerous enthusiasts of South American culture are drawn to Hongdae to learn Latin dances, eat South American food, and drink mate tea, known as one of the “world’s three great teas.” As such, the South American influence in Seoul is growing each day.
If you take a walk down Itaewon’s antique furniture street from Exit 3 of Itaewon Station, you will see Africans dressed in hip-hop styles and sporting dreadlocks. Also known as “Africa Street” or “Nigeria Street,” this is the road that passes through Ihwa Market.
This district was first settled by Nigerians in the early 2000s, when they came to purchase fabric and clothing materials from Dongdaemun and Namdaemun Markets to sell back in Nigeria. Now, there are over 700 people with African citizenship living near this area. However, with the recent rise in rent for housing and retail establishments in Itaewon, many Africans have moved to Itaewon’s Haebangchon neighborhood and the outskirts of Seoul.
The narrow alleyways of this part of Itaewon are home to churches, restaurants, stores, beauty parlors, and other facilities established to service the needs of the African community. If you walk further up the steep path, lined with aged shops, you are likely to see Africans talking among themselves in small groups. This is place the face of Africa in Seoul.
Australia, the home of Korea’s popular comedian Sam Hammington and world-famous barista and café CEO Paul Bassett, is the most representative country of Oceania. For most Koreans, Australia is a leisurely place where kangaroos and koalas frolic on wide plains and sheep and cattle graze freely.
Many young Koreans go to Oceanian countries to study languages, make money while having some fun on a working holiday, or to settle down permanently and take a new path in life. The Korean community in Australia exceeds 40,000, and there are approximately 32,000 Koreans in nearby New Zealand.
Conversely, the number of Oceanians visiting or moving to Korea has been gradually increasing.
However, some came to Korea decades earlier. These were the soldiers who came in 1950 to assist Korea by fighting in the Korean War, many of whom were never able to return home.
The War Memorial of Korea, located in Yongsan-gu, hosts an event every year on April 25, known as ANZAC Day, to commemorate these troops. “ANZAC” is a term that refers to the combined forces of Australia and New Zealand who fought in World War I. On this day, countries all over the world show their respect for all Oceanians who died in war through various commemorative ceremonies.
John Simmons, a Korean War veteran, said, “If I could go back in time 65 years, I would fight for Korea again. Every year on April 25, Korea conveys its gratitude on the anniversary of the Commonwealth’s involvement in the war. Also, I was deeply moved by the attitude shown by Koreans toward Oceanians in the time after the war.”
Although the bonds were forged in war, the relationships between Korea and the countries of Oceania today are characterized by warm affection rather than sadness.