OWL Magazine Korea

Incheon “Chinatown”

Chinatowns, areas where Chinese communities gather, can be found worldwide. In Korea, there are areas where Chinese immigrants have settled, and Incheon’s Chinatown is particularly well-known. Chinatown, along with Freedom Park, Songwoldong Fairy Tale Village, and Open Port Street, stands as a representative tourist destination in the old downtown area of Incheon, experiencing revitalization.

Originating from Jogyeji: Incheon’s Chinatown

Incheon’s opening as a port in 1883, following the treaties of Ganghwa (1876) and Wonsan (1880), led to the creation of an open port. Encircling the open port area, including Freedom Park and the Songhak-dong region, a Chinatown spanning 140,000 square meters was formed in Songhak-dong, Songwol-dong, and Manseok-dong, following the agreements between Korea, the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Japan, and Germany based on the Incheon Treaty Port Joint Jurisdiction in 1883.

Chinatown itself emerged during this period. The current Chinatown is situated where the Chinese Consulate of the Qing Dynasty was established 140 years ago. In the 1920s, Chinatown became a hub for active trade with China, importing salt and grains from Shandong Province. The population increased to around 1,800 during that time.

Despite facing challenges, such as a significant downturn in business after the Korean War, Incheon Chinatown experienced a resurgence in the late 1990s due to globalization trends and the establishment of diplomatic relations between Korea and China.

History of Incheon Chinatown

Incheon Chinatown dates back to 1883 when Incheon Port opened, and the following year, with the establishment of the Qing Consulate, Chinese immigrants settled in the Soryeondong area. Chinese residents built houses and shops, importing salt and grains from the Shandong Province, expanding their businesses, and establishing the appearance of Chinatown with Chinese restaurants. The vicinity around Incheon Port, with consulates from the United States, the United Kingdom, Qing China, Germany, and Japan, flourished, serving as the entrance and exit point for the Korean Peninsula until the abolishment of the consular system by Japan in 1914.

This bustling area, filled with people, became renowned for its Qing cuisine from the 1920s until the Korean War. Notably, restaurants such as Gonghwachun, Jungwharoo, and Dongheungro gained nationwide fame. Chinatown still preserves over 50 buildings constructed in the architectural styles of Japan, China, and Europe during the Enlightenment era. Incheon’s first Catholic church, Dapdong Cathedral, the first Methodist church in Korea, Naeiri Church, and the first Western-style park, Freedom Park, are located here.

After the establishment of the Korean government, various regulations and strengthened residency qualifications significantly impacted the Chinatown’s Chinese community. However, with the resurgence in the late 1990s following the establishment of diplomatic relations with China, Incheon Chinatown embraced a new era. In 2001, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism designated Chinatown as a special tourist zone, leading to a transformation into an area with specialized shops, museums, and an art district.

Chinatown and the Chinese Community

When talking about the Chinese community, there is always something notable. It is said that when Chinese immigrants settled abroad, they sustained their livelihoods with three tools known as “Sanbadao” – the kitchen knife, the scissors for tailoring, and the razor used in barbershops. This signifies that Chinese immigrants were often engaged in restaurants, tailoring shops, and barbershops.

Thanks to this history, Chinatown offers a variety of renowned restaurants. You can explore diverse culinary delights, such as Yeonkyeong, famous for its white jjajangmyeon (black bean noodles), Hongdubyeong, Woldang, and Hwadeok Mandu.

Moreover, Chinatown is famously known as the birthplace of jjajangmyeon, and you can learn more about its history by visiting the “Jjajangmyeon Museum” in Chinatown.

How to Get to Chinatown

The easiest way to reach Incheon Chinatown is by taking the subway to “Incheon Station.” Once you exit Incheon Station, you can easily find the entrance to Chinatown, marked by the arch known as “Paeru.”

Follow this gate to enter Chinatown and explore the unique atmosphere.

Cuisine in Incheon Chinatown

Incheon Chinatown offers a wide array of Chinese cuisine. What’s advantageous is that you can savor various Chinese dishes without traveling to China. Incheon, being the closest place to China in Korea, has been a settlement for many Chinese immigrants since ancient times, allowing the area to become a spot where you can enjoy China without visiting the country.

Additionally, it’s not a long journey from Seoul, and it’s easily accessible by public transportation. Therefore, if you occasionally want to experience an exotic atmosphere, it’s a great place to visit.

Incheon Chinatown

  • Address: 14 Bukseong-dong 2ga, Incheon
  • Phone: 032-777-4000