Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Very, very interesting article that chronicles the history of Korean American grocers in New York. A sample:
In the small space on 79th and York, the Kims sold fruit, vegetables, candy, cigarettes, “anything you could squeeze in,” Ron recalls. To compete with the Upper East Side’s other retail options, they sold their goods 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Seo Jun and Sunhee covered almost the entire 168-hour week.


But more recently, these stores have been vanishing. The Korean Produce Association reports that it has 2,500 members in the New York–New Jersey area, down from 3,000 a few decades ago. Pyong Gap Min, a professor of sociology at Queens College and author of Ethnic Solidarity for Economic Survival: Korean Greengrocers in New York City, puts the number in the greater New York City area much lower, at fewer than 1,500. The drop has been even more pronounced in neighborhoods like Harlem and Flatbush, where Korean-owned groceries, fish stores, and produce stands once flourished.

What happened? There are two stories behind the Korean greengrocers’ disappearance. One involves a changing New York economy over the last 20 years. The other, a particularly Korean saga, is a story of how immigration can work in America—a testament to how far these new Americans have come in a single generation.
Where Did the Korean Greengrocers Go? [City Journal]

Thanks to Edward K. for the article.


  1. TK,

    Lots of 1.0 generations Korean American parents have gone back to Korea. I personally know a few of my friend's parents who've decided to relocate back home after their kids have successfully settled in the US. As you and I've discussed in the past, parents who've come to the US for their kids to get a better education, and may have succeeded in that goal, yet, by sacrificing for the success of their kids, they themselves failed to assimilate to the US. It certainly doesnt help if they dont speak the language, shared the same cultures, etc.

    My parents are much happier in Korea than the US for the same reasons I've prescribed above. A

  2. One of the most interesting parts about the article you linked to was the section about ethnic tensions between African Americans and Korean immigrants. I did not realize this went on in the NY area in the 80's. It's almost as if the issues moved West, all the way to LA in the 90's, intensifying and ultimately blowing up into the riots.

    My parents have lived in the US for 25 years and still have a negative view towards black people. I don't think it will ever change. They live in the greater Seattle, where there are no blatant racial tensions. However, I'm beginning to think most Korean and Korean immigrants have this view towards black people in general. I've seen much of this conflict between 2nd generation Korean Americans and African Americans in school fights and gang feuds.

    Sad, but you can see where it started from.

    Sorry to deviate from the grocers point.

  3. Don't be sorry. That was very interesting as well.

  4. thanks for the article.

    it's hard to know about what happened in the past without people writing about them, even though i feel i am well acquainted with the issues


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