Korean Diaspora hits DC: Annandale, Virginia aka “Koreatown”

Go to downtown Annandale, Virginia, and you’ll see more Korean-language signs than English ones. In addition to the Korean markets and dozens of restaurants, the area sports a kick-ass karaoke box with tons of Japanese songs. But a lot of the Korean business owners don’t join the chamber of commerce and don’t want to participate in building one of those newfangled “walkable” downtown shopping centers that have been springing up all over the country. The Washington Post has the story:

‘Koreatown’ Image Divides A Changing Annandale

When a contingent of Annandale’s civic leaders named their downtown “The Annandale Village Centre,” they were aiming to re-create the experience of Old Town Alexandria, where people can walk to specialty shops on brick sidewalks along quaint streets.

The Annandale Chamber of Commerce’s Web site and brochures published by Fairfax County try to convey old-fashioned charm, with photos of downtown scenes: a Civil War-era church, a rustic barn and a farmers market.

In reality, the face of downtown Annandale — a collection of aging strip malls and low-rise office buildings — has changed from white to Asian, and its unofficial, oft-invoked moniker is Koreatown.

The census says there were only some 66,000 Koreans living in the area as of 2000, but I suspect that it’s grown much higher by now. Also, the relatively small number of Koreans actually living in Annandale is deceptive. The bedroom communities for Koreans are sprawled out just like the rest of the area, so Annandale is just a concentration of shops. The evidence of the Korean diaspora in the DC area is impossible to miss: Korean groceries abound, there are more Korean convenience store operators than Indian ones, Korean churches are everywhere, and there are several competing chains of Korean grocery stores. I love it because it means I can get Japanese food ingredients wayyy cheaper than I can get them at the Japanese market in Bethesda.

I thought Korea was supposed to be a developed country. Why is it that there continue to be so many immigrants to the US? Don’t know if you’re reading this, Mr. Marmot, but as someone who attended one of those Korean churches, maybe you can shed some light.

4 thoughts on “Korean Diaspora hits DC: Annandale, Virginia aka “Koreatown””

  1. Best way to say is quoting from the documentary Warroom, “…it’s economy, stupid!”

  2. Korea IS a developed country. It’s just that people there hear about how the schools in D.C. are really good, and the rich Koreans send their kids to study here. Most of the time, the kids are REALLY stupid, hence the hordes of Koreans at Woodson High… Korean schools are very strict, and the parents of rich, stupid kids don’t want their precious children to be branded as idiots. So yeah, hope that answered your question.

  3. Annandale has a downtown? Anyway, it seems the “Koreatown” moniker is split between Annandale and Centreville (in western Fairfax County) as Korean-Americans move further west.

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