With the Chinese people being top in number when it comes to world population, it comes as no surprise that a Chinatown exists in almost every country in the world, Korea being included. Surprisingly, the Incheon Chinatown is the only Chinatown in Korea. Despite being the lone representative of the Chinese in the country, this small town represents all and everything Chinese.
The Chinatown of Incheon began during the opening of the Chinese Consulate in 1884. The establishment of Chinatown then came a year after the Incheon Port was opened. By the 1940’s, this small area had the largest source of the city’s economy with the trading of silk, chinaware and oriental herbal medicine. The small area came to a population of more than 10,000 residents and was further congested with several Chinese restaurants. Unfortunately, regulations against the Chinese as well as the Korean War in the 1960s shrank the area from its former glory. Today, the once huge and popular town is only but a small town of Incheon.
Although quite conservative compared to Chinatowns in other parts of the world, this part of town is located in a prime real estate in central Incheon. The town was built on a hill side and is strategically located in between the Incheon train stations and the equally famous Jayu Park. There are about 30,000 registered Chinese residents in Incheon but only 500 of which live in Chinatown. In fact, you’ll be surprised that most street vendors and service people are all Korean. Most of the Chinese that were left in the small area are cooks that prepare authentic Chinese meals.
The Chinatown of Incheon can easily be spotted far away with its distinctive Chinese gate that marks the entrance to the town. The entrance gate is actually part of a Chinese restaurant named “Jakeumsong”. There are still plenty of Chinese restaurants around town, such as the very first Chinese restaurant in Chinatown called Gonghwa-chun and the popular Daechang Restaurant. Aside from several oriental herbal medicine stalls, the Incheon Chinese Church that was founded in 1917 still stands in the town. A Chinese school that was built in 1901 is also present in the area.
Most of the shops and restaurants found around town are adorned with Chinese folk displays and paintings typical of most Chinese areas. Several Chinese residents still live in the area with their houses closely knit together roof to roof. Most of these houses combine both Chinese and Korean architecture. The older houses found near the hill, however, present a closer appearance to entirely Chinese styles.
When visiting this part of Incheon, make sure to not leave the area without tasting the most popular Chinese dish in Korea, “jajang-myeon”. Jajang-myeon is a special kind of noodle dish with fried soybean paste. The Chinese invented this precise dish to offer a simple and cheap dish to the people. The dish is so popular that the town even holds a Jajang-myeon festival every year.
If there’s one reason to visit Incheon Chinatown, it would definitely be for the food. Nothing beats a Chinese meal cooked by a Chinese cook to delight all food lovers of the Chinese cuisine.