Celebrating Korean culture in New Malden

Published

The King has visited New Malden’s Korean community ahead of the State Visit by The President of the Republic of Korea and the First Lady later this month.

The King in New Malden

The Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames has one of the largest expatriate communities of Koreans in Europe, particularly focused around the New Malden area, which is sometimes described as Koreatown. It is reputed to be one of the most densely populated areas of Koreans outside South Korea.

The King in New Malden

There are estimated to be around 10,000 Koreans in New Malden itself and up to 20,000 Koreans living in surrounding areas. As well as the Korean population, New Malden also has a substantial wider Southeast Asian population and is the most ethnically diverse area in the borough.

His Majesty met community groups at New Malden Methodist Church and heard about Korea’s culture and cuisine, before visiting a stall showcasing a selection of Korean specialities. His Majesty also visited the nearby Cake & Bing Soo Shop to meet young Koreans. The King watched a contemporary dance performance and listened to the local London Korean Hummingbirds Choir sing the traditional song ‘Beautiful Country’,as well as viewing an exhibition on the 140th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries, organised by the Korean British Cultural Exchange in collaboration with Kingston Museum.

The King in New Malden

A number of reasons are cited to explain why New Malden has such a significant Korean community. Lord Chancellor's Walk in Coombe Lane West in New Malden previously served as the original residence of the Ambassador of South Korea to the United Kingdom. Samsung Electronics also had its UK offices in New Malden until 2005. A combination of these factors seems to have led many Koreans to settle in New Malden in the 1970s.

The New Malden and wider Kingston area is notable for the number and prominence of Korean businesses and community amenities. These include Korean language churches and nursery schools as well as restaurants and shops. New Malden functions as the shopping and cultural centre for a Korean population spread more widely across South West London and the neighbouring counties, with Korean supermarkets and more than 20 Korean restaurants and cafes.

In January 2023, the Royal Borough of Kingston became the first place in Europe to declare 22 November as Kimchi Day, to be celebrated annually. This was intended both as a reflection on the central role the Korean communities play in the cultural life of the borough and an appropriate way to celebrate 140 years of diplomatic relations between Korea and the United Kingdom.

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