Koreans in Guatemala

Koreans in Guatemala

Koreans in Guatemala form one of the newest and fastest-growing Korean diaspora communities in Latin America. The first migrants from South Korea to Guatemala did not arrive in the country until 1985, more than two decades after South Korean mass migration to Latin America began; they set up factories to produce garments for export to the United States market. As recently as 1997, only 2,051 Koreans resided in the country, but by 2005, that number had almost quintupled to 9,944, surpassing the older community of Koreans in Paraguay and giving Guatemala the fourth-largest Korean population in the region, behind Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico. Roughly four-tenths had permanent residency in the country, with the rest having temporary visas. 90% live in Guatemala City.

As of 2001, there were thirty-three Korean restaurants in the capital; other Korean residents operate karaoke bars, mini-supermarkets, book cafes, and clothing stores. In some cases, wives and children remain in Guatemala doing business while their husbands return to Korea. Octavio Kang, a graduate of the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, publishes a newspaper aimed at the community; about three-tenths of its articles are about Guatemala and the Korean community there, with the rest concerning happenings in South Korea. However, it has only 350 subscribers. Guatemalans perceive the community as fairly insular and isolated.

South Korean media portray the Korean community in Guatemala as living in constant fear of their lives due to endemic violence in the country, a portrayal which the Guatemalan embassy in Seoul strongly disputes. According to the Korean embassy, twenty-four Koreans have become the victims of violent crime in Guatemala between 2003 and 2008.

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