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Koreans Feel at Home in Sao Paulo
Migrants give their views on life in the city through their own eyes
Antonio Carlos Rix (carlosrix)     Print Article 
Published 2009-01-27 12:59 (KST)   
Edited by Rich Bowden  <Editor's Note>
Guaruja is located on an island off the southeast coast of Brazil. It is a common destination for people traveling from Sao Paulo on weekends and holidays -- only about an hour drive away from the metropolis. Last time I was there, during the New Year 2009 festivities, I visited it by the sea in a schooner. It was great, a view of Guaruja I hadn't seen before.

Slideshow of the schooner trip:

Koreans In Guaruja
View more presentations or upload your own. (tags: guaruja sao)


While on board I met a family of Koreans who live in Sao Paulo. I asked one of them to share, in Korean, his thoughts of the city and Brazil in general. His answers are contained in the following video:



A Brief History

The first 107 Korean immigrants arrived in Santos harbor in the state of Sao Paulo as agricultural settlers in the early 1960s. They were full of hopes and dreams in search of new opportunities in their adopted land.

While officially the Korean emigration to Brazil had its beginnings on Feb. 23, 1963, prior to then small groups of Koreans, who had been held as prisoners during the Korean War, had already migrated to Brazil.

By the 1990s, as wholesalers traders and shop owners selling cheaper goods, they set down roots in Bras district in downtown Sao Paulo, while more upmarket Korean shops grew elsewhere in the city. These more expensive businesses specialized more towards women clothing and sophisticated fashion and were centered on Bom Retiro, another district of the city. Many of the Korean community moved to Bom Retiro, which today has become most notably a Korean neighborhood. They share the region with other migrant people such as the Greek and Jewish communities.

Before the arrival of the Koreans, these districts were relatively poorly cared for and mostly decadent. But the coming of the Koreans transformed the district, with the modern facilities of their shops and factories and the offering of highly competitively-priced products. This had a positive impact on the commercial districts, attracting traders and consumers.

Despite being active in many other trades, Koreans are mostly known by Paulistanos (people from Sao Paulo city) for their excellent work in the clothing trade. When it comes to making clothes for women, Koreans are remembered for their skill by Brazilians.

Korean immigrants also brought to Brazil their martial arts: the taekwondo and hapkido disciplines and Taekwondo has become quite popular among many Brazilians.

Below you can see pictures taken last Saturday in downtown Sao Paulo, more specifically, in Bom Retiro neighborhood. I did meet some people who were not very willing to be photographed, who seemed very shy. However I am glad to say I did meet some who, on the other hand, were quite the opposite.

Some of these people have lived in Brazil for 25 to 40 years, while some like Mrs Kyung Ju -- whose husband works with her in the shop -- has had two children in Brazil: a girl and a boy. The girl is studying to be a lawyer while the son is looking to practice medicine.



I asked Brazilians that were shopping in Bom Retiro for their thoughts about the place, the shops and the Koreans. They in general said they like to buy there - the prices are good. However some said they think the Koreans are too insular and reserved. "You enter the shop [and] they don't seem to care much about you," Ms Sonia Alves told me.

On the other hand Ms Adriana Lorga, another buyer, said she thought the neighborhood has improved since the Koreans came. Also that, yes, prices are good but you do have to look carefully to obtain good bargains. (Well, where isn't this the case, one might rightly ask!)

Mrs. Adriana Lorga thinks Koreans brought new vitality to Bom Retiro.
©2009 Antonio Carlos Rix
This attitude though seems clearly and simply a cross-cultural misunderstanding. The Koreans are as welcome in Brazil as are people from all over the world. If you come here from Korea to visit, do business or stay, you already know where to start -- go visit Bom Retiro in Sao Paulo and make yourself right at home.
©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Antonio Carlos Rix

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