3rd Largest Korean Diaspora Community in Western Europe is….

petite france
Petite France – credit to mustachioventures.blogspot.com.au

They say France is the 3rd largest Korean diaspora community, however, I wasn’t too impressed with what I found from the net.  I thought there’d at least be a small Korean town or a street that’s dedicated to the population (if you know one, please, let me know!), but I have yet to discover one.

What I DO know is at this moment, there are over 58 restaurants in Korea that is dedicated to French cuisine.  See the list and websites below if you want to take a stab at French cuisine in Korea.  Gangnam has over 20 restaurants alone.

The first contact of Franco-Korean relations

Similar to Sweden, the first French person who successfully made contact with Korea (and possibly ate kimchi) was a guy named Father Philippe Maubant in 1836.  Keep in mind the Joseon Dynasty was ruling during this period and several factors lead to a rather bloody mess.  Not too bloody but still enough bloody.

Observing how China’s relationship with Western influence brought about much turmoil including the Second Opium War and Taiping Rebellion, Heungseon Daewongun decided to ultimately get rid of all the converts.  This time was know as the French campaign against Korea in 1866 also called the Byeong-in yangyo (Western disturbance of the byeong-in year).

Many executions were done right at this very spot in Jeoldu-san on the banks of the Han River (picture below).

By Matthew smith 254 [CC-BY-SA-3.0]
By Matthew smith 254 [CC-BY-SA-3.0]
Nevertheless, an official Treaty of Friendship was signed in 1886 and the first Korean to step foot in France (at least recorded) was Hong Jong-u in 1890.  But don’t picture this guy quietly sitting down to translate materials all the live long day (okay, maybe picture it a little); according to his bio, he was also an assassin, a reformer, an activist, and statesman.  All around OG.

Before assassins and gangsters looked like this,
nameless_gangster6They looked like this.

commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AHongJongU.JPG
commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AHongJongU.JPG

Shortly after the signing, due to Japanese rule and World War II from 1906-1949, relations with France and Korea became almost nonexistent.  However, after the Korean war, relations between the two countries picked up fairly quickly.

As of 2002, over 6-7000 French citizens were in Korea.  And in 2011, there were at least 12,864 roaming the streets of France – women seen more than men – though a thriving community is yet to be seen.

Notable Kyopo 

Fleur Pellerin is a Minister of France.  She represents France of course, but is also a Korean adoptee.  France encourages ethnic diversity and when she became a Minister, there was no big reaction on her heritage to the citizens.  In saying this, she considers herself a representative for her capabilities and not a representation of ethnic background.

On a side note about adoption, this reference said it best. “Adoption is something disturbing to them, at the same time, Korean people are really proud of adoptees who succeed. And Korean people are really proud of the fact that Fleur Pellerin is in the French government. In their point of view, Korean adoptees are first Korean. So it’s quite paradoxical.” Site of reference.

Keeping the French Connection Alive

What is available to us is the French Korean Chamber of Commerce (FKCCI) which keeps us updated on all Franco-Korean relations and events since 1986.  The most recent event occurred in Korea Bastille Day and every year there is a Gala event which encourages further business activities between the two countries with high profile celebs including Lee Hyo-Ri, Lee Hye-Yeong, Um Jung-hwa, Lie Sang-Bong, Daniel Henney, etc.  It’s definitely an upscale ritzy type of an event occurring every year in December.

bastille2014
http://www.fkcci.com/fr

All of these activities have really amounted to some serious cash-flow between the two countries – 6.36 billion Euros worth – in 2010. source. It seems that a majority of the events are aimed in improving business relations between the countries so if you have a business in either France of Korea, this is a great organization to keep up with.

You can see what kind of ventures they are currently taking on the French Korean Chamber of Commerce site here.  Take a look at their Coree Affaires blog, which is in direct correlation with the FKCCI.

There is the Centre Culturel Coreen as another useful source for all things French.

Paris Baguette. Let’s just take a moment. 

Now I know what you’re thinking, where does Paris Baguette fit in all of this and why are we even talking about it ?

Paris Baguette address
koreajoongangdaily.joins.com/news/article/article.aspx?aid=2992455

People take their bread seriously in France, with over 10 billion baguettes being sold annually.  The infamous Paris Baguette, which is owned by South Korean Young-in Hur and ubiquitously known among Koreans has opened in no other place than Paris itself.

Ice has been sold to the eskimos on this one.  And the only ‘authentic’ Paris Baguette store on 11 Rue Jean Lantier will taste different from the ones found in Seoul and across the globe as all bread-makers (boulangers) stick to set standards according to the Chambre Professionnelle des Artisans Boulangers-Patissiers.  The bread will taste like how it should taste like minus the corn, ketchup, and sweet gooeyness.  Personally, I’ve been to many Paris Baguettes during my years in Seoul and enjoyed the sweet twist on breads, but I’d like to try the one in France if I ever get the chance.

Community Integration

In Seoul, there is a tiny community called the Montmatre, aka Seorae Village where you can find a small community of French people living, roughly about 600.  Once you start to walk around this area, you will notice the kids speaking French, a French High School and nearby a Park known as Montmontre Park, cafes, shops, etc. Here’s the low down.  If you just want the basic things to do, what to eat, how to get there, check Seoul Selection’s recommendation here.

kissmykimchi.com/2008/05/seorae-village.html/seorae-village-2/
kissmykimchi.com/2008/05/seorae-village.html/seorae-village-2/

And of course, if that doesn’t satiate your fever for France, Petite France and  Nami Island are located at Gapyeong County in Gyeonggi Province, 90 minutes away from Seoul by train.  They are about 25 minutes away from each other but most people do both in one day.

More on Nami Island and Petite France.

Food and Wine

As mentioned in the beginning, if you’re looking for some good food to quench your appetite, check out some of the places which are recommended and have gotten fairly good reviews.

Seoul:
Pierre Gagnaire
La Celtique (In English and Korean)
Le Saint-Ex
Un Deux Trois
Le Comptoir

Busan:
Merciel
Tres Bon

Chungu:
White Christmas

If you’re in Cary, NY, there’s a French-Korean fusion restaurant called komokomonc. Not sure if it’ll ever make its’ way to France, but it’s a start!

Because the French enjoy their food and wine, if you fancy a wine your bibimbap, the FKCCI recommends a Joseph Perrier Chardonnay or a Chateau Bonnet Sauvignon Blanc.  You can purchase the full guide on their page.

Closing Thoughts

I was literally scrapping the bottom of the barrel with this article as I try to focus more on the community and how Koreans have settled in France.  As you can tell, there isn’t much to go by and now I’m more curious than ever.

Have you ever lived in France ? Write a comment and let us know below !

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4 comments

  1. Hi.
    It looks like you don’t know any Korean person from France, it’d have helped you to know more about Koreans here. Maybe you should contact the centre culturel coréen for more information?
    It’s true that Koreans are quite discreet here, so to speak, but that’s probably because there are not that many Koreans in France. I noticed that there are several Korean restaurants around Sainte-Anne street, although that area is more known as the Japanese block. You are way more likely to find places with a strong Chinese or Vietnamese presence. The 13ème arrondissement particularly is known for that.
    I noticed that there are many Korean students in my university, mostly girls, but they are Koreans from Korea and are here only for a few months, I suppose those form a temporary dispora. So far the only place where I saw Koreans that look like part of a permanent diaspora is in the centre culturel coréen, and once I passed by a church obviously aimed at Koreans, as for “famous” French Koreans here, the only two I know are Pierre Sang Boyer from a tv show Top Chef and Fleur Pellerin, both being adoptees, for Pierre that fact was mentioned on the tv show in a mini introduction and for Pellerin I had to google her to know that, since there aren’t many Asians in the government and her name is typically French, I was curious. But when you say Korean community what do you mean? Because to us, those two are just French people that happened to be ethnically Asian, and I think the only people that would even remember their being ethnically Koreans are those of us that are interested in Korea. So who is part of the Korean community for you? Anyone ethnically Korean? Or those who are culturally Koreans? Or those who are both ethnically and culturally Koreans?
    Anyway, I’ll try and look into anything concerning Koreans here if that can help you.

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    • Hello Mouna,

      Thank you for reading and for the extra information in regards to the Koreans in France. I’ve answered your questions about what constitutes a Korean community.

      “So who is part of the Korean community for you? Anyone ethnically Korean? Or those who are culturally Koreans? Or those who are both ethnically and culturally Koreans?”

      Have you heard of 1st and 2nd generation ? When people immigrate to a new country, they are regarded as 1st generation, aka people who’ve become citizens in a new country. 2nd generation are the offspring of parents who came to live in a particular country. So anyone who is 1st or 2nd generation would be part of the Korean community.

      In LA, there is a K-community and has officially turned into ‘Korea Town’ where you can see that the shops and their owners are ethnically Korean. It’s also easy to spot many second generation Koreans.

      Another place where a K-community is present can be seen in England. There is an area called New Malden where many shops are run by a Koreans, and many Koreans (1st and 2nd generation) gather in this area. New Malden is generally known among Koreans, although not officially on any record or books. So, I was wondering if there was a similar sort of place in France.

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  2. Ok I got it now. I’ll put an ad in my uni since there are a lot of students of Korean there, somebody would surely be able to give us some information. Did I tell you I love your website? I never thought the Korean diaspora to be so widespread! Now I’d love to meet latino Koreans XD
    Do you know anything about Arab Koreans? I once was looking for Arabic-speaking stand-up comedians on youtube and I came across a Saudi-born Jordanian filipino-Korean!

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    • Hey Mouna,

      Thank you so much for your kind words. There’s always so much to learn about any kind of history so if you receive any more information, feel free to let me know !

      A Saudi-born Jordanian Filipino-Korean ? That is something else ! I haven’t read about or met any Arab-Koreans but that would be something I’ll look into when doing more articles in the future.

      Have a Happy New Year and a great 2015 🙂

      Jenny

      Like

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