In the Zona Rosa neighborhood in downtown Mexico City, things are lively to say the least. It’s a place famous for its early 20th-century architecture, bustling commerce, LGBTQ-friendly nightlife, and one of the largest Korean communities in the Americas. Known within the capital as Pequeño Seúl, or Little Seoul, the neighborhood has dozens of Korean restaurants and Korean-owned businesses peppered in amongst taquerias, bars, and dance clubs. As the neighborhood develops thanks to Korea’s clout as a global pop-culture icon, so does its influence on the culture of Mexico City itself.
Where is Mexico City’s Little Seoul?
Mexico City’s Little Seoul is situated between the streets of Hamburgo, Sevilla, Florencia, and Avenue Chapultepec. Within this area you can find clusters of Korean-owned businesses. The signs of restaurants, cosmetics stores, markets, and bars beam with bold Hangul characters interspersed with Spanish. In this koreatown, many pedestrians, store keepers, and patrons can be heard speaking a mixture of Korean and Spanish. This marriage of vernaculars is omnipresent in Zona Rosa and it feels like nowhere else in the world.
The origins of Mexico City’s Little Seoul
Koreans have been immigrating to Mexico since 1905 when over a thousand people settled in the Yucatán peninsula to work in henequen plantations where native agave plants used for producing commercial fibers are grown. Working conditions were poor and many people wanted to return home after their contracts ended. However, the Japanese annexation of the Korean peninsula in 1910 prevented that and many of the immigrants settled in Mexico City.
After the earthquake of 1985 in Mexico, real estate prices fell sharply in some parts of Mexico city. Seeing an opportunity, many Korean Mexicans decided to establish their businesses in the cheaper Zona Rosa.
For most of its existence Little Seoul was an often overlooked area. Now however, the neighborhood’s popularity is booming thanks to Korea’s growing influence in global pop-culture. According to Young Doo Park, the Director of the Centro Cultural Coreano, or Korean Culture Center in Mexico City, this popularity will continue to change the neighborhood.
“BTS, Blackpink, Twice, and many other K-pop idols have great fan clubs here. Mexicans have seen Parasite, which won an Oscar for best picture in 2020. The K-dramas and series on Netflix like Squid Game have reached all types of audiences in Mexico.”
With this newfound popularity, Zona Rosa’s Pequeño Seúl is fast becoming one of the city’s most exciting neighborhoods to visit. Here are several must-see places in Little Seoul to get your fill of Korean culture in Mexico City.
The Korean grocery stores you need to check out in Mexico City’s Little Seoul
You can find almost every Korean staple in Mexico City’s Koreatown’s small grocery stores like fresh homemade side dishes known as banchan, homemade kimchi, shiso leaves, cosmetics, and alcohol like Soju and Makgeolli.
- Good People: A great small Korean grocer offering a wide selection of Korean products at competitive prices.
Where: Hamburgo 215, Juárez, Cuauhtémoc, 06600 Ciudad de México, CDMX, México
- Tienda Oriental: Another local grocer that carries Korean sauces and ingredients, as well as homemade Korean condiments and kimchi.
Where: Hamburgo 238, Juárez, Cuauhtémoc, 06600 Cuauhtémoc, CDMX, México
Where to shop for Korean cosmetics in Mexico City’s Little Seoul?
The Korean beauty industry is an international phenomenon. In Mexico City’s Koreatown, you can find several Korean cosmetics stores.
- Bidameun Korean Kosmetics: A small business heavily stocked with imported Korean cosmetics.
Where: Sevilla #20, Juárez, Cuauhtémoc, 06600 Ciudad de México, CDMX, México
- Missha Hamburgo: A large cosmetics store that carries a large selection of Korean and international cosmetics.
Where: Hamburgo 206 Col. Juárez Del, Cuauhtémoc, 06600 Ciudad de México, CDMX, México
Where to eat and drink in Mexico City’s Little Seoul?
Zona Rosa’s Korean restaurants are satisfying and often lively. From Korean BBQ to cold noodles, the neighborhood has it all.
- La Casa Coreana/Hallyeo Sudo: A favorite for late-night feasts, this restaurant is sure to impress even the most dedicated fans of Korean cuisine.
Where: Av Chapultepec 425, Juárez, Cuauhtémoc, 06600 Ciudad de México, CDMX, México
- Song’s Recipe: This place is delicious. They only do take-out, but the dishes are authentic, the prices cheap, and the owners are very friendly.
Where: C. Liverpool 185, Juárez, Cuauhtémoc, 06600 Ciudad de México, CDMX, México
- NaDeFo: With a name loosely translated as “Na’s Place to Drink,” NaDeFo is one of the oldest Korean BBQ spots in the city. They also serve some of the largest portions, so be advised to come hungry.
Where: C. Liverpool 183, Juárez, Cuauhtémoc, 06600 Ciudad de México, CDMX, México
Where to learn more about Korean culture in Mexico City?
- Korean Cultural Center in Mexico (Centro Cultural Coreano en México): Here you can take classes in Korean language, cooking, traditional calligraphy, and many other activities. The cultural center also organizes community events like traditional Korean music clubs, and Go [baduk] board game tournaments. The yearly contest “Mexico K Pop Stars” allows young people an opportunity to showcase their talents by dancing and singing covers to the music of their favorite K-pop stars. For folk music fans, the event Arirang Concour gets local musicians to recreate Korean folk songs into Latin American fusions.
Where: Temístocles 122, Polanco, Polanco IV Secc, Miguel Hidalgo, 11550 Ciudad de México, CDMX, México