Why is New Malden home to North & South Koreans?

Why is New Malden home to North & South Koreans?

The south-west London suburb of New Malden is home to Europe's most thriving Korean expatriate population. 600 North Korean defectors contribute to New Malden's thriving 20,000 Korean population. Whilst 600 people doesn't sound like a signifcant number, it is the largest population of North Korean expats in Europe. New Malden has nearly 20 Korean cafes and restaurants, a high-end karaoke bar, supermarkets and a newspaper, the Free NK, which highlights the devastating nature of Kim Jong-il's regime and reports world news to North Korean citizens. Churches throughout the neighbourhood regularly conduct Korean services.

Why have Koreans settled in New Malden so voraciously? It's attributed to the former residence of the South Korean ambassador in Lord Chancellor's Walk, in nearby Coombe Lane West. In the 1970s compatriots followed the ambassador's lead and settled in the area before Wimbledon house prices became unobtainable and New Malden grew in popularity. Other contributing factors? Korean electronic giant Samsung also based their UK headquarters in New Malden until its 2005 move to Chertsey in Surrey. And some cite a joint-venture between Racal Avionics (previous Decca) and a Korean chaebol (business conglomerate) in the 1950s as the start of the community.

The Korean community in New Malden is not without its problems - help groups discuss practical ways to help North Koreans integrate into local society - and the UK Border Agency have struggled to tell apart asylum applications from genuine North Korean defectors and a huge amount of false application from Chinese immigrants trying to pose as North Korean refugees. South Korea will recognise any North Korean defectors as their own citizens, meaning the UKBA is forced to reject any asylum bids from North Koreans who have already received South Korean citizenship. But despite these issues, New Malden is proving an excellent model for North and South Koreans to live harmoniously.

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