No matter where you are in the world, or what nationality you hail from, there is just something comforting about a Chinatown. You can count on it in every city, from San Francisco to Incheon, Korea. Excellent Chinese food, red and gold decorations with dragons spewing fire, and a language that makes most foreigners sure the locals are gossiping about them.
As far as Chinatown’s go, Incheon Chinatown is famous around the world. Famous for jjajangmyeon, for strawberry skewers, for honey Korean candy, for Confucius, and especially for sweet and sour pork Korean Chinese Food.
Our family loved visiting Korean Chinatown. If you are an expat living in Korea and you want something familiar, these are 11 amazing reasons to visit famous Incheon Chinatown!
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History of Incheon Chinatown
The spot where Korean Chinatown now stands, was nothing more than a Chinese settlement for over a century beginning in the 1800’s.
Decades of political turmoil and Japanese colonization preventing a thriving Chinatown from rooting. Eventually, most of the Chinese citizens left Korea and returned back home to China due to heavy taxation and restrictive policies.
The tides turned at the end of the century when Korea and China reached a mutually beneficial trading partnership. The government wanted to create an attraction that would lure foreign tourists and Chinese businesses.
In 2003, the first Korean Chinatown was born.
It definitely worked! The area now is bustling and full of unique shopping opportunities, hospitality and incredible food.
How to Get to Incheon Chinatown?
Similar to traveling to Sinpo International Market, a trip to Chinatown will take about 1 hour traveling from Seoul.
From Yongsan Station, Bus 1 will get you there direct, and you can immediately start eating famous Korean Chinese Food (see reason #1,#2 & #8).
The trip is just about a half hour from the Incheon Global Campus, with one transfer at Woninjae.
- Incheon Line 1 to Woninjae
- Transfer at Woninjae
- Suin Line to Incheon Station
Take any exit from the Subway and you can’t miss it.
Cost to Visit Incheon Chinatown
Though, you’ll definitely want to bring money so you can indulge in all 11 reasons we are about to share with you!
11 Amazing Reasons Why Incheon Chinatown
is Super Famous
One thing Chinatown in South Korea is famous for is Korean Chinese Food. Specifically: Jjajangmyeon. In Korea, 7 million bowls of this incredible Korean Chinese food dish are consumed daily!
Jjajangmyeon is noodles with black bean sauce. Without knowing how important these noodles were, we ended up eating jjajangmyeon multiple times during our time living in South Korea before ever discovering their importance in Incheon Chinatown.
It goes without saying, we loving these interesting noodles! Everyone loves these noodles. You will love these noodles.
Jjajangmyeon is so famous, and such a big deal in Incheon, Chinatown that there is even a museum dedicated to it.
The Jjajangmyeon Museum is a large brick building filled with mannequins, history books, recipes, and videos. All these items offer a full history of how jjajangmyeon came to be so important to the Korean Chinese immigrants.
The only problem is that the entire museum is in Korean. Without knowing the language we gleaned three important facts:
- These noodles were originally eaten in the woods
- Many, many people love these noodles
- You cannot eat these noodles without dripping sauce all over your chin
We learned all that for under $1 entrance fee.
#2: Sweet and Sour Pork
Also a staple of Korean Chinese Food is sweet and sour pork.
Korean Chinese Sweet and Sour Pork is totally different than the sticky red American Chinese version you are used.
The pork is covered in a familiar batter and deep fried, but then it is coated in a lightly tinged purple sauce that will make you forget you are married, you have a family, you live on planet Earth, or that you are human.
Nothing else exists when you have a plate of sweet and sour pork placed in front of you. Nothing else matters outside of consuming every last bite, and then ordering more. Nothing else is significant.
I can never go back to eating another food again.
#3: King’s Dessert
Incheon Chinatown is known for a lot of different types of street food, but the one you can’t miss is the Korean Candy called The King’s Dessert. This is a famous traditional Korean candy.
It’s cotton candy made from honey!
The street food vendor making this Korean candy was so much fun to meet and talk to. He taught us all about how to make it, and let us try a sample before buying.
The King’s Dessert isn’t like standard sweet candy. This Korean candy is more delicate in flavor and taste. We had to buy two boxes!
#4: Strawberry Skewers
Another amazing street food in Korean Chinatown are strawberry skewers. And no; Strawberry skewers are not simply impaled strawberries created because someone just finished reading the tales of Sir Lancelot and was inspired.
These are doused in a sugar syrup and then frozen.
Strawberries are not easy to find in Korea. At least not in the summer. While the rest of the world feasts on these tart red berries from April through July, in Korea they are a winter treat.
That’s reason enough to come to Incheon Chinatown during the summer.
#5: Steamed Buns
Another street food that makes the list of amazing reasons to that Incheon Chinatown is super famous are steamed buns.
There are a variety of buns for sale in Korean Chinatown, but one chef in particular makes them differently than anyone else!
He cooks them on the sides of a barrel smoked from the bottom. They are incredible, but then again all the steamed buns in Chinatown are incredible.
#6: Confucius Statue
The Confucius statue is an extremely popular attraction in Incheon, Chinatown. The statue was donated by local governments to demarcate the historical boundaries of the neighborhood, and pay tribute to Chinese culture. It is a significant marker of how Incheon Chinatown came to be.
The statue is located directly up the hill from the jjajangmyeon museum.
A street lined with masks and murals points the way and offers a critical history of Korean-Chinese relations. At the end of the murals stands Confucius.
The statue is quite impressive standing atop a 5 foot high pedestal and poised another 15 feet tall overlooking the port city. The stairway leading to Confucius is lined with traditional Asian lanterns and some of his philosophical teachings are etched along the way.
Have you ever hear of a Japantown? More commonly they are referred to as Japanese concession, or Little Tokyo. The official name is Nihonmachi. They are more common than you realize, but typically overshadowed by the more popular Chinatown.
The Confucius statue is the demarcation line between Chinatown and Japantown in Korea! There is a distinct difference between each side of the demarcation, one that is even noticeable today!
The Korean peninsula falls directly between Japan and China, or mainland Asia, so it was and still is used as a trade route for all of Asia. No different from today, these three countries have always been heavily enmeshed in political and cultural relations.
When facing the statue, Chinatown is on the left and Japantown is on the right. Apropos because Confucius was a philosopher that preached about societal harmony.
#8: Korean Chinese Food Restaurant
There wasn’t a plate of sweet and sour pork in the entirety of South Korea that we didn’t try. So it’s on good authority that we can tell you, without any deviation, the best Korean Chinese Food Restaurant in all of Incheon and Incheon, Chinatown is 상하이.
Google Translate tells me this restaurant is named Shanghai.
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Shanghai Chinese Restaurant
We ordered sweet and sour pork and jjajangmyeon, of course, but also dumplings, and an order of sweet and sour chicken.
Sweet and sour chicken is nothing like sweet and sour pork! It is marinated in an herb brine and then fried, but served without any sauce.
Everything at this restaurant is made perfect. Incredibly tasty, delicious and savory! And, just like we witnessed at the Jjajangmyeon Museum, all the kids finished with sauce all over their faces and dripping down their chins.
#9: Songwol-Dong Fairy Tale Village & Gateway
Incheon, Chinatown is a gateway to many of the surrounding activities and attractions. Markets, gardens and amusement parks to name a few.
- Songwol-Dong Fairy Tale Village
- Jayu Park
- Wolmi Theme Park
- Sinpo International Market
- Incheon Art Platform
- Centennial Park
- Youth Mall Snowflake Village
Songwol-Dong Fairy Tale Village is located directly next to Chinatown. In fact, the two arched entrances can be seen simultaneously.
This village is a lollipop rainbow utopia as imaginative as it is beautiful; a children’s playground where everything can be examined, touched, and played with.
#10: Lookout Tower
Another such attraction is the observation tower located near Jayu Park. This single story beautifully constructed pagoda offers views of the port and Yellow Sea along with the neighboring islands.
It’s located in a quiet section of the park with additional benches for resting and appreciating the park.
Our kids loved climbing up and down the stairs and pointing out what they could see in the distance. It’s a nice place for a quiet reprieve from a busy day, and to take a rest in the shade.
Last, but not least, the people we encountered in Incheon Chinatown are unbelievably kind.
They played with our baby while we ate dinner, they offered us free plates of sweet and sour pork, they brought our children gifts and tokens. They went out of their way to make us feel welcome and it was a delight to visit and get to know them.
► For Kids: Incheon, Chinatown is a must do attraction when visiting South Korea! Kids will love the street vendors, Korean candy, and trinkets that line the streets while learning about the complex history of Korea with her neighbors.
Overstuffed and satisfied, we hopped on the Subway back home to Songdo. But first…
► What We Learned: There is only one Chinatown in all of Korea!
Are you a fan of Chinese food? Have you indulged in Korean Chinese Food? What did you think?
► Nap-Time Version: These are all the amazing foods, sites and attractions you can’t miss when coming to South Korea and visiting the one and only Korean Incheon Chinatown.
Be sure to check out our other can’t miss things to do in South Korea, like touring North Korea on a Korean DMZ tour, and eating Korean Fried Chicken! Plus, find out the top 15 cultural differences between America vs. South Korea.