Step out of the station and the first thing you see on your left is a tiny Asian takeaway. Walk further up the main street and you start to see why the area has also been dubbed “Little Korea”: next to regular English businesses are Korean restaurants, travel companies and supermarkets. Many shops have Korean translations in their windows and puns on the word “Seoul” are everywhere. This is New Malden, Surrey.
According to the 2011 report of South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, more than 42,000 South Koreans were registered as living in the UK. The
largest concentration reside in New Malden, with some 20,000 residents. About 600 North Koreans also live here, making it the most popular area for North Koreans defectors in Europe and one of the largest North Korean defector communities outside South Korea.
The history of Korean migration in New Malden goes back to the 1950s, when a joint venture between Racal Avionics (then known as Decca), part of a major electronics system company, Thales Group, and a Korean “chaebol” or business conglomerate began to attract Korean workers to New Malden. Samsung’s headquarters were here until 2005.
The original South Korean embassy was also located in New Malden, leading to more people moving into the area.
In the 1970s, the South Korean ambassador moved to nearby Wimbledon, and many South Koreans followed. As Wimbledon became more expensive, South Koreans began to settle in less expensive New Malden. Now it’s the turn of their northern compatriots.