As of the 2011 American Community Survey, New York City is home to 100,000 ethnic Koreans, with two-thirds living in the borough of Queens. On the other hand, the overall Greater New York Combined Statistical Area enumerated 218,764 Korean American residents as of the 2010 United States Census, the second largest population of Koreans outside of Korea.
Mass Korean immigration to the United States began in the 1950s, with a large wave occurring over the 1960s and 1970s. Koreans historically came to the New York City area with the intention of permanently settling there and establishing businesses. Originally ethnic Koreans settled inner city neighborhoods in Manhattan and Queens, but beginning in the 1980s wealthier Koreans began moving to suburban communities in northern New Jersey and Westchester County, New York. Many ethnic Koreans moved into areas already settled by Japanese persons. By 1988 there were about 150,000 ethnic Koreans living in the New York City area.
According to an investigation by The New York Times in 2015, abuse by Korean nail salon owners in New York City and Long Island was rampant, with 70 to 80% of nail salon owners in New York being Korean, per the Korean American Nail Salon Association; with the growth and concentration in the number of salons in New York City far outstripping the remainder of the United States since 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Abuses routinely included underpayment and non-payment to employees for services rendered, exacting poor working conditions, and stratifying pay scales and working conditions for Korean employees above non-Koreans.
Manhattan's Koreatown ( ) is primarily a Korean business district, but around 2008, the district has seen an increase in Korean and European traffic as well, and the resident Korean population in the area has grown concomitantly. There was never a formal plan or agreement to create a Korean commercial district in Manhattan. However, given the high tourist traffic stemming from its proximity to the Empire State Building,Macy's Herald Square, Penn Station,Madison Square Garden, the Garment District, and the Flower District, amongst other Midtown Manhattan landmarks, it was an ideal location for Korean immigrants to settle. Initiated by the opening of a Korean bookstore and a handful of restaurants in the 1980s, Koreatown sprang into being. With their success, an additional stream of Korean-owned businesses took root in the neighborhood, coinciding with increased immigration from Korea; and with rising demand for the prime location, overall property values in the area increased as well. According to the 2010 United States Census, the Korean population of Manhattan (co-extensive with New York County) had nearly doubled to approximately 20,000 over the decade since the 2000 Census.
In the 1980s, a continuous stream of Korean immigrants also emerged into the Long Island Koreatown (? ? ), many of whom began as workers in the medical field or Korean international students who had moved to New York City to find or initiate professional or entrepreneurial positions. They established a foothold on Union Street in the Flushing neighborhood of Queens, between 35th and 41st Avenues, featuring restaurants and karaoke (noraebang) bars, grocery markets, education centers and bookstores, banking institutions, offices, consumer electronics vendors, apparel boutiques, and other commercial enterprises. In 1990, Korean-American owned shops were boycotted in the Flatbush section of Brooklyn; the boycott started by Black Nationalist, Sonny Carson, lasted for six months and became known as the Flatbush boycott.As of 1998, about 100,000 ethnic Koreans lived in Greater New York City, making it the second largest group of ethnic Koreans in the United States after those in Greater Los Angeles.
As the community grew in wealth and population and rose in socioeconomic status, Koreans expanded their presence eastward along Northern Boulevard, buying homes in more affluent and less crowded Queens neighborhoods and more recently into adjacent suburban Nassau County, bringing their businesses with them, and thereby expanding the Koreatown itself. This expansion has led to the creation of an American Meokjagolmok, or Korean Restaurant Street, around the Long Island Rail Road station in Murray Hill, Queens, exuding the ambience of Seoul itself. The eastward pressure to expand was also created by the inability to move westward, inhibited by the formidable presence of the enormous Flushing Chinatown () centered on Main Street. Per the 2010 United States Census, the Korean population of Queens was 64,107, while the Korean population of Nassau County had increased by nearly two-thirds to approximately 14,000 over one decade since the 2000 Census.Korean Air and Asiana Airlines provide non-stop flights from Seoul to JFK Airport in Queens, and the Consulate-General of South Korea in Manhattan has played an important role in mediating travel to and from Korea by the Korean diaspora living in the New York metropolitan area.
Each Korean language school in the U.S. has its own distinct educational mission and clientele, and each school has its own distinct management. Because ethnic Koreans settling in New York City generally intend to permanently immigrate to the U.S., the only Korean-oriented schools are supplementary institutions holding classes on Saturdays and Sundays.
Korean churches typically hold Korean language classes for 30 minutes or one hour per week during Sundays. In addition to the churches, there are non-religious operators of Korean schools. In 1988 the Consulate-General of South Korea in New York stated that about 40% of the Korean schools in the New York City area are non-religious.
The first Korean schools were established by ethnic Korean churches.
The Korean School of New York was the first non-religious Korean school established in the city, opening in 1973. The founder, who remained as the school's principal administrator in 1988, believed that Korean language education should be separate from religion. As of that year the school had 205 students.
In 1988 the Church of Brooklyn Korean Language School had 120 students, the Broadway Korean School of New York had 97 students, the Westchester Korean School had 50 students, and the Pearl River Korean School had 36 students.