The Korean Diaspora Project: Koreans in Guatemala

Unlike in other countries in Latin America, Korean migration to Guatemala is a comparatively recent development. Although a small number of Korean immigrants traveled to Guatemala after experiencing poor living conditions in Mexico in the early 20th century, the majority of the first Korean immigrants began arriving in the country in the early 1980’s— almost two decades after the first Korean settlements in South America were established. Furthermore, Korean migration to Guatemala is unique in regards to its continued growth: According to the Republic of Korea’s Migration Department in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Commerce, in 2011 there were 12,918 people of Korean descent living in Guatemala. This number surpasses the Korean population in Paraguay, for instance, and marks Guatemala as a new, alternative destination for migrants in Central and Latin America.

After 1985, many Korean immigrants established textile factories in the country and nearby areas, with the objective to later export such goods to the United States. Since the turn of the century, however, there has also been a burgeoning of a Korean food and tourist industry: In Guatemala City, there is a developing Koreatown, replete with Korean restaurants, supermarkets, and products. According to Dong Youl Yoo, president of La Asociación de Coreanos en Guatemala (Association of Koreans in Guatemala), these restaurants and other stores in this new Koreatown serve to promote an understanding of Korean culture and function as a vehicle for tourism. In this way, Korean migration to Guatemala can be seen as sharing the same objectives and soft-power goals as other countries with growing Korean populations; perhaps it is also indicative of greater trends in an increasingly interconnected, globalized world. 

This research fellowship aims to trace the creation and continued growth of Korean immigrants in Guatemala, and also see how their migration is perceived or embraced by the local population. 

Please contact us if you are interested in pursuing or contributing to this research


Park, Chae-soon (2007), “La emigración coreana en América Latina y sus perspectivas [Korean emigration in Latin America and its prospects]”, Segundo Congreso del Consejo de Estudios Latinoamericanos de Asia y de Oceania (PDF), Seoul: Latin American Studies Association of Korea  

Kim, Chong-Sup, and Eunsuk Lee. “Growth and Migration to a Third Country: The Case of Korean Migrants in Latin America.” Journal of International and Area Studies23, no. 2 (2016): 77-87.


Koreatown in Guatemala:


Korean Culture Center in Guatemala

Samulnori in Koreatown, Guatemala City

Seoul in Guatemala: Seoul Avenue, Guatemala City (Spanish)

Korean Restaurants in Guatemala (Spanish)