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Title: The dissolution of an ethnic enclave: the case of a Korean enclave in São Paulo, Brazil

Authors: Dennis Choi*, University At Buffalo
Topics: Ethnic Geography, Qualitative Research, Urban Geography
Keywords: Ethnic enclaves, garment industry, Korean immigrants, ethnic firms
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

This paper aims to investigate how ethnic enclaves can decline, a subject that has been relatively neglected in studies on ethnic economies. To focus on this subject, the author investigates a Korean enclave in São Paulo, Brazil. The enclave is located in a neighborhood called Bom Retiro and has prospered as the main business center of Korean immigrants for decades. However, since the mid-2010s their main industry, garment industry, is declining and the level of business concentration and Korean population are decreasing in the neighborhood. This recent decline of Bom Retiro calls the future of the Korean enclave into question. The empirical data in this paper are derived from fieldwork in 2019, and the author conducted interviews and surveys and collected business data. The field data illustrate that in the early stage of immigration, due to lack of Portuguese proficiency and educational background in Brazil Korean immigrants could not seek economic opportunities in Brazil. Meanwhile, by operating garment businesses in Bom Retiro Korean immigrants could enjoy a higher return to human capital in the neighborhood than the mainstream society and this proves traditional ethnic enclave theories are valid. However, recently the early immigrants and also younger generation Koreans do not see the return is as high as before and as a result Koreans are leaving Bom Retiro in terms of residency and business. By investigating the decline of Bom Retiro as a Korean enclave, this paper can contribute to the field of ethnic economies.

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