By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
“I want to be rich, like Bill Gates,”
says Heidi, a pretty Korean eighth-grader.
Heidi and her best friend, Hana, both “just 13,” are standing in front of the key chains and cuddly wallets at Le Cards, a Sanrio-like gift shop on the first floor of the Koreatown Plaza on Western, between Olympic and Wilshire. The girls are slowly making their way home after a two-song set at the karaoke place up the street, a regular afterschool stop. Today they sang B2K and Evanescence.
“It’s really loud and helps you get the stress out,” says Hana, of singing along to the modern-rock/goth hit.
What kind of stress does your average Korean eighth-grader suffer from?
“Money, mostly,” Heidi explains, putting down a denim wallet she has decided against.
“Yeah, money,” Hana agrees.
What do you mean?
“Not enough. I don’t have enough,” says Heidi, who does have high cheekbones and long legs.
“We want a lot of clothes,” Hana says, revealing a full set of braces. “We’re really materialistic.”
“I love shoes and handbags,” adds Heidi, who also loves cute white boys and the band Good Charlotte.
If you could have anything in the world right now, what would it be?
“A gift card from Abercrombie or a Christian Dior bag — Dior-Girlie — the pink one,” says Heidi.
“I would get cash,” says Hana. “That would be easier. Then I could just spend it.”
Are your parents bummed out that you are so materialistic?
“They probably don’t know,” says Hana.
“She has sooo much,” Hana says of her friend’s mom. “Like a regular American star — that much.”
You mean she bought so much clothing for herself, she couldn’t get you a present?
The girls admit they “slack off” at school, but plan on studying more and getting some “good goals.”
For Heidi, this means becoming a fashion designer and “really famous.” She wouldn’t mind modeling and getting her eyes done — a $2,000 job common among Koreans. The procedure adds a crease in the lid, widening the eye aperture. In the meantime, she uses tape she bought this afternoon, which does the trick temporarily.
“Without it my eyes are really Chinky, and I look like I am faded,” she says matter-of-factly.
Hana’s aspirations are less specific.
“I just want to make a lot of money . . . not like a prostitute, but I want a lot.”
Heidi and Hana like to watch Rich Girls, The Fabulous Life and A Hundred Hottest Hotties. They don’t come to this mall very often.
“I haven’t been here in, like, a month,” says Heidi.
“More, we go to B.C. or G.” That’s the Beverly Center and the Grove.
“We have nicknames for everything,” says Hana. “Like, this is KTP. The K-Town Galleria [down the street] is KTG.”
“I go there once a week,” Hana says. “Downstairs in the market they give samples.”
For the most part, the girls don’t shop at either mall, which together feature a Benetton; a furrier; a golf shop; and boutiques that carry Prada, Fendi, Burberry, Le Sportsac, Petit Bateau, and luxury items like Mont Blanc pens, electronics and high-end beauty products.
“It’s too expensive,” says Heidi.
Mostly they stick to the food courts — fried pork and ice cream, specifically.
If they could just get jobs, it might be different, but no one will hire them. Not even Heidi’s mom.
“She owns a café, but says I can’t work there till summer break.”
“You know how the job thing is. You have to be 15 years old or something,” says Hana.
Would the woman behind the counter hire them here?
The woman shakes her head “no.”
“Why? WHY?” the two demand.
“They probably think we might steal or something,” Heidi smirks.
Hana worked at her dad’s beauty supply last summer and earned $700. She spent most of it paying off a mysterious debt.
Did you get in some kind of trouble?
“Yeah, something not so good. Something I can’t say.”
“We make our mistakes, but we all learn,” Heidi says in her pal’s defense.
What? Like cutting class, shoplifting?
“Something like that,” says Hana.
“Everyone goes through it,” Heidi continues. “Cause you wanna try it once. You want to be like, ‘I did that. I know how it feels.”
“You know how you wanna tell
them . . .” Hana attempts to explain. “You want to tell people, ‘Don’t do that, ’cause it’s bad.’ I want to be the one that teaches them. I wanna be better than them. And rich.”
More on Koreatown: Check out this week’s Winter Eating and Drinking pullout.