By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
Koreatown's Asian population has grown from 27 percent in 2000 to 33 percent in 2010, according to U.S. Census data, and the non-Latino, white population has more than doubled, from 5 percent to 11.5 percent.
K-Town, the reality show, has rankled some within these borders as a crass depiction of what's really unfolding. "The biggest people against us are the Asian Americans," K-Town's Cha says.
Producers are very happy with the show's 10-episode opening cycle, however, telling L.A. Weekly it's attracted more than 70 percent of the traffic to YouTube's LOUD channel, part of Google's attempt to challenge television. (LOUD and K-Town are produced by Electus, the company founded by reality TV titan Ben Silverman.)
Katherine Yungmee Kim, author of Los Angeles's Koreatown, a history of the community, says the area's appeal goes beyond ethnic exoticism. Koreatown is a vital part of the city's historic core, a place where 80-year-old bars are bathed in the surreal because of Korean drinking traditions that emphasize respect and decorum.
"That hipster influx, from what I've seen, a lot of the people are going to kind of kitsch places, the Prince, Bobby London, HMS Bounty — places that have that exotic, this-is-so bizarre feel," she says. "You've got this throwback atmosphere with a full Korean menu. That juxtaposition is fascinating because it seems authentic."
Koreatown is being defined by key forces that aren't always in sync: Is it an Ellis Island–cum–Meatpacking District, with global trends breaking out and rents gradually edging sky-high? Is it a Chamber of Commerce fantasy of a throng of reality-show booze bistros fed by big spenders? Is it a community whose diverse population is beginning to stand up to absentee decision makers who shape it at City Hall? It's a healthy dose of all three.
"In the past the community was afraid of coming out of a shell," says Chang Lee, development chairman of the Korean American Chamber of Commerce. "I don't think we're that community anymore. We want to be involved and engaging."
What some see as L.A.'s version of Manhattan — vertical, dense, urbane and exotic — started humbly enough. Kim's Los Angeles's Koreatown notes that the first Koreans settled on Los Angeles' Bunker Hill in about 1900. Despite the popularized history of the 1992 riots, which painted Korean merchants in South L.A. as carpetbaggers, Koreans settled in South L.A., along Jefferson Boulevard between Vermont and Normandie avenues, in the 1930s.
Yu Eui-Young's 1985 study "Koreatown Los Angeles: Emergence of a New Inner-City Ethnic Community" notes that by the end of that decade Koreans had started to move north to Adams Boulevard.
Some of what is now Koreatown initially locked out minorities by using racial covenants. When they expired after World War II, Japanese families began to move in along the Crenshaw corridor. By the mid 1960s, Jewish families were moving west, and Koreans were home.
"The legend is that the Olympic market opened by Lee Hui Duk in 1969 at the corner of Olympic Boulevard and Hobart Street was the origin of the new Koreatown," writes Eui-Young in his 1985 paper.
Bars, clubs and cafés weren't far behind, since Korean business is often conducted in banquettes over bottles of soju or Crown Royal. Says one Koreatown oldster, "Men getting together with buddies at drinking places after work is an important part of Korean culture. ... I remember going to one of those places on Eighth Street near Vermont with my businessmen friends in the early 1970s."
In the wake of the 1992 riots, which spread north from South L.A. and ravaged Koreatown with looting, storefront-crashing and arson, many Koreans joined the tens of thousands of black residents who fled L.A. for the suburbs. Newly arrived Korean immigrants who before had seen the community as a landing spot instead settled in Orange County and the San Gabriel Valley. But nightlife filled the burned-out heart of Koreatown.
From that era emerged a "dark side" in vice-friendly Koreatown, home of the speakeasy, underage drinking and after-hours partying, says rapper Dumfoundead, aka Jonathan Park, a 20-something born and raised among Central Americans and Koreans in K-Town. He says there are escorts, rave drugs, school-night after-hours festivities and, of course, people who drink "every fucking night. ... The soju intake of Koreatown is absolutely crazy," he says. "Now non-Koreans are getting involved."
The ZIP codes covering Koreatown — 90004, 90005, 90006, 90010 and 90020 — contain 365 drink-serving bars, clubs and restaurants and 118 stores selling alcohol, according to state Alcoholic Beverage Control data. At least 66 "café entertainment" and dance hall permits have also been granted by the L.A. Police Commission.
"There are a lot of cool bars you can only access with a Korean friend," says rapper Park. "You go to those places and the menus are still in Korean. You can try to bring non-Koreans, but they're very exclusive."
K-Town and its stars take you inside all that. Says "Mohawk" Steve Kim, "It's a ride into Asian-American life that hasn't been experienced before."
The ritual of traditional Korean drinking involves two-handed soju service, the younger person serving the older. Park finds something endearing in the survival of this "subculture" — the idea that younger Korean Americans, some of whom barely know a word of Korean, are not only connecting with their roots but exposing non-Korean friends to their heritage.
Pretty well written article about Ktown. The growth in Ktown is not fueled by bars and karaoke places - there has been substantial foreign investments from Asian countries. Drive down Wilshire and you'll find not just Korean firms but also many Pilipino and Japanese.
So Interesting that Gangnam style and the Kogi taco truck have helped bring this culture to the forefront of our society now. I know that during a time where los angeles apartment rentals are hard to come by, koreantown apartments are popping up all over and the town and with it's close proximity to public transit and downtown it does seem like this is the place to be.
"Hippest Neighborhood". You are trying to say K-town is America's trendiest neighborhood? Fun and new yes, but highest trending, NOT. What dolt wrote the title?
"Park has a "Koreatown" tattoo across his chest and can recite off the top of his head some of Korean L.A.'s biggest pop culture successes, including Ben Baller, the hip-hop jeweler who has a reality show alongside the K-Town crew; electronic music producer Nosaj Thing; Bobby Hundreds of streetwear label The Hundreds; David Choe, the artist who painted Facebook's Silicon Valley offices in exchange for future Facebook stock (for a short time estimated to be worth a half-billion dollars right after its initial public offering) instead of $60,000 cash; and K-Town co–executive producer Eddie Kim, a spoken-word artist who rose through the same talent circuit as Park."
Bobby Hundreds? Ben Baller? Nosaj thing? David Choe? these people came from no where near Ktown or LA proper... Get your facts straight. Quit perpetuating geographic lies which only give these clowns more street credibility.
@truthhurts That these folks are "some of Korean L.A.'s biggest pop culture successes" is accurate. I stand by it. Don't hate.
One thing is confirmed - The Asian culture of "saving face" Not showing emotion in public, cool, calm reserved culture...etc - All of that - goes out the freaking window once Americanized!
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