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"That's a very traditional thing that still goes on, and it trips me out," he says.
Chang Lee, of the Korean American Chamber of Commerce, celebrates the nightlife and says he's lobbying the Los Angeles City Council to give Koreatown the same "entertainment district" designation that has been a part of Hollywood's amazing evolution from a litter-strewn, dowdy street-drug mecca to a weekend-packed celebrity playground.
"What we're trying to promote is what is unique about our community," Lee says. "One of the things we boast about is our cultural experience in the entertainment area. We have more karaoke places than any other community in L.A."
Yet Yusef Robb, spokesman for City Councilmember Eric Garcetti, who represents one chunk of the K-Town community, indicates his boss isn't entirely on board with duplicating the kind of nightlife magnet Garcetti championed in Hollywood. Amidst Hollywood's eat-and-drink transformation, the U.S. Census shows, Hollywood's neighborhoods lost 12,000 residents between 2000 and 2010, an unexpected shock to many, including city planners, and the largest population drop by far in Los Angeles' many distinct mega-neighborhoods.
"A robust nightlife is good for the economy," Robb says. "But too many nightspots in a neighborhood can create dead spots during the day. We are always seeking to facilitate a careful balance that also addresses noise, public safety and other resident concerns."
Richard Kim, an assistant L.A. city attorney and board member on the Wilshire Center-Koreatown Neighborhood Council, says many bar and club applicants have come to the body lately for its blessing. But, he says, they often lie, promising a restaurant when what they're really planning is a drinking "café." He says City Hall needs to encourage nightlife development while also addressing quality of life. "They need to create jobs and be concerned about safety at the same time," Kim says. "It's a balancing act."
Koreatown is lined with high-value, mostly Korean-owned commercial property along Wilshire, Western and Olympic boulevards. But Korean immigrants who built the area's retail district are now retiring, giving way to their sons and daughters — born stateside and raised with whites, Latinos and blacks.
This second-generation, which never moved far from home, is bolstered by young Korean professionals not necessarily raised in the area, who are moving into new condos and high-rises such as the (half-empty) Solair building on Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue and the decidedly urbane Wilshire Vermont Station Apartments above a Metro subway stop, a Nine West shoe store and a deli. Another building nearby, The Vermont, broke ground this spring.
"What you're having is the second generation of Korean-American kids who are college-age and building a very effective bridge, bringing their non-Korean friends into Koreatown," says Edward J.W. Park, director of the Asian Pacific American Studies Program at Loyola Marymount University. "The pop influence of the Korean taco truck and the 'Gangnam Style' video means interest in Korea has been really high from non-Koreans. And it's not just white kids coming into Koreatown."
That goes both ways. The Belasco, a vintage theater that reopened as a 40,000-square-foot dance club last year, is perhaps Koreatown's biggest spot of the moment — even if it's to the east, in downtown Los Angeles. Its Saturday night parties were taken over in March by a crew that includes K-Town's Joe Cha. But it's open to all. "There's eye candy all around," promises Martin Park, co-promoter of the venue's "Premiere Saturdays."
At the same time, a new wave of Korean visitors has been cycling through Los Angeles, encouraged by a 2008 visa-waiver program that requires only passports for South Koreans, who can then legally stay up to 90 days. "The number of South Korean tourists coming to the United States has sort of gone through the roof," says Loyola Marymount's Park.
Young South Koreans with longer-term student visas also flock to K-Town, promising their parents they'll attend one of its numerous English schools as a prelude to a four-year degree. Wink, wink.
"They're supposedly here to study — but they're just here to party," says rapper Park. He sees the Korean students out until 6 a.m. and asks himself, "Do these motherfuckers have jobs?"
L.A. Weekly caught up with Jonathan Park at one of his favorite after-work spots, Beer Belly, just around the corner from his hip-hop studio. He's excited by what he sees as a Koreatown cultural awakening flavored by its Korean and Salvadoran heritage.
Born in Argentina but brought here as a toddler, Park's rap career was a product of the legendary Project Blowed events and Asian-American talent showcases like Kollaboration, which helped spawn the likes of Far East Movement (of "Like a G6" fame).
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.
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!