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Another weeknight and another crowd — this time an after-hours Korean restaurant off Wilshire. Beer came in plastic cups and sweet, milk-white makgeolli was served humbly in ceramic bowls. A trio of skinny, long-legged girls in one of the wood-lined, earthy booths appeared to be underage, but a patron insisted, as Koreans often do, that Korean women appear far younger than they are. It was 4 a.m., and the girls remained.
A cottage industry based on the rituals of the dark in K-Town has developed, from bandit cabs whose numbers you'll find on disposable lighters given away at bars, to roving hostesses who freelance at karaoke spots, pouring alcohol and feeding grapes to men as if they were Roman gods. In Korean markets, shelves are lined with herbal-infused hangover beverages.
There's even a dry club, Beverly Boulevard's Gospel House Cafe, dedicated to spiritual music and, apparently, being spiritually sober.
In episode 2 of K-Town, the "rounds of partying" are exposed: 1) il-cha, explained as "happy hour"; 2) ee-cha ("food and drinks"); 3) sam-cha ("pre-game"); and 4) sa-cha ("the main party"). This explains why some Koreans can be such pros, even at school-night partying, and why, by 10 p.m., you can see people completely torn up in Koreatown.
Rapper Park says this ritual comes directly from Korea and proves why L.A.'s immigrants are the champions of the bar scene. The newcomers "are the craziest drinkers of any type of Korean," he says. "No one can hang with them."
"Booking," where women are brought to men's tables for free drinks and possible courtship, still happens at clubs like Vibe and KarNak, but it seems almost juvenile in the new cocktail era. In episode 5 of K-Town, Scarlet Chan, an alleged ex-stripper, says, "Booking is for guys with no game."
There's still an insular side to the community — bars that are said to be "closed" when non-Koreans come knocking, after-hours karaoke spots accessible only to those who come with Korean speakers, hole-in-the-wall cafés with menus only in Korean. K-Town executive producer Mike Le, who's Vietnamese American, says it would have been impossible to shoot the show at genuine Koreatown locations without his Korean-American production partners. Bar owners, he says, "would rather not sign a release," or anything else for that matter.
Yet K-Town has drawn criticism from Asians for exposing the risky adventures and close-to-the-vest traditions of Koreatown nightlife. The show racked up 1.1 million views for its premiere episode and landed an opening ad from Chanel that features Brad Pitt. Even as it has captured the Michael Mann (Collateral) ambience of L.A.'s core, a typical show focuses on drinking and a subsequent social meltdown among friends and ex-lovers.
Episode 3 is a classic in which Violet Kim, who has dated Jowe Lee in the past, gets into it with a girl he was flirting with at S Bar. Kim tosses a drink at the back of her head and gets slapped in return. The girl, Janie, who has her own YouTube response to the fracas, retorts with a drink of her own, but it spills on Scarlet Chan, the tall, ex-stripper, who responds with a solid push. Kim and Janie trade fashion insults, with Kim accusing Janie of wearing Steve Madden (how déclassé), and Janie saying, "Asian bitches are supposed to be skinny, you fat bitch."
Commenters on YouTube were just as cruel to Kim, who has normal American curves. Nonetheless, in cycle two of the show, she'll reappear having lost lots of weight.
And they say these shows are not about "reality."
Online, people are downright mean to the cast, hacking out YouTube comments like this: "These people are a BAD representation of Korean people and Korean culture. You should make friends with traditional Korean people and really learn about Korean society and the culture. Koreans are beautiful people and you would learn a lot. These people here are the typical American bitches/douches/tools we see in society today. Only difference is ... they are Korean. This is really no different from Jersey Shore."
Producer Le notes an irony here — that fans of the web series The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl have come to the defense of the K-Town cast. Folks who support the right of an African-American girl to be outwardly smart and geeky, he says, are supporting the right of Asian Americans to be mindless party people. He says they're "defending the cool Asians!"
"We're not saying we're going to be the model minority," says "Mohawk" Steve Kim.
The show's backers say with some confidence that it's headed for television soon, and that editors are recutting the 12-minute episodes to fit the 22-minute holes required by networks. "We're guns ablaze and ready for TV," Tyrese Gibson says.
Koreatown, he declares, is "going global."
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!