In a weekly series of posts, we will present the Top 5 Most Korean-American cities, selected not only for their numbers, but also for their visibility in mainstream America. Our research was guided by the following criteria: population, famous and/or influential locals, programs, and hotspots.
#5 Atlanta, GA
Ever since the first small waves of Koreans began moving into Atlanta, GA, in 1960, the Korean population has been steadily increasing in the city. According to the 2010 Census, Gwinnett county—often referred to as “New Koreatown” by locals—has seen the Korean population double in the past decade. Climate, conservative religious atmosphere, and life in the family-oriented South seem to be Atlanta’s main draws.
- 48,788 – Atlanta metro area (population data compiled using the 2010 Census)
- Activist Mia Mingus recently moved to Berkeley, CA, but during her twelve years in Atlanta, she co-founded and was co-executive director of SPARK: Reproductive Justice NOW! and a member of Southerners on New Ground (SONG). She now works as the program director of an organization working to end the sexual abuse of children called generationFIVE, and continues to fight for “disability justice, reproductive justice, queer liberation, and transformative justice.”
- Super Bowl MVP and Dancing With The Stars winner Hines Ward is an ardent advocate for Korean biracial youth, and was recently appointed Goodwill Ambassador to South Korea. His Helping Hands Foundation strives to improve youth literacy in the U.S and end biracial discrimination in Korea. That said, we were all shocked when we heard about Hines’ DUI arrest last month, but we feel his efforts with his Helping Hands Foundation cannot be overlooked, and hope this misstep will be a learning and growing experience for him.
- Each year, the Korean Undergraduate Student Associations (KUSA) of Emory University, Georgia State University, University of Georgia, and Georgia Tech collaborate to organize one of the biggest and exciting student-run event: the KUSA Olympics, a two-day sporting event with categories like men’s basketball, men’s flag football, women’s volleyball, and co-ed softball.
- The Atlanta chapter of the Korean American Coalition (KAC ATL) is a non-profit organization that helps “facilitate the Korean-American community’s participation in civic, legislative, and community affairs.” Their SMILE (Service, Mentorship, Internship, Leadership, and Empowerment) program is a mentorship program that helps local high school students advance their academic and professional goals.
- Founded last year, Korean Adoptee Network of Atlanta (KANA) is a support system for Korean American adoptees to network, raise adoptee awareness, and share their experiences.
- Driving along Buford Highway, you’ll see many storefronts with Korean signs. The strip is home to Koreatown Plaza, the go-to place for all things Korean, and many, many Korean restaurants—including So Kong Dong Soon Tofu, a local favorite for soondubu jjigae (soft tofu stew). Also stop by Buford Highway Farmers Market, an international market owned by Harold Shin that carries fresh kimchi and other essentials for the Korean kitchen.
- For a fun noraebang night, stop off at Karaoke Melody (also located on Buford Hwy)—they’ve just implemented the use of a cool iPad app called “KJ Touch R” for all of your song selections.
- Yumbii is the first food truck in ATL to serve a “far out” blend of Korean and Mexican flavors. Their menu includes tacos, burritos, sliders, and quesadillas – all served with a spicy Asian BBQ sauce option. Yumbii’s tasty menu was developed by well-known chef, Tomas Lee, who is the founder of Hankook Taqueria, a popular Kor-Mex joint in Atlanta.
- Another must is Woo Nam Jeong (Stone Bowl House)—we hear their banchan selection is one of the best in ATL.
- Kato, or Christopher Ju, is a music producer most known for his work with artists such as Lil’ Scrappy, Roscoe Dash, and Crown J, along with LA’s rising talent, Dumbfoundead.
- Yellow Boyz, the “lyrical southern hip-hop group” consisting of Al P, PassDa and Jeniside, recently released their single, “Southern Swang,” and has recently begun attracting a wider audience. The trio has opened for Young Dro, Method Man & Redman and Soulja Boy.
- The popular and inspirational mommy blogger, Anissa Mayhew, lives in Atlanta with her husband and three children, one of whom—Peyton—was diagnosed with Leukemia when she was 3, and is now cancer-free. Anissa’s own story is a source of motivation after surviving through multiple strokes—the last one, forcing her into a wheelchair. She regularly blogs at www.freeanissa.com.
- All-around entertainer Raymond J. Lee, who can soon be seen in Chil Kong’s much-anticipated film, Mikado Project, and model Chanel Iman also call Altanta their hometown.
Look out for #4 next week!
UPDATE: Check out our Top 5 Most Korean-American Cities Map!
Mindy Gee and Mink Choi contributed to this post.