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.
#1 Los Angeles, CA
We’ve finally reached the end of our countdown, and Los Angeles is our #1 Most Korean-American city! After immigrating and settling in the city with dreams of a new life, many Koreans found themselves suddenly displaced after the 1992 L.A. Riots (Sa-i-Gu) took its toll on businesses and homes in L.A.’s Koreatown. But since then, K-town has progressively grown into a vibrant neighborhood that combines cultural traditions with new and modern attitudes. While this may be one of those Captain Obvious moments, let us prove it to you by sharing the countless reasons why the City of Angels tops our list.
- 324,586 – Los Angeles metro area (population data compiled using the 2010 Census)
- Los Angeles is home to three Korean American pioneers: Dr. Samuel “Sammy” Lee, Susan Ahn Cuddy and K.W. Lee.
- A doctor and two-time Olympic gold medalist in the past, Dr. Samuel “Sammy” Lee, the first Asian American to represent the US and win an Olympic gold medal in diving, is an inspiration to anyone with an ambitious dream. Last summer, a square in Koreatown was named after the diving hero.
- Not only is Lt. Susan Ahn Cuddy the daughter of the first Korean married couple to immigrate to the U.S. in 1902, but she is also the first female gunnery officer appointed to the U.S. Navy; making her an important figure in Korean American history.
- K.W. Lee, known as the “godfather of Asian American journalism,” is the founder of The Korea Times English Edition and still continues to serve on the editorial board of Color Lines Magazine. The award-winning journalist-activist also has a center inspired by his lifetime of service called the K.W. Lee Center for Leadership—a non-profit organization teaching youth how to become future leaders.
- Phil Yu, the blogger behind Angry Asian Man, recently celebrated his 10th anniversary of being one of the most influential voices in our community. Through his posts, Phil has centralized Asian America by facilitating ongoing discussions about racism, activism and mainstream media’s (mis)representations of Asian Americans. This weekend, Phil will be judging Kollaboration SF 2 along with singer-songwriter Clara C.
- Paul “PK” Kim is a multi-talented leader who not only created Kollaboration, the largest Asian American talent show in the world, but co-founded LiNK, a non-profit organization raising awareness to the pressing issues of North Korean refugees. PK is now the co-host and producer of MNET’s BPM: Beats Per Mnet, a daily series covering the latest and greatest in Asian pop culture. You can watch clips from the series here.
- Ever since “coming out” as an undocumented immigrant, 21-year-old UCLA student David Cho is one of the handful of Asian American students putting a “human face” on the DREAM Act issue. Having recently won the Freedom From Fear Award, David founded ASPIRE (Asian Students Promoting Immigration Rights through Education) to unify undocumented Asian American students on and off campus. He’s also the 1st Korean American drum major of the UCLA marching band!
- Established in 1975, the Koreatown Youth & Community Center (KYCC) offers programs and services specifically aimed towards immigrated and economically disadvantaged children, youths, and their families. Some of KYCC’s programs include clinical services, tree planting, and business education.
- Through education, leadership development, and community organizing, the Korean American Coalition Los Angeles (KACLA) seeks to promote the civic and civil rights interests of the Korean American community in L.A. Last month, we covered KACLA’s 3rd annual KBBQ Cook-Off, which brought out all of the top KBBQ restaurants in K-town for all of the foodies’ delight.
- Founded in the wake of California’s Proposition 8, Koreans United for Equality (KUE) unites straight and LGBTIQ Koreans in order facilitate a larger acceptance within the Korean community.
- The Southern California Korean College Student Association (scKcSA) is the oldest and largest non-partisan, non-profit Korean American student organization in the US, connecting college students from eleven campuses in Southern California. scKcSA promotes a sense of Korean American heritage among students by serving the community and building a strong social network.
- The KHEIR Center was initially founded in 1985 to provide quality healthcare for low-income, non-English speaking Korean immigrants. KHEIR now operates the only full-time community clinic in the country with Korean, Spanish, and English language capabilities and services 30,000 patient visits per year.
- Roy Choi’s Kogi Truck was the food truck that started it all, and while many try to compete with it, nothing beats the original. Initially parking alongside curbs all over L.A., Kogi Truck now has expanded, making trips to cities in the Valley and in Orange County.
- Cafe Mak is a great café to study for exams, finish up some work from the office, or catch up with your friends. The venue is spacious yet intimate with a peaceful ambience and offers free parking (gasp!) after 8pm.
- Always the spot for running into people you know, Chapman Plaza boasts several sooljibs (Korean bars) and restaurants, a hookah lounge, and NRB. In the plaza, Gaam is one of the more popular sooljibs in K-town with its contemporary décor and vaulted ceilings.
- Belasco is the new “it” club among today’s young Korean Americans in L.A. on Saturday nights. Hosted by Korean promo companies, Belasco’s events are notorious for keeping the party alive and well into the night. Make sure to get there early because lines have gone around the corner before. Other notable club spots are Le Circle and VR.
- As a 21+ NRB, Bobos Karaoke is always a fun place to sing and drink the night away. Bobos offers rooms of many different sizes to accommodate groups of any size. With flat screens in the front and back of each room, you’ll feel a rock star performing for your friends while they sing along as your groupies.
- With all of the KBBQ choices in L.A., we couldn’t narrow it down! Check out our list of L.A.’s Top 5 All-You-Can-Eat KBBQ spots to get your meat fix.
- L.A. is home to Hollywood so we have to acknowledge the many Korean American actors and actresses who are eliminating stereotypes within the entertainment industry. Comedian Amy Anderson’s daughter Aubrey Anderson-Emmons will soon play the adopted Lily on ABC’s Modern Family while Jenna Ushkowitz sings her heart out on Glee. John Cho is coming out with the new Harold and Kumar movie this winter, and Sung Kang will star in Sylvester Stallone’s new action flick Bullet to the Head. Also be on the lookout for the Ktown Cowboys who are set to start filming their movie version of the wildly popular webisode series.
- On the flip side, KAs are also making a name for themselves behind the camera. UCLA grad Grace Lee wrote and directed The Grace Lee Project, a documentary that tries to breaks down the “Grace Lee” stereotype (i.e. “reserved, dutiful, piano-playing overachiever”). Her new film on Detroit activist Grace Lee Boggs, American Revolutionary: The Evolution of Grace Lee Boggs, is currently in post-production. Previously based in L.A., Michael Kang has directed the Korean American feature West 32nd, which starred John Cho, Grace Park and Jeong Jun Ho. His new film, Knots, is scheduled to release sometime this year. Other filmmakers include Chil Kong and Dennis Lee.
- As for musicians: Priscilla Ahn‘s musical career blossomed after she touched base in L.A. to follow her music career dream. Her latest album, When You Grow Up, encompasses her growth and journey as an artist in every song. K-town’s new pride, Dumbfoundead (Jonathan Park), recently caught the attention of the L.A. Times with his track “Are We There Yet.” Singer-songwriter and YouTube extraordinaire David Choi, Linkin Park’s Joe Hahn, and Korea’s “National Fairy,” Lena Park, also call L.A home.
- Known for his “dirty style,” David Choe is a K-town originated artist whose work can be distinguished by its raw, graphic and abd layered qualities. Dirty Hands: The Art and Crimes of David Choe, an art documentary based on David’s work, was recently released on DVD.
- Other locals include: Quest Crew‘s Victor Kim and Lydia Paek, Angry Little Girls‘ Lela Lee, AMN Radio‘s Sung Lee, Christina Lee and Eddie Kim, and Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD)’s amazing Chief Deputy, Emile Mack.
This concludes our countdown of the Top 5 Most Korean-American Cities!
Melissah Yang and Eunice Roh contributed to this post.