Korean Beacon


Top 5 Most Korean-American Cities: New York City

Posted on 02 September 2011 by Korean Beacon

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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.

#2 New York, NY

New York City proudly boasts the second largest population of Korean Americans in the United States. Bustling Koreatowns have sprouted in Manhattan’s 32nd Street (a.k.a. “Korea Way”) and Flushing, a neighborhood in Queens where the streets are lined with Korean shops, restaurants, and churches. Walking through both areas is like being transported to Korea itself—minus the grueling 13-hour flight. NYC is also home to your favorite go-to place for KA news: Korean Beacon!


  • 132,371 – New York metro area (population data compiled using the 2010 Census; excludes counties in Jersey and PA)


  • Dai Sil Kim-Gibson is an award-winning filmmaker, whose films include Sa-I-Gu: Korean Women’s Perspectives, Wet Sand: Voices from LA, and Silence Broken: Korean Comfort Women.  The latter film inspired her to create the Silence Broken Foundation, a non-profit organization that is “dedicated to exploring gender discrimination, racism, poverty and class struggle around the world.”
  • Pauline Park is a tireless fighter for transgender rights. Based in Queens, Park co-founded the New York Association for Gender Rights Advocacy (NYAGRA), the first statewide transgender advocacy organization in New York, and Queens Pride House, the borough’s only LGBT community center. Pauline recently gave the commencement speech at Columbia University’s Lavender Graduation this past May.

Adrian Hong (left) and Pauline Park (right)

  • Adrian Hong is a TED fellow, and the co-founder and former Director of Liberty in North Korea (LiNK), a global NGO whose mission is to “redefin[e] the North Korea crisis through creative storytelling, while providing emergency relief to North Korean refugees and pursuing an end to the human rights crisis.” Devoted to defending human rights, Adrian recently founded The Pegasus Press—a new initiative that uses innovative technology to keep the internet open and “safe for political dissidents and citizen journalists.”
  • An advocate for women’s and children’s rights, Kyung B. Yoon is the Executive Director of the Korean American Community Foundation (KACF), a non-profit organization that “provides grants and capacity-building assistance to organizations working to address the most pressing needs in the Korean American community and beyond.” Last year we interviewed Kyung about her inspiring work with KACF and her goal to foster philanthropy in the KA community.
  • A former candidate for New York City Council, Jin “PJ” Kim, a first-generation Korean American, is now the Executive Director at New York Needs You (NYNY), a career and leadership training program that empowers first-generation college students to achieve and realize their full potential. Notably, PJ also served as the Executive Director to the Drum Major Institute for Public Policy (DMI), a non-partisan progressive “urban think tank” founded during the Civil Rights Movement.


MinKwon’s Executive Director Steven Choi at rally on immigration issues

  • MinKwon Center for Community Action fights for marginalized community members such as the youth, the elderly, recent immigrants, low-income residents, and limited English proficient residents who lack access to vital resources. MinKwon and its executive director, Steven Choi, were featured in a New York Times article that discussed the recent influx of Asians in New York and the fight to get fair representation for all Asians living in the city.
  • The Korea Society was founded in 1957 with the purpose of facilitating a friendly relationship between the US through programs that allow for exchanges on topics such as public policy, business, education, and the arts. Next week, the organization will host an event with Wesley Yang, author of the New York Magazine article “Paper Tigers“—a response to Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother.
  • Fighting on behalf of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning people of Korean descent, the Dari Project aims to increase awareness and acceptance in Korean American communities. Dari provides resources such as personal testimonials about the experiences of LGBTQ people that are dispersed through a website that is available in both English and Korean.
  • The Korean American Family Service Center (KAFSC) fights to prevent and end domestic violence and abuse for adults, youths, and children. KAFSC’s Board Chair Sarah BJ Sung was featured in the documentary series “NYC Women: Make it Here, Make it Happen” as a woman who is making a significant difference in New York City.
  • The Korean Cultural Service New York (KCSNY) promotes Korean culture and aesthetics in New York through gallery exhibitions, performing arts concerts, film festivals, and educational programs. KCSNY also manages a library that contains more than 18,000 books magazines, and AV materials so that information on Korean films and Korean culture are easily accessible.



Buddae jjigae at Pocha 32

  • NYC is home to Korilla BBQthe Korean-style taco food truck founded by Ed Song. Since there are three trucks now, it’s impossible to miss out on a delicious taco lunch or dinner!
  • Pocha 32 on W. 32nd street is a near-perfect replica of pojangmacha-style eateries littering the streets of South Korea—except it’s indoors. It’s known for its strong garlic odor, and delicious bubbling jjigaes (stews). Pocha 32 is also one of Kimchi ChroniclesMarja Vongerichten’s favorite spots in NYC.
  • Circle is the premier attraction for newcomers to Manhattan looking for a fun, dance-filled night out. Owned by Bobby Kwak, one of NYC’s most savviest entrepreneurs, the nightclub is best known for hosting mini-concerts by top K-pop stars like Brown Eyed Girls and rapper Crown-J. It’s also been confirmed that this Labor Day weekend, T.O.P. from Big Bang will make a special guest appearance on both Friday and Saturday night! Other popular club spots in K-town are Maru Lounge on 32nd St, and Third Floor Cafe on 5th Avenue.

  • Boka, in the heart of St. Mark’s, serves up plates of Korean fried chicken from Bonchon in all of the flavors you love. Make sure to top it off with an order of watermelon soju!
  • U2 Karaoke is one of the bigger noraebangs in Manhattan—located in St. Mark’s rather than K-town. It’s a great spot for large birthday parties, or even just hanging out with a group of friends on a Friday night. The bar spans three floors with private karaoke rooms, and boasts a fully stocked bar on the second floor with seating.
  • Kimganae, on Union Street in Flushing, has amazingly decent prices and is the best place to go for a fast meal that tastes just like a home-cooked Korean dish. The restaurant serves a variety of “comfort” foods like kimbap, tonkatsu and deokbokki.



Momofuku’s David Chang (left) and KC’s Marja Vongeritchen (right)

  • Born to a Korean mother and an African American father, and adopted by an American family at the age of 3, Kimchi Chronicles Marja Vongeritchen is the new ambassador for Korean cuisine and culture, as well as a refreshing new face and voice in Korean America. A passionate noraebang-er, you’ll most likely bump into Marja and her “karaoke crew” (which usually includes her birth mother) in K-town.
  • After moving to New York for a job as the host of an Oxygen show, SuChin Pak was quickly spotted as a rising star by MTV and promptly began her career as an MTV VJ in 2001. SuChin was recently featured in an interview with V Magazine about her role as the founder of Hester Street Fair.
  • Kelly Choi is an Emmy-award winning television personality on NYC TV, former host of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, and co-producer and host of the documentary series Secrets of New York. She also created and produced Eat Out NY, a show that is a guide to the city’s most popular and most hidden restaurants.
  • Other locals include Alexander Chee, the author of Edinburgh (one of our Summer Reading picks!), and Emily Kim, the Korean food blogger pioneer better known as “Maangchi.”

The #1 Most KA city probably won’t be a big surprise, but still check back next week! We have some awesome hotspots and people lined up!

UPDATE: Check out our Top 5 Most Korean-American Cities Map!

Melissah Yang and Mink Choi contributed to this post.

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KB Interview: Korilla’s Ed Song talks about competing in ‘The Great Food Truck Race’

Posted on 23 August 2011 by Mink Choi

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If you live in NYC, and you like Korean food, then you’ve probably heard of or seen at least one out of the three orange tiger-striped Korilla BBQ trucks roaming Manhattan—from Columbia University to the suit-lined streets of FiDi. Korilla’s next adventure is taking place on The Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race, where eight food trucks are battling it out in a cross-country race to sell the most meals for a hefty $100,000 cash prize. Ed Song, the founder of Korilla BBQ, talked to us about getting ready for the big race.

You guys are contestants on The Great Food Truck Race – how exciting!! What sorts of things did you do to prepare for the race?

GFTR Season 2 was taped during the spring (April-June) of 2011 over 8 weeks. There was zero room to prepare – Food Network gave us only 3 days notice that they were flatbedding our truck. It was chaos as this coincided with our launch of 2 new trucks and we ended up taking our top dogs on the show.

They caught us at a pivotal time in our movement to bring Korean food to the forefront. We had to constantly work around the clock to manage Korilla let alone compete on GFTR.

How tough did you think it was going to be to successfully sell Korilla-style tacos to people who had never tasted Korean food before?

While we were traveling across the country, we would pray and hope we could get our hands on even gochujang! Aside from that, I am confident that everyone loves Korean food; they just haven’t tried it yet.

Were you nervous about preparing food and working as a team under pressure?

Early on, we realized that we had to prepare food on the actual truck. Though it was custom fabricated specifically for Korilla operations, it was a brand new truck. We never turned on the gas grill or electric generator! Another thing was that we had to prep all our food on the truck. Normally, we have a commissary kitchen that affords us the space and manpower to prep all our ingredients. The main reason we did not win first place in the first city of Las Vegas was because we had to figure out how our brand new truck worked and prep everything on the truck.

I am bringing along Steve Park and Paul Lee with me who I have known for over half my life. We’ve been in sticky situations before—this’ll just be another day.

Was it difficult to find ingredients while traveling cross-country? How good are your navigational skills?

Finding ingredients are key. I imagine one of the unapparent reasons why Korean food is not around everywhere Koreans are, is because of a lack of a supply distribution chain. Within a couple of hundred miles outside of cities like NYC or LA it’s not a problem, but once you reach the heart of America, you have to create your own supply chain.

Our navigational skills are pretty bad. We’re used to grid-like (New York) city planning where numbers go up as you go north and down as you go south. Thank God for iPhones.

The Food Network is basically mainstream television – what does this mean for Korilla after the show? Are there plans to set up shop anywhere?

The goal of Korilla is to create an accessible brand to introduce Korean cuisine to mainstream America. There are phenomenal Korean restos across America, but how many of them are packaged tight enough so that someone from Arkansas can understand and want to try Korean food? The recent popularity of Food Network, the rise of the Foodie Nation of America and innovative social marketing tools form the trifecta that can take Korilla and with it, Korean cuisine, all over America almost overnight. We will grow out of necessity (what else will 20-somethings do?) and the vision is to empower others to grow with us as we spread the good word about Korean cuisine and grow as second generation Korean Americans.

Watch Korilla BBQ compete in The Great Food Truck Race on The Food Network every Sunday at 9pm EST.

Korilla BBQ
Follow Korilla on Twitter.

[Photos: Food Network]

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