Angie Y. Chung*, Jinwon Kim, and Injeong Hwang


A Tale of Two Koreatowns: NY/LA
DESPITE COMING OUT OF ONE OF THE WORST GLOBAL RECESSIONS since the Great Depression, Asian enclaves linked to the Pacific Rim economy are experiencing unprecedented growth and contribut-ing to the rapid revival of downtown areas in U.S. global cities. Much of the literature has attributed this revitalization to new immigration policies and the flow of capital from immigrants and overseas investors, who have financed the rise of luxury condominiums, tourist accommodations, entertainment industries, and thriving commercial strips in deindustrializing sections of the downtown corridor. And of course, there is some discussion on the cheap immigrant labor (both Korean and Latino) that build, maintain, and provide services for these new developments. However, while these factors may explain the supply of capital and labor to these areas, the question is what forces create the demand that attracts consumers and residents to an ethnic enclave, especially one whose so-called “ethnic” population has largely suburban-ized? How is this socially-constructed demand tied to the power structures that govern and manipulate land use and exchange? And what does this mean for the future of the ethnic enclave and its diverse communitystakeholders?

To address these questions, we turn to the two Koreatowns of Los Angeles and New York City—both neighborhoods which despite some key differences, are both thriving ethnic economies with minority Korean residential populations but growing Korean commercial districts that are capitalizing on the public’s newly-acquired taste for Korean pop music, nightlife entertainment, and foodie culture. The popularity of Korean pop star Psy’s music video “Gangnam Style,” the introduction of Korean food culture through celebrity chefs on The Food Network and Roy Choi’s Korean taco food trucks, and social media and public blogs like Yelp and the YouTube TV series K-Town are a few examples of the cultural trends that have reinvented Koreatown’s image as the place to be for both Koreans and non-Koreans alike. Set against the backdrop of Koreatown’s commercial expansion and upscale residential development, the new food culture clearly plays a key role in shaping both the imagining and consumption of Koreatown…..

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* Denotes CSDA Associates and Staff