A group of Korean people has settled in a populated place called Korea Town in Los Angeles. Korea Town is located in the mid-Wilshire district along Wilshire Boulevard between Western and Vermont Avenues where there are many Korean restaurants and business establishments run by Koreans. According to a report by US Census Bureau in 2000, a population of 92,559 Koreans was living in Los Angeles. Out of this, 81040 who were 5 years and above, spoke Korean at home. From these statistics, it can safely be assumed that the population of Koreans at present should be more than it was in 2000 when we consider the number of subsequent immigrants from Korea besides the number of immigrants’ children born in LA.
The article, “The history of Korean immigration to America,” published in Hankyerye Sinmun in 2003 states that in 1903, 102 Koreans came to Hawaii in America as laborers on sugar cane plantations. They were the first batch of Korean immigrants and they came here in order to overcome poverty in Korea right before Japanese colonial rule. From 1912 onwards a number of Korean women known as “Picture Bride” migrated to Hawaii for marriage with the aforesaid immigrants. Between 1947 and 1967, after Korean War, a number of the war orphans spouses of the US army, the students who wanted to study here migrated to America. After 1968, free immigration from Korea to America has begun.
In the case of Los Angeles, the first immigration began in the 1960s. During the 1970s, a number of upper-middle-class Koreans migrated to Los Angeles because of the oppression in South Korea under the regime of Park Jeong Hee. President Park suppressed upper-class people and, therefore, many of them felt displeasure and migrated to Los Angeles.
Private Education: There are Korean language institutes for Koreans who were born in America and are not good at Korean. Korean Education Center in Los Angeles which provides Korean Language education is an example. They run two Korean language schools in LA, and both of them are attached to Korean Churches. Therefore, they functionally on Saturdays. While the first one is located at 1324 South Berendo Street, Los Angeles, the other one is in 1750 North Edgemont Street, Los Angeles. Children of 5 years or older are eligible to register to learn Korean.
Religious Worship: There are 15 Korean catholic churches in Los Angeles where the mass is done in Korean. The priest is also Korean sent from Korea. Korean churches also sell Bibles and religious books written in the Korean language.
Stores/Supermarket: Most of the signs for stores and supermarkets in Korea Town are written in Korean, accompanied by English keeping in view of Americans who do not understand Korean. In most cases, Korean script is more prominently displayed than English script.
Newspapers/Magazines: If one goes to the Korean market, he or she can pick up free Korean newspapers and magazines. They are all published in LA, and mainly contain commercials of Korean businesses in LA.
Legal Services: Lots of legal firms and lawyers are advertising themselves in Korean. It is easy to find them in Korean newspapers. The signs for their firms are also written in Korean. They provide all kinds of legal services relating to marriage, immigration, green card, the naturalization process, divorce, and even deals with cases of the name change.
Festivals: The community also celebrates an Annual Korean Festival in Seoul International Park, Los Angeles which spans 4 days. This celebration is marked with daily performances of various arts by Koreans living in Los Angeles, professional dancers and singers invited from Korea as well as members of other ethnic groups. On the third day of this festival, a parade is held. It starts from Olympic Boulevard around Vermont Avenue and passes through Normandie Avenue. This event symbolizes the history of Korean immigration to America and, therefore, they hold the Korean National flag to lead the whole parade.
Special Occupations: In Los Angeles, it is easy to find Japanese restaurants run by Korean and Korean cooks. For example, Wako, a famous Tonkatsu restaurant, is run by Koreans. A lot of Sushi restaurants are also operated by Koreans. Trained Korean cooks are experts in Japanese cuisine as much as Japanese cooks and sometimes even better than them.
Radio/TV: AM 1540 is a Korean radio station called “Radio Korea” which broadcasts in the Korean language. They also offer internet live radio which shows the radio booth during live radio shows. AM 1650 is another Korean radio station known as “Radio Seoul.” Also, there are several local TV stations broadcasting in Korea such as KBS America, Hanmi Cable TV, and Yesu Sat satellite TV.
Restaurants: Korean restaurants run by Koreans always have menus in Korean. Most of them are accompanied by English translation for people who do not know Korean, but some places only have the menus written in Korean. This is particularly so in the case of small restaurants where Americans do not frequent and most Koreans are their regular customers.
Driving School: Koreans run several driving schools for drivers from Korea. They can take driving classes in Korean as well as in traffic school.
Overall Description of Korean usage in Korea Town
I am a Korean living in Los Angeles. I have been in this city for 3 months. When I first went to Bank of America in Korea town, I was really surprised. There were Korean workers who translate English to Korean. I did not even have to speak English in a famous American Bank in LA. When I go to Korean restaurants, I always find Korean people serving me. On the menus, I see a Korean script. I feel like I live in Korea when I go to Korea town. There is no need of using English there. Every Korean in Korean town uses Korean. I only hear some English when I encounter Americans.
However, I heard of the young Koreans, who are probably a second or third generation of an immigrant family, speaking to each other in English. It is obvious because they feel comfortable when they rather speak English than Korean. But, when they order food or speak to Koreans in the restaurant or store, they use Korean. So, basically, in Korean town, everyone uses Korean for everyday communications. I even heard that some Koreans cannot speak English. But they still live in Los Angeles, US, because they can get everything they need in Korean town without having to speak English.