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How K-Town Reflected The Rise Of K-Pop

Three young women in their 20s laugh as they dine at a crowded restaurant with a Korean BBQ grill at their table, surrounded by half-eaten plates.
Friends Daniela Bohorquez, Hilal Mohamed and Tiffany Blackkettle (L-R) dine on the beef combo at Ahgassi Gopchang in Koreatown.
(Josie Huang
LAist )
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The corner of 6th Street and Oxford Avenue is like most streets in Koreatown. It’s a short walk from restaurants, coffee places and little neighborhood shops serving the community.

But the intersection has a distinct K-pop connection, because in 2020, the Los Angeles City Council designated that specific corner as “SM Entertainment Square” to honor the contributions of uber K-pop producer Lee Soo Man, and the influential music label he founded in South Korea back in the ‘90s, to global culture.

Listen to the episode

K-Pop Dreaming - Koreatown

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Musical ties that bind

That designation is but a recent example of the connections between K-pop and K-town. Koreatown has been a landing pad for K-pop since the music’s emergence in the ‘90s — and it still is.

But what’s changed is the diverse and growing fanbase that flocks to the neighborhood to shop at the record shops, eat at BTS’ favorite KBBQ restaurant, or attend K-pop concerts and so-called “cup sleeve” events. Korean culture is on the global stage, and its influence isn’t just being felt around the world — some of the biggest impact is happening right here at home.

Where we fit in

Host Vivian Yoon visits some of these establishments in K-town to see what they reveal about the history of the neighborhood and the music. From businesses like the first K-pop music store in Los Angeles, which has a little-known connection to the L.A. Uprising, to a local boba shop where a DIY fan economy has sprung up to manifest this growing love for the music.

For more K-pop
  • Listen to all of LAist Studios’ new podcast, K-Pop Dreaming. Host Vivian Yoon follows the rise of K-pop through the perspective of the Korean American diaspora in Los Angeles. 

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