Exploring Koreatown, a true treasure

Just under 20 years ago, Koreatown was internationally recognized as one of the main looting areas of the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, with an estimated $1 billion worth of damage, according to an L.A. Times article.  Flash forward to present day, where Koreatown has reinvented itself as a prime area of L.A. for real estate, nightlife, and cultural diversity. Numerous strip malls, labeled in Korean lettering, contain clothing stores, pharmacies and restaurants, which compliment the sprawl.  While Koreatown is known to many in Los Angeles, it wasn't until recently that it was recognized as an official area.

Last August, the Los Angeles City Council put into effect the official boundaries of Koreatown, its northern-most boundaries beginning at Third, Western to the West, Vermont to the East, Olympic to the South, as well as a stretch of Western reaching all the way up to Rosewood.

Due to cheaper rents and its proximity to USC and UCLA, many college students make their home in this densely populated area.  The nightlife thrives with karaoke bars, nightclubs, and cafes.

In Asian style karaoke bars, patrons have their own private room where they can sing away in comfort, and not have to worry about embarrassing themselves.  Many karaoke establishments can accommodate groups of up to 30 people, and have table service with the press of a button.

Though there have been many laws to prohibit smoking in public areas, as well as inside bars, the law doesn't seem to apply in Koreatown.  Santa Monica College student Evan Scott says, "I come to Koreatown every weekend from the Westside.  No one here cares if you smoke."  According to a state law in effect since 1998, smoking is banned in bars in California.

But people still smoke freely in bars and clubs in the Koreatown area, especially where it's more secluded.  Jen Park, a regular patron at Café Bohemian, a late night bar eatery, said, "Everywhere you go at night you can smoke, I don't think much of it."

There are a few malls within Koreatown known as Koreatown Galleria and Koreatown Plaza, both of which contain Korean grocery stores on the ground floor.  Koreatown Galleria has a food court solely containing Asian fast-food restaurants ranging from Japanese to Korean toVietnamese.  Shoppers come out particularly on the weekend, when parking is complimentary.

The best-kept secret of Koreatown is the abundance of health and beauty spas.  "I used to go to Voda Spa all the time for their sauna and treatments, but after coming here I realize that it's so much cheaper," said Amber Reece, a spa attendee at Olympic Spa waiting for a massage.  "I've been to a few spas in K-town and while they are not as nice, they are half the price and do just as good of a job."

The proximity to the 10 and 110 freeways as well as Beverly Hills, Hollywood, and Downtown, make Koreatown a convenient spot to explore.  There is always something going on, and for some, it's like being able to explore a different country without having to travel that far.