My Love/Hate Relationship with K-Town

Trying to pick this up again. We’ll see how long it lasts.

The majority of my chapter in LA was spent in the smoky bars and lounges along 6th Street and Vermont Ave. The last fight I got into was in the parking lot of Hodori on Vermont and Olympic. Koreatown mutated me into who I am. I have an unbreakable connection to that neighborhood, even when I detest some of the things it represents.

The blind machismo and hot-blooded air of K-Town is what really congealed my personality. Any semblance of confidence I have, I got it from talking shit with friends at a beer lounge off 6th and Alexandria. Any sense of social aptitude, I learned from taking shots two-handed at some bar on 8th and New Hampshire.


But that same testosterone and crazy passion that underlines a LA Korean is what unnerves me.

I keep hearing from people that they should never date a Korean. We’re too irrational, too passionate, too riddled with angst that we should never shave away with therapy. My entire life, I’ve tried to keep myself centered and level. Sometimes though, it’s impossible to cool down the overpumped heart. Irrationality takes over. Passion becomes your moral code. Gratification is the only satisfaction.

Laid-back Californians? Na, we’re not that. Especially not when we’re drunk.

One of my old roommates used to talk to me about pride. Having pride was something that was looked down upon back in The Bay. Don’t get me wrong, we all had our “KP” and “AP” phases that were evidenced by miscapitalized AIM screennames. But by the time I packed up for UCLA, trying to bellow out your ethnicity like it was a gang sign was a sign of a fool. Being Korean didn’t make you special, it just made you Korean.

It wasn’t like that when I moved in with my roommates in my 2nd year. He told me that maintaining your pride was as important as protecting your balls. That much I knew. Then he expanded pride to include all sorts of channels of respect – and consequently, disrespect – that you had to maintain and oversee as you live your day.

The different spectrums of pride between Norcal and Socal is really displayed in our willingness to throw down. At age 24 and beyond, most Bay Koreans don’t find it that necessary to start swinging for most situations. In K-Town, I’ve seen guys older than me punch drunkenly at each other for something as stupid as a mispronounced word.

“Ryu’s pitchin’ like shit.”

“You callin’ me a bitch?!”

“You said I’m a snitch?!”

Every Korean on earth is subject to the red mist, but it’s only in LA where I see it played out every night.

And that’s the conflict. Behind the laidback leanings of the South Bay and SF, I feel the rising heat of a heart that wants nothing else but to drive forward. To do everything with two fists and with disregard for the future scar tissue along my skin.

Koreatown is a place where Koreans succumb to their hot blood on a nightly basis. It’s a town that was torn apart in 1992, a town that still remembers the scars of looters and racial vitriol thrown from every side.

It’s the closest an American can get to finding out why Koreans have such pent-up anger and passion in their chest. We’re the Irish of the East. We drink like fish. We’ve been subjugated and attacked from outside powers since the 13th Century. Our country has been split for so long, it’s almost become impossible to imagine it reunified.

Whenever I’m plugged into that scene, I feel myself fall deeper into a dark side that I’m scared of. It’s a passion I fear, but it’s still a passion I need.


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