Tag Archives: Los Angeles

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LA Festival Presents K-pop Singing & Dancing Battle

Have you dreamed of taking the stage like your favorite K-pop singers? The Korea Daily (Joongang Ilbo) and the LA Korean Festival Foundation (LAKFF) may have just what you’re looking for to make your daydreams a bit more concrete.

The 4th K-pop Singing & Dancing Battle is back, and it kicks off with a preliminary round on Saturday, Sept. 6, at the Korean Cultural Center in Los Angeles. Finalists will then compete at the 41st Korean Cultural Festival on Friday, Sept. 19, at the Seoul International Park in Koreatown.

The first-place winner will receive $500 and a smartphone. Two second-place winners will receive $200 each, and popularity prizes in the form of $100 will be awarded to another two teams.

For contest rules and to register, visit this link. You can register until 5 p.m. on Aug. 29 for free. For more information, you can visit www.lakoreanfestival.org, email ukdec2013@gmail.com or call (213) 368-2675/2543. You can also check out the event’s Facebook page.

Preliminary Round
Saturday, Sept. 6
10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
Korean Cultural Center
5505 Wilshire Blvd
Los Angeles, CA 90036

Final Round
Friday, September 19
Seoul International Park in LA Koreatown (Friday night of the Korean Cultural Festival)

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KCON 2014: Presenting Quirky Korean Rocker Jung Joon Young

by TONY KIM

“I like ‘Gangnam Style,’ but how come, in Gangnam, none of the clubs play it?”

Jung Joon Young posed this seemingly earnest question to none other than Psy himself, who was acting as a judge on Mnet’s music talent show Superstar K4. Psy had just asked for the rock musician’s final words before announcing whether Jung made it to the top 12.

After joking around about going clubbing together, Psy declared that Jung had indeed advanced. Instead of rejoicing like most contestants would, however, Jung let out a sigh. Knowing that the show essentially had a lockdown policy for contestants, who aren’t allowed to go out drinking or partying, Jung told Psy, “We can’t go clubbing then.”

That line had Psy in stitches.


This is the clip of Psy announcing Jung Joon Young’s was advancing to the Top 12. Jung would place third in the music reality show.

Two years after being introduced to Korean television audiences, Jung has gone from being a relative unknown to a scream-inducing rockstar that also enjoys regular roles on popular South Korean TV variety shows. And, he still has that same mischievous humor. Evidence of that emerged at this past weekend’s KCON 2014 in Los Angeles, where Jung couldn’t help but joke around during a media roundtable, after a female interviewer asked him: “If you can change bodies with somebody for one day, who would it be and why?” Then, this exchange ensued:

Your body.

Why?

Because I want to live in a woman’s body for a day.

What would you do?

Touch my body for a day. Just kidding.

Though he is known for his humor, Jung is also recognized for his musical talent; he self-produced his second album, which he said was influenced by personal experiences. That actually made the process of creating the album “easier” and more fun, he said. Jung was able to share some of the music he created on Sunday, as he joined the star-studded list of K-pop performers that graced the KCON concert stage.

This marked the singer’s first time in Los Angeles, though he said the streets were actually quite familiar to him.


Jung Joon Young performs “Emergency Room” in Superstar K4.


Jung collaborates with Superstar K4 winner Roy Kim for “Becoming Dust.”

“My favorite game is GTA,” Jung explained, referencing the popular video game, Grand Theft Auto. “The latest GTA game is based on Los Angeles, so I feel very familiar with this city. When I’m looking around in downtown, these are places that appear in GTA. … I feel like I’m in a game, so yesterday on the streets, I was screaming.”


Check out Jung’s game room in We Got Married. Skip to 3:01.

Jung, who in addition to producing his own albums is also going to act in an upcoming film and also DJ a radio program in Korea, has come a long way from his brief stints with Korean bands like LEDApple and various indie groups.

He said he is thankful for the opportunities he is enjoying these days. Hours before the KCON concert, he told KoreAm that he was quite surprised to have fans in America. “Even though it’s so hot, I’m thankful for the fans that are waiting in line outside,” Jung said. ” Since this is a concert not just for me, but also for everyone, I hope that everyone has a good time.”

Jung’s music video of new title track “TEENAGER.”

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Devotion of K-pop Fans on Full Display at Day 1 of KCON 2014

by JAMES S. KIM

There is no question as to where Hallyu fans stand among the other fandoms of the world. The line that snaked its way around the entire Los Angeles Sports Arena complex yesterday, as KCON 2014 kicked off its first day of festivities under a blazing sun, was the ultimate image of devotion.

Even as a Korean American who’s followed K-pop for a while, I have to admit that seeing the throngs of excited fans in person was quite an eye-opening, even exhilarating, experience. In only four years, the convention devoted to K-pop, K-dramas and Korean popular culture in general has grown exponentially, from about 10,000 attendees at the inaugural convention in 2012 to an expected 40,000 this year, according to the North American arm of South Korea’s CJ E&M, which organizes the convention.

Soon KCON may just rival convention behemoths like San Diego Comic-Con and D23, which attract crowds in the 100,000-plus range.

And, if you think the only draw for KCON goers is the chance to see their favorite artists in person, think again. One may not expect panels like “Speaking the Language of K-Drama” or “Hallyu Culture Shock” to have a chance at a decent draw, but that’s underestimating the devotion and interest level of Hallyu fans.  Websites like Soompi and Dramabeans, as well as every social media outlet, are living testaments to how much fans love to gather and talk about their artists and actors online, and even better, when they have the chance to do so in person. The result was enthusiastic participation at panels like “Oppa/Unnie Debate,” “All About K-pop Reaction Videos” and the crowded K-pop dance workshops.

Of course, it’s another level of crazy that kicks in when the artists themselves show up in person. We had the chance to interview girl group SPICA on Saturday–stay tuned for our exclusive video later this week.

I also had the fortune to be standing in “fan club row” when we all heard a huge scream. And there’s nothing that can compare to a K-pop fan screaming. Lo and behold, boy group B1A4 was on the stage.

KCON also did a fantastic job in terms of fan engagement. Most K-pop stars are kept far away from fans, except for concerts and the occasional meet and greets. It was a different story for local artists and entertainers, including DANakaDAN, Jhameel, Connie Lin, Shin-B and Flash Finger, to name a few, who held conversations and Q&As with their fans at their respective panels.

As Day 2 of KCON kicks off today, look forward to our live tweets (@KoreAm) and our upcoming exclusive interviews with SPICA and the crooning Jung Joon Young, who will both be performing tonight in the second concert/ They are part of a lineup that also includes BTS, CNBLUE and Girl’s Generation.

More pictures, courtesy of KCON 2014:

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The Faces Of L.A.’s Skid Row: A Powerful Photo Project By John Hwang

John Hwang makes friends with some of society’s most invisible members: the people living on L.A.’s Skid Row. Many know his face and name, some have his number. He knows their stories and, with their permission, shares them with the world. “Everyone has a story,” he says. Here’s his.

by ELAINE CHA

This piece elaborates on an audio profile produced by this writer and broadcast on Southern California Public Radio/89.3 KPCC’s “Off-Ramp,” in March 2014. Listen to it here.

It’s a damp, late afternoon in January. John Hwang, still in scrubs from his occupational therapy shift in Monterey Park, California, is about to hit downtown Los Angeles. But he’s not headed to a hip rooftop bar on Broadway or a new gastropub in Little Tokyo. He’s going to Alameda and 4th Street—roughly the northeast corner of L.A.’s Skid Row, which some call “the homeless capital of the United States”—to start one of his many check-ins with old friends and, very likely, make new ones along the way.

This Friday evening, he spots a familiar figure on T Avenue. “Hey, Richard,” he says, crouching down to touch the shoulder of an African American man in his early 50s staring down into his lap. “How are you today?” Richard looks up from the kids’-sized yogurt he’s nursing and, recognizing Hwang, smiles. His arrestingly light eyes brighten as he returns a quiet salutation. Just a few sentences pass between them: “How have you been? Have you been all right through the rain the last couple nights? Do you have enough to read?” Richard responds by nodding his head, moving his shoulders. He’s a man of few words, Hwang explains, as the latter continues walking through Skid Row. “People who stay on this street mostly keep to themselves. … They don’t want any drama,” Hwang says. “Every street has its own personality.”

As he continues toward San Pedro Street, Hwang meets others he knows—and who know him well enough to call when lonely. One such man, a white Vietnam war vet called Bob whose PTSD makes living anywhere with a roof unbearable, is setting up for the night near the Downtown Women’s Center when Hwang stops to say hello. “It’s been a while since I’ve seen you,” Hwang says, extending a hand to Bob’s arm. Bob’s been in the hospital recently, though “I’m OK, now,” he says. He’s tried calling Hwang a couple of times, but couldn’t reach him. “Oh, yeah, I got a new phone,” Hwang tells him as he pulls out his cell. He hands it to Bob to input his number. “I’ll call you, so you have my info.”

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Hwang met Camha just outside Skid Row last October. “She was barely coherent. Often mumbling words silently under her lips, as if she was chanting a prayer. When there was food around her mouth, I got a napkin and gently wiped her mouth and face. Tears began to well up in her eyes. No words were needed then.” 

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Such sharing isn’t something he does with everyone, says Hwang later. But with some he’ s met downtown, he’s open to that contact. “I just have a feeling. I know it’ s OK.”

Based on what happens the rest of the visit, it seems that Skid Row feels Hwang is OK, too. Tonight’s walk is a short one compared to the many others he’s made over the last two years or so. In the span of just a couple hours, Hwang greets and points out a half-dozen Skid Row residents who have told him their stories; he even has his portrait crayoned on the sidewalk by someone he’s met for the first time, a new friend who shares a stick of chewing gum along with his back story. Hwang’ s gentle manner and capacity for fast connection—the bonds he forms are often quick and firm—draws people hungry for interaction. And it’s meaningful connection that keeps Hwang coming back. “Everyone is unique,” he says. “Everyone has a story.”

Hwang’s own story features elements at once familiar and unusual. Like many ethnic Koreans in the U.S., his start came outside the States. Born in the Canary Islands in 1974, Hwang lived in Panama and Mexico before his family immigrated to Southern California when he was 7. And, like a vast swath of Korean Americans, he spent a good part of his youth and young adulthood at Protestant churches that included urban ministry.

An outing with an Orange County-based church back in the 1990s—long before downtown became “DTLA”— occasioned Hwang’ s first direct contact with the homeless of Skid Row. Nearly all his fellow volunteers focused on distributing food. “I was more intrigued by the people,” says Hwang, who spent the afternoon talking with street residents instead of handing out sandwiches. “One man in particular, his intelligence just struck me. He was so different from the stereotypes about the homeless … that they’re all addicts, or mentally ill.”

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John Hwang shares the pictures and stories of his friends on Skid Row, with their permission. He wrote this about Richard: “His eyes lit up when I handed him the National Geographic magazine. Richard loves to read. ‘It takes me to places I’ve never gone,’ he told me. … Richard was in a car accident that left him disabled. Confined to the streets. However, reading set his mind free.” 

Many years elapsed between that visit and Hwang’s next one. In 2011, he was one among many looking into lofts in Little Tokyo, an area adjacent to a cluster of homeless service centers. Juxtaposing the lofts’ price tag with Skid Row next door jarred him. It also recalled his years’ -back conversation with a street resident. Soon enough, he ended up back downtown—not to live, but to learn.

“I’ve always been very intrigued by people living on the street,” says Hwang, “because if you live in L.A., you see them all the time.” He had no plans to document his visits when he started going to Skid Row about two years ago. Yet as he met more people, and heard more of their stories, he felt he needed to share them somehow.

So Hwang started taking photos.

With his subjects’ permission, Hwang posted their portraits to Facebook, pairing the images with simple descriptions or anecdotes. Melody’ s picture, for example, presents a young woman holding her head high, with this: “She hears voices. … She shared with me stories of her life, her family. … I asked, ‘Do you still hear voices now?’ and she responded with ‘I can hear yours …’” A color and black-and-white diptych of a gently smiling Benito, who “has the kind of voice that would make for a good storyteller or narrator for a movie,” shows images of a man who imparts “the wisdom that comes with age and living on the streets. He likes to spend his time reading. … When he feels down he just thinks about how there are many others who are less fortunate than him.”

And then there’s Tracey in a black cap and white undershirt, standing in a graffitti’d tunnel near the L.A. River. A former singer with a beautiful voice, seven years on the streets, and both AIDS and prostate cancer, Tracey “survives by finding food in the dumpsters of restaurants, markets and produce vendors, [and] makes an effort to care for other homeless people around him, including helping feed them.”

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This is a shot of the blanket that Sam, a 21-year-old Korean American living on Skid Row, was carrying when Hwang took him to the home of a pastor who does homeless ministry. Hwang wrote of their first encounter: “So we sat there together at Subway. Quietly, he ate. As I watched him, I started to think back to when I was his age of 21 and what I was doing with my life. I couldn’t understand how he ended up on the street or begin to imagine the reality of his life. … Then he looked up at me with teary eyes and said, ‘thank you, hyung.’” 

The combination of striking photos and narrative elicited immediate response. Likes, comments and shares reached scores of people he’s known over the years. They also made the news feeds of those he didn’t know at all—people who’ve reached out to offer Hwang help with funds, food, clothes, even a collection of National Geographic magazines. “It’s been amazing to see [how the posts] move people,” Hwang says.

For all the engagement he seeks with others, and for all the attention he’s gotten, Hwang remains independent. This is especially evident in his approach to Skid Row and its residents. His early exposure to downtown L.A.’s homeless may have come through a faith community, yet his work, so to speak, is not affiliated with any church entity or motivated by conventional religious mission. While Hwang speaks about “praying for direction” when he sets out on his visits and posts stories about the work of ministries serving the downtown homeless population, his sensibilities run more to the spiritual than the religious; he is compelled by what he can contribute to effecting kindness to others anyplace, not just in Skid Row.

There’s also no secular agenda driving Hwang. In the last two years, he has been solicited or advised by readers working in homeless outreach. He understands where such response comes from, especially given the degree and scale of issues he sees among those he engages on the street. But he is quick to assert that what he does “is not advocacy. I’m not trying to join a cause,’ he says, “or rescue anyone or solve anyone’s problems. [Homelessness] is complicated.”

Two cases in which Hwang’s lent more than a listening ear and a hot meal point up the complexity of what puts— and keeps—people on the street. The

first, involving a Vietnamese senior named Camha, shows what can happen when a person ends up far from home but cannot return on her own. When Hwang met her just outside Skid Row last October, she “didn’t have shoes [and] was wearing hospital-issued socks that were blackened from the dirtiness of the street. All she had was a small bag and a blanket she sat on. She was barely coherent … mumbling words silently under her lips, as if she was chanting a prayer.” As Camha had a California state senior citizen ID card, Hwang shared a photo of it on Facebook, asking, “Does anyone have any connection to the Vietnamese community up in the Bay Area?”

Friends, contacts and even strangers responded immediately to the post with offers of help and useful tips. Less than 24 hours later, Hwang spoke with someone who knew the lost woman, who’d “been reported missing for some time.” Just a couple of hours after that, Camha was on a Greyhound bus headed back to her home in San Francisco.

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Walter is one of Hwang’s oldest friends on Skid Row. “He frequents all the local recycle centers, going 5-6 times a day,” wrote Hwang. “Sadly one recycling center he often goes to mistreats him. … He is talked down to and treated like he is dumb or crazy. When actually he is a bright, hard working and sensitive man. It hurts him deeply. I can see it in his eyes. Walter grew up in rural Texas, during the time of segregation. So it brings back some painful memories. But Walter refuses to feel sorry for himself. He refuses to feel bitter. He knows his worth as a human being.”  

What happened with Sam, a 21-year-old Korean Hwang tried to help off the street, provides a counterpoint to the “success” of Camha’s story. Hwang’s first encounter with Sam started with a sandwich and some basic background (“He said his mother was killed when he was a young child, and he hadn’t spoken to his father for a long time.”) and ended with a “thank you, hyung.” The next time they ran into each other, Hwang took Sam to a Korean pastor who runs a homeless ministry. Although Sam had been on the street for just four months—a stint much shorter than the years Tracey, Benito and Bob have spent on Skid Row— Hwang says he had a hunch this dongsaeng would end up back where he first saw him.

“It seemed like he didn’t really want to be helped,” Hwang says in retrospect. He concedes he was initially disappointed to see Sam among the homeless on subsequent visits downtown. It was a reminder, nevertheless, of a reality Hwang understands more deeply as he spends more time in the rougher parts of Los Angeles: living on the street is a choice some make, even if a way off is within reach.

Despite (or, perhaps because of) the sheer magnitude of what it would take to eradicate homelessness, Hwang’s focus remains fixed on what he can do. Make eye contact and say hello, offer a meal and some company, share photos and stories that impact others where they are. And what he does isn’t so much about the homeless specifically as it is about “connecting with the humanity” in people. A midspring post about Cora, a woman Hwang met on an unusually quiet night downtown, captures this:

“The empty street felt lonely last night. There [were] no cars or traffic. Only a few people walking by … while I was waiting at an intersection … [t]his sweet lady started making random conversation with me so I asked her to dinner. We sat at a small family-owned pizza place on that empty street. Cora lives alone in a low-income housing unit downtown. She says she doesn’t really have any friends, and that she was coming home from a karaoke bar by herself. Singing and dancing makes her happy. She slowly ate her French fries she drowned in ketchup and her chicken wings, as if to savor the time we have together. We talked about all kinds of things; childhood stories, favorite foods, our travels, what makes us happy, to what’s important in life. I told her she is my new friend, and she smiled and gave me a warm hug. That street didn’t feel so empty to me anymore.”

A Facebook stranger who shared Hwang’ s post included a note saying, “This is what we should be doing … sharing our time and listening … We ALL just want to know we matter.” Another wrote, “So many lonely, invisible people out there, and he stops and reaches out to them.”

Hwang readily admits the personal gratification he derives from his “work” on Skid Row. “It’s an amazing thing to be able to connect so deeply with a stranger so quickly. It’s an incredible high.” He also says, introspectively, “Ultimately, this is something I do for myself.” The response his efforts have drawn makes it clear, nevertheless, that he’s making some kind of difference for others. If for no other reason than sharing stories that somehow move people, it’ s likely Hwang will continue making after-work trips to see friends downtown and, as he puts it, to “be the change [he] wants to see in the world.”

Top photo courtesy of John Cha.

This article was published in the July 2014 issue of KoreAm. Subscribe today! To purchase a single issue copy of the June issue, click the “Buy Now” button below. (U.S. customers only. Expect delivery in 5-7 business days).



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Jeremy Lin Headed To The Lakers In A Trade

Jeremy Lin is headed to the Los Angeles Lakers after the Houston Rockets traded the point guard to clear salary cap space for the expected free agent signing of Chris Bosh, according to ESPN.

The Lakers also receive a future first-round pick and other draft considerations. In return, the Rockets take cash and rights to an overseas player from the Lakers, according to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarwski, a reputable NBA insider.

When LeBron James took over the headlines earlier today by announcing his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the largest domino fell in the NBA’s free agency.

Lin has been caught in the middle of these conversations with multiple reports hinting that he could be headed to the Philadelphia 76ers in a trade this past week.

By sending Lin and his contract to the Lakers (worth $8.4 million), Houston would have enough cap space to sign a maximum contract with Bosh. The trade makes sense for the Lakers, too, as they don’t have to worry about absorbing the contract, which expires next summer. They hardly have any players signed at the moment, anyways.

Unfortunately, Mike D’Antoni, who was head coach of the New York Knicks during Linsanity, is no longer with the Lakers.

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G-Dragon, SPICA Join All-Star KCON 2014 Lineup

by JAMES S. KIM

Big Bang’s G-Dragon and girl group SPICA are the latest names to join the lineup for this year’s KCON, the largest Hallyu fan convention in America, happening on August 9 and 10 at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena. Billboard.com reported that the singer/rapper will headline the first of the two concerts at the festival, which also features fan meet-and-greets and panels.

G-Dragon, who performed with Missy Elliott at last year’s event, will join SPICA (U.S. debut), Girls’ Generation, IU, CNBLUE, Teen Top, B1A4, BTS, VIXX and Jung Joon-young on the stage. South Korean TV and movie stars Lee Seung-gi, Lee Seo-ji and Yoo In-na are also set to appear at the festival.

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KCON expanded to a two-night festival last year, and this year’s event will feature two concerts as well. South Korean music chart program M Countdown will also be filming the performances, which might mean longer sets from the performers.

Tickets go on sale today, and more ticketing options will be available later. You can purchase them at KCONUSA.com.

Top photo: G-Dragon performed with Missy Elliott at last year’s KCON.

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KoreAm Video: World Cup Watch Party in Koreatown LA

by JOANNE LEE

KoreAm was at Koreatown L.A.’s World Cup viewing party this past Sunday when Team Korea took on Algeria in its pivotal second group stage match, which ended with heartbreak.

The viewing party was hosted in front of the lawn at the Radio Korea building on Wilshire. Watch the video to see interviews of Korean American fans who came out to support the Korean team!

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Best-selling SKorean Author Kyung-sook Shin Shares New Novel At L.A. Reading

by HAEIN JUNG

The Korean Cultural Center of Los Angeles hosted an intimate evening this past Monday with celebrated South Korean author Kyung-sook Shin, who read excerpts from her latest translated novel, I’ll Be Right There.

Shin, a veteran novelist acclaimed for her best-selling Please Look After Mom, talked about her most recent work, a powerful story steeped in tragedy.

The novel centers around protagonist Jung Yoon, who receives a phone call from an ex-boyfriend, whom she hasn’t spoken to in eight years. He calls to inform her that their beloved college professor is dying. This triggers memories of being in their 20s, when they, along with friends Dahn and Miru, bonded over their love of poetry and aspiration to ignite change within their politically turbulent country. 

“It’s about human relationships and also about art and how I would want people to form relationships, which is also a topic of the novel,” Shin told the audience of about 50 people.

The novel was inspired by real-life events in South Korea in the 1980s, when the country was rocked daily by confrontations between pro-democracy student demonstrations and riot police armed with tear gas. Shin, who lived through this time period, said she compiled extensive research on young people who died back then for unknown reasons, and would go through a pile of such documents during her writing process each morning.

“It was really painful to read these documents because a lot of young men in their 20s–22-years-olds, 23-year-olds–were going through brilliant youth and bright futures, [and] they died. Many of their names remain, but we still don’t know what happened to them,” the author said. “I wrote this novel to sort of make sure that we don’t forget about them.”

Though real-life events served as inspiration, the author deliberately avoided specifying this time period in the book in order to lend the story a more universal relatability.

“I didn’t want people to think that it’s a story that has already passed, [it's] in the past and a story that has already been forgotten,” said Shin. “Rather, I wanted people to understand that it’s a story that could happen anywhere, anytime, in any country, now. It was sort of symbolic in that way. For that reason, I didn’t refer to it as the 1980s in South Korea, but everybody knew.”

I’ll Be Right There marks Shin’s seventh novel and her second translated into English. (Sora Kim-Russell is credited as the English translator for I’ll Be Right There.) Her 2011 novel, Please Look After Mom, sold 2 million copies in Korea and became an international hit, topping the New York Times Best Seller List, and was included in Oprah’s “18 Books to Watch for in April 2011.”

Image of Kyung-sook Shin (seated, at far left of photo), via Korea Cultural Center, Los Angeles.