November Issue: Flame Broiler Founder Young R. Lee Lives to Serve
Author: KoreAm
Posted: November 4th, 2013
Filed Under: Back Issues , BLOG
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Keeper of the Flame

The Flame Broiler founder Young R. Lee has grown the Asian-style fast food chain to 144 restaurants in four states, but he assures the secret to his success lays in a commitment to serve.


Even in the world of fast food, there’s a place for the Golden Rule. That’s a philosophy adopted by The Flame Broiler founder and president Young R. Lee, a devout Christian who incorporates his personal ethos into his flourishing business. The restaurant serves healthy Asian-style fast food across California, Arizona, Florida and Oklahoma.

“We have on our cups the words: ‘Serve others as you would serve yourself,’” said Lee, 53, during an interview at The Flame Broiler at Costa Mesa’s Metro Pointe mall. “The whole idea was to make sure that by doing what we’re doing, it’s not going to harm anyone.”

By “anyone,” he means everyone, from the employees to the customers associated with the 144 existing Flame Broiler restaurants, most of them operated by franchisees, with a few dozen more currently searching for locations. Lee makes sure that each of his franchisees adheres to his ethos of serving others well, conducting a personal interview with each potential proprietor. The business—the full name of which is The Flame Broiler The Rice Bowl King—has been hugely successful since 1995, when the Korean American opened the first restaurant in Fullerton, California.

But when it comes to success, Lee said he is most pleased with how this franchise honors his own life mission to serve others. Continue Reading »

February Issue: The Standing Room Brings Big Burgers, Korean Flavor
Author: KoreAm
Posted: February 20th, 2013
Filed Under: Back Issues , BLOG , February 2013
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The Napoleon Burger


The Standing Room, operated out of the back of a Southern California liquor store, serves up Korean-Hawai’ian-American fusion that is as maximalist as it sounds.

story by EUGENE YI
photographs by INKI CHO

What is it that drives a man to want more than he can take? Exhibit A: well, me, choosing to have a Napoleon burger from The Standing Room, in Redondo Beach, Calif. The ingredients: half-pound patty (juiced with short rib trimmings), bacon, smoked gouda, cheddar, caramelized onion, spring mix topped with braised short rib, fried egg, and truffle parmesan fries. The thing is taller than it is wide.  A skewer stabbed through, top-down, is the only thing that keeps it from collapsing into its constituent parts. The meal boasts enough height to resemble the complex (and the man) it’s named for, all intentional connotations.

“The inspiration behind the Napoleon was actually a joke,” said Lowell Bakke III, the man in the chef’s coat here. “We thought it would be funny to put a really big burger on the menu, and for some reason, it worked.”

That the Napoleon burger emerges from an anomalously modern kitchen in the back of a very regular-looking liquor store in Southern California is, of course, part of the charm and part of what makes people grin and announce, “That’s so L.A.” Which, typically, means it was started by someone who is not from L.A. Continue Reading »

Thursday’s Link Attack: Racist Frat Party; Psy’s Grammy Snub; Kim Yuna; Girls Generation
Y. Peter Kang
Author: Y. Peter Kang
Posted: February 7th, 2013
Filed Under: BLOG
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Duke University fraternity under fire for Asian-themed party
News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)

A Duke University fraternity has been suspended from its national affiliation after complaints about a themed party last week that featured Asian stereotypes.

About 200 Duke students gathered Wednesday to protest the Kappa Sigma party, which was held Friday. The party originally was called “Asia Prime” in social media posts that featured references to drinking sake and an exaggerated, stereotypical language, such as saying “Herro” instead of “Hello.”

In response to student complaints, the fraternity changed the party theme to “International Relations” two days before the event. Still, photos from the party showed mostly white students wearing sumo wrestler costumes and chopsticks in their hair.

Grand jury indicts Biddeford landlord on murder charges
Portland Press-Herald (Maine)

A York County grand jury has indicted a Biddeford man on charges of murder and attempted murder after he allegedly shot three tenants in December, killing two of them.

Prosecutors say James Earl Pak, 74, of 17 Sokokis Road, shot to death Derrick Thompson, 19, and Thompson’s girlfriend, Alivia Welch, 18, on Dec. 29.

Thompson’s mother, Susan Johnson, also was shot but survived.

North Korea: Rumblings from below
The Economist

A sealed and monstrously unjust society is changing in ways its despotic ruler may not be able to control.

North Korea: The new capitalists
The Economist

Even as another nuclear provocation looms, hope glimmers for the world’s most oppressed people.

Military commander hints at ‘pre-emptive strike’ on N. Korea
Yonhap News

South Korea’s top military commander said Wednesday that his military is ready to make a “pre-emptive strike” against North Korea, even at the risk of a full-scale war, if there are signs that the North may attack using nuclear weapons ahead of its third nuclear test.

Gen. Jung Seung-jo, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made the remarks during a parliamentary defense meeting convened as tension runs high on the Korean Peninsula after Pyongyang vowed to conduct a nuclear test in retaliation for the U.N. sanction against the country for its December rocket launch.

Four of 10 young N. Korean escapees want to leave S. Korea: survey
Yonhap News

Nearly four out of 10 young North Korean defectors feel disillusioned with life in South Korea and want to live in another country, a local survey showed Thursday.

The survey that was carried out as part of a doctoral thesis by Kim Shin-hee, a researcher at the Korean Educational Development Institute (KEDI), showed that 36.9 percent of the 287 youth polled did not feel pride in being a South Korean citizen, nor did they think the country was a good place to live vis-a-vis the rest of the world.

50 Most Innovative Countries

2. South Korea
South Korea ranked 2nd in Bloomberg’s Global Innovation Index. Here is how the country ranked in the determining factors:

Mikyoung Kim’s Healing Gardens
New York Times

Mikyoung Kim, a Boston-based landscape architect, recently completed two therapeutic gardens for hospitals.

Psy’s Grammy Snub? Where Is The Love?

It was the first YouTube video to cross the one billion mark
 (and is now on its way to 1.3 billion). It has sold more than four million copies in the U.S. alone and millions more across the globe and, well, try finding anyone on the planet who doesn’t know the lyrics or the horsey dance.

And yet, Psy’s “Gangnam Style”
 is not on the list of nominees
 at Sunday’s 55th annual Grammy Awards. Yes, the Recording Academy tends not to lavish nominations on songs that are considered novelty hits. But “Gangnam” feels like much more than this year’s “Macarena.”

New Media Rockstars

How much would it cost to get YouTube global sensation PSY to perform at your party?

According to Malaysia’s ABN News, he is reportedly charging a minimum of $1 million. It’s the price the ruling Malaysian political coalition Barisan Nasional is paying the K-pop star to appear at their annual Chinese New Year event next Monday to dance and sing his ubiquitous tune “Gangnam Style.”

Popular K-pop group Girls’ Generation ditch the girly for the funky
The Straits Times (Singapore) (subscription req’d)

Six years after making their debut, Girls’ Generation have kicked off their high heels for sneakers.

In the process, the nine sweet, girlish members of the K-pop band have transformed into street-tough-looking rappers for their fourth full-length album, I Got A Boy.

Nosaj Thing Is Back
LA Weekly

Nosaj Thing’s debut arrived four years ago, roughly the amount of time it takes a college student to graduate. By contrast, the electronic world matriculates freshmen every quarter. Four years ago, Skrillex was the lead haircut of a post-hardcore band, Steve Aoki’s brow-beating bro-beat was the national face of L.A. dance music, and Flying Lotus’ Los Angeles had only recently landed to blow smoke rings in the competition’s face. The Low End Theory, meanwhile, was mostly known as A Tribe Called Quest’s jazzy second record.

Big defeat to Croatia causes alarm in South Korea
AP via San Francisco Chronicle

These are worrying times for Asia’s most successful World Cup team. South Korean fans are proud of seven consecutive appearances at the World Cup but after a third consecutive defeat against an international rival, there is a growing feeling that another trip next year to football’s marquee tournament is far from a foregone conclusion.

A crushing 4-0 loss to Croatia in a friendly at London on Wednesday, South Korea’s biggest defeat since 2001, would not be a major source of stress had the national team not also lost to Australia in November and Iran in October in performances that were also disappointing.

One Year Out: Chan, Kim could rule figure skating at Sochi Olympics

By winning the South Korean national title in early January in only her second competitive event in nearly two years, Kim Yu-na firmly announced her return to Olympic contention. But it remains to be seen how a lengthy and difficult layoff will affect her prospects.

At nationals, Kim set records for scores in both the short program (78.50) and free skate (150.06). Setting aside the inconsistencies of scoring standards that sometimes render those scores meaningless, Kim’s performance was indeed record-worthy. It was smooth and confident from the triple Lutz-triple toe combination right through the finish. The 2009 world champ and three-time Grand Prix final winner, Kim has never finished off the podium when she and other skaters have competed under ISU rules.

For James Hahn and Si Woo Kim, Pebble Beach Pro-Am Is an Opportunity
New York Times

They are two South Korean-born golfers whose pursuit of the American dream has brought them to the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, but from there the stories of James Hahn and Si Woo Kim sharply diverge.

Hahn is a 31-year-old rookie who was raised in the Bay Area; graduated from Cal in 2003, the same year he turned professional; and was married last year. He earned his PGA Tour card by finishing fifth on the tour, and has made the most of his first four starts, posting two top-16 finishes and cracking the top 30 of the FedEx Cup standings.

Kim is a 17-year-old who turned professional last year and earned his PGA Tour playing privileges with a top-25 finish at last December’s qualifying school. He cannot join the tour until his 18th birthday in June, and is playing his first tour event after receiving a sponsor’s exemption.

Top Chef Seattle Recap: Episode 14 tests Kristen Kish’s campfire cooking skills in Last Chance Kitchen (Mich.)

Episode 14’s recap of Top Chef Seattle comes with good news and bad news.

The good news is we’re down to only four chefs so there are only two more Last Chance Kitchen webisodes to win before West Michigan’s Kristen Kish will hopefully make her triumphant return in the finale. The bad news is there are only four chefs left so the scenes we have to watch in between the actual action of the cooking are going to consist of back stories and get this…playing ukuleles while waiting for bread to rise.

Where’s the (Piedmontese) Beef? At Star King in Koreatown
LA Weekly

Where would you show off an elite variety of beef? Not in some flashy high-end dining spot but in the most beef-centric part of Los Angeles — Koreatown. There, it’s hard to find a place that doesn’t serve bulgogi and galbi, and the buzz words are grass-fed, Wagyu, Kobe and Black Angus. That is, until now.

The new player is Certified Piedmontese beef, which was introduced last week at Star King, the first Koreatown restaurant to put it on the menu.

BiBimBar Brings Fast-Casual Korean BBQ to the International Food Court
SF Weekly

Now that SF Weekly offices have moved to the Financial District, we’ve been exploring the workday lunch options with some gusto. And among the favorites we’ve already found, one of the standouts is the week-old BiBimBar in the newly reopened International Food Court. It offers rice bowls, cold soba noodle bowls, and (coming soon) ssam wraps topped with banchan and meats like bulgogi, spicy pork belly, marinated chicken, and jangjolim — all familiar Korean barbecue flavors made healthy and portable for the workday.

Taco Bell Korea Offers Bulgogi Fusion Fare
Y. Peter Kang
Author: Y. Peter Kang
Posted: January 16th, 2013
Filed Under: BLOG
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Taking a page out of the Kogi food truck menu, Taco Bell Korea is now offering fusion tacos and burritos packed with delicious mass-produced bulgogi.

Having entered the South Korean market in 2010, it seems like Taco Bell Korea is used to being late to the party. The new offerings, however, look worthy enough for at least a taste.

The “Fiesta Bulgogi Taco” will set you back 2,700 won (~$2.55) while the “Grilled Bulgogi Burrito” costs 3,500 won (~$3.31). While that doesn’t break the bank, it’s definitely a bit more than Taco Bell’s prices in the States, as is often the case for U.S.-based chain restaurant prices in Korea. Continue Reading »

Thursday’s Link Attack: Dealing With North Korea; Shin Soo Choo Out of WBC; Photo Studio Pervert
Y. Peter Kang
Author: Y. Peter Kang
Posted: December 27th, 2012
Filed Under: BLOG
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What a Park Presidency Means for South Korea’s Foreign Policy
TIME Magazine

South Koreans used to joke that their country was a “shrimp among whales” because it is flanked by the giants China and Russia, as well as Japan and, of course, the other and more bellicose Korea to the north. Today, however, South Korea is an emerging power. It is the world’s 11th biggest economy, sixth biggest exporter and on track to become the eighth biggest trading nation. And because it lies in a geopolitical hotspot, with an economy dependent on exports, the new President’s direction of foreign policy will matter. “[South] Korea is one of the most connected countries in the world,” says Troy Stangarone of the U.S.-based Korea Economic Institute of America. “Both its role in Northeast Asia and globally will probably be shaped by the next administration.”

Park’s foremost challenge when she takes office in February will be North Korea. The outgoing government of President Lee Myung-bak, a no-nonsense former corporate CEO, reversed 10 years of so-called sunshine policy — a conciliatory approach to Pyongyang that saw two summits, the South’s investments in the North and reunions of family members separated by the Korean War. Lee adopted a stern approach, cutting off dialogue and humanitarian aid over Pyongyang’s unwillingness to drop its nuclear-weapons program.

Inter-Korean relations likely to change under Park presidency
Yonhap News

South Korean President-elect Park Geun-hye’s election promise to mend fences with North Korea is spurring a mood of optimism for a turnaround in the frozen inter-Korean relations, but analysts said that the two Koreas may take some time before resolving long-standing issues, which stymied their ties under the outgoing government.

The first South Korean woman elected to the five-year presidency has pledged to depart from outgoing President Lee Myung-bak’s hard-line North Korean policy, in which the government has refused to engage with the North without the communist country’s apologies for the deadly 2010 attacks on the South Korean Navy vessel Cheonan and the border island of Yeonpyeong.

Did a Tantrum Kill Kim Jong Il?
Wall Street Journal

A year after the death of Kim Jong Il, little information has emerged about the circumstances of his reported heart attack other than the official narrative that he died from overwork at 8:30am on Dec. 17 aboard his personal train while heading out on another “field guidance” trip.

Doubts about parts of that account have been raised, including skepticism about whether Mr. Kim was actually on the train given his apparent habit of sleeping in late, and satellite images showing the train still in Pyongyang.

N. Korean leader to purge more of the old guard in new year: expert
Yonhap News

As North Korean leader Kim Jong-un wraps up his first year in power, marked by the reckless purging of several old guard elites, he may replace the country’s No. 2 leader, Kim Yong-nam, and some other top officials next year, according to a North Korea expert here.

“Who replaces Kim Yong-nam may tell us about the future direction of the restructuring of the political system,” said Alexandre Mansourov, a specialist in Northeast Asian security. He now works as a visiting scholar at the U.S.-Korea Institute at Johns Hopkins University.

He said Kim Yong-nam will likely “honorably retire,” rather than being purged.

Largest Korean-American Bank Seeks to Become Regional Player After Deals
American Banker (subscription req’d)

BBCN execs took a difficult path to build the largest Korean-American bank, but a successful merger in L.A. and a deal in Seattle have put it on course to become a West Coast player — and maybe more.

Check out our story on BBCN from the October 2012 issue of KoreAm.

Honey Pig Korean BBQ Opens In Irvine
OC Weekly (Calif.)

As Shuji reported a long while ago, Honey Pig, the Korean BBQ joint that specializes in samgyeopsal (pork belly), is coming to Irvine. It has finally opened. There are other Honey Pigs in LA’s Koreatown, in La Palma, and a Wako Honey Pig in Buena Park.

Some are related to the other by loose familial ties and they all have that specialty in common, as well as the domed cooking surface on which you sear and render your fatty pork slices into crispness.

Photo studio pervert does something unusual
Korea Times

A pervert in his 40s who ran a photo studio did something unusual; he would use a timer when taking photographs of female college students.

What he would do is rush to the back of his clients and drop his pants when the camera clicked. He would take the regular photographs but keep the pornographic shots in his computer.

The man was finally caught for what he was up to since the beginning of the year and was indicted last May under laws for the protection of youths. However, the court ruled that he was innocent of the crime.

Top ten Asian players of 2012
ESPN Soccernet

3. Koo Ja-cheol (South Korea and FC Augsburg)
The young midfielder ticked all the boxes in 2012 – impressive for the South Korean national team, very impressive with FC Augsburg in the Bundesliga and inspirational in leading his country to the bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics. The game for the bronze medal between Japan and Korea was perhaps the high point of 2012 on the pitch for Asia, and for Koo it was just the latest in a string of high-class performances.

While his spectacular strikes from the edge of the box have been catching the eye in Germany – as well as his contretemps with Franck Ribery – back in East Asia, fans know that Koo is developing into a fine driving midfield player who is set to be at the heart of the South Korean team for years to come. 2013 could be the year in which he makes it really big.

Korea drops Major Leaguer Choo Shin-soo from WBC roster
Yonhap via Korea Times

Choo Shin-soo, outfielder for the Cincinnati Reds in Major League Baseball (MLB), on Thursday was dropped from Korea’s roster for the World Baseball Classic next spring.

The Korea Baseball Organization (KBO) said Choo had asked to be left off the national team for the March 2-19 tournament so that he can prepare for his first season with the Reds. He was recently traded from the Cleveland Indians to the National League club.

Lydia Ko, John Huh Named Among Year’s Top Breakout Golfers
Chosun Ilbo

Korean-New Zealander Lydia Ko and Korean-American John Huh were named among the top 10 breakout players of the year by the Golf Channel on Wednesday.

7 Questions With … Hines Ward of “Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off”
Channel Guide Magazine

He’s the legendary Pittsburgh Steeler who broke records (and one opponent’s jaw) on the field, then broke hearts in the Dancing With the Stars ballroom before retiring from the NFL last May to become an NBC football analyst. Now Hines Ward is testing his game in a whole new arena — the kitchen — as a contestant on Season 2 of Food Network’s Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off, battling Johnny Weir, Kathy Najimy, Carnie Wilson, Gilbert Gottfried and others for celeb-chef supremacy.

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