Amoeblog

California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Little Seoul

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 19, 2014 07:53pm | Post a Comment
INTRODUCTION TO LITTLE SEOUL 


Welcome sign at Brookhurst

Drive down Garden Grove Boulevard with your windows up (paying proper attention to the road in front of you) and you might not notice that you're passing through Little Seoul. There are no banners, memorials, murals, monuments or that many fluttering South Korean flags. Pass through on a bus and maybe you'll notice the Hangul signs and blue tile roofs. The best way to experience Little Seoul, despite some drawbacks, is by walking in it – although your hair might pick up the smell like bulgogi by the end of your ramble. The other day I headed over there to explore it, accompanied by Una Zipagan and host of the excellent Notebook on Cities and Culture podcast, Colin Marshall


Another blue tile community

*****


Los Angeles currently has the largest population Korean-Americans. In fact, 17% of all Korean-Americans live somewhere in the Southland. Korean business districts have sprung up in Los Angeles's Koreatown and Garden Grove's Little Seoul as well as in Buena Park, Cerritos, Fullerton, Rowland Heights and elsewhere whilst Koreans have more often chosen to make their homes in places like Anaheim, Gardena, Glendale, Hacienda Heights, Huntington Beach, Irvine, La Palma, Santa Clarita, and Torrance (as well as Buena Park, Cerritos, Fullerton, and Rowland Heights).


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's Map of North Orange County


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Garden Grove


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's Map of Little Seoul

Although Koreatown is incontestably the main Korean business district in the entire US, Little Seoul – located about 50 kilometers southeast – is no slouch. By some estimations it's the second largest Korean business district on the West Coast and the fourth largest Korean business district in the nation. Even in Little Seoul, Koreatown's dominance is reflected by the telltale Wilshire addresses of most of the newspapers's offices and business names like Wilshire Bank but the cultural exchange is not completely one-sided; when Colin spotted Ondal Restaurant, he alerted Una and I that Koreatown is home to Ondal 2.

Little Seoul – or officially and less charmingly “The Korean Business District” -- is located along a 3.5 kilometer stretch of Garden Grove Boulevard in the city of Garden Grove, abutting against the much larger enclave of Little Saigon. The population of Garden Grove is currently about 38% Asian-American, although 73% of that percentage are Vietnamese. Koreans, after Vietnamese, are the second largest Asian ethnicity in Orange County and Korean is the fourth most spoken language in Orange County homes.



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A BRIEF HISTORY OF KOREAN IMMIGRATION TO THE USA

The first Korean to become a naturalized citizen was Philip Jaisohn (Seo Jae-Pil ), who arrived in the US in 1885 as a political exile. In 1902, King Gojong, the first emperor of Korea, granted Koreans the right to work abroad and following that, hundreds and soon thousands of Koreans were lured to American-occupied Hawaii, where the Hawaiian Sugar Planters' Association courted Asians of various ethnicities (so that solidarity and strikes would be difficult to achieve and undertake) to work on their plantations. 


Racist and completely ineffective sidewalk appeal in Little Seoul (possibly written by John McCain)

Koreans faced considerable ignorance and hostility both there and in the mainland. In 1913, California passed a law prohibiting all Asians from buying property. That same year Korean farmers were attacked in Hemet by an anti-Japanese mob of idiots. In 1924, the US Congress passed the Oriental Exclusion Act which barred all Asians from immigrating. Some Koreans, however, were admitted into the US on student visas and by the 1930s, there was a community of a few hundred Koreans living primarily in Chesterfield Square and Vermont Square, two neighborhoods on South Los Angeles's Westside located near the campus of USC.

After the surrender of Japan to the Allies in 1945, Korea (which had been officially “annexed” by Japan in 1910) was divided by the victors of World War II at the 38th parallel. Tensions between North and South Korea escalated into all out war in 1950 and a stalemate was achieved in 1953, after perhaps one million had perished. The McCarran-Walter Act was passed in 1952 which allowed for increased immigration from South Korea. In the years that followed, war brides and mixed-race orphans joined students and professionals in the ranks of Koreans heading to America. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 allowed for even larger numbers of immigrants and, after Filipinos, Koreans became the second fastest-growing Asian ethnicity in the US.

The seeds of Koreatown were planted in in Los Angeles in 1969, when Lee Hi Duk opened Olympic Market on Olympic Boulevard in Wilshire Center. Lee opened several more businesses and by the mid-1970s, Koreatown was established and growing, although it wasn't officially recognized until 1980. Koreatown spread outward in all directions from Olympic, including into South Los Angeles, where there were well-publicized incidents of racial tension. Most infamously, in 1991, a black 15-year-old named Latasha Harlins was shot and killed by a Korean shop keep, Soon Ja Du, at Empire Liquor in Vermont Vista. When the Los Angeles Riots erupted on 29 April, 1992, Koreatown was hit especially hard and 40% of all looted businesses in the city were Korean owned. The incident came to be widely known amongst Korean-Americans as “Sa-I-Gu” (4-2-9).

It has sometimes been hypothesized that the riots were one of the primary catalysts for Koreans' exodus to the suburbs but in fact that movement had been occurring for a while. Koreatown was and is often an entry point for Korean immigrants who in many cases choose to then make their homes in communities with highly ranked school districts rather than convenient access to Korean shopping districts. By 1980 there were more than 11,000 Koreans living in Orange County (nowadays there are Korean populations that exceed that figure in several Orange County cities) and the Korean businesses district of Garden Grove was already firmly established.



GARDEN GROVE BACKGROUND

Garden Grove was founded by Alonzo Cook in 1874 and the agricultural town's economy depended in its early years on the production of apricots, chickens, chilies, grapes, oranges, peaches, strawberries, and walnuts. When Garden Grove incorporated in 1956, the population had grown to about 44,000 -- mostly white, working class folks would followed the post-war suburban sprawl emanating from the nearby Harbor area and its aerospace industry and transformed the city into an almost entirely residential one.

Garden Grove Boulevard (originally Ocean Boulevard) was designated Highway 22 in 1934. It was the primary thoroughfare until 1965, when construction of the Garden Grove Freeway began, slashing and burning its way through the city and having an especially deleterious effect on the area immediately surrounding it. In the 1970s, a redevelopment program was launched to reverse Garden Grove's declining fortunes. In neighboring Westminster, similarly caught in a downward spiral, anti-Communist (and therefore presumably uber-Capitalist) Vietnamese were wooed to bring business to Bolsa Avenue. Around the same time the first Korean businesses began to appear three kilometers north in Garden Grove.


Possible throwback to the good ol' days -- Romantix and Hip Pocket Adult Bookstore



The Ranch Motel

The stretch of Garden Grove Boulevard that's now home to Little Seoul was then largely undeveloped although there were a couple of strip clubs, adult video stores, seedy motels. One such lodge, the Ranch Motel, was the site of the grisly torture and murder of a Huntington Beach prostitute in 1985. By then the Korean redevelopment of the area was already underway.


Xenophobe-baiting Hangul-heavy sign (with faux gas lamp)

As with Koreatown, the first Korean business established in Little Seoul was a supermarket [was it the now-closed Han Nam Supermarket?]. By 1980 there were 80 Korean-owned businesses in the neighborhood and in 1981, the first Korean Festival was held in nearby Garden Grove Park. The name “Little Seoul” was applied at least as early as 1986 and predictably complaints were made by some about signs written in Hangul. In 2001, signs designating the area the “Korean Business District” were placed at the eastern and western ends of Little Seoul. 

(Click here to read my account of exploring Garden Grove)

GETTING THERE AND AROUND <

OCTA stop in Little Seoul

Right now Little Seoul is served by Orange County Transit Authority's bus lines 29, 33, 35, and 56. The neighborhood is located just west of the old West Santa Ana Branch Line of the Pacific Electric Railway, which connected Santa Ana to Watts until 1950. For the time being the closest train station is 13 kilometers east in the city of Orange. Metro is working on ultimately restoring rail to the neighborhood with its West Santa Ana Transit Corridor project but when that will be completed (or even begun) remains to be seen. 


Vodie's Alignment & Brakes

Luckily, Little Seoul is quite flat and therefore quite easily bikeable and walkable -- provided one is physically able and psychologically predisposed. Garden Grove Boulevard still often gives the impression of being a freeway and the lack of buffering road verges, measurable amounts of shade, benches, or even other pedestrians as well as the inward orientation of businesses and the close proximity of the sidewalks to speeding cars give off a sort of pedestrian-hostile vibe. Walkscore doesn't have a figure for Little Seoul but assigns a score of just 55 out of 100 to the city of Garden Grove. If you need a bicycle, Little Seoul is home to Garden Grove Bike Shop.


A rare, non-linear view of Little Seoul 



STAYING IN LITTLE SEOUL


If you'd like to stay in Little Seoul overnight, there are several lodging options. There's the aforementioned Ranch Motel, built in 1956 and the Tropic Motel, built in 1955. Perhaps the best motel sign award goes to the Grove Motel.


Other nearby lodges include Best Western Palm Garden Inn, Hospitality Inn-Garden Grove, Little Saigon Inn, Morada Inn & Suites, and Ramada Plaza Garden Grove/Anaheim South.



BUSINESSES

In contrast to nearby Little Saigon, where on Sundays parking lots are packed both with men hanging out in folding chairs and bad drivers, Little Seoul proved to be decidedly quiet. Many of the parking lots were almost completely empty. Some even had improbably long gates extending across their entrances. When a car alarm sounded in the distance, it only underscored just how quiet it all was.

From the sidewalk it was sometimes difficult to tell which businesses were open, which were closed, and which were completely vacant but we soon learned that within the air-conditioned environment of the great indoors, there were buzzing pockets of activity (if nothing that even approaches the level of pedestrian-dense-and-friendly Koreatown or I suspect, big Seoul) 

Today the number of Korean businesses in Little Seoul reportedly exceeds 1,000. Although most of people that I spotted entering and leaving the neighborhood residences seemed in most cases to be Latino, Anglo, or Vietnamese, under the roofs of the sprawling markets the clientele were almost (with the exception of ourselves) exclusively either Vietnamese or Korean.



MARKETS AND THE GREAT INDOORS

Despite its lack of accommodations for pedestrians, there are few errands that one couldn't conceivably accomplish on foot or by bicycle in Little Seoul. The neighborhood is full of dentists offices, spas, optometrists, hair salons, &c.


Police and psychics in the streets


Lost Treasures (Found! on the roof)


Since I most tourists (Korean-American non-Korean alike) are drawn to Korean businesses districts for the food, I'll start there. And because they made Little Seoul possible and still prove to be the centers of human activity, I'll begin with the supermarkets.


Shop smart, shop H-Mart


Inside Arirang Supermarket 

Until a couple of years ago there were three markets to which to pledge one's allegiance. Han Nam Supermarket closed and now, Arirang Supermarket (A.R. Supermarket) and H-Mart compete for commerce and Yelp reviews. Meanwhile a new Wal-mart Neighborhood Market sits poised and ready to possibly destroy both although it's hard to imagine a Wal-mart supporting the food courts and various other shops that make Arirang and H Mart take on the appearance of something akin to a swap meet crossed with a town square.


Shops and food court at H-Mart


Curly-haired cubist men must push their carts behind the X to their McMansions




KOREAN EATS

Korean cuisine is one of those foods that has been cautiously and only partially embraced by most Americans, who seem perfectly happy to draw the line at BBQ, Hite beer, and maybe Korean tacos whilst casting a needlessly suspicious eye at the many any varieties of soups, stews, noodles, rice dishes, banchan, anju, sea vegetables, and sweets.

Thanks in large part to Buddhism (and Buddha's vegetarianism) Korean cuisine is not as vegetarian-unfriendly as many wary vegetarians might suppose. Most restaurants can make a vegetarian bibimbap and even when the menu lists no vegetarian items, I've still never been to a Korean restaurant in Southern California where the cook wasn't capable of making a tasty and filling vegetarian dish... especially if you add alcohol to the mix. 


Han Guk Kwan (right?) where we ate lunch

We started our day at "pariba" (Paris Baguette) albeit the location in St. Andrew's Square. Later we ate in a food court at a place whose sign simply stated something like "Korean Place." In addition to the “purely” Korean restaurants, there are Korean takes on Chinese cuisines, donuts, french pastries, pizza, and sushi and Seoul Do Soon Yi Kimchi Company, a locale kimchi manufacturer. 


Looking through the door of Past Memories (recommended by Colin)


Here's the (incomplete) list of local Korean eats: An Ocean's Story, Anna's Mondu, BCD Tofu House, Boba Loca, Bonjuk, Cafe-T, Cham Sut Gol Korean BBQChu Ga Jip, Chung Dam Keul, Flower Pig, Donut Time, Ga Bo Ja Restaurant, Gae Sung Restaurant, Go Goo Ryeo, Ham-Hung Restaurant, Han WooriHangari Hwang Hae Doh, Hangari Kalgooksu, Hodori Snack, Incheonwan BBQ House, Jang Choong Dong, Jang Mo Gip, Jang TohJong Ro Shul Lung Tang, Kaju Tofu, Korean Folk Village Restaurant, Lee Sook Won Kimchi, Light Town House Korean BBQLove Letter Pizza & Chicken, Mi Ho Restaurant, Mo Ran Gak, Muse Coffee Shop, Myung In Dumplings, New Seoul BBQ Buffet Restaurant, Obok Bakery, Ondal Restaurant, Paris Baguette, Past Memories, Peking Gourmet, Poong Nap Dong, Seoul Soondae Restaurant, Shik Do Rak, Siroo, Smile RestaurantStar BBQ, The Pine, Tous Les JoursYeh Won Korean Restaurant, and Young Pung

Non-Korean eats (but often either Korean owned-and-oriented or Vietnamese) in the neighborhood include Aloha Teriyaki, Alerto's Mexican Food, Artist Crawfish Express, Casa de Soto, David's Vietnamese Restaurant, Diamond Seafood Plaza, Diem Hen, Dzui Lounge, Genki Living, Hong Kong Express, Kim’s RestaurantM & Tôi Vietnamese Restaurant, May Bon Phuong Restaurant, Misoya Rockin' Sushi, Pho and Rolls Vietnamese Cuisine, Pho 2000, Phu Sandwich, and Phuoc Thanh.



SHOPPING IN LITTLE SEOUL and THE GARDEN GROVE GALLERIA


The no-use mixed-use Garden Grove Galleria

Construction of the Garden Grove Galleria began in 2005. The original design called for two levels of shops, six levels of condos, and given its size it was set to become an icon of the neighborhood. Construction halted in 2008 and in 2010, the Garden Grove Galleria sued Cathay Bank for a breach of contract. Two months later Cathay counter-sued for essentially the same. More suits followed and the design plans were changed -- the condos were to become apartments -- but nine years later it still stands, only partially complete and rusting.


Quiet Koreatown Mall


Good times just around the corner at New Seoul Plaza


Hanmi Plaza


Quiet Arirang Galleria (built in 2009 and mostly empty)


Complete and functioning (if sometimes barely) shopping centers in Little Seoul including Arirang Galleria, Brookhurst North Shopping Center, Garden Grove Shopping Center, Gilbert Plaza, Golden Plaza, Hanmi Plaza, Ka-Ju Plaza, Korea Plaza, Koreatown Mall, New Seoul Plaza, Newland Plaza, Newton Plaza, Town-Center Plaza, and Western Shopping Center.



NIGHTLIFE


The lushly-landscaped Frat House


Rendezvous Nightclub


Idol Karaoke



Cafeoke Ding Dong Dang



B & G Karaoke -- "Grand Reborn"

Business hours in Little Seoul vary greatly but the nightlife seems to make its home in Club Rendevous, Frat House (not a dudebro sports bar) and Soju Belly as well as karaoke clubs (noraebong), which include B & G KaroakeCafeoke Ding Dong Dang, Karaoke Nice, and Idol Karaoke.


Sunday morning at 2000 Points Billiards



Hyundai Billiard or GG Billiards and Ping Pong

There are also several billiard and ping-pong halls too, including GG Billiards and Ping Pong (also listed as Hyundai Billiard), 2000 Points Billiards (which also has ping-pong), and King Billiard (which may or may not have ping pong).


Liquor and Bikes -- A liquor store and Garden Grove Bicycle Shop 

There are more liquor stores than bars in the neighborhood although we ventured into none. Several have nice signage.


A liquor store with a nice, fake gas lamp (a common decoration) atop the sign



KOREAN CHURCHES

In South Korea, only 53% of Koreans identify themselves as religious. Of those, about 29% are Christian and 23% of South Koreans self-identify as Buddhists. In the US it's a different story. In 1902, Changho Ahn and his wife established the first Korean American Church and today, roughly 71% of Korean-Americans self-identify as Christian.


St. Anselm of Canterbury

I'm sure that some of the Korean churches in the area were built by different denominations but ones occupied by Korean denominations now include Gospel First Korean Baptist Church, Korean Garden Grove United Methodist ChurchSaint Anselm of Canterbury Episcopal Church of Garden, and Suh Moon Presbyterian Church. Despite it being a Sunday morning and a Korean neighborhood, the churches all seemed to be oddly quiet. Only 6% of Korean-Americans identify as Buddhists and in Little Seoul there are just two temples from which to choose, Bupwahng sa Korean Buddhist Temple and Orange County Won Buddhist Temple.



LITTLE SEOUL ARTS SCENE


Martial Arts and Golf


Little Seoul is perhaps to small to support an actual arts scene. I'm only aware of one arts-oriented space in Little Seoul, Seoul Oriental Art Gallery. There are seemingly more organizations devoted to the martial arts than the creative, performing, or visual. Those institutions include Five Star Tae Kwon Do & Martial Arts, Kenpo United Karate Kung-Fu Studios, King’s Martial Arts, Musashi Martial Arts, Nam Phan Mixed Martial Arts Academy, Orange County Judo Training Center, Shaolin Warrior Academy, Shotokan Karate of Garden Grove, and Yoon Tae Kwon Do School.


Video Town or ghost town? Either way, they still have some copies of Six Days, Seven Nights in the back


A video store in Koreatown Mall


Inside the above video store -- which mostly deal in VHS and sells VCRs

I don't know of any movies shot in Little Seoul or any actors or filmmakers from there. I don't know of any live music venues or bands from there either. There are some mom-and-pop shops, many of which sell or rent video, music, and video games. There's Han Nam Video, Music Town, Sam's Video, Saranbang Video, 20th Century Video, (Spanish language-centric) Video 9, Video Village, and Western Video



Come for the Korean dramas and pick up some seed packets... and a steering wheel cover (or two)

The only music store that I saw was Immanuel Music, which carries a large selection of guitars, violins, and metronomes. There's also at least one music school, Spotlight School of Music.



PARKS (not 박) AND THE GREAT OUTDOORS

Being such a small area, there aren't a lot of parks within the neighborhood and as I mentioned, most of the activity seems to take place indoors (or in cars). However, should you wish to go outside, there's Acacia Park, Garden Grove Park (including Garden Grove Dog Park and the Atlantis Play Center), Kiwanisland, and Liberty Park



KOREAN SERVICES

Though probably un-named -- Donut Time seems to be the popular hangout for male, Korean, retirees and (like as with many donut shops) seems to serve as a sort of de facto community center. More official outlets for community engagement can be pursued through the Little Seoul or the Orange County Korean Community, the Korean American Coalition, the Korean American Federation of Orange County Garden Grove, Korean Community Services, the Korean-American Seniors Assn Garden Grove, the Korean American Youth & Community Center, the OC Korean Community Center, the Orange County Korean American Bar Association, the Orange County Korean Festival Foundation, the Orange County Korean Community Service Center, and Orange County Korean Social Service Information Center.



FURTHER READING AND OTHER MEDIA

There is no "Little Seoul" edition from the Images of America series (although there is Katherine Yungmee Kim's Los Angeles' Koreatown). There's also Angie Y. Chung's Legacies of Struggle: Conflict and Cooperation in Korean American Politics, which goes a bit into Little Seoul but near as I can tell, there are as yet no books the primary focus of which is on Little Seoul.


 

Dorcas Orange Christian


Korean Bookstore

There are a couple of bookstores in the neighborhood: Dorcas Orange Christian, Korean Bookstore, and World of Life Books. Also nearby is the Westminster Branch Library and Garden Grove Regional Library. There are also popular newspapers like Korea Times and Korea Daily (both available in English language versions as well as Korean) and more locally focused paper, The Town News. The first two are headquartered in Koreatown but perhaps maintain bureaus in Little Seoul whereas The Town News is actually headquartered in Little Seoul.


The Korea Daily

Radio Korea in Koreatown Mall

You can tune into the sounds of Korean-America by setting your dial to several Korean radio stations. There's Radio Korea (1540 KMPCPasadena’s 1230 KYPA – Radio JBC (Joongang Broadcast Company), and Hancock Park’s 1650 KFOX – Radio SeoulIf you're feeling spiritual, 1190 KGBN is the home of the Korean Gospel Broadcasting Network.



Pulp's "Little Seoul," my generations' "Catz in teh Cradle"

*****

As always, please contribute your additions and corrections. Enjoy exploring Southern California, just start at Hollywood & Highland and go in any direction away from there and I guarantee it will get more interesting. To vote vote for other Orange County communities, vote here. To vote for Los Angeles County communities, vote here. To vote for Los Angeles neighborhoods, vote here. Please leave any additions, corrections, or shared memories in the comment section. 행쇼 

The short history of Asian-American television

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 27, 2012 05:30pm | Post a Comment
Since its earliest days, American television screens have never looked much like American reality. Network executives have apparently never been comfortable with too many Asians being on the small screen at one time. Asian sidekicks are cool, Asian guest stars too, maybe an Asian love interest (provided the character is female) There have been only a handful of television shows starring Asians and even fewer with primarily Asian casts. 


Meanwhile, the internet has become the great democratizer, allowing Asian-Americans (and Canadians) like 
Christine GambitoMichelle Phan, Freddie W, Fung BrosJessica LizamaKev JumbaKevin WuNikki LimoPeter Chao, Ryan Higa, Timothy Traphik DeLaGhettoWong Fu Productions and others to garner millions of followers each and in the process become internet celebrities, if not terrestrial television ones. Nowadays there are far more Asian-American (and Anglo-Asian diaspora) web series than network shows and while television slowly adapts, at this rate it may cease to exist before it even begins to resemble its audience. 

In one corner, consider the web series, which include Alfie the Office DogAway We HappenedAwesome Asian Bad GuysBaby MentalistBFFs, Boystown, Car Discussion with Sung KangChop Socky Boom, Flat3, The FoodThe Ho’s on 7th AvenueHome Is Where The Hans AreI Am Asian, How Are You?, Katana, K-TownKtown CowboysLumina, Manivore, Millions, Mixed Blooms, Model Minority, Mother Lover, Mythomania, Nice Girls Crew, Normal Gays, One Warm Night, On the Clock, Prison Dancer, Riley RewindSilent Terror, Slanted Show, SuperTwins!, The Switch, Trembling Void, That's What She SaidUrban Wolf, Video Game High SchoolWhen it Counts, and others. 

In the other corner, television, which though having existed for many more decades than web series, is rather more anemic. Consider this short timeline of Asian-American television, drawn from network, cable, and syndicated series:


THE GALLERY OF MADAME LIU-TSONG (1951)



The first American show with an Asian lead was obscure The Gallery of Madame Liu-Tsong, which ran only ten episodes from 27 August to 21 November in 1951 on the DuMont Television Network (which itself only existed between 1946 and 1956). It starred Chinese-American, former silent film superstar Anna May Wong as a detective. It was cancelled after one season and no episodes are known to exist today.


THE AMAZING CHAN AND THE CHAN CLAN (1972)

 

In 1972, CBS aired The Amazing Chan and the Chan Clan. It may've been a cartoon but many of the voice actors were Asian, including Keye Luke, who provided the voice for Chan (and was the only actor of Chinese descent to play Charlie Chan in any screen adaptation). In fact, when it debuted all of the voices were provided by Asian-American (and Asian-Canadian) actors except for the talking dog (this was a Hanna-Barbera cartoon so it had mystery, a band made up of kids, a magic vehicle and a talking dog). However, most of the voices were subsequently re-dubbed by non-Asian actors (including Jodie Foster). Sixteen episodes aired in all.


MR. T & TINA (1976)


The third American TV show starring an Asian-American had a very short run. Mr. T and Tina, a spin-off of Welcome Back, Kotter starring Pat Morita, ran for only five episodes in the fall of 1976. Morita starred as Taro Takahashi, a Japanese inventor married to a ditzy, white American, Tina Kelly. According to the recollections of the few that remember it, hilarity didn't really ensue.



GUNG HO (1986-1987)


The fourth TV series with mostly Asian-American stars was the short-lived Gung Ho, adapted from the Ron Howard film of the same name that opened earlier in the year (1986). In addition to Heidi Lawson, Scott Bakula, and Stephen Lee; the nine-episode series co-starred Gedde Watanabe, Patti Yasutake, Rodney Kageyama, Sab Shimono, and Scott Atari.


SIDEKICKS (1986-1987)


Sidekicks was the first Asian-American show made for and aired on cable television. It co-starred Ernie Reyes, Jr. as Ernie Lee, the Last Electric Knight, and Gil Gerard as Sergeant Jake Rizzo. It aired between 26 September, 1986 till 13 June, 1987. Disney would revisit the formula of Asian kid who masters martial arts with the training of an elder with their Brenda Song film, Wendy Wu: Homecoming Warrior (2008).


OHARA (1987-1988)



Ohara
, was the second Asian-American television show to star Pat Morita, this time as Lt. Ohara. It ran for 30 episodes from 17 January, 1987 till 7 May, 1988. Of course Ohara used martial arts and spoke in fortune cookie/Charlie Chan-esque epigrams.


VANISHING SON (1995)



Vanishing Son was the first Asian-American show made for syndication. It ran from 16 January, following the airing of four Vanishing Son TV movies  in 1994. Hunky star Russell Wong played a foreigner – in this case a fugitive Chinese musician named Jian-Wa Chang. It was cancelled after thirteen episodes.


ALL-AMERICAN GIRL (1994-1995)



All-American Girl starred actress/comedian Margaret Cho and depicted her as and her family in TV’s second Asian-American sitcom. It's notable for being the first American TV show with an entirely Asian starring-cast (rounded out by Amy Hill, B.D. Wong, Clyde Kusatsu, J.B. Quon, and Jodi Long). It was also the first TV series to star an American-born Asian actually playing an American-born Asian rather than an Asian-born foreigner -- a fact underlined by the series's title. Nonetheless, an "Asian Consultant" was hired to teach the Korean-American star of the semi-autobiographical show how to “act more Asian.”  It ran for nineteen episodes between 14 September, 1994 and 15 March, 1995. 


RELIC HUNTER (1999-2002)



Relic Hunter wasn’t an American series – it was Canadian. However, it did star an Asian-American tough, in this case, Hawaiian-born Pinay, Tia Carrere. It ran much longer than its American predecessors, lasting three seasons and 66 episodes total between 1999 and 2002. One possibility is that Canadian network officials gave it a fairer shake. Of course, another possibility was Carrere's sex appeal. As Wayne Campbell expressed of Carrere's "Cassandra" character in Wayne's World, "She's a fox. In French, she would be called 'la renarde' and she would be hunted with only her cunning to protect her." I never watched the show but do remember it being promoted with billboards promising "dangerous curves ahead" so I reckon sex was a big factor.


THE CHANG FAMILY SAVES THE WORLD (2002 - unaired pilot)

The Chang Family Saves The World didn't make it past the pilot stage. That audition program was filmed for ABC in 2002 and never aired. The pilot, written and produced by John Ridley, starred the mixed race Nia Peeples (her maternal grandparents with Filipino mestizos) as "Pearl Empress." The rest of the cast was rounded out by Asian-Americans including Lauren Tom, Dante Basco, Byron Mann, and Melanie Jayne.


I GOT YOU (2002 - unaired pilot)

Another John Ridley effort for ABC that didn't make it past the pilot stage. I Got You was to have been a comedy starring Ming-Na Wen. Her co-stars in the pilot included fellow Asian actors Burt Bulos, Eric Kan, and Suzy Nakamura.


A SHOT AT LOVE WITH TILA TEQUILA (2007-2008)


Tila Tequila (née Tila Nguyen) was a popular import model who starred in the “reality” show, A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila, in which she “played” a bisexual in search of love. She courted 32 contestants -- male and female. It debuted at No. 1 in its time slot and was MTV’s second highest-rated debut series that year (2007), seemingly disproving conventional TV wisdom about Asian-American leads (at least female) and simultaneously re-affirming the ancient adage, "sex sells."


THE CHO SHOW (2008)



Perhaps the producers of The Cho Show were encouraged by Tila Tequila’s success when they decided to give Margaret Cho another shot at TV with a reality series/sitcom. The Cho Show debuted 21 August, 2008 on VH1 and concluded seven episodes later, on 25 September.


NIKITA (2010-2013)



Half-Vietnamese actress Maggie Q stars in Nikita, a CW series that has, to date, aired for 45 episodes, beginning with its debut on 9 September, 2010. In it, Q plays a vengeful former assassin and spy in a role adapted from the French film of the same name.


HAWAII FIVE-0 (2010- )



Two of four stars of Hawaii Five-0 are Asian-American, Daniel Dae Kim and Grace Park (who, though born in the US, is a Canadian citizen). Reflecting the fact that Hawaii’s largest racial group is Asian-American, many of the recurring charaters and guest stars are also played by Asian-Americans. It debuted 20 September, 2010 and was an immediate critical and commercial success. In 2011, it entered the Guinness World Records for “Highest-Rated New Show in the U.S.” when the episode “Kai e’e” garnered 19.34 million viewers. And whereas there's a long tradition of fetishization of Asian women in American culture, the fact that a Google search of "Daniel Dae Kim" brings up related searches of "Daniel Dae Kim shirtless" and "Daniel Dae Kim muscles" probably reflects changing mainstream attitudes about Asian-American men as well... at least as far as objectification goes.


OUTSOURCED (2010-2011)



Another show that debuted in September, 2010 was NBC's Outsourced. Many of its stars were Indians from Canada, England, Germany, South Africa, and the United States (and in only a couple of cases, India). The plot concerned a white American being transferred to India, and thus Asians from several continents played Asian Asians (i.e. foreigners). I haven't seen it but it seems to have garnered a strong but small following. Nevertheless, it wasn't renewed for the 2012 season.


SULLIVAN & SON (2012-2014)



Popular half-Irish/half-Korean stand-up comic Steven Byrne co-wrote and co-created the pilot for Sullivan & Son with with Rob Long. In it he stares as the son of an Irish-American father (played by Dan Lauria of The Wonder Years) and a Korean-American mother (played by Jodi Long of All American Girl). His sister is played by Vivian Bang (best known as Soo-Mi in Yes Man). TBS ordered ten episodes in February, 2012 with a premiere date set for this coming summer.


*****


POST-PUBLISHING UPDATE SECTION:

ANGRY LITTLE ASIAN GIRL (2012)


Actress/cartoonist Leela Lee's comic Angry Little Asian Girl is set to air on MNET America as an animated series debuting Fall 2012.


THE MINDY PROJECT (2012- )



The Mindy Project stars Tamil-Bengali-American actress Mindy Kaling as a physician named Mindi Lahiri. The plot was greenlighted by FOX in May, 2012. The series is due to debut on 25, September, 2012.


FRESH OFF THE BOAT (2015- )


Fresh Off the Boat follows a Taiwanese-American family in the 1990s and is based on the memoir of Eddie Huang. The first episode was co-written by Sanjay Shah and Nahnatchka Khan. The Taiwanese family is played by Korean-American actor Randall Park and Chinese-American actors Constance Wu, Hudson Yang, Forrest Wheeler, Ian Chen, and Lucille Soong. The series debuted in 2015.


*****


So there you have it, a handful of mostly-obscure American shows (and one Canadian) in roughly 65 years of TV. The frequency with which Asian-Americans star in television series has increased in the recent past but neither kept pace with the internet nor demographic trends. In Los Angeles, where most American television series are filmed (and many are set), Asian-Americans make up roughly 14% of the population -- the city's largest racial minority and it's fastest growing. Color may've been introduced as a technology to television more than 60 years ago but today, for the most part, it remains frustratingly black and white.


*****

California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Garden Grove, The City of Youth and Ambition

Posted by Eric Brightwell, November 22, 2010 07:00pm | Post a Comment


Downtown Garden Grove

This Southern CA-area episode is about Garden Grove, which I journeyed to with Garden Grove native Tita Ortega. To vote for other Orange County communities to be covered on the blog, vote here. To vote for Los Angeles County communities to be the subject of future entries, vote here. To vote for Los Angeles neighborhoods, vote here


Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of Orange County

Garden Grove is is located in North Orange County. In fact, it was whilst living in Garden Grove in 1888 that R.Q. Wickham launched the political movement that would lead to the formation of Orange County. Garden Grove is bordered by Cypress, Stanton and Anaheim to the north; Orange to the east; Santa Ana to the southeast; Westminster to the south; Seal Beach to the southwest and Los Alamitos to the west.

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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Rowland Heights, Los Angeles County's Little Taipei

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 28, 2010 08:30pm | Post a Comment
ROWLAND HEIGHTS


A view of lower Rowland Heights from the hills

Little Taipei is a nickname for Rowland Heights, a city in the San Gabriel Valley. To vote for more Los Angeles County communities to be the subject of a future entry, click here. To vote for Los Angeles neighborhoods, click here. Rowland Heights is a community neighbored by City of Industry to the north, Diamond Bar to the northeast, Chino Hills to the east, unincorporated Orange County to the south, La Habra Heights to the southwest, and Hacienda Heights to the west.


Pendersleigh & Sons Cartography's map of Rowland Heights -- made without aesthetic consideration for my eyes only




World Journal, International Daily News, Sing Tao, the Epoch Times, the China Press or the Zhong Guo Daily at a bus stop

THE RANCHO PERIOD

Rowland Heights' location in the southeastern corner of the SGV was earlier part of the Mexican Rancho La Puente. In 1842, shortly before the Mexican-American War, the land was sold to John Rowland and William Workman. In 1868, they divided it and established the Workman Temple Homestead near what's now the corner of Gale and Nogales. Much of what became Rowland Heights was covered with hog lots and later orange groves until nearly a century later, when postwar prosperity, the extension of the 60 Freeway and a greater trend toward suburbanization led Angelenos eastward into the area.


A BRIEF HISTORY OF TAIWAN IMMIGRATION TO THE US

In 1949, after the defeat of the Nationalist Kuomintang army by the Communist Party of China, approximately two million mainland Chinese refugees (waishengren or 49ers) moved to Taiwan, joining the population of indigenous Austronesians (a group which also includes the Malagasy of Madagascar, Filipinos, Indonesians and Polynesians), who'd lived there from some four to eight thousand years as well as Mainland Chinese descendants who'd lived there for centuries. Following Mao Zedong's death in 1979, a power struggle erupted between the Gang of Four, Hua Guofeng and Deng Xiaoping. The political uncertainty that ensued over the next four years provided the impetus for some relatively wealthy residents in Taiwan and Hong Kong to pack their bags and move to the San Gabriel Valley, especially in Monterey Park, which was advertised in China as "The Asian Beverly Hills."

Soon, Monterey Park acquired to new nicknames, "Mandarin Park" and "Little Taipei." Those appellations were soon dropped after many ethnically Chinese (Hoa) left Vietnam after experiencing anti-Chinese persecution there. After a moratorium against development of new shopping centers in Monterey Park went into effect, Chinese-Americans began to move to neighboring Alhambra.  Meanwhile, given the growing wealth of mainland Chinese and Monterey Park's reputation abroad, many mainlanders began to move to the San Gabriel Valley as well. In 1990, Monterey Park became the first Asian majority city in the US, albeit one where Vietnamese and Cantonese were by then heard as often as Mandarin.


BEYOND MANDARIN PARK

A few years earlier, as Monterey Park and Alhambra had begun to grow increasingly crowded, wealthier, established Taiwanese-Americans began to eye other nearby cities like San Gabriel, Rosemead, Arcadia, Temple City, Artesia, Irvine, Cerritos, Hacienda Heights and Rowland Heights. Although Monterey Park was marketed as "The Asian Beverly Hills," if anything that nickname seems more appropriate for Hacienda Heights and Rowland Heights (or Arcasia or Chan Marino... fine!). If anyone wants to film a reality show in the vein of MTV's The Hills and BET's Baldwin Hills, I highly recommend that someone pitch The Heights to the good folks at LA-18. The city is characterized by green, rolling hills with sprawling (if not especially attractive) hillside McMansions in the south, and the Asian-American shopping district along Colima in the north.


RELOCATING LITTLE TAIPEI

Up until the mid-1980s, Rowland Heights had been predominantly Anglo and Latino. Now they make up the minorities, with Latinos making up 27% and whites making up 17%. Although Taiwanese make up the largest ethnic group in the neighborhood, monied Korean-Americans, mainland Chinese, Hong Kongers and Hoa have followed the Taiwnese-American wave, creating something of a wealthy, pan-East Asian fusion suburb where Koreans and Mainland Chinese often serve Japanese or Taiwanese food and Hoa run foot massage parlors, hair and nail salons. There are also quite a few spas, come to think of it.


NEW GOLDEN TOFU SEAFOOD PHO NOODLE HOUSE GARDEN CHINA KING PALACE

Rowland Heights' main draw is its many restaurants. Every April, Pathfinder Park hosts the Taste of the Heights festival. Thankfully, chains are mostly eschewed. Not long ago a Taco Bell became a pho restaurant. On the day Tim and I were exploring, we popped into New Garden, a Mandarin Restaurant. I was first intrigued by the blue roof tiles, which I associate with Koreans. Inside the TVs were tuned to KBS. They started us off with onions, jjajang sauce and kim chi. The customers and employees engaged one another in Korean. It was slightly unexpected but, more importantly, it was delicious!

The most represented cuisine in Rowland Heights is Taiwanese, but as this not even comprehensive list hopefully shows, there are many Korean, Mandarin, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese and Mexican joints too... not to mention an above average number of yogurt places, tea bars, bakeries and even two Cajun restaurants. The first time I ate in Rowland Heights was a chilly winter night at a Macaroni Grill. Behold the variety!

#1 Pho, #1 Sun, 5 Minute Bowl/VNS Chicken, A Taco Pub 2, Abarca's Taco Pub, Ajisen, Aoyama, Apo Apo, BCD Tofu House, Baimon, Banana Bay, Banana Cafe, Banana Split Garden, Beef Noodle King, Beer Station, Berri Yogurt, Bin Bin Konjac, Boston Kitchen, Cake House Richmond, Cannan, Capital Seafood, Casa Alvarez, Casa Blanca, Cham Sut Gol, Chef's China Kitchen, China Gate, Chu Ga, Class 302, Coconut Bay, Coconut Station, Country Bistro, Country Chicken, Diamond Bakery, Ding's Garden, Dolphin Bay, Eastern Express, FFY Noodle House, Feedable BBQ Buffet, Flavor of Beijing, Food to Go, Four Seasons Steak House, Ga Ju Soon, Gaju Soft Tofu Restaurant, Genie's Donuts, Genki Living, Go Hyang, Golden China Restaurant, Golden Noodle & Grill, Good Morning Bakery, Good Time Cafe, Graziano's, Green Tea Terrace, Gungjung Sulruntang, Hainan Tasty Chicken, Hanashima Noodle House, Hang Out Tea House, Happy Dolphin Bay, Happy Harbor, Happy Sheep, Happy Veggie Garden, Hong Kong Fishball House, Hong Kong Palace, Howondang, Hsin Hsin Shao Mei, Hsin Hsin Shau Mei, Hunan, Ichi Ichi Fusion Shabu & Tempura, JJ Bakery, JMP, Jang Gun, Jang Mo Jip, Java Cafe, Java Spice, Jin Mae, Joe's Crab Shack, Jungle Teabar, Kanpai, Kee Wah, Kiki Baker, King's Bakery, King's Palace, Kingswood Teppan Steak House, Korea House, Korean Garden, Lee's, Leung Kee, Little Bean, Lollicup, Long Choa Shou, Lucky Panda, MJ Cafe, Manie's, Maxim Cafe, Michael's Cajun Seafood, Miga, Misong Sushi, Momo, Mountain, New Capital Seafood, New Garden, New Golden City, Newport Seafood, Niko Niko, Nini Bakery, No 1 Noodle House, Nodaji, Noodle House, Ong Ga Nae, Ong Go Jib, Ono, Pan Kitchen, Pho 2007, Pho Ha, Pho Mani, Pho Noodle House, Pho Rowland, Phoenix Food Bootique, Pizza & Chicken Love Letter, Plaza Deli, President Thai, Q Noodle House, Qoo Tea Stand, Red Ant Caft, Rockstar Noodle House & Tea Bar, Rolling Wok, Rowland Garden, Royal Spring, Ruby Palace, Sam Han, Sapporo Ya, Sato, Sea Harbour Seafood, Seafood Village Rowland Heights, Seo Ho Don Katsu, Shufeng, Simbala, Splash Corner, Supreme Dragon, Taipei Golden Garden Pork Chop Noodle and Rice, Tanbi, Taoyuan Small Eatery, Tea Station, Ten Ren, The Boiling Crab, The Brochette, The Hot Pots, The Noodle Island, The Shack, Three Family Village, Tianjin Goubuli, To Ten Ko, Tofu King, Tofu Village, Toku, Tokyo Shabu Shabu, Tous Les Jours, Tutti Frutti Yogurt, Vanille De Patissierie, Vietnam Restaurant, Vip China, Wonderful Japanese Cuisine, Yang-Pyun Shin Nae, Yei San Jib, Yogurtland, Yu Chun, Yuki Sushi and Yummy House.

If you're a chef, there are also several large markets targeted toward Asian-Americans: 99 Ranch Market, Shun Fat Supermarket (which replaced a Vons), Do Re Mi Market (formerly known as Han Gook Market), Greenland Market, Galleria Market, T S Emporium and HK2 Food District. Tim pointed out what he thought was a supermarket just selling varieties of mushroom. On inspection I surmised that these "mushrooms" were dried sea cucumbers.


STUFF TO DO FOR UNDERAGERS

Being thoroughly suburban means most of the things to do are typically suburban. There are many shopping plazas to hang out in.


Diamond Plaza on a slow night

The center of nightlife in the city is Diamond Plaza. On weekends, the plaza and the businesses are descended upon by young, mostly Chinese, Korean, Taiwanese and Vietnamese, who cruise the parking lot, hang out, play cards, etc.




Hong Kong Plaza is another popular destination, albeit tending to draw a somewhat older crowd.





Yes Plaza is home of Cue Studio, a popular photo/sticker joint and some of the buildings have fake, multi-story facades with shimmering lights behind them at night that give it a kind of Disney simulacrum effect. In fact, Plazas are so popular that at least two restaurants, Life Plaza and Dynasty Plaza are named after... plazas. Other plazas include Colima Plaza, Kumar Plaza, Eagle Plaza, Rowland Heights Plaza, Pacific Plaza, Golden Square and the alleys between plazas.


Colima Plaza

Rowland Heights Plaza

Golden Square

Pacific Plaza


NIGHTLIFE

There are few bars (not counting Tea Bars) - 9PM, Stubby's, Lucky 101, Beer Station and Whitney's, a hostess bar. JJ Music Studio is a popular noraebang (song room) where you can sing karaoke with a private audience. There's a pool halls - Man-Wha Billiard. There are some top notch arcades as well: Arcade Infinity, Tilt and MVP Shooters Club.


MOVIES & MUSIC & GAMES

I couldn't find any movies that were filmed in Rowland Heights other than a couple of shorts, The Reclamation of David Simms and Escape. I'm sure there are some budding musicians, too. Rowland Heights, not surprisingly, has several piano stores. Amoeba has a very healthy Asian Cinema section, although one that tends to favor artier fare. There are a few really good DVD/VCD/VHS/Video Games/Music stores with a wide array of more popular stuff. Video 94 rents films and video games. Amax has a variety of music, movies and knick-knacks from China, Taiwan, Korea and Japan as well as English-singing acts favored by Asians such as Air Supply and The Carpenters. Jade focuses mostly on Chinese music and movies. Sunrize Video mostly specializes in rental of K-Dramas. There's also KJ Video.



Amax Music House
Jade Entertainment


Sunrize Video

*****

Special thanks to filmmaker and musician Tiffany Huang, who, as a former Hacienda Heights resident had helpful tips about Rowland Heights, where her doctor's office was, and where she studied for her SATs.

*****

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California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Koreatown

Posted by Eric Brightwell, May 17, 2010 03:00pm | Post a Comment
K-TOWN STAY DOWN!

NB: Since the initial publication of this blog entry, Koreatown's borders have been expanded and made official by the city. A new map reflects this but the text of the blog entry does not. 


This blog entry is about the Los Angeles neighborhood of Koreatown. To vote for more LA neighborhoods to be the subject of future blog entries, click here. To vote for Los Angeles County communities, click here. To vote for Orange County neighborhoods, vote here.

In recognition of you, the blog readers' votes, and in recognition of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, I headed to Koreatown for answers. While Palisades Park, New Jersey has the highest concentration of Korean-Americans in the United States and Georgia is home to the fastest-growing Korean-American population (in the US), Los Angeles is home to the largest population of Koreans and our Koreatown destroys the competition.
 

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