Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Koreatown vs. Little Bangladesh: The Dokdo of America

The Korean-American community in California has had their hands full recently. It hasn't even been a week since Susie Kim was shot and killed in Santa Ana and now another Korean-American, Joseph Han, has met the same fate.

The details surrounding those shootings have yet to surface as the investigations continues, but Korean-Americans are facing another threat. Their bastion in LA known as Koreatown has been invaded by the pesky Bangladeshis.

"The Bangladeshi American community says that its numbers have swelled to more than 10,000. Last year, proponents filed a petition with the city to designate the area from Third Street to Wilshire Boulevard and Vermont Avenue to Western Avenue as "Little Bangladesh."


The problem with this is that the inhabitants of Koreatown have never had to file a petition before. (They have now.) The law didn't protect such enclaves, but offered only de facto status and since no other migrant community has threatened their "sovereignty" they saw no reason to do so.

In the last 30 years or so, a six-square-mile area west of downtown Los Angeles has become an enclave of some 50,000 Korean-Americans, the largest concentration of Koreans in the country. The district is now commonly known as Koreatown. But on the city’s official maps, Koreatown is nowhere to be found, because until 2006, Los Angeles had no formal process for designating neighbourhoods. Korean civic groups say they always simply assumed that the area was officially Koreatown."


The amount of Bangladesh's living in LA as per the 2000 Census was a measly 1700, but now some estimates are closer to 10,000. That's a huge increase that has been fueled mostly by natural disaster, poverty and civil war.

Let's take a look at what we're talking about here. Below is a wider view of LA with Koreatown highlighted.



Now, here is a closer look at it with the area that was petitioned to become "Little Bangladesh".



That's a pretty big slice right out of the center of Koreatown and the local Korean community is angry.

"It means power," she said as she hemmed a pair of pants inside the dry cleaners where she's worked for a decade. "Koreatown is already established. . . . Why can't they find another place?"


Besides the obvious rants that some Koreans aren't great with multiculturalism, she brings up a good point. It's clear that the Bangladeshis want to capitalize on the progress that Koreatown has made and kind of bypass the whole process of creating a migrant district. LA is huge. There are tons of places where rent is also cheap, but they chose Koreatown and it's very center at that. If the Bengladeshi population continues to grow at the rate that they have been for the past decade, then the location of Little Bangledesh certainly poses a threat to Koreatown. If the proposed location was, say, on the outskirts of town, then its growth wouldn't necessarily threaten Koreatown as much.

I totally side with the Koreans on this one. They moved to that area over 40 years ago. Since then, they have opened stores, dry-cleaners, restaurants and other businesses. It's been a cultural destinationa and a haven for Koreans for decades. During the LA Riots, they defended it from thugs, gangsters and looters. They have shed blood for that district. They deserve to be able to retain the naming rights to the area. The City of LA should not ignore the shared experiences that have bound the Korean-American population to that area.

Luckily for the Koreans, I do not see this passing. I hope that LA would not shit on their Korean community like that.

If it does pass and "Little Bangladesh" does get recognized by the city, then Koreans have a couple options. They can try to bully the Bangladeshis out or they could work together and try to collaboratively promote the area.

Not a great month for Korean-Americans in Southern California.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hey... I completely agree. We have shed blood for that district and the Bangladeshis only have like seven stores in there and they want 40 blocks. That's crazy.

Edward said...

A resolution appears to have been reached.

Can find it here:

http://www.rjkoehler.com/2009/04/07/not-the-great-race-riots-of-little-tokyo/#comment-224344

Anonymous said...

Good thing that Little Bangladesh missed where I live by a block. I wonder what they were thinking. They initially liked prime Koreatown but settled for something outside. Very sneaky these Banglas. The Koreans tilled the land, sowed the seeds, waterd and trimmed the plants... and the Bangladeshis wanted the harvest. Congrats to the vigilant Koreans for averting that unfair claim. Nice try Banglas... NOT.... Good thing my place isn't called "Little Bangladesh". I would definitely move if it was named taht.

Anonymous said...

I think , all these blaming on Bangla people is becoming too much ! Just try to think from a neutral ground, so far as I know, Bangladeshi community has agreed to settle the site of 'Little Bangladesh' to a corner of Koreatown. And, 10,000 people is not a subject to ignore ! And, to my point of view, the author, in future, should be responsibly use his/her words to any community ... Pesky! what kind of freaky and insensible word is this to use to tag a community !!!

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ImranH said...

Tramp Koreans and Americans who are you calling pesky? You have no proper culture or sophistication, the bangla history and culture is ancient and is respectable unlike you worthless pieces of garbage