Powered by a new generation of Korean American entrepreneuers, L.A.'s Koreatown is expanding in almost all directions from its historic core near the intersection of Olympic Boulevard and Vermont Avenue.

Hundreds of Korean-owned restaurants, grocery stores, beauty salons and professional offices can be found in ever-larger numbers as far north as Hollywood and as far west as the Miracle Mile district defining a new Koreatown in the heart of Los Angeles.

More than 3,200 Korean-owned firms are located within a two-mile radius of the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and Western Avenue including 332 on Santa Monica Boulevard, 150 on Beverly Boulevard and 219 on Wilshire itself, according to a survey by the University of Southern California, the first of its kind.

"Koreatown is moving north," said Kay Kyung-Sook Song, assistant vice president of civic and community affairs at USC and an expert on L.A.'s Korean American community, who completed the survey. "Koreatown is probably much larger, much more heavily concentrated in the northwest than most people thought."

In fact, according to Song, Koreatown's traditional two-square-mile reach roughly Olympic Boulevard on the south, Vermont Avenue on the east, Wilton Avenue on the west and Third Street on the north no longer applies.

A more accurate picture of Koreatown, she said, would show the neighborhood bounded by Santa Monica Boulevard to the north, Hoover Boulevard to the east, Washington Boulevard to the south and La Brea Avenue to the west an area of about 12 square miles.

But it's not just small business that is driving the growth of the new Koreatown. Just consider the Mid-Wilshire real estate market.

Quietly operating far from L.A.'s financial mainstream, Korean American investment groups have been purchasing real estate in that long-troubled marketplace. Since the end of 1989, such groups have snapped up 23 buildings in the area and now control 40 percent of Mid-Wilshire's total office stock, according to Charles Dunn & Co. Inc., a commercial real estate brokerage in the area.

That compares to approximately 9 percent in 1989.

Landlords have been filling their buildings with a new generation of young Korean American professionals. Many are the sons and daughters of shopkeepers who are returning to Koreatown to launch their own medical practices, law offices, accounting firms and import-export businesses.

"The make-up has changed from the large corporate users of the past to more entrepreneurial users occupying anywhere from 1,000 to 3,000 square feet," said Rosey Miller, senior vice president of the commercial real estate brokerage Grubb & Ellis Co. and a long-time observer of the Wilshire Boulevard office market. "The expansion of the Korean companies has been a very positive event for Mid-Wilshire."


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