December 2, 2023

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Korean American business enterprise leaders drive for recognition of Koreatown in northwest Dallas

In northwest Dallas at the corner of Royal Lane and Harry Hines Boulevard two buildings that go through “Asian Trade District” sit on reverse sides of the intersection. The shade of the components on the indications has faded. One particular of the letters is missing. Trash is littered about the compact patches of wilted grass bordering the structures.

The indications were envisioned as landmarks to welcome individuals and prospects to the place, which decades back bustled with Asian American-oriented businesses, a lot of owned by individuals of Korean descent. A 1999 Dallas Morning Information post described how this as soon as “languishing” aspect of the town was lit up with storefront symptoms.

Outlets like Sam Moon and dining establishments like Korea Property turned cornerstones to the progress and identity of the region, which to many Korean People in North Texas is unofficially referred to as “K-Town” or “Koreatown.”

Now, the Increased Dallas Korean American Chamber of Commerce is pushing for the town to approve street toppers for a extend of Royal Lane to be labeled Koreatown. The group hopes the toppers can be an important step in preserving the history of the location.

The Asian Trade District signs in Dallas, one of which is missing a letter, were envisioned...
The Asian Trade District symptoms in Dallas, one particular of which is missing a letter, were envisioned as landmarks to welcome persons and clients to the place.(Lola Gomez / Staff Photographer)

“I feel like we must pay out homage to the legacy of Koreans that have constructed Koreatown,” said John Lee, a board member of the Korean American Chamber.

Lee is spearheading attempts to get the city’s approval for the street toppers on Royal Lane, from Luna Street to Harry Hines Boulevard. He has enrolled the assistance of Dallas City Council member Omar Narvaez, whose district encompasses the a lot less-than-two-mile extend of highway.

Narvaez confirmed in a published statement in November that his workplace is pushing for an formal Koreatown designation by the town.

He expressed his assistance for an formal Koreatown designation throughout a city hall assembly days following a May perhaps shooting at a hair salon in which a few women were shot and injured by a gunman. Jeremy Theron Smith, 37, who was arrested in link to the taking pictures, is dealing with loathe criminal offense costs.

The attack rocked this local community.

Shopkeepers around the hair salon that was targeted advised The News that organization has returned to stages found prior to the shooting, but some others, this kind of as the dining establishments, are continue to reeling from the influence of the coronavirus pandemic. Moreover, with a major amount of Korean-owned corporations going to suburban areas outside the house of Dallas, those people who have stayed in the spot say they are eager for a spark to revitalize Koreatown.

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The recognition of this small business district would go a lengthy way in highlighting the contributions of the Korean American local community to Dallas’ record.

“The motion to designate a Koreatown District is moving along and we hope to have this designation done in the very first quarter of 2023,” Narvaez wrote.

Lee said he has witnessed the Korean place grow by “leaps and bounds” in the past three decades. The Pew Investigate Centre estimated in 2019 that about 41,000 Korean People in america lived in the D-FW area, but the Consular Office of the Republic of Korea in Dallas estimates the selection is significantly bigger.

Lee experienced tried to thrust the metropolis for an official Koreatown designation about 10 a long time ago, but that hard work “lost steam,” he claimed. The coronavirus pandemic also delayed Lee’s designs.

Cars pass Royal Korea Town Plaza along Royal Lane in Dallas. The Korean Chamber of Commerce...
Autos go Royal Korea City Plaza along Royal Lane in Dallas. The Korean Chamber of Commerce is hoping to designate a stretch of Royal Lane as Dallas’ official Koreatown.(Elías Valverde II / Employees Photographer)

Toppers would be a seen illustration of what the Korean American chamber needs to reach. The goal, Lee mentioned, is to revitalize the location in addition to producing guaranteed the city recognizes its worth.

“Whether which is with the personal sector or as a result of grants — where ever we can get the revenue,” Lee mentioned. “We want to get started to reinvigorate Koreatown.”

Any tale about the results of Dallas’ Koreatown would be incomplete with no Sam Moon Trading Firm, which started in 1984 as a 5,000-sq.-foot shop at the corner of Royal Lane and Harry Hines Boulevard.

At the time, a lot of Korean-owned corporations had operated out of Belt Line Street in Irving. David Moon, who founded the wholesale merchandise firm, mentioned he was amongst the initially Korean People to begin a business enterprise in what would afterwards turn into the Asian Trade District in Dallas.

As organization grew, Moon mentioned he invested in a 50,000-sq.-foot residence numerous blocks down. These days, the flagship retail store is at a retail centre that Moon’s company owns at the intersection of Interstate 35E and Interstate 635. In the early 2000s, additional than 200 Korean-owned corporations experienced opened all over Harry Hines Boulevard and along Royal Lane.

Moon, however, has witnessed the selection of Korean-owned firms in the area decrease due to the fact its boom in the 1990s and early 2000s.

David Moon, who founded Sam Moon Trading Company, said he was among the first Korean...
David Moon, who established Sam Moon Trading Firm, stated he was amongst the very first Korean Americans to start off a enterprise in what would afterwards turn out to be the Asian Trade District in Dallas. Nowadays, the flagship retail store is at a retail center that Moon’s organization owns at the intersection of Interstate 35E and Interstate 635. (Lola Gomez / Workers Photographer)

“Slowly they shut down due to the fact the business was no fantastic,” he explained. “Still we have about 50 to 60 Korean-owned businesses in this area.”

The COVID pandemic also stifled enterprise development, Moon stated.

Moon mentioned he thinks Korean-owned organizations in the area are obtaining means to realize success, pointing to banking companies on Royal Lane, which include Hanmi and American Initial Nationwide, which serve a significant selection of Korean Americans.

Moon’s relatives enterprise, Sam Moon Group, has expanded to actual estate and luxurious inns.

Daniel Moon, 49, vice president of Sam Moon Group, claimed retailers like the one particular started by his mom and dad in the mid-1980s pioneered the development of Koreatown.

“Many of the wholesalers, in the 1980s in particular, ended up Korean, so you started off observing additional Korean dining establishments, and then you obtained the grocery merchants that served the dining places,” Daniel Moon claimed. “Then you observed legal professionals and accountants open store, you observed barber outlets. It organically grew from all of people Korean wholesalers remaining in that spot.”

But Moon thinks the Koreatown district needs official recognition by the town to continue to keep increasing.

Increased metropolis aid could inject new pleasure and assurance for much more Korean-owned organizations to open up store in the original Koreatown.

“I think it would be excellent for all people doing work together to get additional traction for that location,” Daniel Moon said.

Caroline Kim has seen Korea Home — a cafe her family owns and operates — as a long lasting anchor to Dallas’ Koreatown. Newspaper clippings with images of Kim’s mom, Sung Kim, the matriarch of the cafe, in her traditional Korean Hanbok dress greeting Korean presidents and celebs line one particular of the hallways inside the cafe.

Korea Property opened in 1979 in Richardson, but the area that would turn out to be its flagship opened in Dallas in 1987, in accordance to its internet site.

Korea House originally opened in 1979 in Richardson, but the location that would become its...
Korea Home originally opened in 1979 in Richardson, but the location that would turn out to be its flagship opened in Dallas in 1987.(Lola Gomez / Staff Photographer)

Caroline Kim claimed she credits the good results of her mother’s cafe to her potential to adapt and regulate firms.

“My mom is a good businesswoman and she’s found it all,” Kim reported. “She has found recessions and economic downturns and shifts in the neighborhood and has been capable to climate as a result of it all.”

Kim explained Dallas’ Koreatown is a limited-knit local community with a humble commencing.

For the earlier several decades, Korean People have shaped the identification of the neighborhood, she stated.

“There have been a whole lot of Korean Chambers and community and business associations that ended up executing what they could, several instances on a volunteer foundation, to consider to grow that area to make positive that it’s not just worthwhile, but welcoming,” she mentioned.

These days, some locals refer to the spot as “old” or “original” Koreatown. Though it is a pillar of the biggest Korean American community in Texas, small business is not what it made use of to be, in accordance to Rich Kim, who operates Shin Chon Sector, the longest-surviving Korean grocery retail outlet in Dallas.

Lesser grocery sector functions like his have been especially pressured to adapt to alterations in Koreatown.

The retail store is nestled between the wholesale and trade companies that have turn into attribute of the trade district, a several blocks away from in which Lee and the chamber are hoping to location Koreatown toppers.

Wealthy Kim stated he still left South Korea and moved to the U.S. in February 2003 with his wife and little one to encounter life outside of a more compact region.

Rich Kim operates Shin Chon Market, the longest-surviving Korean grocery store in Dallas.
Wealthy Kim operates Shin Chon Industry, the longest-surviving Korean grocery retail outlet in Dallas.(Lola Gomez / Team Photographer)

His father-in-legislation operated the grocery industry and Kim worked as a supervisor. When he figured out about 4 a long time in the past that his father-in-law was thinking about closing down the organization, Kim said he presented to just take in excess of the marketplace. Kim transformed the grocery retailer, incorporating a eating area, and reopened in 2020.

Kim stated he preferred to preserve the keep open up mainly because he is familiar with that he continue to has loyal clients who have been browsing there because his wife’s mother and father originally opened the company in 1987. He explained he needs to keep on producing variations and enhancements to deliver new customers.

When Komart, a bigger Korean grocery store, arrived to the location in the late 1990s, Kim explained Shin Chon Market shed some small business, but included that it was nevertheless viable mainly because of the progress of the Korean group in North Texas.

Then later, when H-Mart opened in Carrollton, which features its possess Koreatown, he saw the quantity of Korean shoppers diminish further more.

But the receding variety of Korean American buyers has been replenished by people from other backgrounds and cultures, Loaded Kim claimed.

“We are not a business just for Korean people anymore, we serve folks from other communities and I feel we ought to develop our business enterprise tiny by minimal by serving consumers who are not always Korean,” he claimed.

A sign advertises various Asian businesses at the Asiana Plaza along Royal Lane in Dallas....
A signal advertises several Asian firms at the Asiana Plaza alongside Royal Lane in Dallas. The Korean Chamber of Commerce is seeking to designate a stretch of Royal Lane as Dallas’ formal Koreatown.
(Elías Valverde II / Personnel Photographer)

Kim said he, also, would like to see a lot more financial investment in Koreatown from the city of Dallas. But he claimed he does not think that an formal Koreatown designation by itself would lead to economic revitalization.

“If it is just a subject of contacting the place Koreatown, I never assume everything will come about it will just be floor-level,” Kim said. “What’s extra critical is a discussion with stakeholders of what we can do to improve and update the region.”

Yet Stephanie Drenka, co-founder of the Dallas Asian American Historical Culture, thinks it is vital for the city of Dallas to make investments in Koreatown extended-time period.

Drenka stated other culturally important enclaves that were being started by distinct Asian American populations in the town have been overlooked, and their histories have been shed.

That has manufactured it far more hard for businesses like the historical culture to maintain the city’s Asian American record.

“That’s what’s truly distinctive about Koreatown it has thrived, it has flourished and stayed intact as a presence in Dallas appropriate,” Drenka explained. “So I think we need to master from what we have lost.”

Drenka stated Koreatown’s identification shouldn’t be targeted only on organization and commerce, but also on its contribution to the city’s background and culture.

“The town has to devote into the infrastructure and neighborhood about it so that Koreatown is a lot more than a sign that no a person sees,” Drenka stated.

Korean American leaders, activists contact for extra political engagement from North Texas neighborhood