By Michelle Cornelius
On Tuesday, Feb. 12, the Garden Grove City Council granted the title “Orange County Koreatown” to the two mile stretch of land on Garden Grove Boulevard formerly known as the Korean Business District. The neighborhood is home to hundreds of Korean-owned businesses and a vibrant Korean community. It is a cultural hub for the Korean community with a plethora of Korean businesses, the headquarters to the Korean American Federation of Orange County, and an annual Orange County Korean Festival.
Garden Grove is the oldest Korean neighborhood established in Orange County. The area’s growth began after World War 2, due to inexpensive housing for servicemen. In the 1970s and 1980s, Little Seoul was born, as the allure of affordable land and housing brought many Korean families into the city.
With the influx of Korean Americans into this area, Korean leaders began to push for official titles to recognize the presence of the Korean community. In August 1999, the City Council deemed the title of the neighborhood as the Korean Business District because of the fear of negative response by the non-Korean community. The emphasis was on business relations instead of the community that developed and thrived there.
“Us Koreans all watered and seeded the dry and wilting Garden Grove Boulevard and turned it into a street of evergreens,” stated Korean poet Yong Chong in “The Korean Immigration History of Orange County,” published in 2007.
The desire to change the title stemmed from a goal to represent the area and its community and show the “spiritual hometown for Korean Americans of Orange County” (The OCR). The new name, “Orange County Koreatown,” better reflects the rich history and familial nature of the neighborhood.
Another goal of the name change is to promote young Korean Americans to come to the area and experience their Korean culture. The recent trend for many Korean Americans is to go to places like Fullerton and Buena Park, and the title change is a way to encourage young Koreans and non-Koreans alike to explore Koreatown.