Chaerin is a junior at New Covenant Academy in Koreatown. She was born in Ulsan, Korea, but came to Koreatown, Los Angeles when she was three years old. She has been living in Koreatown for 13-14 years, but she does not know the history and the background of Koreatown. She is very interested in photography because she loves taking pictures of her family members, friends, food, and herself. She is a starting setter on the school volleyball team and she loves dancing to K-Pop and Hip-Hop music. She has been a member of a dance team for four years and won many competitions. In the future, she hopes to become a pediatric nurse.
Where is your hometown?
My hometown is Ulsan, South Korea. I don’t really remember my life in Korea because I came to America when I was three years old. Now, I live near Madang and HK Market. I got sick of Koreatown, but I still like it here because I have a lot of favorite memories. When I was in Second Grade, I cried at Madang mall because I thought the CGV [movie theater] was a haunted house. My favorite movie from there is Hide and Seek, which is a Korean horror movie. I’m really into horror movies, but that movie gave me the chills.
Do you live or work in Koreatown?
I’ve been living in Koreatown for 14 years. I go to a high school called New Covenant Academy. I have been going to New Covenant Academy for the past three years. I like this school because I like the people here. I wish there were more people in our school because our school has a small number of students. The students in my school are mostly Asians, particularly Koreans. It is a small school, but education and the relationship between students and teachers are incomparable to other schools.
What are your thoughts on Koreatown?
It’s kinda boring because I lived here for 15 years. I am used to everything in Koreatown. The streets, buildings, and the views of Koreatown are not special to me anymore. Everytime I go somewhere, it is always a place that I have been at least once.I want to live in other cities where lots of non-Koreans live. But when I first came to Koreatown, it was very new to my family because my parents had been living in Korea for a long time, so when we moved to Koreatown, it was very different culturally. There were many non-Koreans living in Koreatown, but also at the same time, Koreatown reminded my parents of Korea. But this impression has changed a lot over the years. Koreatown became a lot more diverse, meaning a lot more non-Koreans not only visit but have come to live in K-Town. Non-Koreans coming to Koreatown is not new to me at all. Starting from middle school, I had many non-Korean friends living in Koreatown, which I thought was very interesting. Now that a lot more non-Koreans are living in Koreatown, the Korean culture is spreading more and more each and every day. Because of this, I feel grateful and proud that our culture has come this far.
What’s been the most challenging part of this experience?
Living through this period made me feel less like myself. I’m not a totally different person now, but I’d characterize myself as outgoing and extroverted. Staying home all day 24/7 is really challenging because I’m used to going out and hanging out with my friends every other day. I don’t go outside very often now, but sometimes I go to my friend’s house. I want to be active and meet new people but I can’t do that so all I can do is just FaceTime and message. I really, really miss my friends. It made me realize how special all of them are to me. This period has made me feel sort of lonely and isolated. I’m stuck in my room for six hours because of online classes, but at the same time, the day passes by so quickly. It’s all made me realize how important social interaction is.
[If I could ask anyone advice about getting through the quarantine], I would talk to a person who has lived in South Korea during the SARS outbreak in 2002. They would already be used to this kind of environment. They’d know how to deal with this type of isolation. I’d ask about the activities they had done and how they coped with staying inside.
Where is your favorite place in Koreatown?
Karaoke is my favorite place because I get to scream, yell, and be crazy. Karaoke became my favorite place because back in the day, karaoke was a place where only adults were allowed to go, due to the alcohol, etc. But now karaokes in Koreatown allow a lot more teenagers and young adults to come and have fun. I first went to karaoke when I was in the eighth grade. The first karaoke I went to was Rozen Karaoke. It was $20 an hour and it was very expensive for me as an eighth grader. Now, it’s closed, but the place there was very nice. Not a lot of teenagers would come and go, but that was the place where I spent a lot of my free time. It was pretty clean and huge. I went to the karaoke because I began to get really bored of the places in Koreatown, but right when I heard about the new karaoke place, I went right away with my friends. Now, I go to this new karaoke called Youngdong Karaoke. This place is located on Normandie & 6th. And I also like the Yupdduk that is next to the karaoke. My favorite dish in Yupdduk is the yupdduk with Chinese flat noodles. But now I am kind of sick of it.
What’s the biggest way your life has changed because of the pandemic?
Before the pandemic, I used to be able to predict what was going to happen in my future. I saw myself going to college and getting a job. Ever since the pandemic, my life has become so unpredictable. The virus doesn’t even have a treatment or a cure, so you don’t know what’s going to happen to your loved ones. I’m afraid of my dad catching Corona because he still goes to work. He goes to the airport and he delivers stuff so I’m scared that he’ll catch Corona and he’s been coughing these days but I don’t know if it’s Corona or just his throat so I’m really worried about that. Many of my parents’ friends have been affected by the coronavirus. Now that the protests and the riots are happening, 2020 is becoming really unpredictable. I don’t know what’s going to happen next.
What have you learned from this experience? What memory of this time do you think will stay with you?
I’m a Christian. I’ve been struggling really hard with my faith and my relationship with God. Through this experience I have the time to reflect and just strengthen my faith with Him and my trust [in Him]. And so I think this was the time for me to learn more about His love, and His trust for us and I think that even though a lot of people are dying and recovering and stuff, I think God is always with us.
The quarantine helped me become closer with my family members because they are now home 24/7. I’ve had a few arguments with them because some tension boils up with everyone so close together for so long, but I’ve still gotten closer with my mom. My dad is usually off to work, so I watched a lot of movies with her and talked about life. I’m going to miss having that mother-daughter relationship when the quarantine ends.