Yong Hak was introduced to KYCC through his friend Charles, whom he met at the McDonald’s on Western Avenue in Koreatown, a local hangout for many Korean American seniors. He was a volunteer with KYCC’s Prevention Education unit with the Neighborhood Taking Action (NTA) Task Force, comprised of Korean American elders in the community who helped with merchant outreach and neighborhood surveys to reduce underage drinking and youth substance use in Pico-Union, Koreatown and Westlake.
Where is your hometown?
Eungbong Dong, Seoul, South Korea.
Do you live or work in Koreatown?
I moved to Koreatown from Korea in 2005. Back home, I was in the Republic of Korea Air Force for 11 years. Now I volunteer with KYCC’s Prevention Education unit. I get personal satisfaction from changing the environment. It’s a real sense of accomplishment.
What are your thoughts on Koreatown?
I came to this neighborhood because my older sister lived here. Some of my other relatives are here as well. Now that I’m here, I’m not going back to Korea. My daughters are coming here, and there’s nobody left “over there” except for my younger brother. I wanted to move to another state, but my relatives didn’t want to because there would be no Korean food or Korean Americans. Everyone I knew who was moving came to Koreatown.
Where is your favorite place in Koreatown?
McDonald’s on Western and 7th. I know everyone here. I see the same faces and say hello to everyone. It’s like a sarangbang, a men’s community room or forum—there was one in every Korean village or house.
I also like going to Seoul International Park to exercise early in the morning, around 6 a.m. I have a group of friends who play badminton. There’s no net; we just meet there and hit the birdy back and forth for an hour or so. Then the soccer players show up and take over our spots.