Yushin is a junior at New Covenant Academy in Los Angeles and a participant in the Koreatown Storytelling Project, where he is a web designer. He is an international student from South Korea. He attended the St. Gregory Nazianzen School in Los Angeles from the Second to Fourth Grade. Then, he went back to Korea and lived with his family for five years. A semester before his middle school graduation, he decided to come back to the United States on his own. He attended the Bloomington Christian School in Riverside, California, and later enrolled at New Covenant Academy in Koreatown. He likes to play and watch soccer, and also plays drums, piano, and violin. He hopes to attend Stanford University, where he is interested in studying artificial intelligence.
Where is your hometown?
My hometown is a city called Yeosu in South Korea. Because Yeosu is surrounded by the ocean, I always see the sunset and sunrise every day, and I never get tired of it. It’s always so beautiful. Although sometimes it gets pretty windy during the evening, the view never fails to disappoint me. Also, the most interesting thing about Yeosu is that the town and countryside are completely separated.
I’m not 100% sure about the background of the song 여수 밤바다 (a Korean song by Busker Busker). However, I was very pleased when the song was released, because it was a song about my hometown. I sometimes even bragged to my friends that a famous singer made a song about my hometown. The song really made Yeosu a special place for Koreans, and I think the song is very accurate in describing the beach and vibe of the place. Whenever I hear that song outside of Yeosu, the song immediately brings the smell and atmosphere of Yeosu back to me.
Do you live or work in K-Town?
I live in Koreatown. It’s already been four years. I first came to Koreatown when I was in Fourth Grade, and then I went back to Korea. A few years later, I came back to middle school, and now I am attending New Covenant Academy. It has been three years since I home-stayed at other families’ homes. Within these three years, I have moved four times mostly because of my school transfer issues. Currently, I live near the HK Market, a Korean grocery store, located in Western and 1st Street. I am home-staying at another family’s home and their son just graduated this year from New Covenant Academy.
I came to Koreatown because of my curiosity about another place, where lots of Koreans, like me, reside as immigrants. Specifically, I was curious about how Korean immigrants would live in a foreign country. Because I had never experienced living in another country, I also wanted to take this opportunity to get to know America as a whole and be able to get to understand the culture of this country.
How is this experience different from other pandemics you have lived through? (SARS, MERS, Swine flu)
I went through those three pandemics when I was in Korea, so I had my mom and my dad around me. So I wasn’t really worried because I knew that my family would protect me. I was really young at the time. I actually got swine flu when I first came back to Korea, and I survived so I think I kind of got immune from that virus. But for coronavirus, I’m alone in the U.S., so my family is very worried about me, especially because America has the most positive patients in the world. [My family and I] were always apart because I was in America since I was young. And even when I went back to Korea, my dad went on business trips a lot. Even though we were never in one place together for a long time, we bonded a lot. When I was in Sixth Grade, my family went to this place called Gangwondo, which is a city-state in South Korea. It’s in the north, so it’s really cold and it snows a lot. We got to stay at a really expensive hotel because my dad’s company offered us the opportunity, so we got to ski and go to an aquarium. We had a lot of fun. It was one of the best memories of my life.
[Because I don’t have family here with me] I think I’m getting a [sense of community and strength] from my friends. I can’t really tell if they’re giving me strength per se, but they are still with me. Even though we aren’t meeting at school, we can meet online, so we are encouraging each other by playing games and stuff.
Has this quarantine changed you? If so, how?
I value myself higher than before. I take the stuff that I’m being given more seriously. I don’t think I’m going to waste a lot of time after this pandemic. After joining this journalism program, I started studying more about journalism. I’m not really into journalism. I’m more into computer science and math. I’m not like a linguistics-type-of-guy. I don’t really do good with languages, even Korean. Now, I get to study more about words and languages. It’s kind of new for me. I’ve also been studying what I want to do. I have a new bucket list. I want to make a YouTube channel and get at least 100,000 subscribers. I searched for every edit technique I could find on the Internet. I got tips from vlogs and other YouTube videos about editing.
What are your thoughts on Koreatown?
Koreatown is interesting in so many different ways. First, a lot of things happen in Koreatown, like birthday parties, crime, special events, etc. I haven’t had an actual birthday party yet because I was never in a “stable” environment to hold it. Since I have always lived at another family’s home, I wasn’t allowed to bring over friends to have a birthday party, which was really unfortunate. However, every time my birthday would come, my host family would hold a small party for me, which I felt very grateful for.
When I was in Fourth Grade in Koreatown, my mom, sister, and I were living in an apartment. My mom went downstairs to do her laundry. Immediately, I heard a gunshot from downstairs. It was very loud. I was so worried about my mom, but she was fine. She told me there was a shooting in the parking lot. Because of this event that took place, my thoughts about Koreatown changed, because it was a lot different than I expected. In Koreatown, there are many shootings and crimes that take place, which makes this place very scary and dangerous at the same time.
Diversity is not unusual for me, but the reason why I think Koreatown is so interesting is because of its diversity. Korea is a lot more homogeneous than Koreatown. There are many non-Koreans in Korea as well, however, Koreatown seems very dynamic and diverse. I thought Koreatown would be full of Koreans, but when I came here, it was very surprising to see how dynamic and diverse this town was.
Personally, I think Koreatown is a very dynamic place. Lots of good and bad things happen here in Koreatown. This town is one of the towns that is in the middle of the trends. Koreatown is located in Los Angeles, which is a huge city where lots of celebrities and trends are involved. Many K-Pop singers come to Koreatown from Korea to eat at K-BBQ restaurants, and they also hold concerts here in Koreatown. Because of this, many non-Koreans have fallen in love with Korea and its culture. Not only K-Pop is trendy right now, but Korean food and beauty are trending and thriving.
If I were to tell people about Koreatown, I would tell them that Koreatown is a small version of Korea, and just watching my hometown and country placed in another country’s land is the most interesting part of Koreatown. For visitors visiting, I would tell them not to expect too much about Koreatown, because, in my opinion, it is not that splendid. Koreatown is just “Koreatown” to me. Koreatown kinda shows me how Korea in the ’90s would look like. I was not born in the ’90s, but from what I have seen from the pictures like the style of the building and Korean seniors and the signs of each Korean restaurant remind me so much of Korea in the ’90s. The town itself is just so different from South Korea right now.
Where is your favorite place in Koreatown?
Personally, I love Young Dong Karaoke. It’s located in Koreatown on 6th and Normandie Avenue which is in the same mall as YupDduk. Many teenagers and young adults go to this place to sing, dance, and act however they want. I go here with my friends all the time, and it just makes me feel free. This place is a lot different than other karaokes because many other karaokes only let adults over the age of, 21 go in. The last song I sang at the Young Dong Karaoke was Dali Van Picasso by Beenzino. The song was released in 2016 in an album called 12. It has always been one of my top three Hip-Hop songs since I was 14 years old.