In the summer of 2013, a small group of friends decided to bring something unique and fun to the Koreatown (Los Angeles, CA) scene in the form of KTOWN Night Market (KNM). An event that featured a large number of vendors from the area offering clothing, accessories, food, games and even live performances. Just like that, a community mainstay was born and two years later, they are still going strong. I got a chance to sit down with Danny Park, Co-Founder of KTOWN Night Market, and talk to him about some of the growing pains he dealt with to create KNM and hold events in various communities with some of the most diverse ethnic populations in Southern California.
Just last year, the team hosted three events including KTOWN Night Market, OC Block Party and Halloween Food Fest. This coming July 4th, they are hoping to cap this journey with their biggest event to date, another OC Block Party, to be held at Angels Stadium. Last year’s attendance broke 35,000 and while their success makes all this look easy, Danny knows how hard it was to get to this point in the journey. When they first started, there was “a lot of uncertainty from the local community,” says Danny about their first KNM, “They were concerned whether or not we could pull off an event of such scale and the possible increase in negative traffic to the area.” Even with the doubts, the first KTOWN Night Market was received well as evidenced by the ridiculous traffic all weekend I had to… erm… the good citizens of Los Angeles had to endure.
KNM started with a group of 4 people. When they began to plan their first Night Market event, they realized that everything they were trying to do would “break the bank”. It was then that they began getting help from the KTown community. Danny was quick to point out that there were many helping hands including, but not limited to, “LA Council President Herb Wesson, local newspapers, Korean American Student Associations, KPop celebrities, and a multitude of small businesses.” From their humble beginnings, in the short time they have been operating, they have grown to a full time staff of over 20 people.
One of the most common themes of discussion among community organizers in the Koreatown area is that the Korean community is one of the least active politically in California. This fact alone makes creating a city-wide event difficult, but Danny sees the tides changing. “More and more Korean Americans are running for political offices than before. For example, David Ryu ran for LA City Council District 4 and won this past election. In general the Korean American community is very tight knit, whenever there are events or community gatherings, it’s been very easy to get support from the local community.” Hopefully this trend continues.
So with the momentum of multiple successful events, the KTOWN Night Market team is setting its sights high for the festivities scheduled for July 4th. A true child of the OC (Orange County), Danny hopes that he can eventually create an event to get Angelinos down into what has affectionately been dubbed by natives, as the “bubble”. If you’re a native, you know how tough that is. In 2014, they accomplished this feat with only 27 days of prep and they are well on their way to creating an annual tradition. With sponsors like Hot Import Night, Rockstar Energy Drinks, and Pocky, they are set to deliver a cornucopia of experiences for the diverse crowd set to make their way into Anaheim.
To close our interview, I asked Danny if he wanted to add anything. All he had to say was thank you and that “[The] team is really happy with all the positive feedback that [they’ve] been getting from the local community.” Well, from all of us here in the community, THANK YOU once again and keep up the great work!
Sidebar: KNM has tickets on sale at the event site which can be found here.