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Koreatown in LA

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The boundaries of Little Bangladesh are located in the largest Koreatown within the city of Los Angeles. Four blocks between South New Hampshire and South Alexandria avenues along Third Street represent this ethnic enclave. In 2010, Little Bangladesh was formally designated by the Los Angeles City Council.

The history of this area begins in the 1960s, when a considerable number of young Bangladeshis came to the United States on student visas. The northern part of Wilshire Center was attractive to newcomers due to its cheap rentals and location close to Los Angeles City College.

Another migratory movement was initiated by the Bangladeshi Liberation War which began in March 1971. The Los Angeles Bangladesh Association was established in the same year. During 1970s, the immigration wave from Bangladesh decreased, although Bangladeshi still preferred this area for its reputation and education opportunities. In 1991, the Bangladeshi immigration reached its peak (Brightwell).  

Meanwhile, there was a massive wave of immigration from South Korea in 1972, when country’s leader, Park Chung Hee, initiated the Heavy-Chemical Drive. Newcomers chose to settle within the southern part of Wilshire Center, especially in or around Olympic Avenue. The ethnic enclave kept growing at a gradual pace; by 1980 it embraced the area between Hoover and Wilton streets. Thus, the neighborhood was unofficially designated Koreatown by the city of Los Angeles (Brightwell).

In 2008, Mohammed Akhter H. Miah filed an application in order to obtain official designation for Little Bangladesh (Brightwell). At first, the goal was to annex the block area stretching from Western Avenue to Vermont Avenue and from 3rd to Wilshire Boulevard, which was initially considered the part of Koreatown (Abdulrahim). However, the City Council received a rival request from Chang Y. Lee, the chairman of Korean-American Federation of Los Angeles. The community leader suggested including the territories of Little Bangladesh in Koreatown in order to expand its borders (Brightwell). After the City Council voted on the matter, Little Bangladesh obtained the area of four blocks between New Hampshire and Alexandria avenues along the Third Street (Abdulrahim). Furthermore, the redistricting resulted in a highly controversial split of Koreatown in two Council districts. This decision led to filing a suit against the city by residents of Koreatown alleging discrimination of Asian Americans in favor of African Americans. The activists advocated for the area’s consolidation into a single district under Eric Garcetti who represents Historic Filipinotown and Thai Town, while Koreatown is represented by Herb Wesson (Hawkins).  Previously, Koreatown was divided into four districts. Logically, the neighborhood belonged to Garcetti’s or LaBonge’s district due to its leadership along with the formation of a perfect grid. During the redistricting, the prominent figures of Koreatown Neighborhood Council initiated a movement against the joining of Wesson’s district, which was perceived as a hostile gesture towards the efforts of the redistricting commission. Therefore, Koreatown was split in two Council districts (Mailander).

Currently, lawyers representing the activists of Koreatown insist on omitting the boundaries of new district during the next year’s election while calling for the federally appointed official to reconsider these lines (Hawkins). Thus, the conflict now has a political and ethnic connotation.

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