LA neighborhood comes into focus in new book 'Koreatown Dreaming'

Each person's stories are as diverse as their crafts and are weaved together with a common thread: their Korean roots.
LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Emanuel Hahn grew up all over the world - Cambodia, Singapore, New York - but the Los Angeles neighborhood of Koreatown is special to the photographer and director.

"As a Korean-American person, I think of Koreatown as a spiritual home for the Korean diaspora," said Hahn. "If you look at the signage, and the graphics, that is reminiscent of like the 80s and 90s of South Korea."

Hahn's keen eye and thoughtful curiosity led him to meet and photograph a generation of Korean immigrants whose stories have largely gone untold.

He gathered their stories for his new book "Koreatown Dreaming."

After earning their trust, each person welcomed Hahn for an intimate and vulnerable experience. With great care and intentionality, he took their portraits and listened to their stories.

"One of the favorite people that I met was actually a photographer who has a studio on Western Avenue," said Hahn. "I sort of went in under the guise of wanting passport photos. At a certain point, I just turned it back on him and said, 'Hey, can I take your photos?'"

Gilbert Lee shares a similar career path as Hahn, first moving to the U.S. for a corporate job but later deciding to pursue his passion for photography.

Lee documented the 1992 L.A. uprising for the Korea Times and later opened his own photography studio.

Eunice Park was working in fashion design when her father suddenly died in December 2020. He owned one of the first rice cake stores that open in Koreatown about 30 years ago.

She now runs the shop and carries on her father's legacy.

"I was really happy that I did it, even though it was a little bit out of my comfort zone," said Park. "It felt like there was a story really told, and there was like a face to what there was a meaning to it."

The 40 unique and heartfelt stories in Hahn's book are accompanied by photos, essays, and poems.

Each person's stories are as diverse as their crafts and are weaved together with a common thread: their Korean roots.

Hahn is donating part of the proceeds from book sales to two nonprofit organizations serving the Koreatown community.

"For many of them, they never got a chance to share their stories. For someone to take the time to just document them, their faces and their stories, I think it meant a lot to them," said Hahn.

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