This photograph, which shows a young man with his bike in Los Angeles Koreatown, caught my attention yesterday not for the subject in the foreground but for what it shows in the background. The subject is standing in front of the Saehan Bank tower in Koreatown, and to the left you can see the BBCN Bank building.
Both Saehan and BBCN are Korean American banks headquartered in Los Angeles’ Koreatown. The fact that both have huge office towers along Wilshire Boulevard, one of the city’s main thoroughfares, really speaks to Korean American buying power and the size of their ethnic economy.
Of course, the (literal) stature of the community’s banks is not necessarily indicative of a uniform Korean success story. According to the 2011 American Community Survey 1-year estimates, 12% of Korean Americans are living in poverty, which is on par with the national average and above the percentage of whites in poverty (9%). Furthermore, South Korea is among the top 10 countries of origin for undocumented migrants in the United States.