[LA Times] How LAPD vice is cleaning up K-town’s less savory side

December 1, 2015
Photo of the Los Angeles Times

Photo of the Los Angeles Times


For years, Koreatown had an “anything goes” reputation, a destination only accessible to Korean-speakers who knew the right people or the right number to call.

After-hour alcohol sales, smoking indoors and doumi girls? “It’s Koreatown, Jake,” a headline in the New York Times style section proclaimed in 2004.

Then the Los Angeles Police Department opened the Olympic division in 2009, essentially giving Koreatown a dedicated police force.

Over those six years, the Korean brand of nightlife — private-room karaoke bars, nightclubs with lavish bottle service, and 24/7 noodle and tofu stew joints — continued to gain in popularity among non-Koreans. Now the Olympic area’s 6.2 square miles has more than 400 locations selling alcohol, the highest concentration in the city.

In L.A., it’s a misdemeanor for paid companions to encourage patrons to consume alcohol, and a legal violation for the businesses that hire or allow them. Because many of the women are from South Korea and don’t have work permits, the job also flouts employment and, sometimes, immigration laws.