Oral Histories

Interview of Christopher Pak

Architect. Founder and principal of Archeon Group, an architectural, planning, and interiors firm.
Korean Americans in Los Angeles after 1965
Asian American History
Biographical Note:
Architect. Founder and principal of Archeon Group, an architectural, planning, and interiors firm.
Cline, Alex
Pak, Christopher
Persons Present:
Pak and Cline.
Place Conducted:
Pak’s office at Archeon Group in Los Angeles, California.
Supporting Documents:
Records relating to the interview are located in the office of the UCLA Library's Center for Oral History Research.
Interviewer Background and Preparation:
The interview was conducted by Alex Cline, series coordinator, interviewer, UCLA Library’s Center for Oral History Research; musician.Cline prepared for the interview by conducting extensive research on the history of Korea and of Korean Americans, particularly Korean immigrants who settled in the Los Angeles area, via books, periodicals, and online sources. He also consulted with advisors who are closely connected with L.A.’s Korean American community and who are acutely knowledgeable about it, including attorney and activist Angela E. Oh and UCLA associate professor of anthropology and faculty member of UCLA’s Center for Korean Studies Kyeyoung Park. Assistance from series interviewees such as Johng Ho Song and John Lim also frequently proved invaluable.
Processing of Interview:
The transcript is a verbatim transcription of the recording. It was transcribed by a professional transcribing agency using a list of proper names and specialized terminology supplied by the interviewer. Pak was then given an opportunity to review the transcript but made no corrections or additions.
5.2 hrs.
Regents of the University of California, UCLA Library.
Series Statement:
This series includes full-life histories of a number of prominent Korean Americans who represent their community’s tremendous expansion during the period after federal anti-Asian immigration laws were repealed in 1965. The series focuses on the remarkable growth of the Korean American community in Los Angeles; that community’s impact on the history, economy, and culture of the city; and the development and evolution of Koreatown, the only such officially designated community in any city in the world. While concentrating largely on Korean immigrants who are part of the so-called 1.5 generation, or immigrants who relocated to the United States from South Korea while still relatively young, the series also includes influential members of the L.A. area’s Korean community who are first- and second-generation Korean Americans.
Pak’s childhood neighborhood in Seoul, Korea—Family background—Activities in which he engaged a s a youngster—Early influence of Western culture perceivable in South Korea during the late sixties—The Pak family’s religious background—Food—The family moves to a more modern apartment complex in Seoul—Reasons Pak’s parents decided to leave Korea for the United States—The family’s American sponsor, Mr. Kim—The flight to Los Angeles—The family initially settles in Sun Valley outside L.A.—First impressions of American suburban culture—The family moves to the area of Ninth and Hoover Streets in urban Los Angeles—Pak’s father attends the dental program for foreigners at the University of Southern California (USC) while his mother works in the garment district—Pak begins school in L.A.—His neighborhood—His awareness of other Koreans in his neighborhood—Progress in school and in speaking English—Interest in sports—His parents’ professional progress as practicing dentists—The family moves again before settling in the Hancock park area—His father opens his own dental office in what becomes the heart of Koreatown, where he works together with his wife.
Pak’s Korean and American names—Language in the Pak household—Continuation of church activities in Pak’s life after coming to Los Angeles—The growth of Korean Catholic churches in the L.A. area—The beginnings of Koreatown around the Paks’ dental office—Non-Koreans perception of what being Korean meant—Absorbing American pop culture during the seventies—Pak characterizes the Korean immigrant community during the seventies—Increasing insularity of the Korean immigrant community as it grew—Types of businesses that began to proliferate in Koreatown—Pak’s schooling in Los Angeles public schools—His experience of diversity due to living in an urban area—The Korean community’s interaction with the Hispanic population in Koreatown—Pak characterizes the characteristics of the different waves of Korean immigration into L.A.—The Pak family’s daily life during Pak’s high school years—How Pak became interested in architecture—His activities as a teenager—His grades in high school—Relationships with girls—How Pak came to attend California Polytechnic University, Pomona—His sense of having disappointed his parents—Relationship with his brother and sister—Pak’s view of his relationship with his Korean heritage in light of his identity as an American—The importance of viewing people free of categorization.
Pak becomes involved in the Korean American Coalition, one of L.A.’s first Korean nonprofit assistance and advocacy groups—Pak’s parents’ typical political stance as first-generation Korean immigrants—Programs in L.A. aimed at helping Korean immigrant youth—Pak’s increasing political awareness during the early eighties—Korean media in L.A.—Pak develops his skills as an architect during his first two years at Cal Poly Pomona—He begins working for his former professor, Michael Polonis, after graduating college—After three years he leaves to work for Chong Kim—Becomes a partner with Steve Kim at Key West Architects in 1990—Through meeting influential Hong Kong figure Bernard Chen, Pak meets major prospective clients and lands his first big commission—His personal preferences with regard to architectural style—He marries Erin Pak—His reaction to the 1992 Los Angeles uprising—Pak becomes more involved in the local and state political scene, including sitting on many city boards and commissions—He becomes aware that by being a visible member of the Korean American community he must accept being the face of the community—He is asked to be part of the new Department of Neighborhood Empowerment as well as other city boards and commissions—Pak’s assessment of L.A. mayors under whom he serves—Impact of the ’92 uprising on the Korean American community—Pak explores notions of Korean American identity from both generational and personal perspectives—His view of the future of Koreatown and of Los Angles as a whole—Impressions of present-day South Korea—The role of the church in the future of the Korean American community—Efforts which eventually led to the success of Pak’s architecture firm, Archeon Group—His family—His gratitude for having the opportunity to achieve the success he has.