The growth of KYCC’s environmental services leads to a reoccurring KYCC theme: the need for more space. With the 1991 implementation of the Department of Water and Power’s Low Flush Toilet Exchange, a program to replace old water-guzzling toilets with new water-saving toilets, the environmental staff moves into a warehouse at 1319 Pico Boulevard, which formalizes the Environmental Services Unit. This unit also incorporates KYCC’s graffiti removal and tree planting programs. When the toilet exchange program comes to an end some 15 years later, KYCC will have given away or installed more than 1.2 million low-flow toilets and showerheads for free.
In 1988, Bong Hwan Kim became KYC's second executive director. Prior to KYC, Kim led the Korean Community Center of the East Bay in Oakland, Calif. Kim was highly regarded as a progressive leader, who was faced with rebuilding the Koreatown community following the devastation from the Los Angeles Riots, as he focused on interethnic community building, and diversification of the KYC staff.
The history of KYCC began in 1975, when the Asian American Drug Abuse Program established an outreach project called the Korean Youth Center (KYC) to address the growing numbers of Korean American teens in Koreatown who were at risk of substance abuse or joining ethnic street gangs. Opening our doors on Feb. 14, at 932 South Crenshaw Boulevard, KYC had just one staff member, Project Director Rev. Paul Chun. But Rev. Chun and a crew of key volunteers made it possible for KYC to provide after-school tutoring and summer enrichment programs for youth, and education for parents on how to navigate the school system, child abuse policies, and the juvenile justice system. These early years are funded with contributions from the UCLA Asian American Studies Center and support from other local nonprofits, including the Korean Community Council, the Asian-American Community Services Center, and the Korean American Health Education Society. Also crucial to KYC’s formation is the tireless work of community figures such as Dr. Samuel Rhee, Cooke Sunoo, Ron Wakabayashi, and Inhwan Kim.
On July 1, 1983, KYC becomes an independent, 501(c)(3) nonprofit agency, with a mission “to provide comprehensive youth services to the Korean community.” Dr. Henry Whang, a counselor with the Los Angeles Unified School District, is appointed as KYC’s first board president.
To commemorate KYC's 10th anniversary, KYC held a fundraising dinner concert on Dec. 19, 1985, at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre. The theme for the evening was “A Concert for Korean American Youth,” and its goal was for “young, talented Korean Americans [to] integrate Korean and American cultural performing arts.”
KYC’s first fundraising dinner on July 22, 1983 featured actor-comedian Johnny Yune as our host. Yune brought with him luminaries like actor Jack Lemmon and singer Frankie Avalon. Held at the legendary Cocoanut Grove auditorium in the Ambassador Hotel, this event raised $30,000 for our newly independent organization. In September 1993, KYC was admitted into the service network of the United Way, earning $30,000 more in support. KYC becomes the first Korean organization to receive support from the United Way, the largest human services organization in the United States.
To mark our organization’s expanded direction and our commitment to serving other ethnic groups in the Koreatown neighborhood, KYC’s board of directors adds “Community” to our name. This new moniker, the Korean Youth and Community Center (the first iteration of KYCC), is adopted on October 15, 1992.
KYCC changes its name again in 2004, replacing “Korean” with “Koreatown” to better reflect our commitment to serve all the diverse children, youth, and families in our community.
KYCC moves into Wilton Center at 680 South Wilton Place. This new building--where the Ingraham property once stood, marked a shift in the agency's priorities from gang prevention, family counseling and athletic programs towards housing development. From 1982 to 1992, the population in the Koreatown area grew 19 percent, while housing increased by a mere 6 percent. Wilton Center houses clinical, youth and economic development services on its first floor, while the 19 units of low-income housing is on the second floor.
In July 2009, the White House designates L.A.’s Koreatown a “Preserve America” Community, a White House initiative that encourages and supports community efforts to maintain and enjoy our national heritage.” KYCC, with guidance and support from the Community Redevelopment Agency of Los Angeles, built a coalition of Koreatown organizations to complete the Preserve America Communities application. In distinguishing Koreatown with one of these honors, First Lady Michelle Obama wrote, “[Koreatown] holds a treasured place in the American story, and it is through your vision and dedication that our history will be upheld and out future will be renewed. President Obama and I are proud of your community and we applaud your achievement.”