May 18, 2023 - News

Dallas has North Texas' original Koreatown

Dallas street signs on Royal Lane are also in Korean. Photo: Naheed Rajwani-Dharsi/Axios

Koreatowns have sprouted all over North Texas in recent years, but Dallas is still home to the original one in the region.

Driving the news: Texas lawmakers are in the process of getting official state designation for the area off Royal Lane and Harry Hines Boulevard. Senate Resolution 31 has passed the Legislature and awaits Gov. Greg Abbott's signature.

The intrigue: Richardson was home to the region's first cluster of Korean-owned businesses, which moved to northwest Dallas in the 1980s because of rising rent, Stephanie Drenka, co-founder of the Dallas Asian American Historical Society, tells Axios.

  • Since then, Dallas' Koreatown has emerged as a vibrant wholesale and retail center bringing in enough tax revenue to rival NorthPark Center, Dallas City Council member Omar Narvaez tells Axios.

Reality check: North Texas has a long history of anti-Asian sentiment, in line with nationwide increases in hate crime reports.

  • Local newspaper clippings from the late 1800s highlight attempts by white-owned laundry businesses to curtail Chinese-owned competitors, Drenka says.
  • Last year, a gunman wounded three women at a hair salon in Dallas' Koreatown. Police said he had "delusions around anyone of Asian descent."
  • Four victims of the recent Allen shooting were Asian. Authorities haven't called it a hate crime, but they've said the gunman expressed white supremacist beliefs and posted on social media that he hoped for a race war.

State of play: Supporters of Dallas' Koreatown have long advocated for more recognition of the area. With the emergence of other Koreatowns in North Texas, Dallas leaders appear to be paying more attention to their Koreatown.

  • Dallas is installing street signs in English and Korean along Newkirk Street, Royal Lane and Harry Hines Boulevard to recognize Koreatown's history and influence.

What's next: The big Asian brands in Carrollton, Plano and Frisco could open locations in Dallas someday.

  • Next month, Dallas City Council will consider an economic incentive package intended to bring H Mart and other popular Asian brands to Dallas' Koreatown, Narvaez tells Axios.
  • Improving the roads and adding more housing will need to come to that area next, he says.
  • "Anywhere you go in the United States, all of the cities ... have a Koreatown or Chinatown or whatever it's called in their cities. What's missing in Dallas is that nobody lives in ours," he says.
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