Greater Baltimore Asian Community History

Asia North strengthened the Asian Arts and Culture Center’s (AA&CC) ability to document and share stories of Greater Baltimore’s Asian communities. With Asia North’s focus on the Charles North neighborhood — the site of Baltimore’s first unofficial Koreatown  we have paid particular attention to Greater Baltimore’s Korean community.

We quickly learned that Towson University has a quiet but significant 54-year history of engaging with this community. Check out our timeline (PDF) to learn more.

We also learned some basic history about some of the Korean historical landmarks in Charles North and share it with you here.

Stay tuned as we update this page with more stories about Greater Baltimore’s Asian Community. If you would like to share your stories with us, please write to AA&CC’s director, Joanna Pecore, at .

Do you know that Towson University has a long history with Greater Baltimore’s Korean community? View the timeline of Baltimore Koreatown - Towson University Historic Milestones 1965-2018.

Timeline (PDF)

Baltimore’s First Koreatown

Asia North celebrates the arts and Asian culture that are defining characteristics of Baltimore’s Charles North neighborhood, part of the Station North Arts & Entertainment District.

The neighborhood is the site of Baltimore’s first unofficial Koreatown, which began to form in the 1960s and was at its height in the 1990s. During its peak, the neighborhood consisted of several Korean-owned businesses, including restaurants, dry cleaners, corner stores, carry outs, a supermarket, gas stations, auto repair shops, wig stores, a rice cake shop, real estate offices, accounting firms, whole sale shops, doctors’ offices, gift shops, social service centers, travel agencies, clothing shops, and liquor stores.

Map of Baltimore's Koreatown
Map of Baltimore's Koreatown

The neighborhood is still home to several popular Korean restaurants. Some historical landmarks include:

Seoul Rice Cake Shop

Korean-style race cakes at Seoul Rice Cake Shop
Korean-style rice cakes at Seoul Rice Cake Shop. Credit: Paul Kim

Opened in the late 1970s when the Kim family settled in Baltimore, this shop was the first Korean business in Baltimore. As the only shop that made fresh Korean-style rice cakes in the region, the family made frequent deliveries throughout the DMV. The man in the mural now overlooking the neighborhood is the shop’s first owner. His wife’s family recipes were used to make the rice cakes. Mr. Kim’s son, Jae Won, later took over the business. The shop was located at 2016 North Charles St. until 2018, when business slowed down. There is now a Pizza Boli’s at the address.

Watch "A Look Inside Seoul Rice Cake (2013)" 
Credit: Paul Kim

Mural of Mr. Kim

This large mural overlooking the neighborhood features the face of Jae Won Kim’s father, who was the first owner of the Seoul Rice cake shop. Hendrik Beikirch, who was a student at MICA (Maryland Institute College of Arts) and who also goes by the name Ecb, painted the mural as part of Open Walls Baltimore 2, which was launched in 2014.

Mural of Mr. Kim, the first owner of the Seoul Rice cake shop in Baltimore's Koreatown.
Mural of Mr. Kim, Credit: David Muse

It is the biggest portrait mural ever made on the East Coast. According to Paul Kim, Jae Won’s son, the artist wanted to paint the face of a Korean resident, visited the rice cake shop, and asked if he could paint the face of Mrs. Kim, Jae Won’s wife. The Kims declined that request, but then Ecb saw a photo of Kim’s father, asked if he could use it for the mural, and they agreed.

A phrase in Hangul (Korean alphabet) appears on the top right corner of the mural, which roughly means, “Wall opening Baltimore Z/ Remembering the Future.” This is the result of a language barrier: Ecb asked Jae Won Kim for a Korean translation of something like, “Baltimore that remembers the future and Open Walls.” The artist proceeded to transfer Kim’s written translation to the mural, but he mixed up the phrases, connected them incorrectly, and painted a “Z” instead of an “N.” Jae Won Kim assures us that, despite the mix-up, Korean readers can still get the gist of the meaning. The mural is located at North Charles and 20th Streets.

Historic Korean Senior Day Care Center

Previously located at 1915 Maryland Avenue, this center is now the site of the North Avenue Market. A Russian immigrant originally established this center for seniors of all ethnicities. In 1984, Dr. Jane Lew and Mr. Hosul Pak arranged the purchase of the building by the Korean Association of Baltimore. Major financial support was provided by Mr. Chang Ho Kim, Dr. Jane Lew, Mr. Han Il Bae, Baltimore City, Korean Business Association, Korean Service Center, Korean Association of Baltimore, and two anonymous individuals.

It became a center where parents of local Korean business owners could stay during the day — a convenient way for the business owners to check on and visit their parents during the workdays. In 1999, the center moved to Federal St. near Greenmount Ave. That location also recently closed in 2022.

Lovely Lane Church

Located at 22nd and St. Paul Streets, this is the oldest church in Baltimore. From 1966 to 1967, a small community of Korean scientists, engineers, professors, doctors, and other professionals rented the space for the worship services of their United Church.

Lovely Lane United Methodist Church
Lovely Lane United Methodist Church, c. 1963 and today.

Mr. Charles Pang — whose father was a minister in Korea — was instrumental in establishing the church. As more Korean immigrants settled in the Baltimore area and the Lovely Lane Church embarked on a remodeling project, the congregation subsequently moved to alternate locations and expanded into several branches. These include the American Methodist Church in Glen Burnie, the Wilson Memorial Methodist Church on University Parkway, and the Bethel Presbyterian Church in Ellicott City. The community established a Korean language school for their children at the Wilson Memorial Methodist Church location.

Hyundai Plaza

The Crown Bar and Restaurant
The Crown Bar and Restaurant at Hyundai Plaza in Baltimore’s Charles North Neighborhood. Credit: Paul Kim

Arriving in 1955, Jane Younghee Lew was one of Baltimore’s first Korean immigrants. She was a doctor of internal medicine who cared for Korean senior citizens in a small office on North Avenue with her assistant, Mrs. Bae. Dr. Lew purchased the property at 1910 North Charles Street after a fire in the mid-1980s and remodeled it as a mini-mall containing an office, clothing shops, social service center, herbal medicine office, travel agency and a restaurant.

A replica of a Silla period gold crown was displayed near the entrance to the restaurant, which was named Gaya. (Silla was a kingdom located in southeastern Korean peninsula during the 6th-9th centuries. Gaya was another Korean kingdom, which was contemporary with and located west of Silla.)

The Crown Bar and Restaurant is located there today. The Crown’s name derives from the crown displayed at the former Gaya restaurant.

Far East House

The first Korean supermarket in Baltimore was located at 33 West North Avenue. Joe Squared is located there today.

Korean Restaurants

  • Be-One. 2016 Maryland Avenue. (The name of the restaurant derives from Biwon, a secret garden in the Royal Palace in Seoul.)
  • Brown Rice. 2404 North Charles Street.
  • The Crown. 1910 North Charles Street.
  • Jong Kak. 18 West 20th Street. (The name of the restaurant derives from an enclosed bell in front of the old royal palace in Seoul.)
  • Kong Pocha. 12 West 20th Street.
  • Nam Kang. 2126 Maryland Avenue.

Soon He So: Continuing the Tradition

“ Korean culture doesn’t develop in Korea alone. Rather, it can blossom abroad as Koreans intertwinetheir culture with the local culture. ”

Pastor Hyung Joo Cho during interview with The Korea Daily, 2009

Soon He So’s first recollection of traditional Korean music was during a visit to the market with her grandmother when she was about 5 years old. Upon hearing an alluring rhythm, she let go of her grandmother’s hand to find the source and came upon a traditional dance school. There she fell in love and would later dedicate her life to Korean dance.

After immigrating to the United States, Soon He So formed the Asian American Arts Academy in 1985 providing classes in various Korean-American churches throughout Maryland and Northern Virginia. For many students, Ms. So’s classes were an opportunity to reconnect with their Korean heritage. “I remember being so excited to go to rehearsals because [traditional drumming] was something I enjoyed when I was a young girl in Korea and I thought I would never get a chance to play again, let alone perform at the White House!” former student Jihwan Baek fondly recalls.

Throughout her career, Soon He So traveled to over 90 countries giving over 2,000 performances with her students and her husband, master drummer and recipient of the Presidential Award in National Folk Arts (Korea), Pastor Hyung Joo Cho. Ever the ambassadors for traditional Korean music and culture, in 2013, the Asian American Arts Academy became the Korean Performing Arts Academy of America. When asked why the organization’s name was changed, the couple responded, “KPAAA sounds like K-Pop and we wanted to take advantage of the growing popularity of K-Pop and show that there’s even more to Korean music.”

Recognized for her abundant energy and passion, news of Soon He So’s sudden death shocked the local Korean-American community. Ms. So passed away on the morning of her 65th birthday, November 13th, 2021 while being treated for hepatic cancer. “[It] was a complete shock because she was the one that was always taking care of others and motivating them to get better when they are ill.” says Jihwan. 

Ms. So leaves behind her loving husband, daughter, son, hundreds of former students and a legacy of sharing Korean traditional music that her students hope to continue.

Dami Soh Schlobohm

About the Researcher - Dami Soh Schlobohm

Dami was born in Seoul, South Korea and raised in Maryland from the age of five. She studied cello with Ms. Bai Chi Chen, Dr. Franklin Cox, Jr., and Ms. Gita Ladd, and Dr. Benjamin Myers with whom she did her pedagogy training. She earned her B.A. in Cello Performance with an emphasis in Musicology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Fascinated by the many different genres of music and their representative cultures, Dami began studying the music of her heritage and traveled to Korea where she earned her Master’s degree in Korean Musicology from Seoul National University. Using her personal experiences and understanding of music theory, Dami teaches a busy private cello studio and leads traditional Korean drumming workshops in the DC/Metro area. Dami has performed in venues ranging from beach boardwalks to concert halls and records frequently as a session cellist for Baltimore artists. Dedicated to enriching her communities, Dami has been an adjudicator for county Solo & Ensemble Festivals, served as a board member for the Howard County Arts Council, and is currently an active board member of The Columbia Orchestra and the Asian Arts and Culture Center. 

The Crossroads of Food and Art in Koreatown - The Crown and Jong Kak

THE CROWN is a restaurant, karaoke bar, and well-known event space drawing established and up-and-coming artists. The Crown was established in 2013 by Kim Eunhyi and Michael Young. Kim Eunhyi is nicknamed Yumi (an affectionate nickname given to her by Young) and is the current owner of The Crown. Young and Kim worked together for eight years at The Crown before Michael Young left in August 2021 to focus on his artistic career. For more information about their upcoming events, visit The Crown on Facebook and Instagram. Next time you pay them a visit, Yumi says you should try the Kimchi fries, her favorite item on the menu.

From San Soo Kab San to The Crown
Yumi (Kim Eunhyi) used to run a restaurant on 2101 Maryland Avenue, called San Soo Kab San. It was a much smaller space than The Crown, with a restaurant capacity of 30 people. Attached to San Soo Kab San was a karaoke bar, which had a capacity of 70 people. It was there, at the karaoke bar, that Michael and Yumi met and began their decade of collaboration. Michael Young was a show promoter and organizer for artists who moved to Baltimore in 2004. He had been a regular customer of Yumi’s, and one day asked her if he could bring a Canadian band to perform at the San Soo Kab San space. Thus began their partnership: an artist and a restaurateur. Despite the successes they had with San Soo Kab San, they realized they needed a larger venue to continue showcasing more artist performances. Michael and Yumi moved over to The Crown in 2013 and worked closely together until his departure in 2021. Once The Crown’s upstairs is fully renovated, the restaurant will become one of the largest event spaces in the Old Goucher/Charles North area.

If You Make It Here, You Can Make It Anywhere
Before the pandemic disrupted live performances, The Crown had begun to draw acclaim for the artists whose careers it launched, much like other Baltimore strongholds such as Ottobar. According to Michael Young, from 2015 to 2019, The Crown was at its creative height. Baltimore artists were being discovered at The Crown, and their careers launched into the stratosphere. Dan Deacon, Future Islands, JPEGMAFIA, Butch Dawson, are among those who performed at The Crown early on in their careers. Michael and Yumi’s philosophy when it came to programming artists was simple: let them create what they want in the space. Though they tried to create a balanced program: soul night one week, club night another week, etc, they never limited the type of music featured at The Crown. As a home for artists on the rise and those yet to be discovered, The Crown occupies a unique place in Baltimore’s art and music scene. Nicole Rivas, a second-year student at Johns Hopkins, recently attended a concert at The Crown in Fall 2021. She saw the Beach Goons and Moon Tide Gallery in September and recalls the space as both intimate and energetic. She is eager to return for another concert and hopes to try out more of the food items on Yumi’s menu.

Delicious Food with a Spin
Yumi is known for her kimchi. Specifically, kimchi with fries (the K-Fries). The story behind the K-Fries is simple: one day, Yumi brought in some home-made kimchi to eat at work. Her employees tried them with fries and found it to be a delicious combination. Ever since, kimchi fries have been a staple of the menu. In addition to the K-Fries, the Crown’s food menu consists of a variety of Korean fusion foods, with items such as bulgogi nachos, tofu nuggets, and pork belly tacos. This menu caters to the clientele who come in to catch a show in the venue; the next time you show up for a concert or open karaoke, be sure to test out some of the unique flavors crafted by Yumi and her chefs.

JONG KAK was established thirty years ago by the family of Suk Jeong, who is the current owner and manager of the restaurant. Jong Kak has a large traditional Korean menu but is known for their authentic Korean barbeque. Their Korean barbeque is acclaimed for being one of the only restaurants in Maryland and Virginia to have real charcoal grills. Suk’s favorite food item is the kalbi, short rib. The next time you come into Jong Kak, try their kalbi on the grill for a special treat.

“They used to ring the bell on New Years.”
The story of Jong Kak’s name traces back to a New Year’s tradition in Seoul, Korea. Each New Years Day, a bell ceremony—Jeyaeui Jong Tajongsik—is held at the Boshingak bell pavilion, drawing tens of thousands of city residents. The closest train stop to the Boshingak pavilion is Jonggak Station. The station name comes from the ceremony: Jong meaning bell, and gak meaning pavilion. Thousands of miles away from Korea, Suk Jeong—the current owner and manager of Jong Kak—told me that they chose the name Jong Kak because of the bell tower in Seoul. When eating at Jong Kak, remember the distance that its name traveled.

A Family-Owned Business
Suk Jeong immigrated to the United States twenty years ago, and began working at Jong Kak eighteen years ago. Back then, he used to work in the kitchen as a chef, but he now only cooks when the restaurant needs a substitute. Among the things Suk carried over from Korea is his memory of the New Years Day Bell, the namesake of Jong Kak. Although the owners of Jong Kak have changed over the years, its name has remained fixed. Suk Jeong is not currently planning on expanding Jong Kak further but is considering opening another restaurant nearby. Suk’s favorite item is the kalbi, which he treats himself and his relatives to when they visit Jong Kak once or twice a year.

A Home for Baseball Lovers
Suk Jeong recalls having met several famous customers, most notably, meeting many renowned Korean-American baseball players. According to Suk, almost every Korean-American major league baseball player ate at Jong Kak when they played against the Orioles here in Baltimore. Hyun-Soo Kim, the Orioles player, also used to frequently eat at Jong Kak with his wife. Although Suk is not a baseball expert, he enjoys meeting and getting to know the baseball players, and occasional football players, who come in through Jong Kak.

The Charcoal Grill
Jong Kak’s unique menu offering is traditional Korean barbecue. Jong Kak is proud to announce that they are the only restaurant in the Maryland and Virginia area to have real charcoal Korean barbecue. Jong Kak is as authentic of a place for Korean barbecue as you can find in the state. Suk says that there is a real difference in taste between regular and charcoal grills, so test it out yourself at Jong Kak!

“ Our special menu is the barbecue. ‘Cause we are the only ones with a charcoal barbeque in Maryland and Virgina, and I think maybe even in Pennsylvania and New York. I am not sure about that. But I am sure that in Maryland and Virginia, they cannot serve charcoal at other places. ”

Suk Jeong

New Customer Demographics
The demographics of Baltimore’s Koreatown has changed over the past decade, as has the clientele coming into Jong Jak. Suk Jeong says that ten years ago, most customers who came into Jong Kak to dine were Korean people. Now, those numbers have reversed. Suk says that the majority of customers he sees walking in today are non-Korean. Jong Kak is now welcoming a lot of new Asian customers, Latino customers, and White customers! Suk Jeong says that these changes in customer demographics are tied to transformations in Baltimore’s Koreatown. As more residents moved from Baltimore out to Ellicott City, the number of restaurants and businesses remaining has shrunk. Now, Suk says that there are only about four restaurants left. Out in Ellicott City, a flourishing hub for Korean businesses, food, and culture continues to grow. Suk tells me that he has noticed how more non-Korean guests have become interested in learning how to eat Korean food, and learn a little bit of Korean culture while they’re dining at Jong Kak; they ask how to properly eat banchan (small Korean dishes) or how to wrap the meat correctly.

Supporting In-Person Dining
At the start of the pandemic, Jong Kak was forced to transition to doing primarily takeout, a service that they had not provided before. Unfortunately, with delivery services taking a commission of up to 35%, they suffered significant losses. Today, Jong Kak encourages you to come into the newly painted restaurant, sit down at one of their tables fitted with a traditional charcoal grill, and soak up authentic Korean food.

Suzy Schlosberg

About the Researcher - Suzy Schlosberg

Suzy Schlosberg is a sophomore at Johns Hopkins University majoring in International Studies with a minor in East Asian Studies. Suzy started her internship at Central Baltimore Partnership in June 2021, focusing on food access and youth nutrition education in Central Baltimore communities. Suzy joined the Asia North team as a community researcher in November 2021. Suzy’s research for Asia North this year seeks to document an oral history of Station North/Koreatown restaurants. Suzy immigrated to the United States from China when she was eight years old. She has had an enduring interest in the resiliency of AAPI immigrant communities. Please contact Suzy at with any questions or concerns about this research.

Special thanks to Jack Danna, Dale Dusman, Angela Lee, Michelle Lee, Ock Kyung Lee, Paul Kim, Matthew Park, Michael Young, and Mike Shecter for their assistance with compiling this history.


  • Apperson, Jay. 1997. “Korean-American Center Proposed Projects Would Include Grocery, Ballroom,” The Baltimore Sun. October 17.
  • Lee, Seola. 2015. “Jae Won Kim, Seoul Rice Cake owner, whose father's portrait looks over Station North.” Baltimore City Paper. June 2.
  • Lew, Jane Y. Lee. 2011. Gamsa Halsu Isseoseo Haeng Bok Hae, I Was Happy for Thanking It, Seoul, Korea: Chorok Nakta Publishing Co. (In Korean)