Koreatown’s iconic institution the Dragon, also known as Yung Gung among Koreans, is closing on January 28, reports the Korea Daily. Over the years, the multi-story Korean Chinese restaurant has been the venue of celebrations, engagements, first birthdays, wedding receptions, and everything in-between. The upstairs hosted parties of all sizes, upwards of 100 people, with large banquet tables, karaoke machines, and even a piano for singalongs.
As early as June 2022, the Real Deal reported that property owner Ten Jing Wang, was planning to redevelop the property into a 90-unit apartment building, adding housing to a neighborhood that always needs more of it. However, the Dragon’s closure will leave generations of Korean Americans and other Angelenos without a place for comforting bowls of jjajiangmyeon, jjampong, and other Korean Chinese specialties.
First opened 43 years ago by Wang, the restaurant was previously known as Kirinwon, which also served Korean Chinese fusion cuisine going back to the 1970s. Wang went on to open three other Korean Chinese restaurants called Wanggung, Sowanggung, and Geumjeong Sikdang before debuting the Dragon in 1980 in the Kirinwon space.
In the four decades that followed, the Dragon was ground zero for many life milestones in the Korean American community. Its central location, affordable menu, and ample space upstairs made it an easy pick for special occasions. The utilitarian first floor offered an open dining room for smaller groups and everyday meals, where folks feasted on plates of tangsuyuk (sweet and sour pork), kkanpungsaeu (kung pao shrimp), and mixed jellyfish appetizers. Korean Chinese fusion cuisine first developed in the 19th century in Incheon, South Korea, where most of the Chinese population lived in the Korean peninsula. Since then, its standard dishes have become favorites for Koreans living in the U.S. and other countries.
The Korea Daily reports that in 2015, Wang transferred the day-to-day restaurant operations of the Dragon to a Chinese restaurant owner in La Crescenta who goes by Choi. Wang retained ownership of the land and building and will begin construction by March 2024. “The people who came to our restaurant over the years were more than just customers, like friends. It’s very unfortunate that the restaurant has to close, but we eventually have decided to develop it into an apartment building,” Wang told the Korea Daily. The plan is to complete construction on the apartments in two years.
The Dragon’s closure marks the end of the heyday for many grand Korean Chinese palaces in Koreatown. Great Wall on Olympic Boulevard closed in 2018, leaving only Young King (also known as Yeon Gyeong in the Korean community) as the last banquet-style spot that opened before 1990. Longtime Dragon fans will have a few more weeks to enjoy the comforting noodles and stir-fry dishes, always finished with free plates of candied sweet potatoes stuck with toothpicks.