Mike Pak | Koreatown’s Unofficial Mayor, Gets Our Ballot

Pak, is the beaming, and extremely busy, unofficial ‘Mayor of Koreatown’, who is reshaping how community and culture collide in the city.

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Photographed by Brad Caberto.

“Of course you know Mike, right? He’s the man!” This is how every conversation about Mike Pak in LA seems to start. Pak, is the beaming, and extremely busy, unofficial ‘Mayor of Koreatown’, who is reshaping how community and culture collide in the city. More BMX, than black car, more vibesman than elected official, and definitely more a hug than a handshake guy.

Pak relocated from the DC area just over a decade ago, and immersed himself in the LA grind, interning everywhere from SkeeTV to WWE. Hanging with Pak it's easy to see how his network grew, he’s quick to smile, eager to share, caring, knowledgeable and fun. But after hustling for some of the cool kid companies in LA, he took a pause, reflecting and educating himself on his Korean American history and heritage, and thinking about how he could serve his community and help push forward culture. 

Pak, reignited the Koreatown IG account he’d held since high-school, which today has almost 300k followers, and considered where else he could make an impact. Hit Koreatown’s account today and you’ll find an umbrella for everything Pak touches. The Koreatown Running Club he formed with Duy Nguyen in 2016 (he hates running, but both has inspired hundreds of first time runners to complete marathons), the epic burger pop-up, turned brick and mortar on Western, Love Hour, a bicycle meal delivery program he runs for the unhoused in Koreatown, his youth mentoring program and all the dope food recs he continues to unearth in Koreatown. 

Any given day you find Pak bustling between meetings, collabing with sports teams and fashion brands, or just chugging a PBR while manning the grill at Love Hour post jog. If you’re lucky you might catch him at the bar of his neighborhood fave Frank ‘n Hank, walking into a Korean BBQ joint (that you know will be fire), or snag an invite to his monthly supper club. He’s having fun but making a difference. If only all our elected officials were this cool.

What are three misconceptions people have about Koreatown?

Ha, people have a lot of misconceptions about Koreatown, and the reality is that it's one of the most vibrant, diverse and ever evolving neighborhoods in LA. Not to mention it is the literal center of the city. Some of the obviously false ideas include that it’s not safe, there is no parking and you can only get Korean food. But I try not to convince people or sell the idea of this neighborhood being the best in Los Angeles. If you know, you know.

A lot of people in LA are just here for the career hustle, what made you decide you wanted to focus more on creating and building a community?

There was no master plan and it feels like everything happened unexpectedly. While chasing the corporate ladder I realized there was a bigger purpose, but I really didn't know what that was. I was always pretty good at following my gut which has luckily led to bigger opportunities. Today I feel blessed to be able to follow my passions as well as give back to my community. 

What are your worst and best running memories?

Running is a blessing and a curse, there are a lot of highs and lows, and some days you really have to push yourself to get out and run. The best thing for me was finishing a marathon, which was something I never thought I'd do. The worst, it's always getting injured and not being able to run. Even when I hate it, I still need it in my life. It’s like therapy for me at this point. 

Three spots, one night in K-Town, what would you recommend?

Breakfast : Olympic Cafe

Lunch: Pollo ala Brasa

Dinner: Hwal A Kwang (great with group) (Eat live Octopus)

After dinner - catch a show at the Wiltern or a drink at Thai Angel or HMS Bounty.  

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