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Saturday, Jun 25, 2022


A New Koreatown

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Orange County is home to the second-largest Korean population in the U.S. with nearly 100,000 residents here. The local base of Korean Americans is about 40% the size of the same community in Los Angeles, according to prior census figures.

OC’s business community also gets an outsized financial boost from South Korea, as this week’s front page and other recent editions of the Business Journal makes abundantly clear.

Irvine-based real estate investor Greenlaw Partners landed a reported $520M for Amazon-leased industrial buildings, thanks to Mirae Asset Global Investments, while Santa Ana-based Overair’s flying taxi venture got a $145M lift from units of the Hanwha Group conglomerate.

Another flying taxi upstart that established a large base in Irvine last year, Supernal, is backed by Hyundai Motor; that Korean giant, with its U.S. auto base in Fountain Valley, said last month it plans to invest more than $10B toward accelerating electrification and autonomous vehicle technology in the U.S. by 2025, according to reports.

The past month also saw Buena Park’s Rael Inc. receive $35M in what was reported to be the largest amount raised in the U.S. feminine care category to date; Mirae and other Korean firms were part of the funding round for Rael, which has a large customer base in South Korea.

Botox rival Hugel of South Korea has established its U.S. base in Newport Beach and earlier this month tapped former Allergan head Brent Saunders as its chairman. Another Botox-like company with ties to Allergan, Evolus (Nasdaq: EOLS), also has Korean backing.

Elsewhere in the tech world, upstart gaming studio Frost Giant of Irvine a week ago unveiled its first real-time strategy game, Stormgate. The studio got $25M in funds earlier this year from South Korean game developer Kakao Games. For more on Storm-gate, see the June 27 print edition.


See Christopher Trela’s page 4 story on a new Irvine restaurant, Solstice, looking to draw crowds to its office campus location near John Wayne Airport.

Irvine’s Bistango, arguably the biggest power-lunch site in the airport office area the past several decades, last week held a get-together to honor its late founder, John Ghoukassian, who died in March 2021.

Friends, business partners, and restaurant regulars—including Masoud Bokaie and his wife, Annie Tutunjian, Jerry Mandel, and Business Journal Publisher Richard Reisman—attended the event.

As well as being a celebration of Ghoukassian’s life, the event celebrated his Wall of Recognition placement at the Colonel Bill Barber Memorial Park in Irvine, according to daughter Karyn Ghoukassian.


No word on whether the license plate “BUYRIVN” seen last week on a Rivian pickup truck on Jamboree Road was meant as an encouragement to potential buyers of the Irvine company’s vehicles, or potential investors in the currently $24B-valued EV maker (Nasdaq: RIVN), which is still OC’s third-most valuable public company despite a steep decline in its stock price this year.

Rivian has some local competition on the electric truck front.
Costa Mesa-based dealership Theodore Robins Ford—earlier this month a winner of a Family-Owned Business Award from the Business Journal—said a customer in June received an F-150 Lightning EV pickup truck, the first delivery of the highly anticipated model in California.

Mark Mueller
Mark Mueller
Mark is the Editor-in-Chief of the Orange County Business Journal, one of the premier regional business newspapers in the country. He’s the fifth person to hold the editor’s position in the paper’s long history. He oversees a staff of about 15 people. The OCBJ is considered a must-read for area business executives. The print edition of the paper is the primary source of local news for most of the Business Journal’s subscribers, which includes most of OC’s major corporate and community players. Mark’s been with the paper since 2005, and long served as the real estate reporter for the paper, breaking hundreds of commercial and residential real estate stories. He took on the editor’s position in 2018.

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