Podcast by InnovatorsBox®

Dear Workplace: Season 3

Falling in Love with Korean Culture with Dokkaebier

Dear Workplace – a Podcast by InnovatorsBox®. Hosted by Monica H. Kang.

Reimagine how you thrive at work through conversations that matter. Hosted by workplace creativity expert Monica H. Kang, we’ll study the latest trends, changes, and challenges to untangle workplace people problems. We’ll talk with executives, innovators, and experts and visit different industries around the world so that you get first dibs into the changing workforce. 

Tune in on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or your preferred platform of choice!

Guest: Youngwon Lee

Chief Dokkaebi, CEO / Dokkaebier

Youngwon Lee is the founder and CEO of Dokkaebier, his fifth alcohol startup.
He launched the award-winning Asian-inspired brand Dokkaebier in 2020 to bring innovation and much-needed diversity to the craft beer scene.

In this engaging episode of the Curious Monica Podcast, host Monica H. Kang explores the fascinating intersection of Korean culture and the craft beer industry with guest Youngwon Lee, founder and Chief Flavor Officer at Dokkaebier. Youngwon shares his unique journey from an accidental start in the alcohol industry in Korea to innovating in the craft beer scene in California, where he introduces distinctly Korean flavors to an American palate. This episode delves into how Youngwon’s background influenced his entrepreneurial path and the creation of his company, which aims to blend traditional Korean elements with modern craft beer techniques.

Listeners will be treated to insightful discussions about the challenges of diversity in the craft beer industry, the development of experimental beers, and the cultural impact of Korean flavors in mainstream markets. Youngwon’s stories of navigating business growth, community building, and personal identity offer a compelling glimpse into the life of a Korean-American entrepreneur revolutionizing a traditional industry. Monica’s thoughtful questions prompt revelations about the necessity and impact of integrating one’s heritage into their business to foster innovation and inclusivity. This episode is not just about beer; it’s a story of cultural celebration, resilience, and transformation in the business world.

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Episode Shownotes

1. Episode Title: Falling in Love with Korean Culture with Dokkaebier

 
2. Host: Monica H. Kang, Founder and CEO of InnovatorsBox
 

3. Episode Description:

What would beer infused with Kimchi, rice, or lemongrass taste like? ‘Wholesome’ is the word Dokkaebier aims to evoke! Meet Youngwon Lee, Founder and CEO of Dokkaebier. In 2020, he launched this award-winning Asian-inspired brand, his fifth venture in the alcohol industry, to introduce innovation and diversity to craft beer. With only 2 percent of U.S. breweries owned by Asian Americans, according to Brewers Association data from 2023, Youngwon keenly felt the need for representation as he navigated his career in food and beverage. Reflecting on his journey with Dokkaebier, we explore the intricacies of brewing, building a career in the alcohol industry, leadership, and balancing work with family and community service. Dokkaebier has garnered acclaim, named a Rising Star of 2023 by Brewbound and recognized on the Best New Breweries of 2023 list. 


4. Guest:
Youngwon Lee, Chief Dokkaebi, CEO / Dokkaebier

5. Key Topics Covered:

  • The integration of Korean flavors into craft beer
  • Challenges in the craft beer industry regarding diversity and innovation
  • The entrepreneurial journey of Youngwon Lee, from an accidental start in the alcohol industry to founding Dokkaebier
  • The cultural significance of introducing Korean-inspired flavors to the American market
  • The role of experimental beers in innovation and consumer feedback
  •  

6. Highlights

  • Youngwon Lee’s transition from consulting in Korea to launching a Korean beer startup in California
  • The creation and philosophy behind Dokkaebier, aiming to blend Korean culture with craft beer
  • Insights on the craft beer industry’s need for diversity and how Dokkaebier is addressing this issue
  • The discussion on the impact of Korean culture in mainstream American society, especially post-pandemic

7. Quotes from the guest:

    1. “I ended up staying in Korea for nine years… and that turned out to be the best decision I ever made.”
    2. “We’re introducing our culture, identity, heritage with the beer that we make.”
    3. “I didn’t want to have a limit of trying out new flavors… We’re keeping that mischievous, adventurous trait of Dokkaebi.”
    4. “It’s not only about the Korean voice or the Asian voice, it’s about all of those voices.”

8. Contact Information: Youngwon Lee can be followed on LinkedIn and other social media platforms.


9. Closing Thoughts by Monica Kang:

Monica reflects on the powerful role of cultural integration in craft beer and its potential to reshape perceptions and enhance community bonds. She emphasizes the importance of embracing innovation and diversity within traditional industries.


10. Episode Length and Release Date:

Episode Length: Approximately 32 mins
Release Date: April 18, 2024


00:00

Monica H. Kang
Hey friends, do you like beer? Well, if so, today’s episode is going to be a particular treat for you. My name is Monica Kang and you are listening to dear workplace by Innovators Fox. We’re currently in a series diving into falling in love with korean culture and meeting innovators and leaders who are bringing korean culture into the businesses and industries that they are leading. And todays guests have thought about this question, too. Meet Yeong Wanli, foundering CF. Doki bib, who is on the mission to bring innovation and much needed diversity to the craft beer scene. You see, after working for more than 13 plus years in food and beverage of all different angles such as operation, finance and sales in both the United States and South Korea, he continued to notice how the beer market, which he loved so much, lacked diversity. 


00:57

Monica H. Kang
So as he continued to help launch distribution brands and open new tasting rooms and stores both in Korea and the United States, he wondered, what can he do to bring high quality food and beverage, but also bring new perspective? Why not Korean flavored beer? It wasn’t available in the United States and that’s something that we can perhaps address. So he did. So I asked Youngwon how he began, what that journey was and how is he navigating now, especially also now with a newborn as a new father. So meet Youngwon, my friend, as we’ll dive into this. 


01:39

Monica H. Kang
So very excited to have my friend Youngwon here. We are going to continue talking about Korea culture and all that, and Young won is going to share about how he does that with something that you might really like to drink, beer. You might be wondering, wait, how do you integrate beer in Korean culture? Well, we’re about to find out. So Young one, thank you so much for joining. And first, I know as we get into this conversation, from what I learned about your background, this is not the first time you’ve been in the food and beverage industry. So first tell me, how did you get to find and build a career in food and beverage industry in the first place? 


02:15

Youngwon Lee
I started by an accident, so I had to take a leave of absence from school and I went to Korea after finishing first year of college because my grandmother in Korea was really sick. So that led me to Korea. Unfortunately, she passed away after one month and I still had a couple of months to kind of kill in Korea until school started. So somehow I got into a alcohol consulting job when I was 19. So that’s how I got myself into it. And what started as, hey, let me just work here until I go back to the states and I said, hey, let me just stay one more semester. And obviously having very christian and very Korean parents that are very against it, you work at alcohol industry. 


03:00

Youngwon Lee
They didn’t like the fact that I had to, like, try to not go back to school. Right. But I convinced them, hey. I told them, hey, you know, in Korea, you have to go to army for two years. I don’t have to go. So let me just stay here for a little bit longer so I could at least make some money and get some industry or real job experience and go back to school. And then that turned out to be. I ended up staying in Korea for eight years. Oh, no. Actually, nine years. 


03:25

Monica H. Kang
Wow. Oh, my gosh. What convinced your parents to be okay with you staying a little bit longer? Way past the army two year period. 


03:36

Youngwon Lee
Well, the army was it. And then, you know, I just said, hey, let me just say one more semester. And the company actually took off and started doing really well, so they were okay with me dropping out of school. But obviously, my father still says, I wish you finished Berkeley. I wish you stayed there. You might have had a different life. I’m like, dad, I’m happy with what I’m doing right now. 


04:01

Monica H. Kang
And very much so. We’re about to dive deeper into all that jazz. But before we get there, I understand the craft beer work with your business. It’s just one of the many things you do. I heard that you also have a tasting room at Shinsadong and then a bottle shop in Seoul. In Korea as well. How are you managing even both of those projects in two different time zones? 


04:25

Youngwon Lee
Oh, so that was my previous. That was one of the career, and then one of the stores that I launched, but not anymore. 


04:32

Monica H. Kang
Oh, I see. Got it. Okay. So not multitasking at the same time, but that experience then helped you be where you are today. 


04:41

Youngwon Lee
Definitely. 


04:43

Monica H. Kang
Got it. Got it. Oh, that’s so amazing. Well, building on that, then tell me a little bit more, because it’s still one thing, as you have pointed out, to be passionate about, you know, beers, the alcohol industry, and want to make a difference to a whole other thing of, like, geez, like, what if I create a craft beer with, like, a korean flavor? When did that idea first come to you, and why did you realize maybe that’s something that you want to pursue? 


05:06

Youngwon Lee
So when I was working in Korea, I was actually exporting a lot of international brands to the Asia Pacific market, and after a couple of years, we launched our own import and distributions company. When was that? And then by 2014, were doing about $20 million in revenue. And I eventually became an importer for brands like, you know, Tito’s Vodka, Stolichnaya, Alize, Armand de Bruniak Champagne, Petron Tequila, and were the exclusive importer for korean market. That really developed down the line. And in 2017, I had an opportunity to come back to the states, specifically to Eureka, California, to launch a korean beer startup. So that is what brought me back to the states as well as get into the beer industry. 


05:54

Youngwon Lee
And I just kind of realized at one point, I had a pretty extensive alcohol industry background, happened to speak English, and started working in a crappier industry in the States, but there was no asian person in the whole field. So it just became really unique to an extent where just me standing at an event, people thought it was weird and strange for an asian person to pour beer at a festival. So they all came to my booth. So when I had an opportunity to start my own in 2019, I just went back and, you know, really asked myself, what do you want to create, or what would you like to do if you were to start your own brand? And I wanted to really use this opportunity to follow my identity and then really express it in the product that I make. 


06:38

Youngwon Lee
It was really, to an extent, very challenging to come up with an idea, to come up with a concept name, philosophy behind it. I think coming up with the name and philosophy was the biggest or the hardest thing about this company. And speaking of the value and vision building at the beginning, the company name, Dokkaebier. 


06:59

Monica H. Kang
And speaking of the value and vision building at the beginning, the company name, Duke Beer. So my wife named it. 


07:09

Youngwon Lee
So my wife named it. And she’s like, hey, what do you think about Dokkaebi? You know, Dokkaebis are shapeshifter, mischievous. You know, Tokyobis are shapeshifter, mischievous. They hide in objects during the daytime. They come out at night, help out good people, likes to eat, drink, and hang out with people. So that’s what I wanted to do. And, you know, what we are doing is asian craft beer. Asian inspired craft beer. There is no such thing as, you know, asian inspired craft beer. And I felt like that really resonated with, like, the character or identity of Dokkaebi and being shapeshifter. So I wanted to have that as a DNA of the company and in what we do with Dokkaebi, you know, adding yar turns into a beer company, Tokyo Beer, but also, you know, a person who’s acting as Dokkaebi. 


07:51

Youngwon Lee
So I wanted to have that as a DNA of the company and in what we do with Tokebi, you know, adding yar turns into a beer company, Tokyo Beer, but also, you know, a person who’s acting as Tokyebi. And that’s how we came up with the name. 


08:07

Monica H. Kang
Love it. And speaking of the different flavors, how do you indeed decide what flavors to try? And are there also flavors that you feel is actually didn’t turn out as well? And that’s why we don’t have this in the market. 


08:20

Youngwon Lee
Yeah, so I didn’t want to have a limit of trying out new flavors. So we have a product lineup called experimental beers. And we just go up in chronological number. And every month we come out with a new flavor, test it out, release to consumer in a very limited quantity. Consumers give us feedback. Hey, I really love this beer. I liked it. Please make it again. That’s when we fine tune the recipe and officially launch it. So we’re up to batch number 35 as of last week and 36 coming up soon. So any beer that we’ve done before, it was part of experimental beer. So our infamous kimchi sour was our batch number 17. Bamboo pilsner was number one. Milkstot was number three. I might get the numbers wrong, but they all used to be experimental beer at one point. 


09:03

Youngwon Lee
That way we’re sort of keeping that mischievous, adventurous trait of tokebi. But also we could always experiment because sometimes once your company hits critical mass, you might get scared of failure. And I didn’t want to have that. I just wanted to constantly innovate and try out something new and different, regardless of where we are, what size we are. 


09:26

Monica H. Kang
And that’s a really great point because I think, like many of the industries, unless you’re in it, you might not realize that there is a lot of tradition processes that actually prevents innovation and attempts to experiment. I love that you have this culture of already systemizing an experiment and normalizing that. And tell me more why that’s important, because I assume it feels like there’s always new, different types of alcohols introduced. But actually, I. If you’re in the industry, there’s probably a lot of traditions and processes that prevent new things being done in a certain way. So I’m curious to hear your thoughts and introduce us into the world of that industry. For those who don’t know, because not. 


10:03

Youngwon Lee
Only alcohol, but in general, a lot of big companies spend so much time doing R and D. R and D, that you never even know whether it’s going to do well or not. Right? And a lot of these r and ds are done by more of a PM or, you know, scientists to an extent that they, you may never even know what your consumers actually like. And you spend money on that. You spend developing and survey, and you spend one year launching it to find out that nobody likes it. Right. And I didn’t want to do that. We’re in based out of, or in the Bay area. This is where all the Silicon Valley tech startups are happening. And you learn that, you know, you need to move quick. You need to make decisions fast, try out. If you fail fast and move on. 


10:46

Youngwon Lee
And I wanted to do that with our product. So to be there and just spend so much time and resource, and especially as a startup, you can’t spend too much time and resource on developing a new product. So I wanted to make it as light as possible, easy as possible. But also at the same time, for consumers, this is a new journey that they could take with us by, you know, joining the experimental beers. They get to try something new with us and give us feedback and be part of our innovation. 


11:14

Monica H. Kang
And I wonder, because of the unique twist and flavor that you’re introducing through your beers, there’s probably some consumers, like, I didn’t know this flavor even existed, or, like, I didn’t know if this flavor could work this way. So I’m curious, like, how it feels for you as you’re introducing Tommy. Like, I assume you have testimonials like that from your customers. How does it feel when you hear them and kind of being in the front and introducing new flavors, literally, to people who might not have never heard or tasted something of korean flavor? 


11:43

Youngwon Lee
Yeah, I mean, definitely. Like, you know, for example, a lot of ingredients that we use are, you know, korean, Asian inspired a lot of people, especially if you’re non asian background, it might be an ingredient that you try for the first time. We’ve done yuza, bamboo leaves. We have a beer called kimchi sour. It has chili and ginger. We have a beer with lemongrass, peppercorn, galangal, lime, cardamom, and green peppercorn. So, you know, you name it, we test it out and launch it. People are really learning our asian culture, korean culture, flavors, through the beer that we make. So I really feel happy to introduce through the product that we make. It’s not only beer that we’re selling. We’re introducing our culture, identity, heritage with the beer that we make. 


12:29

Monica H. Kang
This is fantastic, because the very next thing I did want to dive deeper is actually about your upbringing. Like, how was your relationship been with Korea and korean culture growing up? Where did you grow up. And how has that changed? 


12:42

Youngwon Lee
Yeah, I’ve grown up all over the place. I was born in Korea, finished my elementary school there. And I lived in Guam for a little bit, for a year and a half. Was it two years, year and a half, something like that. And then I moved to New Jersey, finished my middle school, high school there. I moved to Berkeley for Cal, and I lived in LA for a little bit. And I was in Korea for nearly ten years. Came back to California, lived in Eureka, which is 300 miles north of San Francisco. And then I started living in the Bay Area again, so all over the place. But I always felt like, you know, I don’t belong anywhere. Just traveling a lot because I’m never local to the. Wherever I live. And a lot of probably Korean Americans experience this. 


13:24

Youngwon Lee
And I was always considered to korean to be korean American. And, you know, I’m too, you know, american to be korean people. So I’m always kind of stuck between and, you know, having identity crisis. But because of that, I could be both. And that’s what I’m actually seeing from Tokyo beer. The more I pursue what I’m doing as a Tokyo beer, I’m actually finding myself. And the more I question about, what is the mission of Tokyo beer? What are we doing? What are we as a brand? I’m actually new. I realized at one point, I’m asking myself, that’s the same question. So I’m kind of finding my own meaning of or definition of who I am through Tokyo beer, in a way. 


14:03

Youngwon Lee
And I think because I was always out there hustling and changing, challenging myself, living in a different place, doing something different, I think that resonated with what I am doing, as with the experimental beers and whatnot. And I think it’s pretty challenging where I think a lot of Korean Americans, Asian Americans find it fascinating, like, how do you always try something different? Aren’t you scared or aren’t you afraid of failure? But I think whole life we’re taught to be scared of failure, right? Because you have to be the number one. You have to have a perfect score, you need to do well, you need to good school. There’s always definition of life that your parents sent you and that at one point you’re scared of doing anything. So I think me living in a lot of places really shaped who I am. 


14:54

Youngwon Lee
And I was never scared of doing something different or something. Taking a new challenge. It’s just more of me like, hey, I’m really excited to do that, and I’m just going to make that happen. So I think that really changed my mentality and shaped who I am. And that’s how I translate into the beer I make. 


15:12

Monica H. Kang
I love that. Well, thank you so much for continuing to charge forward, taking new risks and trying new things so that we all can enjoy and be fans of your product and goods that you continue to create. It means a lot. And I completely resonate. You know, I’ve also lived. I had the opposite where I was born in the states, moved to Korea, and then went back and forth and hence had that kind of didn’t fit anywhere identity. And to your point, because of that, you know, we get to have those unique resilience and perspective. And as you pointed out, that still means that, you know, we continue to ask, like, well, what does it mean to bring that korean culture and insights? 


15:46

Monica H. Kang
And so I’m curious, like, how does it feel now when people at the red carpet, like, winning awards, like, we sing national bestsellers, like, they really see, like, korean food at, like, Trader Joe’s, all these korean ness everywhere, suddenly that felt so foreign. Like, how does that make you feel? 


16:01

Youngwon Lee
Amazing feeling. It’s different when we used to grow up and being korean american and, you know, versus being Korean American right now is very different. You’re actually cool for being korean american. Like, we have a product called kimchi sour. I actually don’t have to explain what kimchi is. That’s amazing. When were coming out of pandemic and were at a beer festival in LA, nobody knew about us, and it was our first time introducing kimchi sour, and we had hundreds of people on the line and I actually had goosebumps by myself because that moment, I just realized I don’t have to explain what kimchi is. It might be very obvious right now, but it was just like, very touching kind of enlightenment moment for me that I just didn’t have to explain what it is. Just everyone knew about it. 


16:48

Youngwon Lee
And that little small thing is actually really big meaning for me because, you know, we are doing and how we’re evolving and how we’re having impact with, you know, outside of Korea. It’s very meaningful moment. Beer industry is still very non korean. I’ll say. Beer industry in general, there’s less than 2% asian american owners. So korean people in beer industry, you don’t even have a statistics for that. So it’s how rare we are. So I’m actually really getting a lot more encouragement of what we are doing and how we’re trying to represent korean culture into the beer we make from outside sources, you know, people in the film industry, other CPG areas that are proud to be korean products. I do get a lot of inspiration on that. Still a very lonely road. But the more we have, the more we are. 


17:40

Youngwon Lee
I think we could win together. 


17:44

Monica H. Kang
Love it. No, I absolutely resonate with your kimchi reference. I still remember my high school years when, like, I was in boarding school, and, like, I was so happy I got kimchi from h fry, and I was like, I can finally eat. And then as soon as I open, I hear people in the hallway of like, do you smell that weird thing? Like, yeah, I think somebody that doesn’t smell really good and felt so embarrassed, and I felt so sad. I’m like, this is my favorite mood. And, like, people like bad mouthing, but, like, now it’s like, oh, my gosh, you like kimchi? Like, can I have kimchi? And, like, it’s such a turn. And as you pointed out, you’ve highlighted this throughout your story. But the reminder that, you know, we’re not here alone, it’s because of the community. 


18:22

Monica H. Kang
It’s because of the people around us and the experience. And I know because of it, you are also a very active community builder. You’re very actively involved in the local community, in the industry. Tell me a little bit more. Why is it important to bring diversity into the aircraft and the food and beverage industry through the community work in general? 


18:41

Youngwon Lee
Yeah, Koreans, I mean, we’re getting better, but asian people in general are very silent. Korean people are very silent. They don’t want to go out of their way. Statistically, there’s about 2% asian american owners in the beer industry. There are less than 0.5% black owned breweries in the beer industry. However, you would actually see Black Brewers association, but you will never see Asian Brewers association or Korean Brewers association, because we just don’t speak for ourselves. And even if you have that two person asian Americans in the beer industry, you actually never know that it’s an asian owner that runs that brewery, because we’ve been very silo on that. So, you know, for me, it’s important for me to represent and be unapologetically very outspoken about our culture, identity, and what we do through the product that we make. 


19:33

Youngwon Lee
And I think the more that we have, the more I do, the more I push the boundary. I think it will create more opportunity for whether you’re in beer industry or, you know, FNB in general. And I do appreciate everyone’s doing it, and I want to be part of it, and I want to push it even further. So that’s why every single or 90% of the flavors that we create are very korean, asian inspired. And actually, to even take that further, for Black History Month, we made a collaboration beer with Oakland’s first Blackwell brewery. And we’re going to call it Sol to Seoul. 


20:08

Monica H. Kang
That’s amazing. 


20:09

Youngwon Lee
And it will be a watermelon ginger wheat beer. So it will be probably the first ever collaboration beer or brewed between black folks and, you know, asian folks. And I’m part of a DNI for the San Francisco Beer Guild and for the biggest beer festival in San Francisco, we’re actually having the biggest booth as a D and I committee. So we’re doing that. So it’s not only, you know, being a korean person, it’s adding diversity to the industry and push or fighting for. 


20:41

Monica H. Kang
DNI cause so important. Thank you so much for your leadership. Also in contribution and making sure, as you point out, it’s not just about the korean voice or the asian voice, it’s about all of those voices and so appreciative with your leadership. And you’re doing so, of course, as a leadership expert. The number one thing that is on the back of my mind as we’re having this conversation is, like, how in the world is Yeon managing his time and energy? Because, like, on top of all of this, he also has a newborn and also has a team and has all these other things to keep track of. So what’s been your tip of, like, how you manage your time and energy? Because that’s. That’s a lot of plates. Yeah. Things on your plate. 


21:20

Youngwon Lee
Yeah. I try to break my schedule into, like, very small time slots and try to execute it, but obviously, having a newborn is a curveball and anything and everything. So I’ve been pretty bad with my schedule lately, but trying what I can do and trying to improve. But I make sure I tell everyone that I’m not a perfect person with the newborn. I’m actually extremely bad with everything and anything that I do. So I just apologize ahead of time and ask everyone to help me. 


21:53

Monica H. Kang
Well, I think it’s so meaningful to know that, hey, you’re human. At the end of the day, we’re doing what we can and showing up where we are. 


22:01

Youngwon Lee
That really changed throughout my career, because when I was younger and also less experienced, I actually tried to be perfectionist. I didn’t want to show any weakness. I was, like, sort of a cold hearted asshole. That was just very, like, logical and very to the dot. But things have changed, and I realized I’m not a perfect person. So I actually let all of that go, and I said, hey, I’m not a perfect person. I need your help, and this is not a one man job, one man show. I need everyone’s help to make this happen. So I’ve been very open about that. And I think a lot of times, asian american, korean people don’t do that because, again, we’re taught to be perfect, and then we shouldn’t show any weakness. 


22:44

Youngwon Lee
But I’m very pro or active on straight weakness and asking for help, because what I do is not something that I can do by myself. 


22:54

Monica H. Kang
Absolutely. No. Thank you for sharing that. Very important reminder to know that at the end of the day, we got to remember we’re human beings, not human, just doing and executing things. And so thank you for sharing that insight and reflection as well. I want to do a few rapid fire all about Korea. Q and A. All about your relationship is. So, first question, what is your favorite korean food and why? 


23:20

Youngwon Lee
That’s actually british. I don’t really have a favorite food. I mean, I guess I’ve maybe at. 


23:25

Monica H. Kang
Least then, for today, what’s your favorite? 


23:28

Youngwon Lee
It’s boring, but I’ll just say korean barbecue. Yeah. Why? And why? I mean, just, you know, I think really escalating korean food to the non Koreans and really bringing people, this is a one of kind experience that a lot of people would, you know, brings people together and really enjoyed. You don’t, like, have barbecue by yourself. You always have a whole group of people and really having, you know, kind of positive, good energy and exciting time together. So that’s what I really love about it. 


23:56

Monica H. Kang
Love it. Favorite Korean Ward and why Dojeon challenge? 


24:04

Youngwon Lee
I mean, that’s. That’s life. I think I’m challenging myself and, you know, tojon myself every day to push myself. 


24:13

Monica H. Kang
For somebody who’s visiting Korea for the first time, where should they absolutely go or do? 


24:19

Youngwon Lee
Oh, I haven’t been to Korea for five years. I’m actually flying out next month, so that would be pretty fun. For first time. 


24:27

Monica H. Kang
Yeah, first or maybe haven’t been in a long time. 


24:30

Youngwon Lee
I’ll go for Jeju Island. I haven’t been to Jeju island for myself for a long time, but it’s my. On my bucket list right now. I really want to go. I think the food, the scene, the nature, everything is just a one of kind experience as well. 


24:45

Monica H. Kang
It’s beautiful. And for those who are in the states and, like, geez, like, I wish I could go to Korea, but I can’t. Like, you’re in California, in the Bay Area, in Oakland. So, like, what are places that they can maybe get a taste of Korea or korean food? 


25:01

Youngwon Lee
Yeah, I would recommend there’s a taehohei vijay, which you would always have a line out the door. Also bansang. Yeah, there are a couple that are doing pretty well, but it’s not as good. I mean, in general, I don’t think it’s as good as, like, what you have going on in LA as well as New York City. So I wish there’s more korean restaurants that are opening up here and then, you know, I want to be part of that. 


25:23

Monica H. Kang
Maybe that’s the hit we’ll drop as we air. It’s like, reminders. You can start more businesses, korean. Korean food businesses in the area. 


25:31

Youngwon Lee
We have too many tech people here, so they’re not really into f and b. 


25:39

Monica H. Kang
We can work on it. We’ll plant the seeds. I know you have a lot of different flavor options for your beer, but do you have, let’s say, at least for today, what’s your favorite out of your Tokyo beers today? 


25:51

Youngwon Lee
K beer. I think it’s probably perfect right now after all this talk. I actually was on a. I was constantly talking for an hour before I jumped into this call, so it would be really good. Like, when you’re thirsty, I probably could one shot the whole camp by myself right away. 


26:07

Monica H. Kang
And we’re gonna all have fomo of, like, darn it. Well, I guess they can go order, right? They can go order at your website if they’re having fomo right now. 


26:15

Youngwon Lee
Right? And then k beer, I wanted to. I mean, this is the first beer. We just said k beer because I want to be. If there’s a korean beer, I’m the one. So. 


26:26

Monica H. Kang
Yeah, there we go. Absolutely taking a step back. Thank you for indulging me on that rapid fire. I’ve been asking some series of questions with all my guests on this, and it’s been really fun to reflect on the different themes. Taking a step back, though, we covered a lot of different grounds, but I’m curious about kind of your bigger picture perspective on just immigrant food and, like, you know, diversity of food and beverage in american culture. What are your thoughts and what do you hope to see more in the coming years? 


26:56

Youngwon Lee
I think the difference is that when we used to grow up, a lot of our parents would run it and they did it out of necessity, and it was more catered to korean people living in the states. But now I think it’s becoming more of a cultural phenomenon as well as it’s becoming a trend of having korean food. So there’s a huge jump that we took as a korean FNB, and you would actually see a lot more non korean person at a cream barbecue. Right. That’s been pretty amazing. I think there’s a lot of cross cultural products that are coming. There are a lot of fusion products that are coming out as well. And, you know, we are the byproduct as well. There’s, you know, korean culture meeting a traditional craft beer and having a byproduct, which is doki beer. 


27:44

Youngwon Lee
And that’s just something like, you know, me, korean american, putting two cultures together, and you have something unique and creative. I guess what’s good out there? I think the more we have, I think the space is becoming a little bit more competitive, and because of that, we’re actually having a better quality food, and that’s what’s actually happening and more innovation coming. Not to discredit our parents generation now you’re actually seeing like, a secondhand third generation coming out and then trying to do something better than what was done before and getting more creative, getting more innovative, but also at the same time, being more original and then bringing something more authentic. So that’s all happening in all different angles, which I really love about. 


28:30

Monica H. Kang
I love that insight. Thank you for sharing. Is there anything you also wish other people understood better about Korea or untangle with some misunderstanding people might have about Korea in general? 


28:44

Youngwon Lee
I think it has changed a lot. I mean, if you asked me ten years ago, I would say, hey, we’re not North Korea’s North Korea. South Korea is different. But now, you know, we don’t even have to discuss about that right now. If you say Korea, oh, it’s going to be BTS, the kimchi, whatever. And then we’re actually. We’re not talking about, you know, war anymore. We’re actually represented by our culture, identity, and what’s actually happening. So we have to push harder. We have to try harder and showcase. Korean food is not only about puygokyu or kimchi. There’s a lot more to it. So me being in FNB world, I need to do more to show there is a lot more than just those two food. 


29:23

Youngwon Lee
So that’s something I wanted to do, but I think that has to happen across all industry sectors or people or of korean descent to see how we can actually showcase and represent better. Because this might be trend, but you have actually. You just can’t ride it with it. You have to really be I think consciously think about it, work on it, and guide through to make this not only a one year trend, but make it more lasting 10, 20, 30 years that we’re actually building korean history with this together. 


29:55

Monica H. Kang
Absolutely love it. What’s a good way that people can follow up with you and reach out to you? 


30:01

Youngwon Lee
Just reach out to me. Doki Beer 201 is my instagram. People wonder what 201 is. It means Lee Young one in Korean. That’s kind of corny, but LinkedIn yeah, I’m pretty easy to reach out. If you’re a beer drinker or curious about Tokyo beer, you could easily book a meeting with me. 


30:21

Monica H. Kang
Love it. Well, you guys got the hint in the notes. Thank you so much yeonwon, for joining us, sharing more about your journey, your passion and devotion to how you got to be where you are and celebrating korean culture. Be back again with another story, but for now, we will see you later. Thank you so much. 


30:39

Monica H. Kang
That is so inspiring. Thank young one for joining us today. Well, as you’re now indulging in a new beer collection that you can check out, you might also be wondering, well, geez, I might as well learn a little bit about Korean and the language in itself, but where do I start? Lucky for you, our next guest has some insights on that too. Were going to get a chance to invite a special person who not only has been on the mission to address korean language learning, but also make it easier and fun by taking creative approaches. You are listening to Dear workplace by InnovatorsBox. Im your host Monica Kang and I’ll see you next week. Im your host Monica Kang and ill see you next week. Thank you for joining us. 


31:39

Monica H. Kang
Thanks so much for tuning into today’s episode at Dear Workplace where we untangle your questions about the workplace. Please send us your questions, feedback, suggestions at [email protected] or dearworkplace.com because we want to know how to continue to dive deeper in navigating those questions with you. Please send us your questions, feedback, [email protected] or gearworkplace.com because we want to know how to continue to dive deeper in navigating those questions with you. Audio Engineering and producing by Sam Lehmart, Audio Engineering and assistance by Ravi Lad, website and marketing support by Kree Pandey, Graphic Support by Lea Orsini, Christine Eribal, Original Music by InnovatorsBox Studios, and executive producing, directing, writing, researching and hosted by me Monica Kang. 


32:07

Monica H. Kang
Audio Engineering and producing by Sam Blaimern Audio Engineering and assistance by Ravi Ladd website and marketing support by Creepante Graphic Support by Leah Orsini Christine Eribal Original Music by Innovators Fox Studios an executive producing, directing, writing, researching and hosted by me Monica Kang. Thank you again for your support. 

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