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Yeon Ok Lee
Kong Ju Korean Rice Cake
Yeon Ok Lee was forty-six years old when she and her husband left Korea to begin a new life in Houston in 1989. When they arrived, Mrs. Lee found a job at a Korean restaurant, and her husband ran a washateria. She continued making kimchi at home.
Eventually Mrs. Lee and her husband opened Dong Yang Market, where she began selling her kimchi to the public. In 2009, Super H Mart, a giant American-style grocery store chain catering to the Asian community opened in their neighborhood, closing seven independently-owned Korean groceries almost simultaneously.
Mrs. Lee went to Kong Ju Korean Rice Cake and partnered with the Kim family to continue making her signature kimchi. Today, Mrs. Lee goes through 4,500 pounds of cabbage per week to make six different kinds of kimchi that are sold to stores across Texas—including the Super H Mart down the street.
Mrs. Lee’s interview is fully translated.
Go here for the translation of Mrs. Lee’s audio slideshow.