Yeon Ok Lee, Kimchi Maker, Kong Ju Rice Cake | Southern Foodways Alliance arrow left envelope headphones search facebook instagram twitter flickr menu rss play circle itunes calendar

Oral Histories

The SFA oral history program documents life stories from the American South. Collecting these stories, we honor the people whose labor defines the region. If you would like to contribute to SFA’s oral history collections, please send your ideas for oral history along with your CV or Resume and a portfolio of prior oral history work to

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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.

Date of interview:

Amy C. Evans

Amy C. Evans

Download Transcript Download Transcript 2



The Southern Foodways Alliance drives a more progressive future by leading conversations that challenge existing constructs, shape perspectives, and foster meaningful discussions. We reconsider the past with research, scrutiny, and documentation.


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