Mr. Kim, originally from North Korea, was one of the first indoor swap meet vendors in Los Angeles, when he signed a lease to rent a stall at the Compton Fashion Center, once a Sears building, that opened as the region’s first large indoor swap meet in 1985.
At stall Z-7 by the building’s main entrance, he and his wife, Boo Ja, sold women’s products for a while, but then switched to records and cassettes.
As these were years when the first rumblings of gangsta rap were emerging from kids working out in Compton garages, in response to the city’s crack and gang violence nightmare, that’s what he stocked.
He spoke almost no English, and didn’t understand the lyrics — he preferred classical music. But like any microcapitalist, he was willing to stock what sold. Most of the early gangsta rap stars sold their first stuff at his stall, since other record stores refused them. This included records by Eazy E’s Ruthless Records and NWA, and many who’ve since died and others who’ve gone on to other things.
Mr. Kim grew to be loved by customers and rappers alike. He and and his wife were known as Pops and Mama.
I wrote about Mr. Kim last summer. A fascinating fellow straight outta Compton.