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Luckily, the Korean Village community felt the same way.
Family friend Andrew Harris Oporto decided to work at the restaurant for free, just to show his support for Lee.
Oporto, an actor and comedian, describes the restaurant as a staple of his life, “and the lives of so many other people in the neighbourhood.”
He and Lee have been friends since high school.
“He’s like a brother to me — he once fed the whole crew here after I shot a short film,” said Oporto.
Oporto turned up to help with deep cleaning before the restaurant resumed indoor dining, and asked Lee if he needed help waiting tables.
“I did need help,” said Jason Lee, picking up the story.
“And I told Andrew he might be the first white guy ever serving here,” he joked.
Then another friend drove in from Burlington to wash dishes, and someone else started working on the menus …
“I grew up in the restaurant,” said Lee, who has been there full-time as general manager since 2018.
“When my mom died suddenly, we had to take on the role of owner quickly. I had to learn a lot on the fly.”
Korean Village began in 1978.
FoundersOk Re Lee and Ke Hang Lee had immigrated to Canada from South Korea, and decided to open a traditional Korean restaurant; Ok Re, a former actress, became the face of the restaurant and a leading figure in Koreatown.
She died in October 2019.
Her influence, said her son, extended throughout the Canadian-Korean community.
For Lee, keeping Korean Village going is not just about the business. It’s for his mother, and for all the people in their lives because of the restaurant.