ROK Drop

Avatar of GI KoreaBy on April 29th, 2012 at 4:35 pm

Looking Back 20 Years When Korean-Americans Were Targeted During the LA Riots

It has been 20 years since the LA Riots and the AP has an article posted about the riots to include how Korean-Americans were targeted by the rioters and the police did little to protect them:

But that day was a rage, he and others in the community say, fueled by years of high unemployment, abuse and neglect by police, and rising tension with recently arrived Korean store owners.

“We wanted jobs around here, we wanted respect and we didn’t get none of that. And then the police just harassed us all the time,” says Sharon McSwain, who for 22 of her 45 years has lived within walking distance of the intersection where Denny was attacked. He was saved by a black truck driver who rushed out to help after seeing the brutal beating on television.

Tensions in the community had been running high before the riot, fueled in part by the case of a Korean grocer who shot to death a black teenager she had accused of trying to steal a bottle of orange juice. The grocer, Soon Ja Du, was convicted of manslaughter for killing 15-year-old Latasha Harlins, but received a sentence of only probation and community service.

Like King’s beating, the shooting had been captured on videotape, by Du’s store surveillance camera. The images stoked the anger.  (….)

On April 29, 1992, it seemed Holliday’s videotape would be the key evidence leading to a guilty verdict against the officers. When they were instead acquitted, violence erupted immediately.

Police, seemingly caught off-guard, were quickly outnumbered by rioters and retreated. As the uprising spread to the city’s Koreatown area, shop owners armed themselves and engaged in running gun battles with looters.

“I think we did the right thing,” said attorney David Kim, who had gone on Korean-language radio to encourage people to take up arms because the police weren’t protecting them. [Associated Press]

Also here is an article from a local radio station in LA that goes into greater depth in regards to the Korean-American community in LA and the effects of the riots.

UPDATE: More good reading about the LA Riots and the Korean-American community can be read over at Kushibo’s site, the Marmot’s Hole, and Ask A Korean as well.

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  • Dreamboat Annie
    12:54 am on April 30th, 2012 1

    Take it from Reginald Denny ,(the truck driver who was beaten on live TV), white people weren’t too popular in LA during the riots, either.

  • kushibo
    4:14 am on April 30th, 2012 2

    Regarding Reginald Denny, the man has an amazingly forgiving view of the people who attacked him:

    Denny said he understood that the rioters were angry.

    “How bad do you have to jack up a neighborhood before the neighborhood just says enough?” he asked.

    He had compassion for the “helplessness” and “disrespect” that the community felt leading up to the riot, saying, “it takes a lot of crap to happen before it stops happening.”

    Although Denny was targeted because he is white, he said focusing on race in thinking about the riots is foolish and shortsighted.

    “People seem to forget it was black folks that saved my life,” Denny said. “On one hand, there were some out there to try to kill me or do me in. On the other hand, they are trying to save me because I’m not the enemy, and believe me I am not the enemy.”

    At the time of the interview 10 years ago, Denny had long since forgiven the men who assaulted him.

    2He reserved his anger for the politicians and police, whom he said abandoned the city that day.

    “Where they hell were they?” he asked. “They were just like, ‘I ain’t doing nothing.’”

    Ten years ago, Denny didn’t see much improvement in South LA . Reflecting on the riots, he concluded that they were fueled by “people in a city that the city gave up on.”

    His hope was firmly with the people of LA.

    “(They) weren’t gonna give up. Doesn’t that say something about character of the people that do live there? No matter how bad it gets, we ain’t giving up.”

    Just how hard did that brick hit him?

    Anyway, White people were targeted, Asians were targeted, and among the killed were a lot of Hispanics.

  • John in CA
    12:56 pm on May 1st, 2012 3

    I blame the local TV stations for this mess. The replayed the shooting of the black girl by korean shop keeper over and over, but conveniently forgot to include the part where the girl puches the shop owner so hard that the shop keeper is knocked off her feet. and the girl wasn’t exactly a a light weight one either.

    Man, I can’t believe I watched the start of the riot live on TV, as it was starting to happen.

    I was out at the beginning to help relative empty out his little shop and potential looters were circling the area, looking for places to loot. I remember the eyes, the wild eyes as if they were at a big party.

  • John in CA
    12:57 pm on May 1st, 2012 4

    Btw, the truck driver Denny is a class act.

  • John in CA
    1:17 pm on May 1st, 2012 5

    5 min interview of korean-american photojournalist who was working for LATimes at the time of riot.

    His first news of the riot was from his police scanner in his car. First message he heard was Police dispatchers ordering police to evacuate (didn’t catch the neighborhood).

  • Teadrinker
    10:13 pm on May 1st, 2012 6


    If I remember correctly, the coverage started at about the time the last episode of the Cosby Show was to air in my part of Canada, which would have made it about 3pm in LA. I hadn’t watched the show in years, but I was looking forward to seeing how it would end…Never got to watch that episode.

  • Teadrinker
    10:18 pm on May 1st, 2012 7

    I also remember how Edward James Olmos, one of the few Hollywood stars from LA who still lived in his old neighborhood, invited TV news cameras to his home, where they showed him sweeping the sidewalk in front of his house to symbolize that it was time to rebuild the community.

  • Teadrinker
    10:20 pm on May 1st, 2012 8

    …that and the Korean shopkeepers taking shots in the direction of looters who approached their stores. I was impressed by their courage and determination.

  • kushibo
    12:07 am on May 2nd, 2012 9

    Teadrinker wrote:

    …that and the Korean shopkeepers taking shots in the direction of looters who approached their stores. I was impressed by their courage and determination.

    If you follow that link to my blog in the last paraphgraph of the OP, you can read about how the sole Korean killed in the L.A. riots was likely shot by one of the Korean shopkeepers showing courage and determination.

    Lest one get the impression that’s dig at gunowners or gun ownership, it’s not. It is a dig at the police administration who so utterly failed the good people of L.A. and the good people of the LAPD.

  • Juris
    12:08 am on June 27th, 2012 10

    @John, thanks for sharing the link.
    Its sad to know that nobody recovered with it.
    Sad but true.

    My blog : jupe cuir 


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