The past weekend, my family and I went to go watch the movie Gook. I saw the title and immediately exclaimed, "That's racist..." to which a theatre staff agreed wholeheartedly. She explained then that the movie was directed by Asian Americans, which eased my concerns...somewhat.
I would be lying if I said that the blatantly racist title didn't catch my attention—which looking back was probably the intention of the director. Going into the theatre, I had no idea what the premise of the movie was; however, it soon became apparent that the movie was a look into the lives of Korean Americans after the verdict of Rodney King's death was released.
For those who do not know, Rodney King, a taxi driver, was beaten by the LAPD following a high-speed car chase. The video of his beating was released to the public, and understandably, the public demanded justice. However, the officers involved were acquitted leading to outrage in the city of Los Angeles. Police forces fled the city soon after and those who lived in the cities were left to fend for themselves.
With tensions rising, a fatal altercation between Korean shop owner, Soon Ja Du and Latasha Harlins only fueled the continuing conflicts. Du asked Harlins if she was stealing a drink from her store and prompted to search through Harlins's bag to which Harlins replied violently. As a result, Du shot Harlins, leading to her death. Such an event led to a bigger divide between the black communities and the Korean communities.
In Gook, we follow the lives of Eli and Daniel, two Korean-American brothers whose parents owned a shoe store. Living in the middle of the riots, Eli and Daniel must determine whether to follow their dreams or follow the dreams their parents created. Living right in the middle of the conflict, both Daniel and Eli have to decide what their priorities are and how to preserve the bond of family.
It was both heartbreaking and enlightening to see the journey that the brothers went through. I think I can speak for all immigrant families when saying that our parents went through hell to get us here. Eli, knowing this, tries his best to protect the store his parents had built from the ground up; whereas, Daniel is more focused on getting his new record out. The conflict continues to move towards the brothers and soon it's not just the rioting that comes in between them but the different visions they have for their futures.
My mom has always been supportive of me in anything that I wanted to do, which I am constantly grateful for. Friends of mine have complained to me about their parents' unrealistic expectations for them to be doctors and lawyers and a part of me can understand such an expectation. Thinking about how my mom suffered and struggled to provide a better life for me makes me want to do something for her to make that struggle worth it. In the same way, Eli knew how hard his parents worked for their store and wants to cherish it.
Although I cannot reveal the ending, the movie truly made me rethink my identity as a Korean American. Right now, I am living a life full of privileges and rights that my ancestors did not have. Watching the movie opened my eyes to the unknown struggles Koreans faced in order to pave a better path for future generations. Even if you aren't Korean, I would suggest that any child of an immigrant watch this movie to see some of the great struggles Asian Americans faced to stake their place in the United States of America.