The LA Riots Of Korea Town
Start writing a post
Politics

How Los Angeles K-town Became The K-town We Know Of Today: Sai-i-gu

What happened in Koreatown in the 1990s?

225
How Los Angeles K-town Became The K-town We Know Of Today: Sai-i-gu

What is Sa-i-gu? To Korean-Americans, like myself, it is "April 29," an infamous date that goes down in Korean-American history as one that involved six whole days of arson, looting, and death. The catalyst that started all of this civil unrest? The beating of a black motorist named Rodney King.

Nowadays, it's common to meet some friends, eat at a Korean barbeque restaurant, and eat Korean shaved ice in Koreatown, dubbed as K-town. There are even fusion foods, such as galbi tacos with kimchi. The presence of Korean culture in Los Angeles is definitely impenetrable.

However, back in 1992, Korean-Americans had to fight against racism and fight for representation in an LA that had refused to accept them. As Korean immigrants acculturated in America by establishing their own businesses in an area that came to be known as Koreatown, they faced incredible resentment because of their successful businesses.

Prior to the riots, conflict had been arising between the Korean and black community because, as black communities sought for financial security, they sought out homes and work in predominantly white neighborhoods.

Those who had been living in those neighborhoods wanted to escape from what was seen as "ghettoization" and sold their stores at low rates. In light of that, hundreds of Korean merchants bought the stores in the areas that then became predominantly black neighborhoods.

Then, as the Immigration Act of 1995 allowed thousands of Koreans to immigrate to America, the Korean merchants provided jobs to the new migrants rather than African-Americans. This led to an even greater anti-Asian sentiment among the black community. The black community began to view the Korean merchants as "greedy foreigners who were exploiting the black community."

Matters grew worse as media coverage in 1991 emerged to reveal the death of Latasha Harlins at the hands of a Korean merchant. What the media revealed was that Harlins had been shot in the head after she was perceived to be stealing orange juice. In light of Harlins' death and the merchant's light punishment, Korean merchants were heavily demonized in the media.

Racial tensions grew worse and worse as the officers, who violently beat Rodney King, were acquitted of various charges. This led to a craze of violence and looting in the streets of Los Angeles. Those who were most affected were the businesses located in predominantly minority neighborhoods, especially those of Korean-Americans.

The Korean merchants received little to no aid or protection from the police due to their low social status and language barrier, and they were forced to take issues into their own hands.

Thousands of Americans watched as media coverage showed Korean merchants fighting off looters and wielding guns to defend their businesses. Korean merchants were portrayed as an armed militia, but no one cared that they were victimized because they held no political power nor any visibility in LA.

As the Korean merchants had come to America to achieve the "American dream," the years of work in the making were burned down in six days, as their businesses were broken into and burned down to the ground.

Despite this history among Korean-Americans in Los Angeles, there is such a strong and vibrant community of Korean-American businesses in K-town that serves all ethnicities and was able to build their businesses back up from the ashes.

Thank you, to the tens and hundreds of Korean-Americans who paved the way for modern-day Korean-Americans to live comfortably in Los Angeles. Thank you for making us known in a city that had once turned its back on you. Thank you for what you've done.

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
the beatles
Wikipedia Commons

For as long as I can remember, I have been listening to The Beatles. Every year, my mom would appropriately blast “Birthday” on anyone’s birthday. I knew all of the words to “Back In The U.S.S.R” by the time I was 5 (Even though I had no idea what or where the U.S.S.R was). I grew up with John, Paul, George, and Ringo instead Justin, JC, Joey, Chris and Lance (I had to google N*SYNC to remember their names). The highlight of my short life was Paul McCartney in concert twice. I’m not someone to “fangirl” but those days I fangirled hard. The music of The Beatles has gotten me through everything. Their songs have brought me more joy, peace, and comfort. I can listen to them in any situation and find what I need. Here are the best lyrics from The Beatles for every and any occasion.

Keep Reading...Show less
Being Invisible The Best Super Power

The best superpower ever? Being invisible of course. Imagine just being able to go from seen to unseen on a dime. Who wouldn't want to have the opportunity to be invisible? Superman and Batman have nothing on being invisible with their superhero abilities. Here are some things that you could do while being invisible, because being invisible can benefit your social life too.

Keep Reading...Show less
Featured

19 Lessons I'll Never Forget from Growing Up In a Small Town

There have been many lessons learned.

47738
houses under green sky
Photo by Alev Takil on Unsplash

Small towns certainly have their pros and cons. Many people who grow up in small towns find themselves counting the days until they get to escape their roots and plant new ones in bigger, "better" places. And that's fine. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought those same thoughts before too. We all have, but they say it's important to remember where you came from. When I think about where I come from, I can't help having an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for my roots. Being from a small town has taught me so many important lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Keep Reading...Show less
​a woman sitting at a table having a coffee
nappy.co

I can't say "thank you" enough to express how grateful I am for you coming into my life. You have made such a huge impact on my life. I would not be the person I am today without you and I know that you will keep inspiring me to become an even better version of myself.

Keep Reading...Show less
Student Life

Waitlisted for a College Class? Here's What to Do!

Dealing with the inevitable realities of college life.

120735
college students waiting in a long line in the hallway
StableDiffusion

Course registration at college can be a big hassle and is almost never talked about. Classes you want to take fill up before you get a chance to register. You might change your mind about a class you want to take and must struggle to find another class to fit in the same time period. You also have to make sure no classes clash by time. Like I said, it's a big hassle.

This semester, I was waitlisted for two classes. Most people in this situation, especially first years, freak out because they don't know what to do. Here is what you should do when this happens.

Keep Reading...Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments