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Korean Media Look Back on LA Riots

Posted: Apr 29, 2012


A report in the Korean-language Korea Daily in Los Angeles notes that much of mainstream media’s coverage of the anniversary of the 1992 Los Angeles riots has ignored the impact of that event on the Korean community.

Citing local broadcasters’ coverage of the anniversary, the paper points to what it describes as an almost exclusive focus on the African American community, despite the fact that Koreans were some of the hardest hit by the violence and looting that erupted.

The “tears of Koreans” have been all but forgotten, it reads.

That same sentiment was echoed in a piece by the Korean news agency Yonhap, which reported that mainstream media “has not given much consideration to the Korean American community, which was among the worst hit by the riots.”

Known among Korean Americans as Sa-I-Gu, for the numerical date 4-29 that marks the anniversary, the riots claimed some 53 lives, with thousands more injured. Close to 3000 Korean-owned businesses were impacted, at an estimated cost of $700 million.

The event also served as a catalyst for greater civic participation among Korean Americans, many of whom had long since grown accustomed to the community’s traditional insularity.

“Prior to the riots, Korean Americans were unknown, invisible and unrecognized in American society,” Edward Chang, a professor in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California in Riverside, told the Seoul Sinmun. “After Sa-I-Gu, Korean Americans became active in city politics and proactively involved in multiethnic and multiracial coalition building in Los Angeles.”

Korean Americans, he adds, “began to exert their political clout as they fought to gain visibility, accountability and representation in the city of Los Angeles.”

Despite the changes, Chang warns that many of the tensions fueling the violence remain and are being exacerbated by a worsening economic imbalance separating rich from poor.

“Korean immigrants who do business with Black Americans have to make efforts to rebuild the trust…” he said.


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