Korean Fire Evacuees Turn to Churches
New America Media, News Digest, Kenneth Kim Posted: Oct 25, 2007
As the San Diego fires threatened thousands of homes and hundreds of thousands of lives, more than 2,000 Koreans living in the fire-affected areas fled to local Korean churches.
Instead of checking into the evacuation shelters operated by authorities, about 300 Koreans have stayed at Calvary Korean Presbyterian Church in Linda Vista since Monday night. Korean Hope Church of San Diego and Hanbit Church, both located near San Diego’s Koreatown, each provided shelter to about 100 people. Korean Catholic Community of San Diego also has accommodated approximately 150 people report the Korea Daily and Korea Times.
The local business community pitched in to ease the pain of those who were affected by the fire. A meat company owned by a Korean brought Korean Catholic Community of San Diego enough of the Korean BBQ dish “bulgoki” to feed more than 100 people. Other community organizations brought blankets, snacks, and other provisions that they thought the evacuees might need, reports the Korean media.
“It was difficult for my family because we had to leave in such a hurry. But we recuperated after eating the bulgoki and experiencing the church’s hospitality,” said Lucy Kim, 15, in an interview with the Korea Times.
“People feel more comfortable when they band together with the same race, and some decided to come to church because the shelters they had gone to were overcrowded,” adds Young Sung Joo, managing editor of Korea Daily’s San Diego bureau.
There are more than 50 Korean churches in the San Diego area – and every church opened its doors to those who needed a place to stay, he says.
Korean American churches have a long history and tradition of giving, says Joo. After the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Korean American churches in Southern California raised more than $1 million to provide support to the victims of the tragedy. When the tsunami devastated Southeast Asia in 2004, Korean churches raised more than half a million dollars.
Korean churches are more than houses of worship; they are the lynchpin of U.S. immigrant communities, serving as religious, social, cultural, political and economic centers. According to a United Way survey, 75 percent of the Korean American community is connected with a local Korean church. There are approximately 3,400 Korean churches in the United States, according to Korean Churches for Community Development (KCCD), a non-profit faith-based organization.
In Southern California, the churches are once again playing a pivotal role in bringing the community together in a time of tragedy.
Korean evacuees have spent sleepless nights there, worrying about what has happened to their homes.
Kye Ho Kim, who lives in Rancho Bernardo, tried to return to his home the morning after he and his family were ordered to leave. But the roads leading to his home and beloved neighborhood were still blocked.
“The police only allowed entry to the residents who needed to pick up prescription medicines, and the lines to get permission were too long. After waiting for a long time, I got impatient and went back to the church,” said Kim.
Ethnic Media Cover the Fires
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