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date: 18 August 2017

Asian Americans and the 1992 Los Angeles Riots/Uprising

Summary and Keywords

Although the 1992 Los Angeles riots have been described as a “race riot” sparked by the acquittals of a group of mostly white police officers charged with excessively beating black motorist Rodney King, the widespread targeting and destruction of Asian-owned (mainly Korean) property in and around South Central Los Angeles stands out as one of the most striking aspects of the uprising. For all the commentary generated about the state of black-white relations, African American youths, and the decline of America’s inner cities, the riots also gave many Americans their first awareness of the presence of a Korean immigrant population in Southern California, a large number of Korean shop owners, and the existence of what was commonly framed as the “black-Korean conflict.” For Korean Americans, and Asian Americans more generally, the Los Angeles riots represented a shattered “American dream” and brought focus to their tenuous hold on economic mobility and social inclusion in a society fraught by racial and ethnic tension. The riots furthermore marked a turning point that placed Asian immigrants and Asian Americans at the center of new conversations about social relations in a multiracial America, the place of new immigrants, and the responsibilities of relatively privileged minorities toward the less privileged.

Keywords: Los Angeles, riots, Asian American, uprising, race relations, race, Korean, conflict, African Americans, black Americans, multiracial, multicultural, American dream

Introduction

The 1992 Los Angeles riots held immense significance for Asian Americans—immigrants and the U.S.-born—especially Koreans, whose businesses were among the main targets of looting and arson. Commonly called the most deadly and costly race riot, as well as the largest civil uprising, in U.S. history, the LA riots were also important in bringing unprecedented national attention to the Korean American population of Southern California. Members of this community, by and large the product of recent Asian immigration following the passage of the Immigration Act of 1965, had been forging a precarious existence in America against a backdrop of deindustrialization, socioeconomic inequality, and rising interracial tension. As their struggles before and during the riots came to the forefront of national attention, commentators used the figure of the Korean riot victim to express their lamentations about American life in the late 20th century. To some, experience of Koreans powerfully encapsulated a modern immigrant nightmare—an American dream shattered—while to others it merely confirmed the violent pathology of the black underclass.

The visibility of Koreans (as well as Latinos) in the uprising, furthermore, forced Americans to acknowledge the stubborn reality of racism in the late 20th century and the fact that this was a complex problem that affected and implicated multiple—not merely two—racial and ethnic groups. For their part, the riots were a crucial turning point for Korean Americans—and other Asian Americans—that continues to resonate more than twenty years later. The crisis paved the way for the ascent of new leaders who could work with government agencies, speak to the media, and become deeply engaged with U.S. race relations. Additionally, new organizations that simultaneously promoted ethnic empowerment and broad civic engagement proliferated. Personal reflections from Korean Americans who experienced the riots directly and indirectly also shed light on a new, more critical mindset in Asian America that understood the need for a deeper interest in and engagement with the histories and struggles of others, and regarded with greater skepticism—or outright rejected—the ideology of the “American dream.”

The Los Angeles Riots

The Los Angeles riots of 1992 erupted after a judge announced not guilty verdicts for four police officers charged with using excessive force against the African American motorist Rodney King following a high-speed freeway chase. While the issue of police brutality against blacks was nothing new, King’s beating, which occurred in March 1991, was different because it had been captured on amateur video. Although the footage was grainy, it unmistakably and disturbingly showed a lone unarmed black man being mercilessly beaten by a group of mostly white officers.1 The video was subsequently seen widely and repeatedly around the world. Handed down against a backdrop of growing disfranchisement and despair in poor and working-class black communities, the verdict symbolized, for many, just the latest evidence of the systematic inequality and injustice they faced on a daily basis.

From April 29 to May 4, rioting and looting overtook much of South Central Los Angeles and nearby Koreatown. The LA riots inevitably became a major media event, disseminated jarring images worldwide, and culminated in a racialized controversy that held the nation’s interest for over a year. News footage showed youths of various races violently attacking passersby, setting fire to property, and ransacking stores. One of the most indelible and disturbing episodes, seen by the nation via helicopter camera, involved the driver Reginald Denny being dragged out of his semi-truck to be beaten nearly to death. California governor Pete Wilson issued a state of emergency and called in about 6,000 National Guard troops. In the course of the five days, fifty-four people died, over 2,300 were injured, and about 12,000 were arrested. In terms of the property losses, about 4,500 businesses were looted, 1,100 buildings were destroyed, and 3,600 fires were set.2

As the last of the fires were extinguished in South Central Los Angeles, journalists, scholars, and other pundits sought to explain the meanings of the riots and place them within a broader historical understanding. Their interpretations varied widely. Commentators on the right drew on dated “culture of poverty” arguments to explain the behavior of the rioters and fuel the fears of readers about urban blacks and Latinos. For example, Harold Johnson of the National Review emphasized the “black and Hispanic” character of South Central and described the riots as a dystopian nightmare come to life, in which miscreants engaged in “party-like looting” and “murderous gangs did their worst.”3 Though such writings were drenched in racially charged language, conservative writers uniformly denied that anti-black racism played any role in either the uprising or the King verdict. Johnson furthermore intoned that if South Central were to rise from the ashes, the community must shed “the pathologies of the decimated black family.”4 Linking decades of socioeconomic decline in black communities to coddling and permissive liberal culture and policy, he continued, “After telegraphing a relativist ethic in a thousand ways, and devaluing the goal of internal discipline, should we be surprised when we move from social vertigo to social breakdown, one day turning on the tube to see armies of looters carting booty away, gleefully untroubled by conscience?”5 In a similar vein, White House spokesman Marlin Fitzwater seized the opportunity to politicize the riots and indict the programs of the Great Society, which he blamed for creating the conditions that led to the unrest. “We believe,” he said, “that many of the root problems that have resulted in inner city difficulties were started in the 60's and 70's and that they have failed.”6 Another common reaction from the right was to argue for even more militarization and policing in the daily lives of poor minorities deemed threatening to the public welfare.7

At the other end of the spectrum, a common interpretation of the events was that they were an uprising and not a random, senseless outbreak of violence. Indeed, that people in the streets could be heard chanting “No Justice No Peace,” indicated the presence of a protest element among the throngs and echoed earlier uprisings in disenfranchised black communities in America.8 A. T. Callinicos situated the riots against large-scale developments over the last decade and a half, saying they were a “reaction to the 15-year offensive on the economic condition of the majority of Americans . . . an offensive from which black people suffered with peculiar intensity.”9 South Central’s longtime major employers in heavy industry had been declining since the 1960s and were virtually wiped out during the economic recession of 1979–1982. Furthermore, War on Poverty programs served the youth and poor, which had been lifelines in this community, suffered cut backs or elimination, with devastating social and economic effects. By the 1980s, Los Angeles embodied a remarkable paradox in which an “accumulation of misery” existed alongside “spectacular displays of wealth.” It was in these conditions, which Callinicos argued were but a function of the “brutal, dynamic, and controlled” workings of late capitalism, that the seeds of the riots were laid. Because once effective intermediaries such as the labor movement were either wiped out or weakened: “The result is an alternation between periods . . . in which laissez-faire capitalism reigns supreme, and periods in which the discontent accumulated earlier on explode, because of the relative weakness of reformism, in a violent and uncontrolled form.” The King verdict, then, which “epitomized the systematic bias of American legal and political structures against black people,” was neither new nor unprecedented; rather, it but came at a time of accumulated discontent.10

Other commentators on the left emphasized the degree to which the riots signaled a new era in America. Betty Sutton of the Los Angeles Sentinel rejected the parallels that had been drawn between the 1992 uprising and the Watts riot of 1965, saying, “Watts riot isn’t in the same hemisphere as the L. A. riot.”11 She conceded that both had been sparked by anti-black racism, but she insisted that a more salient takeaway was the fact that the more recent “disturbance was an international, multi-racial, equal opportunity riot in which Blacks participated in numbers proportionate to their dwindling percentage of the affected neighborhood’s population.”12 Others similarly pointed to the multiethnic nature of the Los Angeles riots to argue for the need to think and talk about American race relations outside a black-white binary. In the course of the riots, businesses and property owned by members of many different ethnic groups were destroyed. The looters, furthermore, were of varied backgrounds. To approach the matter of race relations and rebuilding riot-damaged neighborhoods as an endeavor involving just blacks and whites would overlook the history and reality on the ground.

Korean Los Angeles

The Los Angeles riots cast an unprecedented national spotlight on Korean immigrants and Korean Americans. At the time, most Americans probably had been unaware that the city actually had the nation’s largest Korean American population, but suddenly they were inundated with images of Korean people—men and women, young and old—in the urban unrest. As observers tried to understand them and situate their circumstances within a larger social and historical context, they often depicted Korean business owners as hard working immigrants in the great American tradition, whose misfortune was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Indeed, among the rioting victims, Koreans incurred the greatest losses; of the 4,500 stores destroyed, more than 2,300 were Korean-owned or run, and nearly every building in Koreatown was damaged.13 In other words, tens of thousands instantly lost their livelihoods.

What had happened in the years leading up to the uprising? And what were the circumstances under which so many Korean merchants appeared in South Central and Koreatown? The Korean population in Los Angeles (and nationwide) underwent tremendous growth from the late 1960s. In Los Angeles, their numbers increased from 8,900 in 1970 to 145,431 in 1990.14 Although many of these immigrants brought with them skills and capital (or had access to capital via ethnic networks such as kye), language and cultural barriers led a large number into self-employment and entrepreneurship.15 Their expansion into business ownership was striking: by the time of the riots, in Los Angeles County, one in three Korean immigrants operated a small family business. According to a study by the Korean-American Grocers Association (KAGRO), a total of 3,320 Korean American–owned liquor stores and markets existed in Southern California with annual sales totaling $1.8 billion.16 In South Central, the NAACP estimated that up to 70 percent of gas stations were owned by Koreans.

These markers of entrepreneurial success, however, obscured the daily hardships and sacrifices that merchants and their family members negotiated. Many of the businesses owned by Korean immigrants operated with few or no employees and relied heavily on unpaid family labor. And as middlemen they were resented by the customers to whom they sold goods while being exploited by the large companies whose products they peddled. Although they might have had enough money to open a business and live in a nice suburb, they usually did not have enough to run an establishment in a prime location. The only feasible option, then, was to start or acquire businesses in declining, less costly areas. Present-day Koreatown emerged in such a location, growing around the Olympic Market purchased by Hi Duk Lee in 1971. Additionally, many Koreans opened commercial establishments in South Central Los Angeles, an area bordering Koreatown that had been all but abandoned by large-scale retailers.

Korean-Black Relations

As the number of Korean-owned businesses grew while other retailers continued their exodus from the area, the mostly black residents of South Central came to rely greatly on the immigrant entrepreneurs for their daily needs. Los Angeles’s black population, of course, had a long and storied history in the city, having expanded most markedly during the early and mid-20th century when jobs in manufacturing were abundant and offered a degree of economic security and mobility. With deindustrialization and white flight, which accelerated after the 1960s, their once vital, dynamic neighborhoods and secure jobs crumbled. Adding to these disruptive changes was the seemingly sudden appearance of Korean immigrant shopkeepers who were unfamiliar with the struggles of African Americans, had not witnessed the Civil Rights movement, and had little inkling of the histories of the neighborhoods in which they were establishing their businesses. As a larger group, Asians were not new to Los Angeles. Scholars, for instance, have noted the presence of Chinese in the city as early as the 19th century, Japanese Americans’ history of interethnic relations with their black neighbors before World War II, and a small community of Koreans after the turn of the 20th century. By the early 1990s, however, this rich past was lost on many Angelenos, whether due to historical amnesia or to the simple fact that the post-1965 newcomers were an entirely different group from those who had settled before.

Though Korean merchants and black customers in South Central usually interacted peaceably and without incident, instances of misunderstanding and conflict eventually drew the attention of a media that highlighted the impression that black customers and Korean merchants clashed on a regular basis. During the 1970s and 1980s, a narrative of “Korean-black conflict” took hold, as news articles and editorials stressed the ways in which Koreans were seen as “taking over” the black community in Los Angeles.17 The Korean population had grown very rapidly, making its presence near the city core of South Central seem as if it had occurred suddenly and out of nowhere. The vast majority were, furthermore, immigrants who had arrived after 1965. Just half had been in the United States for more than ten years.18 As journalist Helen Zia has explained, “In their pursuit of the American dream, the new immigrants seemed oblivious to the African Americans’ long history of struggle for their unfulfilled dreams. In Los Angeles as well as New York and other cities, black people bristled over incidents of disrespectful treatment and false accusations of shoplifting.”19

Following a series of negative encounters between Korean shop owners and black customers, which the media gave copious attention to, African Americans’ grievances against Koreans intensified during the 1980s. One major flashpoint was the eight-month boycott of Family Red Apple Market in New York City’s Flatbush section in Brooklyn. The boycott was initiated in 1990 after a physical altercation between a black customer of Haitian descent and a Korean proprietor who had accused the former of stealing. Closer to home in South Central, a violent encounter that would prove pivotal in the events leading to the riots occurred in March 1991. A fifteen-year old African American named Latasha Harlins entered Empire Liquor Market on South Figueroa Street. That day, Soon Ja Du, a middle-aged Korean immigrant, was working at the store. She was there because her son Joseph, who would have been working that day, stayed home. He did so because of threats that he had received by members of the Crips gang after agreeing to testify against them in the wake of a robbery attempt. In the store, Du accused Harlins of stealing, and an altercation between the two led to Harlins punching Du and knocking her down, after which Du shot Harlins in the back of the head. Harlins was later found to have had juice from the store in her backpack and money in her hand.

The tensions escalated further following the death of Harlins, putting Korean-black community relations on the edge. Young Kyu Yi, a business owner of a store in South Central, called for calm and understanding, saying, “We should not lose our tempers over a bottle of orange juice.”20 Other co-ethnics rushed to defend Du, pointing out her Christian religiosity and involvement in her church. Reflecting the growing anger of blacks toward Koreans, a writer for the Los Angeles Sentinel called Korean business owners “poison pushing merchants who are apparently more outraged about being called names than they are about a dead Black child.”21 And after the Empire Liquor Store shut down following the shooting, the black organization Brotherhood Crusade placed a banner across its door, saying, “Closed for Murder and Disrespect of Black People.”22

Through the second half of the 1980s and into the 1990s, these intergroup problems, to a large degree played up by the media, escalated until they reached a breaking point. It is important to note that, in addition to the run-ins during which Koreans displayed insensitivity toward African Americans, Korean immigrants were also feeling besieged and vulnerable against a backdrop of rising incidents that targeted them. The year 1986, for example, was an alarming one as four Korean storekeepers in Los Angeles were shot and killed by blacks in separate incidents. In 1991, Koreatown was the scene of forty-eight murders and 2,500 robberies. Koreans had been the number one target of anti-Asian hate crimes in the area.23

By the early 1990s, the discourse of “black-Korean conflict” had crystallized. An indication of this was the appearance of the Korean shop owner as a staple in mainstream popular culture. Spike Lee’s groundbreaking 1989 film, Do the Right Thing, for instance, included a Korean shop owner couple as minor but pivotal characters. And in 1990, a year before the Harlins killing, the rapper Ice Cube released his track Black Korea, whose lyrics warned that if Korean storekeepers did not show respect to blacks, their businesses would be burned. In response, Korean Americans called for a boycott of the CD and members of the Korean American Grocers Association refused to sell the brand of malt liquor that Ice Cube had endorsed.24

Meanwhile, in other quarters, Koreans and blacks worked together to heal the rifts between their communities. In 1986, in the wake of the rash of killings of Korean merchants, community leaders, with the help of Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission, established the Black-Korean Alliance (BKA), whose objective was to maintain an ongoing dialogue between the two communities. It encountered problems from the start because Korean merchant groups were afraid of bringing negative attention to themselves after the killings, and many African Americans were hesitant to rally around the issue of interracial cooperation at the potential expense of justice and empowerment. However, the BKA did draw support from representatives in the NAACP and SCLC, as well as merchants and shopkeepers from the black and Korean communities. Chung Lee, the owner of Watts Market, was the first Korean merchant to join the BKA and expressed pride in his relationship with blacks in the neighborhood, hiring local workers and becoming involved in black community life. Other Korean merchants, however, disapproved of Lee’s prominent role in the BKA and his willingness to talk to the media. Eventually, under their pressure, he resigned from the organization.25

The work of the BKA and Human Relations Commission in Los Angeles was further undermined by the publicity generated by the Latasha Harlins killing, particularly after police released the videotape of the altercation between Harlins and Soon Ja Du. In November 1991 Soon Ja Du was found guilty of manslaughter, but her sentence was suspended and she received five years’ probation and was ordered to pay a fine ($500) and funeral costs for Harlins and perform community service. Asian American leaders were largely silent while many black leaders expressed outrage.26

Sa-I-Gu

A confluence of events including the Harlins-Du verdict, “Black Korea” fiasco, and Rodney King’s beating, had greatly heightened tensions and tempers on the ground. Thirteen days after the Harlins shooting, the videotape of Rodney King’s beating was released. A few months later, when the verdict was announced, the powder keg exploded.

Koreans called the Los Angeles riots Sa-I-Gu, or 4-2-9 (April 29). That they reserved a special name for it underscored how momentous they immediately recognized it to be. Jan Jung-Min Sunoo of the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commissions said Sa-I-Gu was “our worst nightmare come true,” while Korean American journalist K. W. Lee called it an American pogrom: “For us it was like the Jewish last stand in Warsaw, or the internment of the Japanese Americans. Sa-i-gu was a convenient way for mainstream America to deflect black rage.”27, 28 Looking back twenty years later, Edward Chang said: “Sa-i-gu erupted after the acquittal of one Latino and three white police officers charged with the beating of Rodney King, a black motorist. Blacks, whites, Latinos, Asian Americans, Korean Americans and others were directly and indirectly affected—and involved—in Sa-i-gu. But it was Korean immigrant merchants who were, memorably, too often caught in the middle.”29

Official responses to the riots brought a sharp focus on racial and class inequalities entrenched in American life and how they affected Koreans as well as blacks. Although their businesses were the most vulnerable to looting and damage, Korean merchants in South Central and Koreatown, along with everyone else in these neighborhoods, received virtually no police protection.30 The low priority assigned to the areas was underscored when Chief Daryl Gates left the police headquarters to attend a political fund-raising event even though at that very time rioting and arson were escalating. He sought to justify his action as well as the lack of assistance and protection provided by his police force in saying: “There are going to be situations where people are going to go without assistance . . . That's just the facts of life. There are not enough of us to be everywhere.”31

Without police protection, a number of Koreans took their security into their own hands, taking up arms and improvising security forces. The resulting stories and images, which underscored the “Bitter, Armed, and Determined” attitude of many Koreans, were especially surprising and unforgettable.32 One of these, a photograph in Newsweek that became nicknamed the “vigilante Korean,” showed a young Korean American man standing in front of a burning building while holding a semi-automatic gun and donning a Malcolm X t-shirt with the quote, “By any means necessary.”33 Also remarking on the armed Koreans, Seth Mydans of the New York Times noted, “One of the most gripping and, increasingly, controversial television images of the violence was a scene of two Korean merchants firing pistols repeatedly from a military stance. The image seemed to speak of race war, and of vigilantes taking the law into their own hands.”34

As noted, property damage from the rioting was estimated to be between $785 million and $1 billion.35 Of this, damage to Korean-owned property was between $350 million and $400 million. The establishments affected were diverse, including grocery stories, swap meet shops, clothing shops, liquor stores, dry cleaners, electronic shops, gas stations, jewelry shops, restaurants, beauty salons, auto shops, furniture shops, and video shops. Korean business owners faced a daunting, and for many impossible, recovery. Most of the businesses destroyed were uninsured at the time, and ten months after the riots, just a quarter of Korean victims had reopened.36 Sometimes the costs of rebuilding and moving on set people back even further. For instance, some turned to high interest loans to pay for their expenses and subsequently fell behind in their mortgages, leading to the loss of their homes. Rent and mortgage assistance were reported as the areas of greatest need.37

A survey conducted in the immediate aftermath shed light on the profound impact of the riots on people’s livelihoods, psychology, and self-perceptions. Half of the respondents said they believed their chances of rebuilding their businesses were nil. Troublingly, most reported having symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, such as trouble sleeping, nightmares, ulcers, stress, depression, family conflict, and domestic violence.38 The responses also underscored a drastic change in victims’ self-image as a result of losing the self-confidence and respect that went along with their victimization and financial losses.

The modest and limited efforts at forging intercommunity understanding between Koreans and blacks collapsed in the months after the riots. Under siege and called “race traitors,” the Black-Korean Alliance disbanded in December 1992. According to Helen Zia, the BKA’s difficulties exposed some of the challenges of pan-Asian unity as well as the inadequacies of an “old style multiracial coalition” to improve black-Korean relations. Some members lamented that they never received sufficient support and resources from the mayor’s office and other parties that they needed to improve multiracial relations. They also cited the limitations of relying on dialogue to solve what were very intransigent, complex problems. Finally, another issue was that member organizations and leaders were not always well connected to the people on the ground. As Marcia Choo of the Asian Pacific American Dispute Resolution Center reflected: “In our zeal to do the right things, we sometimes tried to fix things without consulting with the community.”

Meanwhile, the faith of many Korean immigrants in American opportunity and the “American dream” shattered as a result of their experience. As if securing a socioeconomic foothold as a business owner in South Central Los Angeles had been challenging enough, the suddenness with which their already precarious livelihoods struggle was inexplicably cruel and unfair, particularly in light of the unshakeable belief that many had in the American system. “These feelings of betrayal have been intensified not just by the original harm inflicted by the minority local residents but also by the subsequent disappointing responses from various federal, state, and local government agencies.”39

Reflecting, Rebuilding, and Moving On

The riots served as a wake-up call and turning point for the nation at large and Koreans in America in particular, becoming the regrettable vehicle through which many Americans first became aware of the nation’s large Korean population. The riots also underscored the ways in which racism had many targets and was not simply something directed by whites toward nonwhites. Indeed, late-20th-century America was a much more complex nation socially and demographically than it had been some fifty years earlier. In this landscape, discussing race relations was pressing but difficult. Cornel West, for instance, criticized the “worn out vocabulary” used in the immediate responses to the riots that left people “morally disempowered,” and he was also troubled that people seemed to stop reflecting on the events just months later. “The Los Angeles upheaval forced us to see not only that we are not connected in ways we would like to be but also,” he said, “in a more profound sense, that this failure to connect binds us, even more tightly together. The paradox of race in America is that our common destiny is more pronounced and imperiled precisely when our divisions are deeper.”40

Not only had the riots been a multiracial affair involving Asians, blacks, Latinos, and whites, but also, as historian George Sanchez pointed out, they “[provided] stark evidence of the way in which immigrants provided the perfect scapegoat for American populations frustrated with developments in their society.”41 Late-20th-century racism, he explained, was informed by a nativist streak that had resurged in American life during the 1980s and early 1990s, and it included both the left and the right. In the midst of the riots, Sanchez notes, young blacks were heard saying that Latinos and Asians had invaded their territory, and how they would let Latinos go but teach Koreans who it was who ruled. Thus, among the rioters were so-called new nativists who shared the broader feeling that the nation was in decline but who were additionally angered by the collapse of the inner-city economy. Amidst these struggles and concerns arose a Pacific Rim global economy that transformed parts of Los Angeles and accounted for at least some of the wealth of new Asian immigrants. In this context, Koreans stood out as an easy target.

Meanwhile, Korean Americans coped with their losses, reflected, and tried to move on. The practical aspects of moving on were, as noted, daunting, and, for many, the ability to do so proved impossible. Also difficult was the spiritual and emotional reckoning the riots compelled. As Edward Chang explained, many were pushed to critically reexamine “what it meant to be Korean American in relation to multicultural politics and race, economics, and ideology.”42 Some saw the experience as an extension of a narrative of trauma and displacement beginning in Korea and continuing in the United States. On the other hand, states Taeku Lee, Sa-I-Gu underlined in unmistakable terms “the geography of inequality, the nature of state power, and the paradoxes of inclusion and opportunity for immigrants of color in America.”43 Many blamed themselves for what they saw as their self-imposed isolation in their suffering, and, in turn, they decided to be more engaged with mainstream politics and affairs. Others felt demoralized and were pessimistic about the prospects for intergroup understanding; instead, they focused on the task of rebuilding Koreatown and forgetting the traumas of Sa-I-Gu. A large number of Korean Americans fled the city altogether, unwilling to rebuild in South Los Angeles. Since the riots, the Korean population around Koreatown has declined while it has and grown in places such as Orange County.

Within Korean American communities, the riots prompted a change in leadership, as the U.S. born and those who had immigrated as children (1.5 generation) stepped up. Many from the immigrant generation had been reluctant to talk to the mainstream media about their hardships, leaving a gap for younger Korean Americans to fill. “Perhaps the second generation understands the importance of sharing such stories,” said Angela Oh, “but the strong ethic of self-help and private struggle in the first generation prevented many important voices from being heard. Their view was too much shame, too much ‘hahn,’ fate had shown its hand, and help from the outside was an illusion.”44 The riots had also shown that the existing leadership structure in Los Angeles, which revolved around the Korea Federation, an organization whose legitimacy came from its ties to the South Korean government, could no longer meet the community’s needs. In particular, language barriers, an absence of meaningful ties to local residents, its inability to gets its message outside the Korean American media, and its tendency to criticize black politicians especially undermined the Korean Federation’s legitimacy and efficacy amidst the crisis.45 In its place emerged younger, more media friendly and politically savvy figures such as Angela Oh, Marcia Choo, Roy Hong, Bong Hwan Kim, and Ryan Song. Angela Oh’s groundbreaking moment came during her appearance on ABC Nightline, during which she became a rare voice in the mainstream media for the concerns of Korean Americans.

A political reorientation that saw the Korean community become less consumed with homeland politics and more engaged with U.S. politics typified the shift in generational leadership among Korean Americans. Taeku Lee believed the riot experience was pivotal in fostering a stronger civic mindedness and pan-Asian awareness. He cited a 2008 National Asian American Survey, in which Korean Americans demonstrated the strongest belief among Asian groups that their fate was linked to other Asian Americans.46 They also showed a stronger co-ethnic solidarity and feeling of commonality with African Americans and Latinos than did other Asians. Since the riots, Koreatown has also become more integrated as one political district, facilitating residents’ political involvement and coalition work in Los Angeles. In the immediate months and years after 1992, Korean Americans focused their political activity on meeting urgent post-riot needs, such as accessing resources to rebuild. To achieve their goals, a flurry of new organizations, such as the Koreatown Youth and Community Center, Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA), and National Korean American Service and Education Consortium, emerged.

Korean American community and political life in the post-riot era has been marked by philosophical and strategic disagreements over how best to work toward political and economic advancement. One new aspect of intra-ethnic politics since the riots, according to Edward Park, has been open partisanship. Leaders such as Angela Oh and Bong Hwan Kim, for example, aligned themselves with the Democratic Party, while Jay Kim, Michelle Park-Steel, and others embraced more conservative politics and identified as Republicans.47 Liberal Korean Americans in organizations such as the Korean American Democratic Committee (KADA) argued that co-ethnics should align with the traditional civil rights coalition, that Koreans were victims of racial oppression, and that whatever rights they enjoyed were the results of the Civil Rights movement, in general, and the Hart-Celler Actin particular. Their best hope was to join other communities of color in recognition of their shared struggle and pursue strategies of incorporation. Conservative Koreans, by contrast, who tend to be driven by material interests, argued that the Republican Party was inclusive of minorities—citing Colin Powell, Ward Connerly, and others as examples. They rejected the contention of liberals that joining the civil rights coalition would help them and said minorities had been failed by it, as well as by the welfare state.48

A controversy over how to rebuild South Central Los Angeles illustrated the ideological and political terrain of post-riot Korean America. Local leaders had launched a “Campaign to Rebuild South Central without Liquor Stores.” Koreans saw this as a cynical way to uplift black residents by scapegoating Korean merchants, as they had owned 175 of 200 liquor stores in the area.49 To protect their interests, KAGRO, which represented Korean liquor storeowners, bypassed dealing with city hall by going to the state legislature and getting help from a Republican representative. Edward Park notes that the controversy hurt leaders like Angela Oh and Bong Hwan Kim, as it showed that their strategy of telling Koreans to work with blacks and Latinos was insufficient, and it helped the KARA (Korean American Republican Association) to become more influential. Jay Kim, a Korean American Republican, used the issue to get elected to the House of Representatives in November 1992.

Despite these differences in ideology, the heightened political activity and engagement has helped to elevate the visibility of Koreans as Asian Americans in general, both in Los Angeles and elsewhere. This heightened visibility and activism made clear the need for Asian American voices in local affairs and discussions about race relations. Angela Oh and Bong Hwan Kim, for example, played integral roles in the formation of the Multicultural Collaborative (MCC) and the Asian Pacific Americans for a New Los Angeles (APANLA). Cindy Choi was the founding director of MCC, an important progressive voice in Los Angeles politics. In other arenas, Korean Americans have made key strides. The Los Angeles Times hired K. Connie Kang as a writer and the Department of Commerce hired T.S. Chung. Asian Americans also played a major and visible role in coalitional work. Official efforts by Los Angeles City Hall at ethnic consolidation after the riots came in the form of the Rebuild Los Angeles program. Although no Koreans held leadership positions, Asian Americans were prominent.50

The riots also increased interest among scholars in Los Angeles, the fate of post-industrial cities, multiethnic relations, and Korean Americans. For scholars of Korean ancestry who studied Korean Americans such as Edward Chang, the event brought a new urgency to and appreciation for their work. This scholarly research—Chang for instance conducted interviews with more than 100 Koreans in the Los Angeles area—also represented one of the few venues in which audiences could access the voices and perspectives of Korean Americans.51 The riots and academic interest in Korean entrepreneurs also generated renewed appreciation for existing social science work by scholars such as Ivan Light and Edna Bonacich, who had theorized about the role of Korean business owners in the larger economy and have since greatly influenced how we understand late-20th-century post-industrial conditions more broadly. They discussed how the merchants brought down labor costs to keep prices low, but how doing so required working long hours. In turn, Korean entrepreneurs in Los Angeles represented what they called a “disguised form of cheap labor.”52

Conclusion

About ten years after the riots, Angela Oh observed that many open wounds, traumas, and frustrations remained among Koreans in Los Angeles. “Politicians who had promised to help realized that once they got into office, helping Korea Americans was not politically viable.”53 The nation might have turned away its attention, but hardships were far from over. “[Virtual] silence on the deeper emotional, psychological, and cultural impact of the riots on Korean Americans.”54 Furthermore, Oh feared that important lessons initially drawn from the riots had been forgotten. “Their families did what many people naturally try to do in the face of tragedy—forget the past, bury the pain, ignore what cannot be changed.”55

Ongoing demographic change in Los Angeles since 1992 has shown that the conversation with regard to America’s multiethnic population is an evolving one. Twenty years after the riots, Korean Americans still dominated mom and pop stores in South Los Angeles, but “Korean-black conflict” no longer dominated the discussion on race relations in the area. Business ownership has become more diverse, with Latinos, Arabs, and Southeast Asians increasingly moving into South Los Angeles, which has also become less black and more Latino (“black flight”). Moreover, black-Latino tensions have become more acute in recent years.

As its legacy continues to evolve, the Los Angeles riots of 1992 will likely stand out as a watershed moment in the history of American race relations and Asian Americans. To close with an observation from Angela Oh, “For Korean Americans it was a blessing and a curse to be present at that particular moment in time and space for these realizations to surface. In some ways, Koreans were the emissaries for the rest of this nation to understand the significant change that had occurred in many of the large urban centers around the country.”56

Discussion of the Literature

The Los Angeles riots (also known as the Los Angeles civil uprising, Rodney King riots, and other variations thereof) have spawned a rich literature across several disciplines and interdisciplinary fields since the 1990s. The earliest writings, which were both scholarly and editorial, and published as the dust from the riots were still settling, focused largely on African American poverty and disfranchisement, black-white conflict, and the ravages of late-20th-century capitalism.57 On the heels of this initial spate of analysis emerged new scholarship that considered the place of Asians, mainly Koreans, in the uprising. While social scientists in fields such as sociology and anthropology took the lead in building this literature and, thus, framing much of the scholarly discussion about Koreans and the riots, the last few years have seen a notable shift, with new historical work and perspectives seeking to situate the significance of the riots—and the experiences of those affected by them—in the context of broad developments over the 20th century.

Social science research during the 1990s focusing on the experiences of Koreans during the riots tended to be concerned with questions regarding how they ended up in the line of fire, whether they were perpetrators or victims, and the causes of “Korean-black conflict.” This literature examines various facets of the lives of Korean immigrants leading up to the riots, including the circumstances that brought them to South Central, their struggles as business owners, and their relations with black customers. Because the scholarship was social science heavy, it also placed great emphasis on developing and testing theories.58 Importantly, the work coming out of this period renewed appreciation for existing scholarship in urban and immigration studies. Gaining particular attention was the work of Edna Bonacich and Ivan Light, who proposed the middleman minority thesis to explain the place of Korean merchants in Los Angeles.59 Offering a layered understanding of Korean immigrant experiences since the 1960s, they argued that Korean immigration and entrepreneurship should be understood within the broader struggle of working-class and poor blacks in the post-industrial city.

After this initial spate of sociological work, the topics and approaches pursued by scholars interested in the riots have diversified. First person, journalistic, and creative works produced in the wake of the uprising, in turn, influenced interventions in fields such as literary studies and media criticism.60 For example, Min Song’s 2005 book, Strange Future examined the ways in which the riots were significant as a “cultural-literary event.”61 Specifically, Song argues that the riots—vis-à-vis the numerous creative works produced about them—crystallized a narrative of national decline and social trauma particular to the late 20th century.

The scholarly literature has also shifted toward paying greater attention to the impact of the riots on Korean American individuals, communities, and subjectivities. The book Blue Dreams by anthropologists Nancy Abelmann and John Lie was pivotal in this regard.62 Not only did the authors place Koreans at the center, but also they situated their struggle in Los Angeles in a transnational context and analyzed the meanings of the riots for their history and identity. Also playing a crucial role in developing the scholarly literature on the impact of the riots on Koreans and Asian Americans were the editors of Amerasia, a journal published by the UCLA Asian American Studies Center. The journal devoted several issues to the riots and has published a large number of articles over the years examining different aspects of Korean American and Asian American life, history, and identity in relation to the riots.63 More recently, books such as Nadia Kim’s Imperial Citizens and Angie Chung’s Legacies of Struggle represent exciting advances in Korean American studies by taking on questions raised by the scholarship, such as the challenges of institution building, identity and racial politics, and intergroup relations.64

In the years following the riots, historians mainly sought to offer context and clarification, with particular care given to explaining why the populations affected were so diverse and why the 1992 uprising should not be interpreted as merely a replay of Watts. In an important intervention, George Sanchez argued in 1997 that the riots illustrated the rise of a “new nativism” in American life that was primarily directed at Asians and Latinos. “[At] its core,” he stated, “the Los Angeles riots provide stark evidence of the way in which immigrants provided the perfect scapegoat for American populations frustrated with developments in their society.”65 Important to people’s overall understanding, Sanchez asserted, was that the riots occurred against the backdrop of the dissemination of newly published new anti-immigrant books and rising anti-immigrant sentiment in California, seen, for instance, in the movement to pass restrictive legislation that culminated in Proposition 187 in 1994.

After a relative lull in scholarly production, a recent revival of interest promises to bring new interpretations and understandings to the riots and their significance in Asian America. Give that more than 20 years have passed since the uprising, historians and other scholars are revisiting the events of 1992, less as an illustration of the current moment than as a salient historical episode in its own right. The editors of Amerasia Journal published a twenty-year anniversary issue in which several Korean American scholars reflected upon the events and reaffirmed their status in marking a turning point, both personally and collectively. Historian Brenda Stevenson’s book, The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins, takes a comparative and intersectional approach to analyzing the pivotal Harlins-Du episode as a precursor to the riots.66 Shifting our view back to the origins and causes of the riots, while considering the ways in which immigration, race, and gender intersected both in the altercation and trial as well as in the broader social fabric of Los Angeles, Stevenson’s book represents an innovation in the scholarship on the Los Angeles riots and may signal a new stage in historical inquiry that situates Asian immigration and Asian people at the center of some of the most significant developments in American racial and ethnic relations during the late 20th century.

Primary Sources

An array of primary sources exist that shed light on Asian American experiences before, during, and after the Los Angeles riots. Because the riots occurred relatively recently and were widely covered by the media, many of these materials are easily accessible via online sources.

With regard to media coverage, newspapers, magazines, and other printed media constitute a rich base of material that can provide researchers a sense of how the riots were covered, the attention that was paid to Korean Americans, and the points of view of Asian American leaders and spokespersons. Major national newspapers such as the Los Angeles Times and New York Times covered the riots as well as ran articles focusing on the history of Koreans in Los Angeles and their struggles to move on. These can usually be accessed via databases such as Proquest Historical Newspapers and Lexis-Nexis. In addition, perspectives from the ethnic media, by way of publications such as the Los Angeles Sentinel, a black newspaper serving Los Angeles, and the Korea Times, the largest bilingual Korean newspaper in Los Angeles, can be found via Proquest.

Also readily accessible are various firsthand accounts and memoirs, which can be valuable for insights they provide on Korean American perspectives and experiences. Unfortunately, these sources are few in number. Angela Oh’s Open: One Woman’s Journey (2002) is an autobiography about a Korean American from Los Angeles who witnessed the riots and emerged to prominence as a spokesperson for the ethnic community. East to America, a compilation of Korean American life histories published in 1996, contains several accounts by individuals who lived through the riots and their aftermath. Documentaries have also served as an important format for Korean American representation and expression with regard to the riots and Korean American identity. Especially notable in this regard are Another America (1996) and Sa-I-Gu (1992). The former, by Michael Cho, explores urban violence and Korean-black relations against his own family’s experience. The latter, produced by Dai Sil Kim-Gibson, Christine Choy, and Elaine Kim, sheds light on the riots from the perspective of Korean immigrant women.

In terms of manuscript collections, the amount of available material is also small but growing. Much of the manuscript material about Koreans in the Los Angeles riots can be found in collections relating to the history of Los Angeles. At Loyola Marymount University, the Rebuild LA Papers shed light on the role of Koreans in city efforts as well as the challenges that business owners faced in obtaining assistance to rebuild. Collections of former government officials who represented Koreans in Los Angeles give a sense of the community’s main concerns and relationship to city leaders and agencies. Here the David Roberti Papers at Loyola Marymount, Tom Bradley Papers at UCLA, and Kenneth Hahn Papers at the Huntington Library are important. With regard to Korean American activism in the wake of the riots, the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research in Los Angeles holds the papers of the Korean Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA), which is a good place to start.

Further Reading

Abelmann, Nancy, and John Lie. Blue Dreams: Korean Americans and the Los Angeles Riots. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997.Find this resource:

Abu-Lughod, Janet L.Race, Space, and Riots in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012.Find this resource:

Afary, Kamran. Performance and Activism: Grassroots Discourse after the Los Angeles Rebellion of 1992. Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2009.Find this resource:

Alan-Williams, Gregory. A Gathering of Heroes: Reflections on Rage and Responsibility. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2005.Find this resource:

Baldassare, Mark, ed. The Los Angeles Riots: Lessons for the Urban Future. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1994.Find this resource:

Cannon, Lou. Official Negligence, How Rodney King and the Riots Changed Los Angeles and the LAPD. New York: Basic Books, 1999.Find this resource:

Castuera, Ignacio, ed. Dreams on Fire, Embers of Hope: From the Pulpits of Los Angeles after the Riots. Saint Louis, MO: Chalice Press, 1992.Find this resource:

Chang, Edward. “‘As Los Angeles Burned, Korean America Was Born’: Community in the Twenty-First Century.” Amerasia Journal 30.1 (2004): vii–ix.Find this resource:

Chang, Edward T., and Russell C. Leong, eds. Los Angeles: Struggles toward Multiethnic Community. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994.Find this resource:

Chung, Angie Y.Legacies of Struggle: Conflict and Cooperation in Korean American Politics. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007.Find this resource:

Cohen, Nathan, ed. The Los Angeles Riots: A Socio-psychological Study. New York: Praeger, 1970.Find this resource:

Davis, Mike. “The Rebellion That Rocked a Superpower.” Socialist Review 152 (June 1992): 8–9.Find this resource:

Freer, Regina. “Black-Korean Conflict.” In The Los Angeles Riots: Lessons for the Urban Future, edited by Mark Baldassare, 175–204. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1994.Find this resource:

Gooding-Williams, Robert. Reading Rodney King/Reading Urban Uprising. New York: Routledge, 1993.Find this resource:

Hunt, Darnell, and David Yoo, eds. “Los Angeles since 1992: Commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the Uprisings.” Special Issue, Amerasia Journal 38.1 (Spring 2012).Find this resource:

Institute for Alternative Journalism. Inside the L.A. Riots: What Really Happened, and Why It Will Happen Again. New York: Institute for Alternative Journalism, 1992.Find this resource:

Kim, Kwang Chung, and Shin Kim. “The Multiracial Nature of Los Angeles Unrest in 1992.” In Koreans in the Hood: Conflict with African Americans. Edited by Kwang Chung Kim, 17–38. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999.Find this resource:

Kim, Shin. “Political Economy of Korean-African American Conflict.” In Korean Americans: Conflict and Harmony. Edited by Ho-Youn Kwon. Chicago: North Park College and Theological Seminary, 1994.Find this resource:

Kim-Gibson, Dai Sil, dir. Sa-I-Gu. DVD. San Francisco: CrossCurrent Media, 1993.Find this resource:

Korean American Inter-Agency Council (KAIAC). Korean American Inter-Agency Council Announces Results of a Comprehensive Survey Assessing Situation of Korean American Victims Ten Months after the LA Riots. Unpublished report. Los Angeles: Korean American Inter-Agency Council, 1993.Find this resource:

Los Angeles Times. Understanding the Riots: Los Angeles before and after the Rodney King Case. Los Angeles: Los Angeles Times Syndicate Books, 1996.Find this resource:

Madhubuti, Haki R., ed. Why L.A. Happened: Implications of the ’92 Los Angeles Rebellion. Chicago: Third World Press, 1993.Find this resource:

Marable, Manning. Beyond Black and White: Transforming African American Politics. New York: Verso, 1995. Retrieved on May 07, 2014 from http://www.faculty.umb.edu/lawrence_blum/courses/318_11/readings/marable_beyond_racial_id.pdfFind this resource:

Min, Pyong Gap. Caught in the Middle: Korean Communities in New York and Los Angeles. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.Find this resource:

Ong, Paul M., and Suzanne Hee. Losses in the Los Angeles Civil Unrest, April 29–May 1, 1992: Lists of the Damaged Properties and Korean Merchants and the L. A. Riot Rebellion. Los Angeles: University of California at Los Angeles, 1993.Find this resource:

Rivas, Jorge. “Two Decades Later, Children of the L.A. Riots Share Memories.” Retrieved on May 07, 2014 from http://colorlines.com/archives/2012/04/two_decades_later_young_voices_on_the_la_riots.html.

Sanchez, George J. “Face the Nation: Race, Immigration, and the Rise of Nativism in Late Twentieth Century America.” International Migration Review 31.4 (Winter 1997): 1009–1030.Find this resource:

Smith, Deveare. Twilight—Los Angeles, 1992. New York: Dramatists Play Service, 2003.Find this resource:

Sonenshein, Raphael. Politics in Black and White: Race and Power in Los Angeles. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1993.Find this resource:

Song, Min Hyoung. Strange Future: Pessimism and the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005.Find this resource:

Stevenson, Brenda. The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins: Justice, Gender, and the Origins of the L.A. Riots. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.Find this resource:

Wall, Brenda. The Rodney King Rebellion: A Psychopolitical Analysis of Racial Despair and Hope. Chicago: African American Images, 1997.Find this resource:

Yu, Eui-Young. Black-Korean Encounter: Toward Understanding and Alliance. Los Angeles: California State University Press, 1994.Find this resource:

Notes:

(1.) The officers were Stacey Koon, Laurence Powell, Timothy Wind, and Theodore Briseno.

(2.) Brenda Stevenson, The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins: Justice, Gender, and the Origins of the LA Riots (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), xvii.

(3.) Harold Johnson, “The Fire this Time,” The National Review May 25, 1992, 17.

(5.) Ibid., 18.

(6.) Michael Wines, “Riots in Los Angeles: The President, White House Links Riots to Welfare,” New York Times, May 5, 1992.

(7.) Eugene Methvin, “How to Hold a Riot,” TheNational Review, June 8, 1992, 32.

(8.) Stevenson, Contested Murder, xvii.

(9.) A. T. Callinicos, “Meaning of Los Angeles Riots,” Economic and Political Weekly 27.30 (July 25, 1992): 1605.

(11.) Betty Sutton, “A Tale of Two Riots,” Los Angeles Sentinel, May 13, 1992, A-1.

(13.) Stevenson, Contested Murder, xviii.

(14.) Helen Zia, Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People (New York: Macmillan, 2001), 173.

(15.) Among Koreans in America, kye refers to ethnic rotating credit associations used to finance businesses. Originating in Korea and appearing in the U.S. West Coast and Hawaii as early as 1903, these organizations allowed for the establishment and success of many Korean-owned businesses after 1965. In the 1970s and 1980s kye pools could be as large as several hundred thousand dollars, or even a few million. See Kyeyoung Park, The Korean American Dream: Immigrants and Small Business in New York City (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1997), 58–60.

(16.) Kyeyoung Park, “Use and Abuse of Race and Culture: Black-Korean Tension in America,” in Koreans in the Hood, Koreans in the Hood: Conflict with African Americans, edited by Kwang Chung Kim, 64 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, Press, 1999).

(17.) Zia, Asian-American Dreams, 173.

(18.) Ibid., 174.

(20.) Ibid., 179.

(21.) Ibid., 177.

(22.) Ibid., 178.

(24.) The liquor manufacturer persuaded him to apologize. Ibid., 177.

(25.) Ibid., 175.

(26.) Ibid., 180.

(27.) Ibid., 182.

(28.) Ibid., 172.

(29.) Edward T. Chang, “Korean American Community Coalesces,” Los Angeles Times, April 29, 2012.

(30.) Kwang Chung Kim and Shin Kim. “The Multiracial Nature of Los Angeles Unrest in 1992,” in Koreans in the Hood: Conflict with African Americans, edited by Kwang Chung Kim, 34 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1999).

(31.) Robert Reinhold, “Riots in Los Angeles,” Los Angeles Times, May 5, 1992.

(32.) Seth Mydans, “A Target of Rioters, Koreatown Is Bitter, Armed, and Determined,” New York Times, May 3, 1992, 2.

(33.) An analysis of this photograph can be found in David Palumbo-Liu, Asian/America: Historical Crossings of a Racial Frontier (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999), 183–186.

(34.) Mydans, “A Target of Rioters, Koreatown Is Bitter, Armed, and Determined,” 2.

(35.) Kim and Kim, “The Multiracial Nature of Los Angeles Unrest in 1992,” 26.

(38.) Ibid., 27.

(39.) Ibid., 28.

(40.) Cornel West, “Learning to Talk of Race,” New York Times, August 2, 1992, SM24.

(41.) George J. Sanchez, “Face the Nation: Race, Immigration, and the Rise of Nativism in Late Twentieth Century America,” International Migration Review 31.4 (Winter 1997): 1011.

(42.) Edward Chang, “‘As Los Angeles Burned, Korean America Was Born’: Community in the Twenty-First Century,” Amerasia Journal 30.1 (2004): xvii.

(43.) Taeku Lee, “Riot, Remembrance, and Rebuilding: Some Longer Term Aftereffects of Sa-I-Gu, Amerasia Journal 38.1 (Spring 2012): 39–40.

(44.) Angela Oh, Open: One Woman’s Journey (Los Angeles: UCLA Asian American Studies Center, 2002), 16.

(45.) Edward Park, “Competing Visions: Political Formation of Korean Americans, 1992–1997,” Amerasia Journal 24.1 (1998): 44.

(46.) Lee, “Riot, Remembrance, and Rebuilding,” 40.

(47.) Park, “Competing Visions,” 47.

(48.) Ibid., 54.

(49.) Ibid., 51.

(50.) Ibid., 46.

(51.) Edward Taehan Chang, “Remembering Saigu,” Amerasia Journal 38.1 (2012): 32.

(52.) Kim and Kim, “The Multiracial Nature of Los Angeles Unrest in 1992,” 32.

(53.) Oh, Open: One Woman’s Journey, 15.

(54.) Ibid., 16.

(55.) Ibid., 17.

(56.) Ibid., 34.

(57.) Mike Davis, “The Rebellion That Rocked a Superpower,” Socialist Review, June, 1992, 8–9; A. T. Callinicos, “Meaning of Los Angeles Riots,” Economic and Political Weekly 26.30 (July 25, 1992): 1603–1606.

(58.) Edward T. Chang. “New Urban Crisis: Korean-African American Relations,” in Kim, Koreans in the Hood: 39–59; Kyeyoung Park, “Use and Abuse of Race and Culture: Black-Korean Tension in America,” in Kim, Koreans in the Hood, 60–74.

(59.) Edna Bonacich and Ivan Light, Immigrant Entrepreneurs: Koreans in Los Angeles, 1965–1982 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991).

(60.) Oh, Open: One Woman’s Journey; Anna Deveare Smith, Twilight—Los Angeles, 1992 (New York: Dramatists Play Service, 2003).

(61.) Min Hyoung Song, Strange Future: Pessimism and the Los Angeles Riots (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005).

(62.) Nancy Abelmann and Joh Lie, Blue Dreams: Korean Americans and the Los Angeles Riots (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997).

(63.) Content from a 1993 issue was republished as Edward T. Chang and Russell C. Leong, eds., Los Angeles: Struggles toward Multiethnic Community (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1994); Daryl Hunt and David Yoo, eds., “Los Angeles since 1992: Commemorating the 20th Anniversary of the Uprisings,” Special issue, Amerasia Journal 38.1 (Spring 2012).

(64.) Nadia Kim, Imperial Citizens: Koreans and Race from Seoul to LA (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2008); Angie Chung, Legacies of Struggle: Conflict and Cooperation in Korean American Politics (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2007).

(65.) George J. Sanchez, “Face the Nation: Race, Immigration, and the Rise of Nativism in Late Twentieth Century America,” International Migration Review 31.4 (Winter 1997): 1011.

(66.) Brenda Stevenson, The Contested Murder of Latasha Harlins: Justice, Gender, and the Origins of the LA Riots (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013).