“Sa-I-Gu” is what the Korean-American community in Los Angeles calls the event that most of us know as “The L.A. Riots.”
The Korean term literally translates to “4-2-9,” which represents the day in 1992, April 29, that a jury acquitted the four Los Angeles Police Department officers who were caught beating Rodney King on camera following a high-speed pursuit.
During the riots that followed the acquittal, many Koreans throughout the Los Angeles area rushed to Koreatown after Korean-language radio stations called for volunteers to guard against rioters. Many of the Korean responders were armed with guns and improvised weapons. In the end, five Korean merchants were killed, others were wounded, and several stores were looted.
After the riots, accusations of the LAPD neglecting to protect Koreatown during the conflict surfaced and many of those who suffered as a result of riot violence feel the city of Los Angeles never repaired relations with the Korean community.
Were you in Koreatown during the L.A. riots? Twenty years later, is there still a stigmatic disconnect between the Korean community and the city of Los Angeles?
Carol Park, researcher at the Young Oak Kim Center for Korean American Studies, UC Riverside; she grew up in Los Angeles County and her parents owned a business in Compton during the riots; she’s currently working on a documentary and book about the Korean American experience during the riots
Stewart Kwoh, president and executive director, Asian Pacific American Legal Center of Southern California; he’s also a Southern California Public Radio board member