S-Space Researcher Institutes (연구소) American Studies Institute (미국학연구소) 미국학 미국학 Volume 35 Number 1/2 (2012)
Confronting Sa-i-gu: Twenty Years after the Los Angeles Riots
- Chang, Edward Taehan
- Issue Date
- 서울대학교 미국학연구소
- 미국학, Vol.35 No.2, pp. 1-27
- Twenty years ago on April 29, 1992, Los Angeles erupted and Koreatown cried as it burned. For six-days, the LAPD was missing in action as rioting, looting, burning, and killing devastated the city. In the Korean American community, the Los Angeles riots are remembered as Sa-i-gu (April 29 in Korean). Korean Americans suffered disproportionately high economic losses as 2,300 Korean American businesses were looted or burned and suffered $400 million in property damages. Without any political clout and power in the city, Koreatown was unprotected and left to burn since it was not a priority for city politicians and the LAPD.
As we commemorate the twentieth anniversary of Sa-i-gu, we still disagree on how to name what happened on April 29, 1992. Was it a riot? An uprising? A civil unrest or rebellion? During the LA riots of 1992, Korean immigrant-owned stores were targeted by African American rioters. The so called “Korean-African-American conflict” emerged as a visible and urgent urban problem during the 1980s and the early 1990s. This symbolizes that Los Angeles is a divided city that is still “separate and unequal.”Sa-i-gu served as an impetus for fundamental changes in Korean American identity and provided guidance for the future direction of the community. Many observers commented that the “Korean American was born or reborn on April 29, 1992.” The Korean American community also began to reevaluate their own economic, cultural, and political positions in America. What does it mean to be Korean American in multiethnic and multiracial America? The Korean American community has come a long way as it continues to become part of the multiethnic and multiracial city of Los Angeles and beyond. The purpose of this paper is to revisit the LA riots of 1992 and analyze how the Korean American community has changed and implemented lessons they learned since 1992. What happened and how was the Korean American community affected by the LA riots of 1992? What lessons have Korean Americans learned from it? How has the Korean American community changed since 1992? What has changed? What has not changed? What is the future direction of the Korean American community twenty years after the riots? These are some of questions that this paper intends to discuss and address.
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