1998 - Present
The 1992 L.A. riot that started from the south central district in L.A. heavily populated by blacks and rapidly spread to the Korean town, left 57 killed and 2,500 injured in 5days. More than five thousand fires erupted, rendering the riot stricken area like a battlefield. Fifteen years after the L.A. riot, we witness the Virginia Tech massacre this year as the wound from the L.A. riot is still fresh in the hearts of Korean-Americans. When the gunman of the Virginia Tech shooting was named, the Korean-Americans, the Korean community in L.A. responded immediately.
They held emergency meetings and mourned the tragic deaths of the victims in candlelight vigils and services. They were worried if the incident might lead to another L.A. rioting. The Korean government also responded more promptly that it normally would with diplomatic matters some American media ridiculed the Korean government and the Korean community in American for overreacting, saying no one would blame the Koreans for the shooting committed by some lunatic who happened to be Korean.However, the Korean government and the Korean community in America had very practical reasons to respond as they did. In 1992, Korean-Americans in L.A. lost everything that they built so hard over night. Also the Korean government’s reaction reflected the state of relationship between Korean and the U.S. under “the R.O.K-U.S. alliance.”
The Korean-American story goes back to 1903 when hundreds of Koreans set sail from In-chon port for a better life in Hawaii as advertised. What they found in Hawaii, however, was a life that was harder than ever. Present Korean-Americans are descendents of the Korean immigrants who set foot on Hawaii for the first time removed by three to four generations. The early generations of Korean-Americans spread to the west and east parts of America to form a minority of approximately 2-million population today. It is not difficult to find a Korea-American working in every corner of the American society. From 2002 I have been interviewing Korea-American who have settled in America. I’ve found there is more to their lives than meets the eye. Their life stories and family histories resemble the history of contradiction of modern Korea, as illustrated by the recent incident where the Korean government and people alike scrambled to apologize for a crime committed by one individual. Koreans were forced to move to the world stage in the 20th century. The Korean-Americans’ stories provide an insight into or a basis of the contemporary history of Korea. I listen to them and record them, drawing parallels with Kosians who are struggling to settle in the Korean society.