I was casually watching the NBC Today Show when, suddenly, images of African Americans shouting “Go home! Go home!” at a middle-aged Asian man standing inside a store appeared. The anchor, Lucky Severson, reported that the Korean-owned store, “Family Apple Grocery Market,” was being boycotted by the black community. It was April 1, 1990, some 23 years ago, an event that spread to several more Korean grocery stores in Brooklyn and lasted until January 1991, when the owner of the store sold it to another Korean.
Even more dramatic pictures appeared exactly two years later, during the week of the LA Riots in April 1992. The image of two young Korean men holding rifles on the roof of a store, trying desperately to ward off looters, is ingrained in my mind. About 2,300 Korean-owned stores were destroyed during the riots. Korean merchants absorbed about 40% of total riot damages. Due to their language barrier and lack of political power, Korean merchants did not receive protection from law enforcement agencies, and Korean victims received little compensation from government agencies.