In gestures that could ease ethnic tensions, a Korean-owned radio station Friday donated food and clothing to a black church, while sponsors of the Kingdom Day Parade named black and Korean co-chairs for the annual event honoring Martin Luther King Jr.
The efforts came at the end of a year that has seen relations between blacks and Korean-Americans deteriorate and community groups begin work to defuse potential trouble.
"The idea was to help our neighbors," said Richard Choi, director of Radio Korea in Los Angeles. "This is a little help to resolve (the) problem."
The radio station delivered 1,300 cases of noodle soup, more than 100 bags of rice and stacks of clothing to the Greater True Light Missionary Baptist Church near USC. Workers from the station and the church joined to unload two trucks full of supplies, most of which will be distributed to Skid Row families, said the Rev. Clarence Walker, pastor of Greater True Light.
Walker said he hoped that the donations would be the first step in a long-term cooperative relationship for blacks and Korean-Americans in the area.
"We are trying to bridge the gap between blacks and Koreans," he said. "We need to come together. . . . I think this will give us a change, not only to bridge the gap, but this might help eliminate the communication problem. This could help us communicate and work and function together."
Meanwhile, a few blocks away and at about the same time, sponsors of the Kingdom Day Parade called a news conference to name a Korean tae kwon do master and a black brigadier general in the state military reserves to serve as co-chairmen of the event.
The parade, a 7-year-old event in Los Angeles, is scheduled to wind its way through the Crenshaw district and other parts of south Los Angeles next month in honor of the slain civil rights leader. It takes place on King's birthday, Jan. 20.
Parade organizer Larry Grant announced that Tong Suk Chun, a grand master in tae kwon do, and Brig. Gen. Celes King III, the highest-ranking black in the state military reserves and a prominent bail bondsman, will chair the parade. Joseph Dyer, director of community affairs for KCBS-TV, is the grand marshal.
Grant tried to downplay the notion that the appointments were meant to address problems between blacks and Koreans, saying that 500 Korean nationals participated in last year's parade. Nevertheless, the symbolism was lost on no one.
"If you look at the composition of the parade, this is what Dr. King symbolized: blacks, Koreans, Hispanics, Native Americans, whites," Dyer said.