Letters to the Editor: How white racism played a big role in Black-Korean tension during the 1992 riots


To the editor: I congratulate Frank Shyong for his column presenting a balanced and nuanced picture of Black-Korean tension 30 years after the 1992 Los Angeles riots. I can see he is paying attention to what members of the Korean American community are saying.

Shyong wrote that the Black-Korean conflict “was a palatable narrative of racial conflict in which white racism was not directly implicated.” As I wrote in my 1996 academic journal article, based on my research in South L.A., my African American interviewees hinted that white racism did play a critical role in the Black-Korean tension.

Take for, example, the fact that Korean grocer Soon Ja Du, who killed Latasha Harlins, received no prison sentence from a white judge. Also, the four white Los Angeles Police Department officers who beat Rodney King were acquitted. My interviewees did not feel any tension until they heard about the verdicts.


We can talk also about white racism in media, financial institutions, educational settings, government and the criminal justice system, which all contributed to developing Black-Korean tension. At the same time, what I call subaltern racism, such as anti-Black and anti-Asian racism, also contributed to the tension. Equally important, class conflict and the politics of citizenship contributed.

Kyeyoung Park, Los Angeles

The writer is a professor of anthropology and Asian American studies at UCLA.


To the editor: In the spring of 1992, I was serving as music supervisor on the film “The Last of the Mohicans.” On April 29, as I was conducting the 93-piece orchestra at 20th Century Fox Studios, I was approached at the podium by a man wearing a maintenance uniform, who apologized for the interruption and said that we would have to stop recording and depart the premises.

Rioting had erupted downtown in response to the acquittal of four LAPD officers who had viciously beat Rodney King. In response to the rioting, the California National Guard was deployed to both 20th Century Fox and Paramount Studios, the two closest large-lot areas that were gated.

As ordered, we abandoned the studio for our individual homes, where for the next several days we watched on television as our city thrashed and burned.


A full 30 years later, we remain a populace divided by economics and color, and we wonder whether a community of justice and comity will ever evolve into existence.

Daniel Carlin, Lake Arrowhead