Two Koreans faced armed rioters twenty-five years ago and lived to tell the tale of some of the most well-known Rodney King Riot footage.
Nearly twenty-five years ago, Los Angeles’ Koreatown was hit the hardest out of all other communities by the Rodney King Riots. These riots began after four officers of the Los Angeles Police Department were acquitted for the use of excessive force in the videotaped arrest and beating of Rodney King. The Rodney King Riots are often referred to as Sa-I-Gu, or four-two-nine, by Korean-Americans because the rioting began on April 29, 1992.
As the rioting began to affect Koreatown, Korean-language radio shows called for volunteers to help protect the community from rioters and Koreans poured out to Koreatown to help in any way possible.
In these riots, many Korean store owners protected their storefronts. Among these Korean store owners and protectors were David Joo and Richard Park. At the time of the riots David Joo, former manager of Western Gun Shop, received a phone call from Richard Park, his employer. In this phone call, Park asked Joo to come to the jewelry store he owned to help him protect it from looters.
When Joo arrived, the LAPD were already on the scene, but, “as soon as the gun fighting started, they ran away,” said Joo. Together, Richard Park and David Joo fended off gangbangers intending to loot their stores.
“Even though you are scared, you don’t have much [of an] option. You have to fight.”
— David Joo
The damage caused in Koreatown comprised nearly 45% of the total damage in the riots. Approximately 2,300 storefronts were looted and 730 Koreans were treated for post-traumatic stress by the Asian and Pacific American Counseling and Prevention Center.
Despite the devastation caused by the riots, Los Angeles’ Koreatown is now one of the most densely populated neighborhoods and popular to boot. The riots also led to the formation of the Association of Korean-American Victims and increased efforts to build connections to other minorities in the area.
Watch the famous footage of these two brave Korean men defending their store against looters below: