Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Korean Americans: Burning

Korean Americans: Burning

By Travis J Tweet

Instructor: Dr. Mari Kim

Class: Modern Christian Theology

Korean Americans: Burning

     Did you ever wonder about the history of the Korean Americans that stood up to the angry mobs in the L.A. Riots? How did they get to the point of pulling out their weapons to defend their livelihoods and homes? Koreans have had a long standing history of fighting back in Korea and America. Before reaching our shores they suffered from Japanese colonization of the Morning Calm, Korea.

     In Korea during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, Japan was slowly pushing into Korea. Japanese Imperialism was known to be cruel and oppressive. The Koreans were persecuted and at most times the youth were taken to jail. Due to a wide scale of harsh treatment many people filed for immigration status to go work in Hawaii on the plantations (1). The Japanese military government at the time was allowing them to go as migrant workers. For most that was the only option besides fighting for their country. There were many Koreans who were rallying around each other to stand up against the Japanese oppressors. People were involved with the March First Movement. They handed out copies of the Korean’s Declaration of Independence as well as Korean flags. This agitated the Japanese and they began beating and killing thousands of Koreans. Some of the people were jailed first then executed (2). Besides cruel treatment from the Japanese, Koreans were suffering from poverty.

     Many Koreans departed Korea due to starvation and poverty. Korea had been suffering from famine and drought. The severe lack of rain and Japanese cruelty made life on a plantation look wonderful. Rather than endure the bad treatment and famine, many Koreans packed their bags and headed for Hawaii. Many of these migrants thought that they were leaving for a short time and that they would eventually be coming back home. With promises from Christian missionaries, the people were expecting a land of ease in America. Many of the Korean’s Christian white brothers told them that America was a land of plenty and that it was the “Promise Land”. Due to the struggles going on in Korea, the Koreans were more open to Christian influences. “In 1907 a series of revival meetings across the peninsula that year stimulated a rapid growth in membership in Protestant churches.” (Korean Spirituality, 71). There was much trust put into these missionaries’ words. Life across the ocean would show differently.

     To the white missionaries’ life was good for them in America. When they told the Koreans about the goodness of America, they were referring back to their experiences without considering how life would be for a migrant. A missionary’s life in America would be one of privilege, ease, and safety. For a Korean migrant life would be fraught with unjust labor laws, harsh plantation work, a restricted life, and ethnocentricism rivaling the Japanese colonists. In 1903 C.M. Cook was quoted as receiving the first group of Koreans. “We have just received about fifty laborers and their families from Korea. As the people in their starving condition we hope that we shall be able to get a number of them as they seem to be just what our plantation needs.” (Strangers from a Different Shore, 55)

     Many migrant Koreans found life on the plantations tough. They worked long hours, and they received lower wages than their Asian counterparts. Due to hard times in Hawaii many Koreans began leaving for the mainland. Again they would face hardship. When they reached the mainland some of the Koreans went their separate ways. Some went to Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming to mine, others went to Arizona to work on the railroads, and some went to Alaska to work in the salmon fisheries. A few dispersed, but the majority stayed in California. At this time only twelve hundred Koreans were in America and out of that eight hundred stayed in California. The population of Koreans in America was small. They did not have enough people to form their own town like Chinatown and Japantown. They did not have the man power nor economic solidarity to form their own stable society. The Korean migrants could not make a community of their own, and they were ostracized from the other communities because they provided a threat to wages. Their only form of society came from their high level of loyalty to Korea. Compared to the other groups, the Koreans had a deeper connection back to their homeland. Most of the other ethnic enclaves had put their old country in rear view mirror, yet the Koreans seem to put it in front of them as a destination. Because of the colonization of Korea by Japan, many of the Koreans came together because of their intense pride of being Koreans. Not having their own community center was just one of the obstacles that they would face and conquer. They also dealt with forms of racism. White people often called them “Japs” and disallowed them from certain shops and barbers. They were told that their “Japanese trade” was not welcome (3). They could not rent nice houses, only the junk places were available to them. Public recreations and restaurants refused to serve them, and they were antagonized by wage wars and work competition with the white farming community. All this ethnic abuse was given because the white community thought the Koreans were Japanese. You could imagine the frustration of being called Japanese. They were put in the same boat with their enemies, family murderers, and jail keepers. Their intense nationalistic pride had to suffer if they wanted to continue “sojourning” in America. The Koreans had to learn to not care what they were called by others. “During the first few days of school life, children would call me ‘Jap’. I would protest and sometimes resort to fists, but the most effective means would be total indifference.” (Strangers from a Different Shore, 271) Fighting and indifference seemed to be the only paths open to the Koreans (4). Korean farm workers were often molested by white people while they were working on the farms. Stones and verbal assaults were thrown at them throughout the day. Because the migrant workers were willing to work for lower wages the white workers became frustrated with the competition. The farms provided many challenges within themselves. There was no health care if they happened to get hurt on the job, nor were they given fair wages. The fields provided dangers such as: poisonous snakes and insects, severe back pain from bending over all day, and dehydration. If they became sick they were not allowed sick leave, and if a day was missed they were assumed to be lazy and would be fired. Because of low wages the Koreans depended on their “sojourner” attitude. America was not their home, and they were just passing through. This is how they treated their work on the farms. Once a field was picked they would move on to the next field carrying everything they owned on their back. Times were hard for them, but they helped each other through (5). Koreans did not just receive social abuse. They were structurally attacked by the governments on a state and federal level.

     Laws were passed to limit Koreans in America. The Asiatic Exclusion League was a white group that claimed that Koreans and Japanese immigrants were undesirable and that the Chinese Exclusion Act should be extended to them. In 1906 San Francisco’s Board of Education enacted a segregation order to keep Japanese and Koreans in separate schools, away from the white children. In 1907 President T. Roosevelt stopped all immigration of Japanese and in Koreans in Hawaii from coming to the mainland. Continuing with the structural racism, The Alien Land Act of 1913 kept Koreans from owning land, and it limited their ability to lease land. This act also kept them from being naturalized citizens. Many states soon followed California’s example and prohibited land ownership to Koreans. The Koreans did not accept this legislation, and they found ways to circumvent the law. To own property they would put the land under the names of their children that were born in America. Even those who served in the U.S. Armed Forces were not given citizenship. Another issue that the Koreans faced when they came over here was that there were very few Korean women on the mainland. Of the one thousand and fifteen Koreans in 1905 in America, only forty-five were women. There was no way for them to build families in America due to the immigration laws. The legislation was a form of populace control. With no way to build families it became very hard for a Korean enclave to grow and become stable. Because of the hard life of farming and wandering, there began a movement within the Korean group towards the cities. They became waiters, landscapers, janitors, and domestic workers. Qualified and intelligent Korean men were kept from higher paying jobs. “America was not a free country…Everybody did not enjoy liberty.” (Strangers from a Different Shore, 273)

     In the face of adversity, many Koreans found ways to prosper even within the confines of structural discrimination. In the agriculture arena Kim Hyung-soon developed a very successful business with his partner Kim Ho. They formed the corporation of “Kim Brothers”. They started at fruit wholesale and then expanded to large orchards. These gentlemen developed the nectarine. Outside the realm of farming success, Koreans delved deeply into the hotel business. The reason for their success was attributed to the labor contractors. They would provide a place for the migrants to stay and would find work for them. Barber shops and laundry mats were also successful. To side step the racism that was keeping the Koreans down, they began their own small businesses. This was the beginning to the Koreans being view as the “Model Minority”.

     The Koreans began experiencing economic success. Their accomplishments put wedge between them and other minorities, a wedge that was helped along by the white community. Koreans began to see themselves as better than the other minorities, because they were becoming more westernized (6). Their adherence to Christianity and American culture set them apart from the other Asian cultures in America. Even though they were beginning to have success, they did not commit themselves to becoming American. Their philosophy was more along the lines of “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. Their purpose and their drive was to free Korea from Japan. The first generation of Koreans who came over during that first decade in the 20th century were still strongly attached to their home in Korea. For some the attachment was their wives and kids that they left back in Korea. Others their connection back home was just purely nationalistic pride.

     “Korea is dead and no person is as sad as the person without a country.” (Strangers from a Different Shore, 278) As a result of nationalistic pride, The Korean National Association was formed. Their mission was to free Korea from Japanese oppression. They called for a complete stop to all Korean-Japanese interaction in the states. Mourning over Korea became a rally point for the Koreans in America. Business men donated more of their profits for freeing Korea. Even the successful Kim Hyung-soon kept his national pride. The Korean community worked in the fields and in their small businesses so that they could give more money to the cause of liberating Korea. The Korean National Association was not only there to free Korea, but they also were in existence to help Koreans buy property and thrive in America. The migrants found a purpose and a community in their fight to free Korea. The Korean Christian church provided a community for religious and political ideals to grow and spread among the Koreans in America. Preachers in the churches were often presidents of The Korean National Association. Church on Sundays often consisted of worship, socialization, and political debate over the Japanese occupation of Korea. The churches became a place to educate the Koreans on nationalistic ideals. These ideas were the foundation of Korean community in America. It gave them solidarity, a sojourner mindset, and a will to fight back.

     The early trials of Koreans in America built them into who they were at the end of the 20th century. It helped define the actions they committed in the L.A. Riots. The Korean-Black rival did not start in the fires of riots. Leading up to the riots, Koreans and members of the black community were dealing with issues such as: Korean liquor stores in black neighborhoods, black members robbing Korean stores, Korean store owners shooting “suspicious” people, and black members killing Koreans. “The killing of fifteen-year-old Latasha Harling by a Korean merchant in March of 1991 highlighted the unmistakable distrust and animosity between the two groups.” (Los Angeles, 149) Later that year a nine-year-old Korean girl was killed by a black male. These two instances were not isolated. Killings, theft, and vandalism was happening on a routinely basis. Leaders from both groups called for an end of violence, voices that went unheard in the din of violence. “The so-called Black-Korean problem reflects the pent-up frustrations of both communities. And, it is a problem that goes well beyond Black and Koreans per se; its genesis is the racist history and structure of the country which fosters social economic inequality and leaves it to the victims to fashion solutions.” (Los Angeles, 150) Another problem that infuriated the black community was the injustice of rulings for the cases of violence. While black men were paying for crimes for murdering the Koreans, the Korean shop owners faced no charges in the shooting of Latasha. The injustice created a stronger hate between the communities. To understand more of the controversy we have to look at the statistics. “In a forty square-mile area in South Central, there are seventeen liquor outlets per square mile, compared to only 1.6 outlets per square mile in the rest of L.A. County.” (Los Angeles, 167) Due to an impoverished Korea, many Koreans were coming over to America to gain wealth and wait out the economic crisis that was happening in their homeland. “South Korea was one of the poorest 25 countries in the world.” (The Korean Developmental State, 1)

     The business skills of the Koreans found the highest market for a certain product and took advantage of a high demand for liquor. The Korean owned liquor stores became a sore issue for the leaders of the black community. They felt that liquor was bringing degradation to their communities. With the uncontrolled amounts of liquor readily available, abuse of alcohol was becoming rampant. The Koreans felt like they were providing a service to a community that was demanding it. They also gave to community by providing jobs, and they donated some of their profits for the improvement of the community. Some of the more radical members of the black community felt that the answer to the liquor stores was to vandalize and rob them. They were hoping that these tactics would scare out the store owners. Although the police were called often in Koreatown, there was no increase in patrols to protect the store owners. As they have done continuously throughout their history, the Korean Americans looked within their own community for solutions. Because of the attacks the Koreans began arming themselves to protect their livelihoods.

     April 29th, 1992, the black community in L.A. erupted. Rodney King’s abusers were let go without punishment. All the racial tensions and mistreatment over the last few years came to a boiling point. The largest, understated group of victims in the riots was the Korean Americans. As the violence unfolded and the smoke unfurled over the city, the National Guard and the police showed up to the scene. They cordoned off an area to keep the rioters from spreading to other parts of the city. There was a major problem with the cordon. It protected the white owned businesses, but it left Koreatown unprotected. The rioters saw the unprotected belly of Koreatown and attacked. The taste of vigilante justice was sweet in their mouth. This made some of the rioters feel vindicated for the injustices that had been occurring for the last few years. The violence that the Korean store owners had committed was finally being accounted for. Businesses were robbed, vandalized, and burned. The Korean Americans felt abandoned by both their countries, South Korea and America. Due to the estrangement the store owners again took matters into their own hands. Bands of Korean American store owners began patrolling in front of their stores with guns. Store owners who needed help would call into the Korean station and the Korean militia would come and aid them. “The liquor store owner Jay Shin ‘monitored his store from the mall’s parking lot, surrounded by men who were armed’… I’ve been in Vietnam, the Korean War, and I’ve owned a liquor in South Central L.A. … So I guess I’ve been in danger all my life.” (Blue Dreams, 20) In the Korean community they felt like that their struggles were inherited from the colonization of Korea and their early experiences in the U.S. Throughout their history they had to look within their own community to provide protection for themselves. This and their defiant attitudes in the face of adversary are inherited from their ancestors. This cruel fact added to Koreans not seeing America as their home. They still felt like sojourners. In the aftermath of the riots, Koreatown was a burnt skeleton compared to its former self.

     “Over 2000 Korean American businesses were damaged… representing close to $400 million in damage. An estimated 75 percent of liquor stores that were burned were owned by Korean Americans.” (Los Angeles, 168) The majority of the store owners were immigrants who came over in the 70’s and 80’s. All their savings and livelihoods were built up in their smoldering stores. The bad state of the economy had forced them to build these small businesses. They found it hard to enter into the job market because their poor level of efficiency in English. These first generation Koreans built their stores in Koreatown, reinforcing the nationalism that already thrived in the area.

     After the riots many Korean Americans felt abandoned by the U.S. They received no protection from the government. No money was sent to help rebuild the stores. This strengthened the Korean nationalistic feelings, for a short while. Korean flags were even flown right after the riots, until they found out that the President of the United States was coming through. The strong feelings of patriotism for Korea would soon come to an end. South Korean Presidential candidates came showed up in South Central. They were trying to win votes and support back in Korea. Their tactic was obvious that the Korean Americans became angry at the apparent use of their bad situation. Their nationalistic feelings came to an end. The Koreans were ending their diaspora. “And yet the riots served to spotlight the ‘American’ in ‘Korean American’, shattering for many any pretense of ethnic insularity.” (Blue Dreams, 24)

     Before the riots the Korean Americans did not feel invested in America as a homeland. The riots struck home the message, either the Korean Americans take up roots and go back to Korea or resettle and make their home permanent in America. “The Korean American Research Center… announces that the riots brought the clear message to Korean Americans that they must shed their ‘guest consciousness’ and ‘traveler consciousness’.” (Blue Dreams, 24) Instead of being used by South Korean politicians, the Koreans in America decided to become Korean American. Koreatown, which was considered a ward of Seoul by its residents, became part of the U.S. The Korean Americans now worked for the betterment of America instead of yearning to go back to South Korea.

In this section I will be writing about the features of Korean Americans in L.A., how they understood their relationships within and without their community, the sources of knowledge they had that helped define who they were, and the problematic in their lives. The Korean migration was the beginning of their new identity formed in America.

     Koreans came over to America via Hawaii for two major reasons, Japanese colonization of Korea and new job opportunities. Their migration to America marked the beginning of a long standing struggle to become Americans. A big part of how Korean Americans became invisible stymied from the way they were treated in the beginning of their stay in America. They were called “Japs”. They were not recognized for their own ethnicity. Rather they were included into a group that they resented because these people were part of the reason they were exiled from their homes in Korea. They had no enclave like Japan-town or Chinatown so they were not recognized as a separate group with different lifestyles, needs, wants, and rights. They were lumped into another group while waiting to be seen as wanderers from a different land.

     Struggling to survive in a strange and new land, the Koreans came over willing to work jobs for cheap. They had no other option but to take what was available. They took these jobs because they suffered from poverty and starvation on a large scale due to Japan forcing these people out of jobs and homes. Educated Koreans with high amounts of skills were forced to do jobs that were below the standard that they deserved. Farm owners employed them because they were hard working, diligent, and took jobs at lower wages. As Koreans began taking more jobs the white community began to become more agitated. Mobs of white people would attack these Korean migrants while they were working at their jobs because of greed. The Koreans were so good at their jobs that they began to expand into owning their own piece of the industry. They bought land to start their own farms. They were presenting their white counterparts with competition in a market that was run uncontested. They were becoming so successful that the government began to take notice. Due to supporters of white politicians suffering, the politicians began to establish laws that hindered the progress of Korean migrants. Laws were passed that kept Koreans and other Asians from owning land.

     The Asiatic Exclusion Leagues, a powerful white group, began clamoring for Koreans to be included in the Chinese Exclusion Act. In 1907 President T. Roosevelt stopped all immigration of Koreans. The Alien Land Act of 1913 was enacted so that Koreans could not own land. Starting in California these exclusion acts began spreading from state to state across the American landscape. Not only did this prevent them from owning land, it also kept migrants from becoming naturalized citizens. Korean ingenuity overcame this problem. The Koreans found loop holes through the legislation. They put land and other property under their children’s names; children born in America were citizens. Another part of these laws that Koreans from building a larger community was the enforcement of keeping Korean women out of the country and preventing marriage between the white and Korean ethnicities.

     Excluding more women from coming to America was a form of breeding control. There were fewer women to raise and teach Korean American children. Schools, because of law, excluded Koreans from learning with white children. These laws caused two major lifestyles within the Korean migrant community. First, it caused a bachelor lifestyle in Korean men. Second, it added to the Korean mind-set that this was not home and that they were nomads just passing through. These lifestyles continued throughout the Korean American presence in America.

     The Korean Americans during the 90’s carried some of the same stigmas passed down from their early migration to America. In Koreatown in L.A. the Koreans still saw themselves as wanderers from a different land. They held strong ties to South Korean. They opened shops in L.A. so that they could send money back to their families in Korea. In part they still viewed themselves as Koreans and not Americans. They were still nomads. Many held to the idea that they would earn a living in America and when they had enough wealth they would go back to Korea. During the riots they felt further away from the communities they were living with. They saw themselves as a victim of black crime and invisible to white government’s radar. The Korean Americans believed that they, the Korean Americans, were hard working individuals trying to make a living in America. They felt that they were giving their communities a wanted product, and they were doing it honestly. They abided by the laws of the land, and even adapted to the culture of the country. While they saw themselves as a honest, hard-working community, the other groups disdained them or did not recognize their achievements.

     The Korean Americans felt that the black community in L.A. was unduly persecuting them. They saw themselves as providing jobs in their communities, yet the black community hated them. They felt that they were disdained by black Americans because they were successful business owners. Korean Americans also felt that the black community persecuted them because they were either left alone by the white community or they were judged as the “model minority” compared to the other minorities, including the black community. Every time one of their stores was robbed or one of their own was killed by a black American that they were a community of ungrateful “hoodlums”. Korean Americans began fearing the black community. To combat that fear the store owners began arming themselves with guns. When they were robbed or attacked they felt justified in defending themselves, even if it meant deadly action. The relationship with the majority, the white community, was vague at best.

     During the riots Koreatown was left unprotected by the white majority, while white store owners were protected. This confused most Korean Americans because they were told that they were the model for minorities to follow, that any minority could have a piece of the American dream. When the white community was expected to step up and protect the “model minority”, they abandoned them. Korean Americans were very confused about their relationship with the white majority. They worked hard to become a part of the Western culture. They felt invisible to the white community because of the lack of inclusiveness. They felt used because they were set up against the other minorities. In the end they did not feel included in the “White America”. Besides being set up, they felt sequestered away from a higher level of society. First generation Koreans were coming to America with a high level of education, yet they were not able to get a great paying, respectable job. Sometimes they would get a good job, but they were paid at a considerable lower wage compared to their white counterparts. Korean Americans often suffered from social injustice as much as the black community. Korean Americans felt, at one point during the riots, used by the South Korean politicians. They felt that the Korean politicians were using them as pawns to get votes. This mistreatment put a wedge between Korean Americans and Korea. The Korean Americans saw that they were abandoned by their homeland so they decided to drop roots permanently in America. These opinions of their relationships developed from their sources of knowledge.

     Through their time in America, Koreans have found different ways to get their knowledge and their diverse methods have shaped them into who they are. Early on they showed great skills in learning and adapting to a new culture. What made them more acceptable than other minorities was their ability to adapt and learn from Western Culture. This is why they rose to the title of “model minority”. A source of identity and knowledge came from the church community in L.A. In the early 1900’s churches were used as a place of keeping Korean Americans informed about what was happening in Korea with the struggle against Japanese colonization. The church also served as a mediator for those who wanted to send support to those fighting in Korea. The church also served as a community for Korean Americans to get together and be in their atmosphere separated from “White America”. They were able to meet others who were facing the same struggles, and they were able to help each other out. Another source of knowledge came from radio stations in America. During the L.A. riots Korean Americans used the radio to keep in touch with what was happening, and it was also used as a tool to help victims get in contact with Korean American patrols that were trying to protect the stores from rioters. The churches and radio stations played a vital role in establishing a source of identity, knowledge, and opinions for Korean Americans. The churches provided an authority for the people to help out in Korea and America, and later down the line the radio stations did the same things. These places helped them get through trying times throughout the history of Korean Americans.

     The Korean Americans faced many trials. Their first problematic experience was the Japanese colonization of Korea. Koreans were brutally treated and were forced out their homes. Upon arriving in America they suffered from a lack of strong community. They were wanderers in a strange land. One big problem that they experienced was ethnic confusion. The white majority confused them with Japanese Americans. They were invisible as Koreans; they were not given a chance to prove their own worth. They were sequestered into a group that they felt a strong opposition to. This was not just a problem faced early in Korean American’s history. It continues to our present day. The white majority either sees them as a group lumped in with the Asian “model minority”, or they ignore the group as a whole and keeps them to the peripheral of society’s view. Many white Americans saw the Koreans as a threat to their way if life. Because of the fear of the “yellow peril”, many laws were passed to keep Asians, including Korean Americans, controlled. The job market was closed to them so Koreans were forced to find their own way to survive. Unlike other immigrants who were white, it was harder for Korean Americans to assimilate into the culture and system. Because of their eye shape and their skin tone, they would always be looked at as foreigners.

     In these last few pages we discussed the ontological aspects concerning the Korean Americans’ history in America, their social placement, their cultural mindset, and their economic standing. We also discussed how they viewed their community and their relationship with other groups. I also discussed their sources of knowledge and how they used these to develop their identity. We also saw the problems they faced. Their identity was formed by all of these aspects with which we just discussed.

     We just looked at a brief history of Korean American, the Korean American ontology, their viewed relationships, and the trials they experienced. Now we will be looking at the redemptive side of their story. Using the Bible I will show a correlation between the Korean Americans’ experience and the experience of Zacchaeus in Luke 19.

     We see Zacchaeus faced with many problems. First, we see that because of his job he is not liked by his fellow Israelites. Zacchaeus is a tax collector, and he is known for taking more than he should. Second, he adapts to Roman culture and uses his business savvy to overcome a difficult life. Lastly, he finds a way to be noticed in a crowd that is not congenial towards him. The community was aggravated with him for siding with the Romans so that he could make a living. Korean Americans can relate to this. They came to America, became Westernized, and opened up their own stores in South Central L.A. According to the white populace, they were known as the “model minority” because they could adapt better to the culture than other minorities. The black community held anger towards them because of this preferential treatment. The ostracizing that the Korean Americans felt is easily related to Zacchaeus. The Korean American community was also known for their business savvy, even within the frowned upon industry of liquor. Unlike Zacchaeus the Korean Americans were not dishonest in their dealings, yet because they sold liquor in a black community they were treated very badly. Zacchaeus used his ingenuity to overcome his problematic. His problem was that he could not see Christ; his solution was to climb above the problem. In answer to his creativeness, Jesus Christ saw him; blessed him; and changed his life. The Korean Americans could coincide with his experience.

     The first generation of Korean Americans who came over to America where highly intelligent. Although a fair job market was not open to them, they started their own businesses. To overcome poverty they adapted to American culture and worked hard to become a part of the American dream. They tried to show that they were worth being seen and operating within the high levels in the American job market. They opened businesses to make a way for themselves. They faced their problems, saw a solution, and followed through with action. They were good stewards with what they had.

     Christ was often heard teaching about being productive with their funds. It was a value that Christ taught. He wants us to “be wise as serpents” when we invest our funds. I feel that Korean Americans represent this to highest point. They took what little they had, used the ingenuity that God gave them, and came up with a productive business. They represent the good steward that Christ rewards.

     In the experience of Zacchaeus and that of the Koreans, they do have a falling out of practice. Zacchaeus saw himself as a pariah on his own community. He admitted it when he said that he would pay back those who he had robbed. After Christ came to his house, Zacchaeus repented and promised to give back to those he had stolen from. The Korean Americans were not dishonest in their dealings with their community. They were hardworking and diligent. They ran their businesses without cheating others. Zacchaeus and the Korean Americans did share more traits.

     Zacchaeus was invisible to his community due to his stature. Either he was seen for his misdeeds or not seen at all. He was short. He was a man who did not rely on physical prowess to be noticed; he used intelligence. Korean Americans, when not being used as a scapegoat for being a “model minority”, were invisible to the white community. During the riots Korean American businesses were overlooked when protection was established from the rioters. Despite all their efforts and skills at trying to adapt to “White America”, they were left to fend for themselves. Being creative and intelligent the Korean Americans formed their own patrols and defended their businesses from rioters. Using the creativeness that God gave them, they overcame the problematic.

     Even though they suffered from bad relationships with black and white Americans, the Korean Americans found a way to make a living and life in America. From rough beginnings on American farms to the L.A. riots, Korean Americans continually came up with creative ways to overcome, outlast, and succeed.


1)   “My wife and I sneaked out… We crossed the Yalu River and from there rode the railway to Shanghai. The Japanese didn’t know I was Korean; they thought I was Chinese. My wife and I caught a ship to America.” (Strangers from a Different Shore, 54)

2)   A school teacher, she had participated in the March First Movement of 1919, distributing copies of the Declaration for Independence and flags. “The Japanese went crazy. They beat up people and killed thousands of Koreans while many were arrested and later killed.” Strangers from a Different Shore, 55

3)   Kwang-son Lee became annoyed by her high school history teacher’s snide remarks in class. “How do you know I’m… a Jap?” Lee questioned, insisting that she was not a Japanese. The teacher then asked: “Who are you then?” Lee retorted: “Are you so ignorant you do not know what a Korean is? And you a history teacher?” Strangers from a Different Shore, 271

4)   In 1910, for example, Koreans, hired to pick oranges, camped on Mary Steward’s farm in Upland, California. Suddenly, one night, they were attacked by white farm workers; under a barrage of stones and rocks, they were told to get out immediately or they would be killed. After she had called the police and received permission to purchase guns, Steward armed the Korean workers and instructed them to defend themselves with deadly force against the white rioters. Strangers from a Different Shore, 271-272

5)   The teams of Korean farm workers moved from field to field, town to town, depending on where they could find work… A Korean immigrant joined a team headed by a Korean labor contractor and worked on a bean farm… We were hoeing bean fields and when we finished we went to another bean farm for hoeing. Strangers from a Different Shore

6)   “The reason for discrimination against the Asiatics stems from the unfortunate situation of the Chinese who came to this country without abandoning their filthy habits and customs. And, everywhere they go they create disorders. After that the Japanese who have entirely different habits from white society, could not mingle with the whites… but also they spend as little as they can for food and houses…. So they are becoming a target of hatred from white workers.” Strangers from a Different Shore, 277


Takaki, Ronald. Strangers from a Different Shore. Little, Brown and Company, 1989

Baker, Don. Korean Spirituality. University of Hawaii Press, 2008

Chang, Edward and Leong, Russell. Los Angeles: Struggles toward Multiethnic Community Asian American Studies Center, 1993

Pirie, Lain. The Korean Developmental State, Routledge, 2008

Ablemann, Nancy and Lie, John.    Blue Dreams, Harvard University Press, 1995