Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sa-i-gu: taking sides

It was difficult to understand whose side I should take when watching Sa-i-gu. I found myself being really sad about the Korean boy who had died in the riots, but then I realized it was a Korean shop owner who had killed him. Because the movie was filmed in the perspective of Korean women, I felt compassion for them because they reminded me of my relatives in L.A. who also owned shops and who had also gone through hardships because of many African-American shoplifters. But then I realized how many Korean shop owners are racist and take advantage of cheap labor. The whole movie just gave me a confusion of feelings because I wanted to side with the Korean-Americans who reminded me so much of my family, but I couldn’t, knowing that many Koreans did mistreat their African-American and Latino customer and employees. It made me wonder what the African-Americans could have done during the time to let people know about the injustices being done to them. Even after the riots, the Korean-Americans failed to see that they were partly to blame for the riots. They seemed to only blame the Rodney King incident and the one shooting incident with the Korean shop owner.

In high school, I had done some research on Korean immigrants and the racial tensions between Korean business owner and minority residents. In relation to the reading in Screaming Monkey, I put a part of my essay up for further information.

Although the concentration of Korean immigrants in small businesses in inner cities helped Koreans to build flourishing lives, racial tensions between Korean business owners and minority residents began to arise. At the time, inner-city neighborhoods were the most affordable places for Korean immigrants to run their businesses. Black and Latino residents viewed them as another wave of absentee owner who drain resources out of the community without contributing to the local economy. African-Americans regarded Korean business owners as stealing business opportunities from other minority groups. Prejudice, language barriers, cultural differences, and alleged incidents of shoplifting and mistreatment of customers have added to the conflict between Korean immigrants and African-Americans. Korean business owners were attacked for not hiring blacks, not living in the neighborhood, and not contributing to local causes. Some of these owners look down on blacks because they overgeneralized and were ignorant of the black community and blacks in general. These disputes that arose because of a belief that Korean immigrants were exploiting blacks led to collective actions such as boycotts by black-nationalist organizations and the breaking out of riots in Los Angeles that destroyed many Korean businesses and lives in 1992. Although Korean-Latino relations are less violent and hostile because of the Latinos’ more accepting positions, there are still some problems in this relationship. Members of these two groups interact not only as merchants and customer as do Koreans and blacks, but also as employers and employees. Some observers argue that Korean businesses survive and prosper at the expense of Latinos and blacks, the latter of whom are often perceived as cheap and docile labor. Although racial tensions had peaked during the ‘60s and ‘70s, Koreans are beginning to understand that social responsibility is connected with business and are making efforts to build a healthier relationship with other ethnic groups.

1 comment:

Lucy Lou said...

I think you've summed up my own feelings after the film quite well. While I don't have a personal connection to the LA Korean community, the movie did make me feel sympathetic towards them, but at the same time, I was hesitant about "taking sides" after watching the film and reading a little more about the 1992 riots (pretty much what you said in your essay paragraph).