16th Anniversary of Sa-I-Gu (4-29 ) – 1992 L.A. Riots

Today is the 16th anniversary of Sa-I-Gu, the LA Riots – April 29, 1992. It’s sad that it is an event that has been forgotten by the national consciousness, in the same way Hurricane Katrina is a distant memory. The month of April is memorable for me because it is the day of my birthday. But my birthday is sandwiched between two events that I will always remember – (April 16th – the Virginia Tech shootings) & (April 29th – Sa-I-Gu – the LA Riots).

I remember being too young to realize the full gravity of the L.A. riots. I remember my parents and the Korean community being so distraught. The effects of the riots were felt throughout the Korean community all over the nation and even back to South Korea. I remember my father being so angry and I didn’t know why. As I’ve gotten older, I realize that my father was swallowing the bitter pill of the false promises of the American Dream.

I remember hearing about the death of Eddie Song Lee. He had heard about the riots on Korean language radio and drove down to Koreatown to help Koreans protect their businesses. But in the confusion of everything that was happening, Eddie Lee was accidentally killed by another Korean storekeeper. An 18 year old Korean American kid who was sacrificing his own dreams and spending most of his time helping his parents with their business had his life taken away so tragically and so unnecessarily.

I look back and remember the stupidity of both conservatives and liberals. Conservatives used the L.A. riots to reinforce Koreans as the model minority who did the right things and didn’t speak out against racism. Koreans were unfairly attacked by African Americans who were bogged down in the victim mentality of past racism. Conservatives also used Koreans as vindication for the Second Amendment as the media focused on Korean shopkeepers protecting their stores with shotguns. Ignorant conservatives were using the riots as a way to pit Koreans against African Americans to prove that affirmative action and government social programs were not needed and actually detrimental. Then there were the arrogant liberals who said the L.A. riots were a grassroots revolt against the system and that the Koreans were expendable collateral damage, especially since they were complicit in exploiting African Americans and Latinos. These latte liberals in academia, politics, and the media living comfortably in Westwood, Beverly Hills, and Santa Monica were silent and indifferent to the plight of Koreans from the riots. The whole event showed that both conservatives and liberals used Koreans as pawns in their cultural wars.

It is up to us not to forget what happened 16 years ago. The first generation have had social amnesia over Sa-I-Gu. It is up to the 1.5 and second generation to take the mantle of leadership and speak out about what has happened since Sa-I-Gu. So many promises were made by politicians to invest in South Central LA. These have never come to pass. It’s just easy for the nation to close its eyes and act like it never happened. But we need to open our eyes and deal with what happened 16 years ago and how far we still have to go today.

Here are some videos about the L.A. riots:



  1. Are you serious?! Korean people are keeping count of the years?! What about the innocent black girl that was shot for no damn reason? That Edward guy was ACCIDENTALLY shot by ANOTHER KOREAN! Unfairly attacked? And I think that this incident DOES need to be forgotten so we can move on!

  2. Innocent black girl? Are you out of your mind? That thug assaulted the shopkeeper and was trying to steal. The poor shopkeeper was just trying to defend herself. These people need to stop committing crimes and stop blaming others, especially other minorities.

    That “Edward guy” was a kid who bravely and valiantly answered the call for help. A victim of the animals that thought it was ok to riot and steal and murder for no reason.

    Sa i gu: Never forget the day Koreatown burned while the white man stoodby and let it happen! We will defend ourselves by ANY MEANS NECESSARY.

    1. Latasha Harlins was and is innocent! She did NOT assault the shopkeeper,Soon Ja Du, and she was not trying to steal the orange juice! When Latasha was found dead and bleeding on the floor, she was holding $2. She had NO intention to steal. She pleaded with Soon Ja Du to not shoot her, and she got shot anyways. Latasha IS an innocent black girl. Read “Twiligh:Los Angeles, 19992” by Anna Deavere Smith, and educate yourself.
      DO NOT comment on things that you know NOTHING about!!

  3. I’m not trying to take any sides here but as far as I know the news reported that Latasha Harlins (the name of the innocent girl) died while lying on the ground with a two dollars note still intact in her left hand.

  4. I’m not trying to take sides either, but simply dismissing uncomfortable history should not be the way to move on. These differences we see even in these replies clearly point to the fact that the issues regarding the 1992 Riots are far from being resolved.

  5. It’s weird to hear about this incident. I was born on that day, not in L.A. or the same side of the country. Things are different today, I haven’t heard of any riots with buildings being burnt.

  6. No what ended up happening was the shopkeeper didn’t notice Latisha was going to pay for the drink so she grabbed her on this assumption. Then one thing led to another Latisha tries to run out of the store but Soon Ja Du grabs her gun or shotgun and shoots her in the back. The killing isn’t just and was manslaughter on her part but it was both parties misconstruing things. For that first person who commented its people like him that leads America to repeating horrible events such as this one. Just because this happened and with the Rodney King incident does not make it justified for any group of society to go rampaging on other races, and move no closer to the dream Dr King wished for America.

  7. Rise up Koreans! Those who lived in 4.29 Riot time(not LA Civil Unrest) know that it was media coverup orchestrated by African-American LA County who needed popularityto win the upcoming election. She pumped up hatered and blame message rigth after the Natasha and Kern shopkeeper incident.(By the way, that korean lady was diagnosed with severe mental disease) So Korean community was blamed as selfish, greedy when it was this shopkeeper who belonged in the mental hospital happened to shoot at the wrong time after the Rodney King incident. Media ran for this stir-up hatred against Korean idea. Yes, racism of Whites against African-Americans were blamed against Korean hard-working business people. Only thing Koreans lacked was cultural assimilation and yes, media support!

    Rise up Koreans! When all of your children become prominant in every field, including political, even religious, academic, media and liturature in the mainstream America, then American will have to publicly apologize to the Korean coumminity who lost American dream, hope and their property in April 29, 1992. Then, the rest of the world will know what happened on Korea town of Los angeles in the year 1992, April 29th(Because media never covered LA riot out of America. American media covered up since they also knew that this was an embarassing moment of American history) Koreans! We shall overcome! We shall reap good news, when we sow hard work in the righteous cause, to defend our own right to thrive and protect our dream!

  8. I was in Koreatown when it happened, I was 12 years old .. I remember everything was burnt down, all the hate, the cops actually escorted white folks to West L.A. and Beverly Hills while they let Ktown burn .. grown ass black dudes would talk smack to me and I would get chased home from Berendo Jr. high by the Mexican kids. All the Korean families with money moved out to the ‘burbs. Because of the riots and all the negativity, me and alot of the Korean kids got into gangs and drugs so we wouldn’t be victims no more. Looking back it’s was just being an angst filled raging teenager living in the ghetto. RIP Eddie Lee.

    How things have changed today Ktown is cleaner and nicer, with gentrification I even noticed white folks are moving in .. there’s not as many black people because they are getting chased out L.A. by the Mexicans. The kids today don’t even remember the riots which is good and bad. I think the riots were to kyopos the welcoming to America! Never forget Sa-Ee-Gu!

  9. And to all the people talking about Latasha Harlins RIP .. how many Korean shop owners have been killed by black robbers that go unreported in the news? Lots more I know for a fact! Two wrongs don’t make it right! How it is now there’s more Mexican owned mercados in the hood then anything else

  10. ya all fucken stuped where da love talking about raceism and shit ya all just talking about sterio types and the actions of these times do not reprisent the races of the people that played parts in this tragic even ya just making wone side hate the other more while ya should be trying to diff dumbasses

  11. man in all honesty fuck Koreans cry baby ass Asians really pussies one fucked up event that happened and the world owns you everything as for blacks fuck all u black ghetto motherfuckers gang fucks that fight over stupid red and blue

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