Korean American Businesses Damaged from Baltimore Riots

Pictured above: Richard Sung Kang leaves his damaged liquor store in the aftermath of the Baltimore riots. (Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

by REERA YOO | @reeraboo

Richard Sung Kang’s American dream shattered along with his liquor store’s window during the Baltimore riots earlier this week.

The 49-year-old Korean immigrant saw his liquor store and bar, the Oxford Tavern, wrecked by a group of violent rioters following the funeral of Freddie Gray, who died of a spinal injury he apparently received while in police custody. Despite Sung closing the front door, the looters smashed the window and plundered the establishment. Even the store’s ATM was torn out, leaving a gaping hole in the exterior wall of the building.

“This is America. I wanted to follow my dream and wanted to make something for myself,” Kang told the Associated Press. He added that it was only his first year of owning the business and was unsure of reopening the store, as it could mean taking on more debt and paying higher insurance premiums.

“The most important thing is, I have to move on,” Kang said as his locksmiths worked on his doors. “But is it better to rebuild and start again or give up and find some other place? I don’t know.”

Screen Shot 2015-04-30 at 6.30.16 PMKorean-owned beauty shop destroyed in the Baltimore riots.

About 200 small businesses were unable to open the day after the violence erupted, AP reported. Korean American owners were particularly hit hard by the riots, as many of them run small businesses in predominantly African American neighborhoods in Baltimore. As of Wednesday, about 40 Korean-owned businesses have been damaged in the riots, according to the Korea Times.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan declared a state of emergency on April 27, activating 5,000 National Guard troops in Baltimore. The city also imposed a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, which is aimed to last at least a week.

On Monday, multiple fires engulfed small businesses, buildings and vehicles throughout the city. John Chae, owner of Fireside North Liquors near W. North Avenue, sustained injuries after looters broke into his store, ransacked it and burned it down, according to his gofundme campaign. A wig shop off Pratt Street was also looted and burned. Its owners Jung C. Chung and Sung S. Chung had been small business owners in the community for over 25 years.

For nearly a week after Gray’s death, protests in Baltimore had been peaceful. President Barack Obama on Tuesday condemned the “criminals and thugs” for hijacking the peaceful demonstrations, calling their violent acts “counterproductive.”

“When individuals get crowbars and start prying open doors to loot, they’re not protesting, they’re not making a statement — they’re stealing,” Obama said in a speech. “When they burn down a building, they’re committing arson. And they’re destroying and undermining businesses and opportunities in their own communities. That robs jobs and opportunity from people in that area.”

This is not the first time Korean-owned small businesses have suffered heavy losses from violent April riots.

On April 29, 1992, the streets of Southern Los Angeles broke into chaos following the acquittal of four police officers on trial regarding a video recording of them brutally beating Rodney King, a black taxi driver. Over the span of four days, 53 people were killed and more than 2,000 were injured during the L.A. riots. Many Korean and Asian-owned businesses were targeted and burned throughout the city.

Some parts of Baltimore are slowly returning to normality. With public schools, government buildings and businesses closed until security is improved, volunteers armed with brooms and shovels cleaned up the riot debris on Tuesday. Some volunteers even offered bottles of water to police offers standing guard over damaged stores.

Meanwhile, thousands of protesters across the country have held peaceful rallies, seeking justice for Gray and denouncing police brutality. However, there is fear that the peace will not last long.



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If there are other fundraisers you would like to see on this article, please contact the writer at editor@charactermedia.com.

Correction: The previous version of this article cited the Wall Street Journal saying that John Chae, the owner of Fireside Liquors, gave cash to the looters before unsuccessfully pleading with them to not burn down his store. In fact, Chae was knocked out by a brick and sustained facial injuries during the looting, according to his gofundme campaign. KoreAm regrets the error.

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