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What stoked the wrath the riots unleashed against them? Blue Dreams is the first book to make sense of these questions, to show how Korean Americans, variously depicted as immigrant seekers after the American dream or as racist merchants exploiting African Americans, emerged at the crossroads of conflicting social reflections in the aftermath of the riots. The situation of Los Angeles's Korean Americans touches on some of the most vexing issues facing American society today: ethnic conflict, urban poverty, immigration, multiculturalism, and ideological polarization.

Combining interviews and deft socio-historical analysis, Blue Dreams gives these problems a human face and at the same time clarifies the historical, political, and economic factors that render them so complex. In the lives and voices of Korean Americans, the authors locate a profound challenge to cherished assumptions about the United States and its minorities.

- Blue Dreams Korean Americans and the Los Angeles Riots by Nancy Abelmann; John Lie

Why did Koreans come to the United States? Why did they set up shop in poor inner-city neighborhoods? Are they in conflict with African Americans? These are among the many difficult questions the authors answer as they probe the transnational roots and diversity of Los Angeles's Korean Americans.

Their work finally shows us in sharp relief and moving detail a community that, despite the blinding media focus brought to bear during the riots, has nonetheless remained largely silent and effectively invisible. An important corrective to the formulaic accounts that have pitted Korean Americans against African Americans, Blue Dreams places the Korean American story squarely at the center of national debates over race, class, culture, and community.

About the Book

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Nowadays no ethnic group, including middle-class whites, can claim a monopoly on the American Dream, which appears as elusive as ever. Leaving my hospital room with my new liver, I returned to the rubble that was my hometown and caught a glimpse of Bosnia in the City of Angels. My weekly newspaper, luckily spared the multiethnic sacking, shrank to skeleton size in the post-riot economic down-spiral.

Strangely, it came as small solace to me when a Pulitzer-prize winning old Asia hand wistfully spoke of an irony in our misfortune. Some of the Korean shops, he told me, reminded him of a faded picture of his grandparents in their cluttered grocery in Brooklyn, where they had slaved day and night while their sons attended college on scholarships.

The Los Angeles Riots

Today, the silent siege of Koreatown continues--out of sight and mind of a nation transfixed by the Great Racial Divide Play that is the O. Simpson trial. While their Koreatown burned, city hall politicians, the willing recipients of millions of dollars from ever-solicitous Korean businesses, returned the favor in strange kind by imposing new restrictions on burned-out market owners with liquor licenses.


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To this day, of the liquor stores wiped out in the riots, only eight have been granted licenses permitting them to reopen. Just after the riots, luminaries from Bush to Quayle to Clinton visited K-town with big promises. But as this new book shows, they have delivered nothing.

Blue Dreams: Korean American and the Los Angeles Riot

Sa-ee-gu Korean for April 29 and the term we have adopted to commemorate the riots mocks our unacceptable fate. Even before Korean and African Americans had a chance to get to know each other with their common struggles and sorrows in the past, both groups watched themselves pitted against each other as enemies in the shouting sound bites and screaming headlines of the local media. Two years before the storm, L.

We led a countywide drive to organize a Council of Multicultural Publications that would embrace more than 20 newspapers.

The plan died of City Hall inattention. Looking back for some lessons, I believe that the riots, by demonstrating that the race-mongering and simple-minded journalism only brings out the worst from all involved, can help inspire us to build a new civic culture embracing peoples of all colors. The dream of a child in South Central, East L. Its boundary is only limited by the human spirit. That luminous spirit--not the business-as-usual ethnic turf-building--transcends race, class, culture and language and can help unite this kaleidoscopic cultural fabric called L.

And I trust and pray that they will be kind to the memories of these invisible warriors who have endured in defeat and even death so that their children could carry their sorrows, dreams and hopes across the river. About Us.

Koreatown during the 1992 riots Rough Cuts