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Wednesday, Feb 8, 2023

Mayor’s Korean Lesson

A book called “The Korean-American Dream: Portraits of a Successful

Immigrant Community” went to

press last week.

It’s by Jim Flanigan, a veteran business journalist for the Los Angeles Times, New York Times and Forbes, who starts the tale in Los Angeles for good reason. L.A. has the largest Korean-ethnic population of any city besides Seoul, according to the book. And the Korean-American community has become a prominent contributor to the life of Los Angeles in many respects, especially in business.

It hasn’t been an easy or smooth rise. There have been strained relations with other ethnic groups, and squabbles between and among factions within the Korean-American community itself. Korean-American entrepreneurs in industries such as garment manufacturing carved a collective place for themselves under conditions that were often contentious. Korean-American banks have competed, collided and consolidated in their own orbit for several decades.

Yes, Korean-Americans as a whole have earned a reputation for working hard, valuing education and reclaiming swaths of Los Angeles that were largely abandoned not long ago.

Keep in mind, though, that the strains and squabbles and contentions and collisions also have helped the Korean-American community to the success that Flanigan calls out. The community has hashed out its place here, declared its values and adjusted to its adopted homeland. The process has been loud at times, and ruffled some feathers, but it seems to have worked out well for the most part.

This is especially notable in light of a squabble that could grow into a storm between Korean-Americans and Mayor Eric Garcetti over the city’s plan to build a homeless shelter in Koreatown.

Some folks in Koreatown support the notion, others are steadfastly opposed. It’s a delineation that will no doubt play out in every one of the city’s 15 council districts.

It seems that Garcetti’s office was less than forthcoming and inviting with perceived opponents of the city’s plan when it came to a public meeting intended to give community members a chance to listen and offer opinions.

An attorney named Chan Yong (Jake) Jeong has already used the California Public Records Act to obtain city staffers’ emails, and he’s pushing for more information. The American Civil Liberties Union, meanwhile, has sent a scolding letter to Garcetti.

“Quite simply, the First Amendment prevents government officials from excluding individuals from government-sponsored programming based on viewpoint,” the ACLU wrote in the two-page letter. “Beyond the constitutional issue, we find it unfortunate that the Mayor’s Office squandered an opportunity to engage with Koreatown residents who have been frustrated by the city’s lack of communication … with the Koreatown community.”

Especially unfortunate, in our view, because the Korean-American community has shown it can handle contentious debates.

It’s time for Garcetti to do the same as reality sets in on the plan for homeless shelters.

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