Koreans fearful as Ferguson riot escalates

August 20, 2014
Police arrest a man as they disperse a protest in Ferguson, Mo., early Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014. On Saturday, Aug. 9, a white police officer fatally shot unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black, in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Police arrest a man as they disperse a protest in Ferguson, Mo., early Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014. On Saturday, Aug. 9, a white police officer fatally shot unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown, who was black, in the St. Louis suburb. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

By Jane Han

Korean residents in the embattled Missouri city of Ferguson are beginning to feel a direct threat in their everyday lives as looting and violence intensify in a neighborhood with nearly two dozen Korean businesses.

Fresh tension erupted Sunday night into Monday morning, forcing Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon to call in the National Guard to help restore order in the city that has been paralyzed since an unarmed black teenager was shot dead by a white police officer earlier this month.

”You have to understand,” said Cho Won-koo, who runs a beauty supply business in the area. ”For us, all this violence isn’t just some video footage seen on television. It’s happening right outside our front door.”

Molotov cocktails, tear gas, rubber bullets and smoke bombs have been thrown around as groups squared off against each other late into Sunday night despite a mandatory midnight curfew that was imposed for the second day.

”At first, we thought the authorities would be able to quell the protest in a matter of days. But it’s already been over a week and we’re not seeing any improvements. Things are actually getting worse,” says Cho, a Ferguson resident of 15 years who heads the Korean American Association of St. Louis.

He says three Korean businesses ― two beauty supply stores and a mobile phone retailer ― have been directly hit by rioters and have temporarily shut down. The remaining Korean stores don’t have any immediate plans to close, but Cho says everyone is being extra cautious at a time of such high tension.

”All of us feel very regretful that hardworking Korean residents are suffering from this unrest,” said Cho, ”but we know that Koreans are not being targeted in any way. We have all been on good terms with the people of this community.”

Korean businesses are just some of many stores that have been victims of looting and robbery as hundreds of angry protesters vented at the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old who had allegedly stolen cigars from a convenience store before being confronted by a police officer.

His death immediately sparked outrage, prompting protests and vigils across the country.

”We can only hope that law enforcement officials will be able to get the situation under control as early as possible. The financial damage is huge for business owners, and life is simply too difficult and scary with all this violence happening every night,” said Cho.

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  1. 2017

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