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End to Market Violence Urged

August 19, 1991|PENELOPE MCMILLAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An organizer of demonstrations against a Korean-owned South-Central Los Angeles market Sunday condemned a weekend firebombing attack on the store, which has been a focus of community anger since the owner killed a black man there June 4.

"We do not approve of violence and we are not condoning this at all," said the Rev. Edgar E. Boyd of the Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, which is across the street from Chung's Liquor Market.

Early Saturday, an incendiary device was thrown at the front doors of the market in the 7900 block of Western Avenue, police said. No one was inside and the store suffered only minor damage, officials said.

The firebombing was the second to be reported at the store, which was hit by a Molotov cocktail June 18.

Meanwhile, city fire officials were investigating a fire early Saturday at the Empire Liquor Market Deli in the 9100 block of South Figueroa Street. On March 16, a Korean store owner shot a 15-year-old black girl at the market. Fire Department spokesman Jim Wells said the small fire that occurred early Saturday at the Empire Liquor Market was incendiary and under investigation. The market is closed and its owner, Soon Ja Du, has pleaded innocent to murder charges in the death of Latasha Harlins.

Boyd said he is concerned about the violence. "Now it seems to be escalating and it's clearly dangerous. There needs to be a heightening and expansion of dialogue."

His feelings were echoed by Val Bunting, a spokeswoman for Mayor Tom Bradley. "The mayor is concerned about the heightened tensions between the African-American and Korean-American communities and would condemn any type of violence," Bunting said.

Bradley held a news conference last week to express his concern about the increase in violent incidents since March, when Harlins was shot.

Boyd said the boycott of Chung's Liquor Market started June 18, about two weeks after the owner, Tae Sam Park, fatally shot Lee Arthur Mitchell, a black patron.

According to police accounts, Mitchell had tried to make a partial payment for a wine cooler with jewelry. When Park's wife refused, Mitchell allegedly pretended to point a pistol. Park shot him.

The district attorney declined to file criminal charges against Park.

Boyd said the picketers, who did not appear outside Chung's on Sunday because Park did not open his store, were a way of expressing "concerns we have about insensitivity and intolerance of non-resident shopkeepers."

Some local community residents said they did not dislike all Korean merchants, and pointed to the popular King's Market, down the street from Chung's, owned by Kenny Kang, 32.

"Everybody likes this man," Jimmy Johnson said.

Kang said he had been in the neighborhood five years. "My customers like me and I love them," he said.

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