Political and religious leaders must work to end the violence that has sparked tensions between black and Korean-American residents and re-establish Los Angeles as a "community without walls" between diverse ethnic groups, Mayor Tom Bradley said Thursday.
The mayor spoke at the inaugural meeting of the African/Korean-American Christian Alliance, a convocation of ministers gathered to improve relations between the two groups. Bradley condemned the recent shooting of a 9-year-old Korean-American girl by a black gunman during a robbery at a convenience store in South-Central Los Angeles.
"Our community has been suffering pangs of conflict and tension . . . that are dividing this great and magnificent city," he said. "May the crime committed against this girl be a catalyst of action (to unite) the whole community."
Bradley said the City Council will soon add $5,000 in city funds to the $15,000 in rewards already being offered by others for information leading to the apprehension and prosecution of the gunman who shot Juri Kang last week. Kang is recovering from wounds suffered when a bullet struck her in the chest.
Several Korean-Americans and blacks have been slain during confrontations at Korean-owned stores in South-Central during the last year. Bradley convened a conference for businessmen in the South-Central area four weeks ago in an effort to reduce tensions.
Some African-American leaders, led by Brotherhood Crusade President Danny Bakewell, initially called for boycotts against Korean-owned stores where blacks had been shot, leading to accusations that such efforts were making the problem worse.
Korean-American leaders launched an effort this week of their own, holding a news conference to draw attention to the Kang shooting.
Joining Bradley at Thursday's more conciliatory ministers' conference at Good Shepherd Baptist Church at 570 W. 53rd St. were City Councilmen Mark Ridley-Thomas and Michael Woo. Both councilmen said the help of religious leaders is essential in mending rifts.
Andrew Manley, coordinator of Thursday's meeting and assistant minister at Love of God Baptist Church in South-Central Los Angeles, told the several dozen ministers gathered that "differences in color, language and culture are minor considerations."
"Our only real challenge is the recognition of our oneness and the elimination of behavior that creates doubt, abuse and the violence that inevitably evolves from fear," Manley said.
Sungsoo Whang, pastor of Choong Hyun Presbyterian Church in the Koreatown district, said that he and his follow ministers could "work together for the future generations" of all residents of Los Angeles, regardless of their ethnic backgrounds.
"The basic principle is that we are brothers and sisters," he said. "We are tied together by the love of God."