GARDEN GROVE — The Korean American Assn. planned months ago to hold a free legal clinic Saturday, but it could not have been more perfectly timed to assist victims of the riots that have shaken Los Angeles.
About 50 storekeepers, mostly Korean-Americans whose stores were looted or burned during the riots which began Wednesday, came to receive assistance at the Korean-American Community Center on filling out applications for emergency awards and to seek advice from six attorneys.
Many were unable to seek help in Los Angeles' Koreatown, where many agencies have temporarily shut down because of the area's massive destruction. They were relieved to be in a city seemingly untouched by violence.
Ryul Kim, a Garden Grove attorney, said storekeepers had many questions ranging from how to apply for small-business loans to how to compensate their dry-cleaning customers for clothes. Many needed assistance in filling out the English-language emergency aid forms.
Rang Kim, 37, of Cerritos and several other members of the Grace Korean Church in Norwalk, are joint owners of the Super Bargain Mart in Long Beach, a cavernous store in which nine vendors--until Thursday--sold merchandise such as clothing, toys, electronics and jewelry.
The store was looted Thursday evening, while police and storekeepers could do nothing more than just observe the mob of almost 500 people, Rang Kim said. "There was a big line outside the store. They just stood in line to take things. I lost everything, $70,000 in merchandise."
He was at a loss to describe his feelings. "I was mad. Then sad. It's just so sad, so sad. I don't have any energy right now. I just want to rest."
But it will be difficult for Rang Kim to take it easy. Like many of the store owners who came to the legal clinic Saturday, he had no insurance and only modest savings. He, his wife and two children, ages 3 and 4, live in a home with a $1,400 monthly mortgage payment.
A former journalist who was forced to leave the country because of his anti-government views, Rang Kim was bleak about his future.
"I am a small-business owner which means that I buy, stock, sell, and clean merchandise all by myself. I get up at 6 a.m., have breakfast with my children, then drive them to school. I don't come home until 8:40 p.m. It's the same routine every day, except for Sunday when we go to church. Now, I must start all over again," he said, with a sigh.
In Sung Lee , 38, of Cerritos owned a furniture store and three warehouses in Compton. The store was burned to the ground and the warehouses were emptied by looters Thursday afternoon.
To save money, Lee has stopped piano lessons for her two sons, ages 13 and 11, and withdrawn them from an after-school tutoring program at the Education Center. She is uncertain how they will keep their home.
"I feel very bad," she said. "I got along with a lot of the people in the neighborhood. We had a good relationship. But when I drove to the store yesterday, everyone had their old furniture out on the street. And their new furniture inside."
Meanwhile, in Orange County, other Korean-Americans sought to assist riot victims.
Members of the UC Irvine Korean American Student Assn. attended Saturday morning's peace rally and march held in Los Angeles' Koreatown, which was attended by more than 10,000. Some students stayed to clean up the neighborhood.
"We're also going to clean up on Monday," said association president Joni Byun. "Parents of students at UCI have stores in L.A. and Compton, and we're going to help them first. Then, we're going to join up with other schools and work on Koreatown."
Tina Kim, 44, general manager of the Ramada Inn in Garden Grove, and eight of her employees also joined the rally and march and assisted in the cleanup.
"I had watched the TV I was shocked, of course, but when I went downtown, I thought, oh, I just couldn't believe it. Everything was ruined. Everything was destroyed."
The Korean American Assn. of Orange County will hold a peace rally at 10 a.m. Saturday at Kyung Dong Plaza, 9636 Garden Grove Blvd., Garden Grove.