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Community News: Mid-City

KOREATOWN : New Group to Assess Riot Victims' Needs

October 11, 1992|JAKE DOHERTY

Responding to what they say are inadequate government efforts to assist Korean victims of the spring riots, several Korean-American organizations have established a group to document the victims' needs and coordinate relief assistance.

The Korean American Inter-Agency Council will call about 2,000 Korean families or individuals identified by various agencies and organizations as riot victims, organizers said. The phone survey should provide the first comprehensive information on their financial, health and business needs.

"The government and mainstream media are ready to move on, but we're still left with all these victims," said Bong Hwan Kim, director of the Korean Youth Center, one of nine organizations participating in the interagency council.

Robert Park, vice president of the Korean American Coalition, said many owners of destroyed businesses are now in danger of losing their homes or cars because they are unable to make the payments. Others who speak little English are still uncertain about where they can find help or why they have been turned down for emergency loans.

"There's been a lack of coordination," Park said. "It's better for the victims if they know that they only have to go to one place to get answers."

With funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the interagency council will hire case managers who will work out of the offices of most of the participating Korean-American agencies. Victims will be able to call or visit any of the agencies for guidance and referrals.

The council includes the Korean Youth Center, the Korean American Coalition, Coastal Asian Pacific Health Services, Korean American Food and Shelter Service, Korean Health Education and Information Referral, Korean Immigrant Workers Advocates, Koryo Health Foundation and UCLA Korean American United Students for Education and Service. Pacific Bell will train the survey volunteers.

After each family is called and their particular circumstances assessed, a case worker will be assigned to help them get the services they need and to monitor their progress.

"The problem isn't that there aren't resources," said Jenny Oh of Coastal Asian Pacific Mental Health Services. "The problem is linking the resources to the community and making the agencies that can offer help more visible in the community."

In addition to working with each family, the council will deal directly with government agencies and, if needed, make a case for expanded services, Kim said.

Organizers said the mental health of many riot victims is becoming an increasingly urgent concern.

"We know of one family that got a videotape of their business burning down and they just sit at home and watch it repeatedly," Kim said. "Many of the victims still feel alternatively outraged and depressed."

The interagency council's hot line is (213) 738-9989.

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