After nearly two years of frustration and disappointment, members of the Korean American Grocers' Victims Assn. gathered last week to boost their spirits and raise money to reopen their businesses and rebuild their lives.
Victims of the 1992 riots, association members say their recovery has been stalled by conditions placed on them by the city, including such costly requirements as hiring security guards, providing additional lighting and limiting business hours.
Largely as a result of these conditions, only six of 174 Korean American grocery and liquor store owners have been able to reopen their businesses, executive director Min Paek said at a dinner Tuesday at the Radisson Wilshire Plaza Hotel. The dinner raised $8,000.
"We understand that there are too many liquor stores, but these store owners were there legally," Paek said. "What they want to know is what is the city's plan for what they should do now. Whenever you put a damper on small-business people, you can't have economic revitalization."
"All these conditions, it's not fair," said Jae Yul Kim, the group's president. "I'm waiting for the city to do something, but I'm still looking for a business outside of L.A."
Tina Y. Choi, a special assistant with the mayor's office, said a task force is reviewing the conditions, looking for compromises that would allow the store owners to reopen.
Paek said she hoped to keep the store owners from giving up by keeping them involved in lobbying efforts. "We have to make sure that the politicians are not just giving us lip service. We want to make them accountable as much as we are accountable. Our theme is 'Healing the Community,' and we hope that we can through our efforts."