Mourners note 'common enemy' -- crime Korean-Americans hold motorcade

February 01, 1997|By Michael James and James Bock | Michael James and James Bock,SUN STAFF

Korean-American leaders mourned the killing of their own yesterday, leading a 65-car funeral motorcade past two stores where Korean merchants were slain recently and blaming the tragedies not on racial tension but on "the common enemy" -- crime.

"We beseech the community leaders and the media not to turn these tragic events into racial issues," said Matthew S. Yoo, a Baltimore attorney who read a statement prepared by the Korean Society of Maryland. "We must all work together to solve problems without pointing fingers at any one group."

Yoo spoke in front of Meadowridge Memorial Park cemetery in Howard County minutes after services for Chi Sup Kim, a 44-year-old Baltimore grocer who was fatally shot in the back by robbers Monday.

The killing was one of four recent acts of violence against Baltimore-area Korean-American merchants, which prompted an outcry from some who believed the shootings were the result of tension between African-Americans and Korean-Americans.

But in their statement, Korean-American leaders said Baltimore's violence is not directed at any one "race, religion, gender or nationality," but is instead the product of "the common enemy -- crime, shootings, murders, poverty, drugs and lawlessness."

"We mourn today the countless number of victims of senseless crimes in recent times in our communities," Yoo said. "When anyone falls victim to crime, everyone is so diminished and the community so declines."

The funeral ended an emotional week for the Korean-American community, which was told by police earlier in the week of a possible link among four robberies against Korean-American merchants since Jan. 20. Two of those incidents ended in death and another in a serious wounding.

Yesterday, police officials announced the arrest of three men in one of the cases, an attempted holdup at a North Baltimore liquor store in which no one was hurt, and Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke played down a connection among the incidents.

"I asked the police commissioner whether there is any evidence to suggest a link between the murders in which Korean merchants were victims," Schmoke said. "He indicated to me, based on the evidence they have, that these are not the same people involved and that no conspiracy exists to target Korean merchants."

Schmoke said his liaison to the Korean-American community has been meeting with community leaders for several days "to develop strategies to combat these crimes."

The Korean Society of Maryland said it planned to present a short list of crime-fighting suggestions to city leaders Monday, asking them to provide more foot patrols around Korean-American businesses and to hire a full-time Korean-speaking police officer to respond to emergencies involving Korean-American crime victims.

"We consider this a matter of life and death," said Kenneth Lee, one of the Korean-American leaders who participated in yesterday's motorcade and who met briefly with City Council President Lawrence A. Bell outside City Hall yesterday. "I'm really mad right now. Nobody trusts government. Government is supposed to protect life, and it's not."

Kenneth Lee's son, Joel, a Towson State University computer science major, was slain by a mugger in September 1993, and his father has crusaded for his son's killer to be brought to justice.

"All I want is for American justice to work right," he told Bell.

Some African-American ministers came to Kim's funeral yesterday to offer words of comfort for the Korean-Americans and to urge them not to prejudge blacks.

"We share your grief," said Bishop Jeff Johnson of Har Sinai Church of Christ at 300 S. Broadway. "All blacks do not feel as the lawless ones do."

Willie Ray, a West Baltimore preacher who has led countless "Stop The Killing" vigils for city homicide victims, said, "The person who did this evil, God will bring them to justice. I want you to know that the African-American community is sending their love."

Three city police officers also went to the funeral, saying they knew Kim as a friend and as a man who worked hard and ran a good business, the A-1 Supermarket, in the 3600 block of W. Caton Ave. He was shot there in front of his wife after he handed over several hundred dollars to two masked men.

"He was wonderful to my family, and to his own," said Melvin Moore, who has been on the city police force for 14 years and patrols the Edmondson Village area. "His ultimate goal was to put his son and two daughters through college."

Since the killing, Moore said, he has heard the Korean-American merchants in the area talk about leaving. "They're scared, and I don't blame them. So many business people are being targeted," Moore said. "It's happening to everybody."

After the Kim service, the motorcade of Korean-Americans proceeded past Selma's Liquors in the 4600 block of Washington Blvd. in Halethorpe, where Yang Koo Yoon, 46, was shot to death Jan. 21 during a robbery.

Inside, his widow, Young Lan Yoon, 40, and the couple's only child, Michael, 16, sold carryout subs and french fries while other family members worked at the liquor counter.

Michael Yoon, a high school sophomore in Montgomery County, said his father bought the liquor store and carryout four months ago to "try to earn more money to send me to college." He said his father, who owned a deli in Forestville, Prince George's County for 10 years, worked from early morning to late at night six days a week.

Mrs. Yoon said she gave the two masked robbers more than $500 shortly before 9 p.m. Jan. 21. Her husband, who was working in the basement, heard a commotion in the liquor store, ran out the carryout entrance and was shot several times in a brief struggle with the robbers.

L "How come they all the time try to kill Koreans?" she asked.

Pub Date: 2/01/97

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