Forum aims to win trust of Korean community

Law enforcement, Asians to discuss justice system

May 17, 2003|By Sara Neufeld | Sara Neufeld,SUN STAFF

As an assistant state's attorney in Baltimore, John Park likes helping his fellow Korean-Americans when they are crime victims.

But that's often hard to do, he said, because many in the Korean community don't trust the government. Factors ranging from language barriers to fear of retaliation result in cases falling apart, or never being pursued at all.

The Baltimore state's attorney's office and Police Department and the Korean-American Grocers and Licensed Beverage Association hope to start changing that tomorrow at a forum to explain the criminal justice system to the Korean community and other Asians.

Five of the about 200 prosecutors employed by the city state's attorney's office are Korean, Park said. All are expected to attend tomorrow's event. Baltimore District Judge Jeannie J. Hong, the country's first female Korean-American judge, also is expected to attend.

Topics will include crime prevention and navigating the criminal court process.

Assistant State's Attorney David Chiu said he hopes the forum will become an annual event and that law enforcement agencies in surrounding counties will sponsor similar forums.

David Kim, president of the Maryland chapter of the Korean grocers association, said that when he heard about the idea from Chiu, he was "ecstatic because it was the first time somebody reached out and said, `We want to help you.'"

As a community, Kim said, "we have no connections to favorable politicians or people in power in the city. ... Sometimes we have nobody to talk to."

Kim, whose association has 300 members in Baltimore, said Korean-owned stores often are easy targets, both for crime and police raids. "We're kind of easy to pick on," he said. "We don't fight back and we don't talk back."

Park, Chiu and others have been circulating fliers about tomorrow's event for the past month. Nevertheless, Kim said, some merchants might be wary of attending.

"I don't really care if 10 people attend," he said. "It's a start. We're very happy that this even has come about. This is a learning process for us."

The forum is scheduled from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at Hope Chapel Korean Presbyterian Church of Baltimore, at 1600 W. Seminary Ave. in Lutherville. Admission is free, and Korean and Chinese translators will be available.

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