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Yong Sin Kim, an 85-year-old South Korean immigrant, shows a whistle attached to his keychain while pausing for photos in his apartment in downtown Los Angeles on March 25, 2021. Kim said he rarely leaves home these days. When he does, he carries a whistle with him, his only defense against random attacks targeting the defenseless. "We donít go out at all. We stay home all day as if we are locked up," said Kim. "I can't even think of going for a walk." (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Jen Ho Lee, a 76-year-old South Korean immigrant, poses in her apartment with a sign from a rally against anti-Asian hate crimes she attended on March 31, 2021 in Los Angeles. Lee took a trip to Koreatown to attend the protest against anti-Asian hate crimes. It took her two busses to get there. "We should be united. We Asians canít stay silent," said Lee. "It is wrong to think these attacks have nothing to do with me. This could happen to me or my family one day." (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

An America flag sticker is posted on the door of Hyang Ran Kimís apartment in downtown Los Angeles on March 25, 2021. The 74-year-old immigrant from South Korea has temporarily moved into her daughterís place in a quiet neighborhood in the suburbs of Orange County. Kim said her daughter was too worried about her safety amid the surge in anti-Asian hate crimes. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Older Korean Americans in L.A. fearful amid anti-Asian attacks

By Jae C. Hong

The Associated Press

www.asianreporter.com

April 19, 2021

LOS ANGELES (AP) ó Yong Sin Kim, an 85-year-old Korean immigrant living in a senior apartment complex in downtown Los Angeles, says he rarely leaves home these days. When he does, he carries a whistle with him; at least he could call for help if heís attacked.

Three floors up in the same building, Hyang Ran Kim, 74, waits for her daughter to pick her up. She is temporarily moving into her daughterís place in a quieter neighborhood in the suburbs. Kim says her daughter is worried about her safety.

Amid a surge of anti-Asian violence, fear creeps in and alters the daily life of vulnerable Asian seniors.

Asian Americans have been targets of discrimination, threats, and violence that have escalated in the past year because the coronavirus pandemic originated in Wuhan, China. Some have blamed former President Donald Trump for fanning flames of intolerance by calling COVID-19 the "China virus" and "kung flu."

People of Asian descent have been spit on, beaten, and told to go back to where they came from. Reports of violence have been on the rise, most notably when a white gunman killed eight people ó six of them Asian women ó in a string of shootings at Atlanta area spas in mid-March. Four of the women were of Korean descent.

While police havenít said that was a hate crime, overt examples of racism have surfaced, such as a surveillance video showing a man in New York City kicking an Asian-American woman and stomping on her face while shouting anti-Asian slurs.

In L.A.ís Koreatown, Denny Kim, a U.S. Air Force veteran said he was beaten in February by two men who shouted slurs such as "ching chong" and "China virus." Police were investigating it as a hate crime.

Discrimination against Asian groups has a long and ugly history dating back to Californiaís origins ó from Chinese laborers exploited during construction of the transcontinental railroad to the large number of Japanese immigrants and their American-born children herded into internment camps during World War II.

Korean Americans in Los Angeles found themselves under siege three decades ago during the 1992 riots that broke out following the acquittal of the police officers who beat Black motorist Rodney King. Anger over the verdict merged with tensions that had been brewing in the Black community over Korean ownership of mom-and-pop shops in their neighborhoods.

Arsons and looting spread from South Los Angeles into Koreatown, where merchants guarded their shops with guns. Despite the defense, much of the $1 billion in the cityís economic losses from the riots were in Koreatown.

For Yong Sin Kim and his wife, who were quarantined in their small apartment for days after they tested positive for COVID-19, their confinement continues to avoid another virus ó violence.

"We donít go out at all. We stay home all day as if we are locked up," said Kim. "I canít even think of going for a walk."

For 74-year-old Sung Hee Chae in Koreatown, itís about a 6-minute walk to the nearest Korean grocery market. Chae said she doesnít go there alone anymore. Her son accompanies her to the market these days. Her daughter in South Korea urges her not to go out at all.

"I was terrified," said Chae about the recent shooting in Atlanta. "It was horrifying."

The bloodshed led to an outpouring of support for Asian Americans and rallies condemning hatred against any group.

"I wish all of us could get along fine regardless of the color of skin. I feel sad. I have mistreated no one," Chae said.

Jen Ho Lee, 76, has a faint heart. She is weak. She needs her walker to get around. She also limits her outings for the same reason as other Korean seniors.

But, the series of recent attacks against Asian people brought a different change for Lee.

Lee took a trip to Koreatown to attend a recent protest against anti-Asian hate crimes. It took her two busses to get there and two busses back to her home.

With signs that say "Stop Asian hate," and "Iím not a virus" taped around her walker, she chanted slogans.

"We should be united. We Asians canít stay silent," said Lee. "I didnít go to the rally because I had plenty of time or because I was healthy."

"It is wrong to think these attacks have nothing to do with me. This could happen to me or my family one day," Lee added.

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