Yesterday saw the release of a widely anticipated legal complaint filed by five Korean residents of Koreatown against the city of Los Angeles regarding the way districting maps were recently re-drawn for electoral purposes. For those unfamiliar with what went on, many Korean activists who did not live in Koreatown showed up to these redistricting meetings as stakeholders, putatively to fight for the area’s interests… though clearly they were fighting for “Han-in town” (한인타운) and not the place that just happens to have been designated by political forces as “Ko-ri-a town” (코리아타운).
The document published online appears unstamped, and it is unclear if it will be submitted as in — amendments could still be made. Our comments are based on the version that was published online and that was made available to the media on July 31, 2012. (Screenshots have been taken, though the file is embedded below.)
The first telltale sign that the complaint was sloppily and/or rushingly drafted was the absence of a closing quotation mark in one of sentences on the first page. But that is just a minor quibble.
The most glaring mistake appears on the Page 3 where one of the “Factual Allegations” (#17) is that “Korean-Americans make up the largest proportion of Koreatown residents…” Anyone with any familiarity with Koreatown knows that that is simply not true. If a census were to be taken today, the percentage of actual residents of Korean descent in the area would be well below 10 percent. Even if recent official figures were to be taken, it would still be less than 15 percent.
Further, the complaint appears to make no mention of the City Council’s 2010 definition of the borders of Koreatown, but instead relies on the more expansive boundaries that the Los Angeles Times uses for their neighborhood maps, as well as on the borders of the Wilshire Center – Koreatown Neighborhood Council (WKC) that were defined in 2003.
We have no problem with living in this place called Koreatown (no matter what its boundaries are), because we see the name as a culturally significant designation for the place where we were born and raised and are residents of. We proudly say, “We live in Koreatown.” (which just happens to have always had a Latino majority throughout census history).
Yet perpetuating falsehoods cannot be tolerated. It was bad enough that the K-town reality show depicted such a fake version of Koreatown comprising a cast of people who hadn’t been living in the area at all… Now lawyers — lawyers! — are stating in a legal document that Korean-Americans live here in great numbers, when in fact they just come to work and play here.
Ultimately, there are more serious and complicated charges in the complaint that need to be addressed that pertain to the African-American vote, and the city has hired Remcho, Johansen & Purcell LLP to defend itself. Still, the Latino majority in Koreatown cannot be expected to sit idly by when one of the basic allegations in the suit is a false statement ignoring the overwhelming existence of non-Koreans.
This is a quick reaction to the legal complaint released late yesterday. A more careful reading of it while referencing all the cited maps and documents will likely produce more insightful commentary. But for now, we can confidently say, “Korean-Americans DO NOT make up the largest proportion of Koreatown residents.”