1992 saw some of the worst riots in US history and indeed world history. It was these Los Angeles Riots, otherwise known as the Los Angeles Uprising, that the ‘Rooftop Korean’ made a name for itself. The LA Uprising lasted for five days. Nearly 60 residents of varying backgrounds were killed in the violence.
Business owners armed themselves and their relatives with rifles. Korean Americans on rooftops communicated through walkie talkies as if in the middle of a war zone. The L.A. uprising is known as “Sa-i-gu” among the city’s Korean American community, which translates to “April 29,” the day the destruction began.
Depictions of the armed Korean American store owners on rooftops would come to define the L.A. uprising and still spark mixed reactions today. Some interpreted the “roof Koreans” as “gun-toting vigilantes” rightfully defending their properties. These images also symbolize America’s history of inequality — and especially inequality pitting minority communities against each other.