The Roof Koreans and THAT meme

In a normal world an ethnic group banding together would be celebrated as community success, but a normal world we do not live in. Nowadays the Roof Koreans meme is just that a meme and it has largely been coopted by right-wing gun-totting white people, quite the opposite of what the dark history of the rooftop Korean actually entails.

To read about Wokeism click here.

Where does the Roof Koreans meme come from?

In April 1992 when four officers were accused of beating Rodney King, LA and the rest of the USA saw some of the worst riots in its history. LA was abandoned by law enforcement and racial problems began to traverse the classic white verses vlccl narrative.

Korean communities began too arm self-defence groups known, which duly became known as Roof Koreans, or Rooftop Koreans, due to their armed status and that they ere, well on roofs. 

Why were there so many Koreans in Los Angles ghettos?

While South Korea is a relative powerhouse today this was far from always he case. In the 60s and 70s the Republic of Korea was not only poor, but usually ran by a dangerous military dictatorship. At this point the “Korean Economic Miracle” pointed firmly north of the 38t parallel rather than the south.

This meant mass immigration to the US and in particular LA. Koreans would then club together to buy stores, predominantly in black neighbourhoods because white sellers wanted out for cheap. So called hoarding of money and control of business has been put forward as a reason for the problems that would befall the two communities, but this was something denied by Kim Duk, a “Roof Korean” who stated

“There were no tensions, that was all made up by the media. The real tension was between white and black people, with only one side controlling the media and the police while owning most of everything. It seems like Koreans were thrown in there to deflect from that reality. Koreans were punished for white racism and paid a high price”. 

As to whether this is right, or wrong the ruth probably relies somewhere in the middle, but hard  is truly hard to argue when the media is controlled by s strong, but powerful white elite. 

The straw that broke the back for the Roof Koreans 

As they say once the looting starts, the shooting starts, so once Koreans started getting their communities pummelled they banded together via Korean language radio broadcasts with Kim telling us “I heard a call for volunteers so volunteered to help defend my community”. And was for from the only one to do so, with people of all ages and indeed skill sets showing up, from criminals to Korean War vets “Many of us had training from military service, but we also had young guys who knew about weapons from street gangs. Still we all fought together”. 

And fight together they did as the US authorities essentially left them out to rot with Kim adding “We saw the police didn’t care about our community, and was actually more interested in arresting us volunteer defenders (Roof Koreans) rather than looters and rioters, and running away during gun fights. We couldn’t rely on police, they were not there to protect us. They were there to protect wealthy white neighbourhoods while letting Koreatown burn”

This defence and Koreans literally on rooftops protecting their community and businesses is what led to “that meme”, with some very iconic photos coming up ironically  either when Asians suffer racism in the United States, or right-wing gun zealots culturally appropriate it.

The Roof Koreans and right-wing groups

That the meme has even stolen by people who by and large tend to be racist has not been without a sense of irony to those that went through it. So what do Roof Koreans think of the rooftop Koreans meme?

According to Kim, not only is it misunderstood, but also misused ““Some Koreans like it, some of them hate it. We were definitely not gun nuts running around excited to shoot at people. We did not want to hurt anyone, which I don’t think the same can be said for many right-wing gun lovers. A lot of liberal types also think we had this “yeah let’s shoot them” mentality, but again, we did not want to hurt anyone, we just wanted to protect our community, to protect our livelihoods”.

So again more a question of race and misappropriation by both the right and left of America, without any real thought for those that actually went through it. 

Interestingly and following what is happening with regards to Ukrainian emigres returning to their homeland to fight, we asked Kim what he would do if the Republic of Korea was attacked, to he had a very interesting response “It would depend who is attacking Korea. If a foreign military is attacking Korea, I don’t see how many Koreans from around the world wouldn’t want to come and fight back against an invading force. I would also like Koreans to understand that in the same way LAPD is not in Koreatown to protect Koreans, but rather the interests of the establishment, the US military is also not in Korea to protect Koreans, but to protect the interests of the American establishment”

So, while the common narrative is of Koreans supporting US presence in their country and of North Korea being the sole threat, it should be noted that to many Koreans it is the Americans who are seen as the reason the country remains divided.

To read about the last unified Korean state click here.

And have any lessons been learned? 

Sadly they have not and this why the whole Black Lives Matter movement happened and why the roof Koreans meme stays alive and well. This according to Kim was key to the issue “Well, it’s 30 years now, first of all. What we’ve learned that America still has a major problem with racism. After Rodney King, and even in the last few years, how many unarmed black people we see being killed by police over and over and over again? So are things different now?

And if there’s another riot and this country tries to use Koreans as a shield for their own racism and let Koreans take the punishment for it, then Koreans will come together again to defend themselves. Until the problem of white racism is solved, things won’t change and minorities will be pitted against one another to keep this system going… and I don’t realistically see how this country can ever solve this problem. I mean, they don’t even care about their own majority white people, so they definitely don’t care about minorities”

And perhaps when this white majority whose government would rather spend money on war then healthcare finally wake up to things, perhaps then and only then might things change.