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Ode To The Roof Koreans

A remembrance in verse of the heroes of the 1992 L.A. riots
Screen Shot 2020-05-28 at 3.04.57 PM

A reader told me he watched this clip this morning. It’s an interview with David Joo, manager of a gun store in L.A.’s Koreatown. Joo used guns to defend his store during the L.A. Riots of 1992. Here’s a short clip of him recalling what that was like. Notice him saying that when the Korean store owners called the police to protect them, they ran away. It fell to him and the others to protect their property:

It prompted my reader to write this poem in honor of the brave shop owners who stood against lawlessness when the LAPD would not. It’s an homage to Macaulay’s “Horatius”:

Ode to the Roof Koreans

But the cashier’s brow was sad,
And the cashier’s speech was quiet,
And darkly looked he out the window,
And darkly at the riot.
“The looters will soon be on us
And the police will hide indoors,
And if those f*ckers win the street,
What hope to save the store?”

Then out spake brave Hyuk Son Lim,
The Owner of the place:
“To every man upon the earth
Death cometh soon or late.
And how can man die better
Than facing fearful odds,
Defending his own shop
At Koreatown Esplanade?

“Haul down the ladder, Young-ja,
I’m-a going to the roof;
We’re going to-a waste these motherf*ckers
If they try to come and loot
We fled chaotic wartime Seoul
To build a life across the sea
Now who will grab their rifle,
And keep the roof with me?”

Whoever the “Roof Koreans” of today’s Minneapolis are — no matter their ethnicity — may they successfully hold off the mob, whatever it takes. All I need to know about someone politically is whether or not they are on the side of Roof Koreans — that is, ordinary, decent people, of whatever race or religion, who find themselves confronted by a mob that wants to destroy them, with the police nowhere to be found.

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