News Coverage of Racial Tensions and Its Relationship to
Korean Newcomers' Community Participation
Jae Chul Shim, Ph.D.
Department of Mass Communication
Seoul, 136-701, Korea
Department of Communication Studies
University of Missouri-Kansas City
5100 Rockhill Rd.
Kansas City, MO 66213
[log in to unmask] (email)
Paper submitted to
the Minorities and Communication Division of
the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass
Communication, Washington. D.C., August 1995
News Coverage of Racial Tensions and Its Relationship to
Korean Newcomers' Community Participation
The United States is made up of many people from many lands and has
achieved a status of a nation of nations. With the current development of
communication technology and interdependent globalization among
the growth of recently formed ethnic communities in urban America may
a profound impact on people's public life. Especially, a large number
immigrants and nonimmigrant newcomers increase the complexity of the
dilemma, including intergroup tensions between newly arrived groups
established host majorities (see, e.g., Greenberg & Brand, 1994; Kim,
Olzak & West, 1991; Subervi-Velez, 1986; Shim, 1994). With the approach
of the 21st century, the emergence of the new ethnic communities
constitutes a dynamic social phenomena in the inner cities, with potential
for changing the appearance of American society.
This article investigates how ethnic newcomers' media consumption relates
to the change of an ethnic community in urban America. People's media
relates positively to their community participation (see, Merton,
Janowitz, 1967; Stamm, 1985; Stamm & Weis, 1986; Stamm & Guest, 1991)
ethnic members' participation could lead to the revitalization of
city areas (Shim & Salmon, 1990; Shim, 1994). With this possibility,
article explains how ethnic newcomers' perceptions of social realty i
ntervene as a connecting mechanism from their newspaper use to community
Social scientists have often claimed that reality is socially constructed
(e.g., Berger & Luckmann, 1966; Quinney, 1970) and that the reality
perceive is the product of communication in everyday life (McLeod &
Chaffee, 1972). News organizations select the salient information about
the outside world from many available sources and deliver it daily in
form of news. Media consumers subjectively interpret this news and
construct a meaningful image about the outside world. Similarly, newcomers
from other countries learn intergroup conflicts, mainly through their use
of mass media, and construct social reality based on this information.
This article attempts to elaborate the process of people's perceptions of
intergroup conflicts and investigates how ethnic newcomers'
including news of urban crime and intergroup tensions, relates to their
participation in American society. After reading about violent racial
conflicts in newspapers, people may feel threatened in various ways;
is, they may have various fears of victimization regarding ingroup
outgroup members and themselves. If so, what kinds of social psychologi
cal processes lead to these fears of victimization, and what
behaviors result from them? These perceived threats and people's
responses are part of the current urban experience; these risk
need to be clarified before people participate in the community.
Media Effects on Social Reality
Tichenor, Donohue and Olien (1980) propose the conflict-knowledge
hypothesis, which states that "the higher the level of perceived conflict
about an issue in a community, the higher the level of knowledge about
issue." It hypothesizes a positive relationship between people's
perception of a conflict issue and their knowledge of the conflict.
Nonetheless, Adoni and Cohen (1978) argue that "objective knowledge" of
current events does not necessarily correspond to the "subjective
of understanding." They show that the objective knowledge of facts
subjective feeling of understanding are "only moderately related." Adoni
and Cohen further argue that media use, especially television viewing,
more strongly related to subjective feelings of understanding than
objective knowledge of the facts. Since Adoni and Cohen utilized only
bivariate correlational analysis, their analyses might be considered
incomplete. Nonetheless, they have made an important contribution to the
field by clarifying that objective and perceived knowledge are two
dimensions of people's perceptions of social reality. The current
considers these two constructs as the first-level of social reality
explains these constructs' relationships to people's perceptions of
victimization, which is considered in this article as the second-level of
Hawkins and Pingree (1990) indicate that media consumers have two
different levels of social reality perceptions. One is media users'
first-order beliefs, which refer to people's mere perception of reality as
portrayed in the media. The other level of reality is people's
second-order beliefs or risk perceptions, which relate to community
members' protective or defensive social behaviors. Media effects on these
two different beliefs tend to diverge. People's first-order beliefs
estimated number of street crimes) are consistently correlated to media
reality (e.g., actual number of violent scenes in TV), but people's
second-order beliefs, perceptions of risk of victimization, are less
directly related to their amount of media exposure (for review, see
& Pingree, 1990).
This study argues that these second-order beliefs need to be divided into
the two groups: the perceived likelihood of being personally
perception of other group members being victimized by crimes. In fact,
Taylor (1980) demonstrates that media crime reports do not directly
to people's estimation of the likelihood themselves of being
strongly relate to their judgment of crime in the neighborhood. Tyler and
Cook (1984) further suggest that media may give their audiences more of a
sense of conditions of other people's lives than of their own. They
discuss media effects in terms of the risks media audiences see to others
vs. to themselves. If we apply this logic, then the group risk
could be divided into two different types of perceptions of ingroup
members' victimization vs. outgroup members' victimization.
In summary, ethnic newcomers may feel threatened in various ways when they
read about violent racial conflicts in newspapers; that is, they may have
different risk perceptions of ingroup-, outgroup-, and
This article examines contingent conditions of media effects on these
types of fears of victimization and explains how these fears relate to
ethnic newcomers' participatory behaviors including political, economic
cultural participation in the community.
The Origin and Consequence of Korean-Black Conflicts
It is a widely accepted fact that the American inner city is dangerous,
and much of the violence occurring in the areas has been related to
tension. This article first describes the nature of the racial
and violent crimes in the inner cities, and then, based on the media
coverage, highlights Black-Korean tensions during the two-year period
to the Los Angeles riots (April 30 - May 2, 1992). Based on the survey
results, it discusses potential media effects on the Korean American
nity in Southern California. Then, this article suggests possible
solutions of intergroup conflicts with policy implications for the ethnic
communities and their media institutions.
Nature of Korean-Black Tensions and Violent Crimes
A great portion of Korean Americans operate "mom-and-pop" grocery and
liquor stores in the violent sector of Los Angeles. Korean storekeepers
have become a highly visible economic presence in southwest Los
Korean-owned liquor and convenience stores constitute as much as 75
of all the stores operating in Southern California (see Gibbs, 1991). In
the summer of 1991, during my community research, I counted every
store for 70 blocks (between Jefferson and Century Boulevards) on
Avenue in south Los Angeles, and I found that 17 of the 21 stores, or
percent, were owned by Koreans. Korean merchants also own the most
(17 out of 20) inside the Western Indoor Swap Meet, a large flea
south Los Angeles. (This market was burned down during the Los Angeles
riots in 1992.) This is not a unique case. Korean merchants own many
indoor "swap meets" in California. More than one-third of the Koreans
the United States are self-employed, mostly working in family-owned
or medium-sized stores including those of indoor swap meets(Yu, 1983;
& Bonacich, 1988).
Because of Korean newcomers' heavy presence in south Los Angeles since the
early 1980s, they have been easy targets for crimes such as frequent
shoplifting, robbery and murder. While I interviewed one Korean merchant
in the Western Indoor Swap Meet, he became angry immediately after one
female customer left his store. This merchant told me that "a
pair of earrings was stolen" and said that he needed to sell "10 of
earrings to balance off that loss." He claimed further:
If I don't watch the customers carefully, my store would be looted by so
many shoplifters that I would be out of business soon. In a
customers as a whole are being held responsible for the losses.
So I have
to charge the next customers more.
There was no way to check whether a pair of earrings was actually stolen
in his store. But it might be the typical reaction of Korean
based on their past encounters. The prices at those stores are
much higher than those in supermarkets, which may be some shoplifters'
justification to steal; they might feel that these merchants already
enough profit there. Regardless of who is right, Korean merchants
responded to these crimes, or through their perceptions of crimes, by
ting substantial crime-prevention equipment and arming themselves with
weapons. In fact, most merchants in this area, including African
Americans, are doing business without locking the triggers on their guns
due to the threat of frequent holdups. This practice causes African
Americans in south Los Angeles to charge Korean owners with treating
customers as criminal suspects. African American activists' boycott
movements against Korean stores have reflected the "long-standing
antipathy" of Blacks "toward commercial outsiders" (Light & Bonacich,
1988). These activists have accused Koreans of draining money from the
neighborhood without putting anything back. They have criticized
merchants for not hiring local African Americans. African Americans
certain inner city resent Korean commercial success, regarding
activities of Koreans in ghetto businesses" as insults to Black
and obstacles to Black economic progress (Kim, 1981).
Korean merchants, on the other hand, complain that the employees they have
hired from the neighborhood have been neither trustworthy nor
hard-working. A significant number of mom-and-pop store owners
that they have neither the resources nor the luxury to hire many
Some Korean newcomers even feel there is no reason to apologize for their
business success, which they believe is due to hard work.
Media Coverage of Korean-Black Tensions
Korean ethnic newspapers have covered these new urban tensions between
Blacks and Koreans as headline news, especially when Korean merchants
been shot and killed. The national media also began to focus on these
violent racial tensions during the early months of 1990. This media
coverage depicts Black-Korean tensions before the Los Angeles riots.
Previous studies of intergroup conflicts have often attempted to explain
the outbreak of urban riots by focusing on the long-term history of
discrimination, structural problems of urban poverty, and relative
deprivation experienced by certain minority groups (see, e.g., McAdam,
1982; Morris, 1984; Seeman, 1981; Taylor & Moghaddam, 1987). In
this article tries to locate the origin of the animosity between
Koreans seen during the Los Angeles riots in the period shortly before the
ir outbreak. In particular, this article will look at the
predominantly Black neighborhoods after newly arrived Korean
occupied the majority of corner stores in south central Los Angeles.
Through the qualitative analyses of media content, I mainly focused on
minority-minority tensions between Korean newcomers and African
exacerbated by violent urban crimes. There have been different
perspectives on current Black-Korean tensions in urban America. That is,
the whole framework within which the problems are discussed differs
the two groups--for Korean merchants it is a crime issue; for the Blacks
in the ghetto area it is a structural race problem on the hierarchy of
American economic system. This study takes the perspective of Korean
newcomers who have struggled to adjust to life in urban America.
Five incidents especially attracted the attention of both Korean ethnic
and host metropolitan newspapers during the two-year period of
They are as follows:
1) Between January 1990 and May 1991, African American activists launched
a 16-month boycott in front of the Red Apple store, which was owned by
Korean merchants in Brooklyn, New York. One of the two storeowners,
Jae Jang, became a target of the boycott because an African American
customer claimed that she had been assaulted by store employees who
her of theft. The boycott spread to nearby Korean-owned stores and its
participants began to shout "Don't buy from Koreans." The
g incident heightened racial tensions in New York City and helped
national attention on Black-Korean relations. Korean grocers in the
States organized against the boycott and contributed money for Jang to
keep his store open. After a 16-month struggle to stay in business,
decided to sell the store in May 1991.
The difference between Black and Korean perspectives can be seen in the
fact that a May 30 New York Post editorial praised Jang as "a hero of
first magnitude" for standing firm against a "tough boycott and an
campaign, while the African American boycotters claimed victory,
"they were glad to see Jang leave" (Kim, 1991, p. 1).
Another example of two different perspectives are found in the media
coverage of the following stories.
2) When a Korean grocer, Soon Ja Du, fatally shot a 16-year-old Black
teenager in her Empire Liquor store in south Los Angeles during an
over a $1.79 bottle of orange juice, both host and ethnic media in
Southern California covered the event as front-page news. The mainstream
mass media also attributed this incident as the one of causes for the
direct conflict between Korean and African Americans during the Los
While African American activists condemned Du as "an evil ghetto merchant
preying on hapless black customers," Korean immigrant merchants
with her by pointing out that "Du grabbed the gun after she was punched
four times . . . and knocked to the ground twice" (Lee, 1992, p. 6).
Framing the Du story as a crime issue, Korean media also reported that
family members had been terrorized by local gang members for two years.
Du, in particular, was terrified that an employee, a Crips gang
would kill her and her family members. According to court records, he
pleaded guilty to charges of threats at Du's store over an 18-month
While a Black lawyer, Charles Lloyd, defended Du in the court trial,
African American activists organized a boycott and began to picket in
of several Korean stores. Arsonists either firebombed or set fire to
Korean-owned groceries five times before the Los Angeles riots. On
November 15, 1991, Superior Court Judge Joyce A. Karlin suspended Du's
10-year jail sentence, ordering instead only 400 hours of community
Like the Simi Valley jury's decision in the Rodney King incident, this
court decision enraged local African American activists and their
supporters, and they protested against the court sentence. Consequently,
District Attorney Ira Reiner petitioned to have Judge Karlin suspended
the bench. In defending Karlin, an editor of the Jewish Journal contended
that Reiner's appeal was "pegged to his own re-election interests" (Marks,
1992, p. 6). The Korea Times Los Angeles, one of the primary Korean
ethnic newspapers in California, chose Du's trial story as the "Year of
Turmoil" news (one of the biggest news stories of the year). Ensuing
hostilities between Blacks and Koreans in Los Angeles have been covered
quite thoroughly by local and regional media.
While both mainstream and Black ethnic newspapers interpreted the Du case
as one of the immediate causes for the Los Angeles riots, many Korean
ethnic media covered it as a typical act committed in self-defense, which
frequently occurs in the inner cities.
3) In May 1991, Korean convenience storekeeper Jung Soo Yoo was shot three
times, including once each in the face and stomach, by gangsters who tried
to rob the store. He responded by killing two and wounding a third man.
Yoo told reporters: "I couldn't think of any other way to get out of
circumstances. I guessed the result at the end. So I took the
(Fruto & Kim, 1991, p. 1). According to police, the robbers were all
with handguns and appeared to be well-prepared before they entered the
store. The Los Angeles media, including the three major television
networks, covered the shootout in a manner resembling "a Western movie" (a
local Korean paper wrote), showing the videotape taken by a store
They reported that the local police had kept the film in order to warn
juvenile delinquents against shoplifting.
4) On Memorial Day weekend in May 1991, a convicted criminal, Victor
Beltran, entered a Korean-owned store in south Los Angeles and, without
warning, shot the two Korean store managers in the head. According to the
local newspaper, one witness at the preliminary hearing testified that,
before entering the store, Beltran had told bystanders, "I am going to
the Buddha heads off" (Fruto, 1991, p. 1). Beltran, who had been
convicted of at least six prior felonies, complained to the police before
he was booked: "Why don't I get any bail? The Korean lady [Soon Ja Du]
killed the black girl [Latasha Harlins], and she got it. We did the
thing" (Fruto, 1991, p. 7). Korean ethnic media treated this event as
headline crime story. In contrast, the metropolitan media including
Los Angeles Times framed it as a story of racial conflict that was
incidentally being exacerbated by incidents involving violent crime (see,
e.g., Holguin & Lee, 1991; Rutten, 1991).
5) After the Du incident, another Korean shopkeeper, Tae Sam Park, fatally
shot a Black man, Lee Arthur Mitchell, in John's Liquor store on June 4,
1991. The district attorney's office determined that the shooting was
justifiable homicide on the basis of evidence that Mitchell had told
he had a gun in his jacket and then tried to rob the store by
shopkeeper. According to the Los Angeles Times, boycott organizers did
not believe there was an attempted robbery, and they staged daily
outside the store (Lee, 1991).
I visited John's Liquor store and met the Parks, who had kept the store
open with only a few customers per day throughout the African American
activists' boycott from June to November in 1991. Their average sales
day had been less than 10 dollars. Park (personal communication, June
1991) said: "I will keep the store open because I am innocent. If I
the door, some other Korean merchants in the future will be out of
because of the agitating boycotts, too."
Korean Americans supported the Parks, but quietly, so as not to anger
African American activists. Time's special issue on California reported
that Korean Americans donated "more than $20,000" to help Park keep
store open during the protest (Gibbs, 1991). In fact, Koreans in
California raised about $50,000 to help Park stay in business. The Korean
ethnic media sympathetically covered the background story of the Park
couple's hardship and triggered ethnic sentiments to prevent Park from
being put out of business. Through suggestions of friends and community
members, however, the Parks decided to sell their store in November
After Park had sold the store, the six-month boycott ended.
These five cases illustrated crime-related, Black-Korean tensions in the
years of 1990 and 1991. Because of structural similarities in
inner cities, where ethnic newcomers open up businesses in
Black neighborhoods, the Red Apple case in New York might be
prelude to the tensions between Blacks and Koreans in Los Angeles and
metropolitan areas during 1991. Although the major American mass media,
including the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, framed these
conflicts as a new urban problem, these violent tensions were not at all
new to either Korean newcomers or African American residents in the
cities. For example, four Korean merchants were killed during April
in Southern California and, as had been predicted, such incidents
to occur in Los Angeles and other inner cities.
After the boycott of Tae Sam Park's store had ceased, another grocer,
Young Tae Park (the owner of Superior Liquor Store) was shot and killed
December 15, 1991. The Korea Times Los Angeles reported the incident
the front-page headline "in pursuit of the American Dream/Another
Killed in action" (Fruto, 1991, p. 1). He was the seventh Korean
grocer killed in a robbery during a previous 12-month period. Another
Korean American, Koang Ho Song (the owner of Rick's Fish Market), was
and killed on January 15, 1992. Again, the local ethnic media gave
memorial address: "Another casualty of everyday shooting/Koang Ho
months short of reaching the American Dream" (Kim, 1992, p. 1).
Even after the Los Angeles riots, especially for a two-month period in
1993, 13 Koreans were shot and eight of them were killed in Southern
California. Among them, one bicycle store owner was shot by a 12 year-old
Black teenager (see Cho, 1993). The most of these victims were heads
immigrant households and they were usually over 40 years old. Police
identified the majority of those suspected of shooting Korean merchants
these cases as Blacks who had, usually, a significant number of
These violent crimes have always made headlines in Korean ethnic
newspapers while host metropolitan newspapers tend to ignore them--unless
the nature of the crime fits into their news frame. They tend to
this type of crime news as a new urban problem of minority-minority
conflicts. Because there have been so many violent crimes in Los Angeles,
the crimes themselves do not seem to have any news value for the
newspapers. Host metropolitan media have also had difficulty covering new
ethnic members' issues in detail because of language and cultural barriers
hindering access (Shim, 1992). Interestingly, both African Americans and
Korean ethnic members complained that the mainstream media's coverage
been "culturally insensitive" and "careless" in reporting Black-Korean
One note of caution is that most of the intergroup conflicts covered by
the mass media come to ethnic newcomers as a second-hand reality,
they were directly involved. Only a few Koreans, including victims'
members and close friends, probably had first-hand experience with the
events described above. Most Korean ethnic members have been informed
about these intergroup tensions through their use of mass media
both host and ethnic newspapers.
Social-level Effects of Media Coverage on Ethnic newcomers
The rest of the article deals with a long-standing "community integration"
theory. It explains that mass media, including local newspapers, play a
major role in developing people's ties to the local community and
their participation in the various settings of the community (see,
Janowitz, 1967). Park (1922, 1925, 1952) first provided a basic
theoretical perspective of this integration hypothesis and examined the
role of the immigrant press in making ethnic newcomers adjust to life
the American city. Since then, ethnic media disappeared for a long
urban America. Until recently, empirical evidence had not yet accumulated
to elaborate this integration hypothesis (for review, see Stamm, 1985).
Neither Janowitz nor Park had been clear about the contingent
which explain why the relationships between community orientations and
media use are not always clear-cut.
By arguing against this integration, status-quo perspective, Dahrendorf
(1958, 1959, 1967) abandoned the "utopian image" of society created by
naive functionalists. Instead, he urged researchers to analyze the
face" of modern society and interracial conflicts in urban America.
Nevertheless, Coser (1956, 1967) argued that conflict has an integrative
function and guided us to understand the mechanism that ingroup
integrate within the group when they face outside threats.
Racial tensions between Blacks and Koreans in Southern California provided
a unique opportunity to examine these two seemingly opposite theories at
once, with a special focus on the role of ethnic newspapers.
In fact, I examined various media's integrative role for ingroup members
by surveying 315 Korean newcomers when Korean merchants' conflicts
African Americans in south Los Angeles were severely violent. Detailed
discussion of the research process and findings are available from my
dissertation research in Los Angeles. Figure 1 summarizes the most
important findings concerning mass media effects on Korean newcomers. Mass
media effects on Koreans' knowledge about those five violent incidents
mentioned above, three types of risk perceptions, and four types of
community participation have been drawn as either solid straight lines,
indicating a strong relationship, or dotted lines, indicating a weaker
The mass media's social-level effects on ethnic newcomers are summarized
1. Korean newcomers' ethnic newspaper use positively relates to their
subjective and objective knowledge about intergroup conflicts between
Blacks and Koreans in Southern California. That is, the more Koreans use
Korean newspapers, the more they think they know about the five
mentioned above. They also actually know about the details of those
incidents. But the subjects' mainstream newspaper use including the Los
Angeles Times does not significantly relate to their knowledge about
details of Black-Korean conflict.
2. This knowledge of Black-Korean conflict in general positively relates
to Korean newcomers' perceptions of the likelihood of victimization.
Koreans in Southern California as a group think that their own ethnic
members are more likely to be victims of crime by other minorities. But
individual Koreans there do not see themselves as the possible victims
crime. Koreans' knowledge of conflict does not directly relate to
fear of the likelihood of being involved personally as victims of
(self-victimization) nor does this knowledge relate to their estimation
outgroup members' likelihood of victimization from crime
(outgroup-victimization). That is, although Korean newcomers know
the details of five incidents mentioned above, they do not perceive
incidents as personal threats nor do they perceive that outgroup
such as whites are likely to be possible victims of violent crimes.
three different dimensions of fear of victimization are positively
to one another. Separate analyses show that Koreans' fear of being
personally involved with crime could be influenced by their perceptions of
both ingroup and outgroup members' likelihood of being victimized by
In summary, Koreans' media use is not directly related to their fear of
victimization from crime, but this relation between media use and fear
victimization is indirectly connected through their knowledge of
conflicts (see Figure 1).
3. On the one hand, Korean newcomers' readership in the host newspapers
directly relates to their political participation in both host and
communities. Table 1 shows that these relations are statistically
even after 14 variables including major demographics, community
orientations and risks perceptions are controlled. On the other hand,
Korean newcomers' use of ethnic newspapers is only indirectly related to
their political participation in the ethnic community. Korean
who read Korean newspapers and perceive the risk of being victimized
crime, are more likely to participate and solve the problem
within the ethnic community.
4. Korean newcomers' use of ethnic newspapers directly relates to their
economic and cultural participation in the Korean community (see Table
Separate analyses also show that through their fear of victimization from
crime, Koreans' use of ethnic newspapers indirectly relates to their
economic and cultural participation in the ethnic community (see Figure
Throughout these findings, one key claim is that ethnic newspapers,
including their coverage of ethnic conflicts, have a positive relation to
Korean newcomers' participation in the ethnic community. On the one
people's readership of ethnic newspapers both directly and indirectly
relates to their economic and cultural participation in the ethnic
community. On the other hand, people's use of mass media, especially
either host newspapers or ethnic newspapers, does not directly relate to
their fear of victimization. Only people's use of ethnic newspapers
indirectly relates to their perceptions of ingroup-victimization through
their knowledge of intergroup conflicts. These perceptions also
relate to their community participation in the ethnic community.
Based on these results, this article suggests that greater publicity
surrounding intergroup tensions probably influences perceptions of the
issues as critical risks of the group but not as a personal risk. Mutz
(1988, 1992) calls this media effect on social level perception
influence." The study of Korean newcomers clearly shows that media's
impersonal effects occur indirectly, rather than directly, through the
intermediating mechanism of knowledge gain, especially people's
of details of violent intergroup conflicts.
Conclusions and Suggestions
In a sense, previous scholars' premises, either mass media's role of
integration or conflict perspective on intergroup relations, were not
wrong. But this article argues that two seemingly contradictory
perspectives could be synthesized. It further clarifies mass media's
effects on community participation through more complex intermediating,
social psychological mechanisms.
People's use of mass media, especially ethnic newcomers' readership of
ethnic newspapers, relates to their participation in the ethnic
indirectly through their knowledge of intergroup conflicts and their
perceptions of the risk of victimization. In addition, media's effects on
people's three types of fear of victimization all indirectly relate to
ethnic newcomers' political, economic and cultural participation in the
There are several pieces of evidence to support these findings at the
community level. One typical example is that after Korean newspapers
covered the story of African American activists' boycott and
in front of Tae Sam Park's John's Liquor store, Koreans and Korean
Americans donated significantly to help the Parks keep the store. The
majority of the money donated did not come from individual Korean
even though the details of intergroup conflicts may have been well known
to them. Instead, a large percentage of the donations came from
organizations, such as self-help groups. The decision of these
organizations to donate may reflect their members' perception of
ingroup-victimization, but before they made this decision, the members
probably agreed with each other based on the personal-level risks. The
results of the Los Angeles study indicate that there must have been
connecting mechanism between group-level and personal-level risks
to the subsequent defensive behaviors to protect group interest.
Intergroup conflicts in American inner cities have not been unique to
Blacks and Koreans. The Arab community has a similar problem. For
example, 17 Iranian store owners in Cleveland have been killed, and Iranian
ethnic organizations have been organized to fight against crime. Similar
patterns of conflict between Jews and African Americans have continued
New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. Even in quite Midwestern cities,
as Raytown in Missouri, white shopkeepers have been killed by armed
ters and this crime becomes a major issue in the area. Moreover, the
conflicts between Hispanics and Blacks have been considered to be more
tense and severe than Black-Korean ones.
While these intergroup conflicts continue in urban America, some ethnic
newcomers have revived the retail and other small-business sectors as
as surrounding areas in decay. Much like Koreatown, Little Tokyo and
Chinatown in Los Angeles have become famous travel spots in California.
Monterey Park's China community and Garden Grove's Little Saigon have
seen rapid expansion. Similar growth of new Asian and Hispanic
can be found in many metropolitan areas. Most of the growth of new ethnic
communities has occurred in urban decaying areas, where long-standing
African Americans compete with newcomers from other countries.
tensions seem to be an unavoidable consequence of this condition.
The remaining question then, is how can we solve these intergroup
conflicts, and what role do host and ethnic newspapers play in this
If news itself is sensational like the above five incidents, then
reporters cannot do much about making that news unsensational. When Black
and Korean conflicts began to emerge in Los Angeles, each ethnic
both African American newspapers such as the Los Angeles Sentinel and
Korean ethnic newspapers including the Korea Times Los Angeles mainly
covered the issue from their own community perspective. Thus, the
of Korean and African American communities tended to polarize according to
each other's perspectives. One Korean-American scholar even suggested
that Korean grocery owners pull their resources out of the south Los
Angeles area as Jewish and Italian Americans did a decade ago. This
suggestion gained some popularity in the Korean community because there
were few alternatives left in solving Korean-Black conflicts
the high crime rate, poverty, and drug problems in those areas.
When conflicts began in Los Angeles in 1991, the Sentinel covered the
issue in an inflammatory manner and condemned the Korean liquor and
owners in the areas. Consequently, most Korean merchants in the area did
not display those copies of the Sentinel in their stores. Considering
more than two-thirds of liquor and grocery stores in the south Los Angeles
area are Korean-owned, hiding these issues of the newspaper from its
readers shocked the Sentinel, according to its editor (Young, July 17,
1991, personal communication).
In order to ameliorate these conflicts, many leaders of Korean community
organizations visited African American community leaders and city
authorities, including then-Mayor Bradley. They discussed the problems and
planned to have a joint cultural exchange between Blacks and Koreans. At
the level of community leaders, both sides seemed to understand the
well and promised to work together. Korean editors and reporters as a
group also visited the editor of the Sentinel and exchanged opinions
the problem and the characteristics of the Black-Korean conflicts.
that, both sides of ethnic newspapers covered many stories encouraging
intergroup harmony and suggested that their audiences be sensitive to
other's culture. Nevertheless, Korean merchants in south Los Angeles
continue to be killed off, as do many of their African American
counterparts in the inner cities. It shows that the solution for the
intergroup conflict was not probably in the hands of those intellectuals,
including community leaders and newspaper professionals.
The fundamental problems of American inner cities such as crime, drugs and
poverty could not be solved through the balanced coverage of violent
intergroup conflicts. In fact, those urban problems seemed to be the
causes of the Los Angeles riots. Nevertheless, this article argues that
solid and sound ethnic media could bring community members together
make them face the urban problem directly. Through media's
function, scattered ethnic members can develop their own ethnic interests,
form community opinions, and organize group resources for the development
of ethnic communities. African American communities may also need to
establish and support their own ethnic media institutions. By doing
African Americans in the inner cities could participate in community
through their use of ethnic media and fight against crime, drugs and
poverty for themselves. Although ethnic communities could establish the
strong ethnic media institutions, it might not be enough. Those
caused the violent intergroup conflicts tend not to read newspapers
because of their low education, illiteracy and high apathy toward the
community. Thus, they might not develop a sense of community within
area and would continue to commit crimes. With this logic, this study
suggests initiating a grass root literacy movement for minority
to help them read their own newspapers. With this kind of community
support in the literacy movement, people in the inner cities could
participate in the community, not only politically but also economically
and culturally. Through this participation, long-standing African
Americans as well as the newly arrived groups from other countries could
overcome the hardships they face in the community and, possibly
appearance of society in urban ghetto areas by cooperating each other.
 In order not to reveal my identification, I decided not to put my di
research in the references section. Instead, I
provide here the name of the dissertation
l influence and the growth of an ethnic community: The origin and con
sequence of Korean-Black conflicts in Southern California." The
procedure, data analyses and results of d
issertation research are available upon request
editors. These include survey methods, item construction, reliability c
oefficients, factor analyses, and multiple regression and pat
h analyses based on
structural equation models.
Political Pariticipation in the Community
American Community Korean Community
B Beta B Beta
SELF-VIC .02 .08 .05 * .14 *
INGROUP-VIC -.02 -.11 -.02 -.07
OUTGROUP-VIC -.00 -.02 -.03 -.10
R Sq. Ch. 0.26% 1.94%
OBJ-KNOW .19 .12 .11 .05
SUB-KNOW .03 .07 .05 .11
VIVIDNESS -.01 -.03 -.01 -.01
R Sq. Ch. 2.99% * 4.97% **
ANP READING .06 *** .39 *** .05 *** .24 ***
KNP READING -.01 -.09 .02 .09
R Sq. Ch. 20.25% *** 5.25% ***
BLACK ID .05 .10 .09 * .14 *
KOREAN ID -.02 -.09 -.02 -.06
WHITE ID .04 .12 .01 .03
R Sq. Ch. 3.84% ** 2.44% *
CITY -.53 -.06 -1.04 -.09
R Sq. Ch. 0.34% 0.95%
Sex .38 .05 1.20 * .12 *
Age .02 .07 .01 .02
Income .04 .03 -.18 -.08
Ed -.01 -.01 -.04 -.02
R Sq. Ch. 0.84% 2.07%
Sig. of Eq. p<.001 p<.001
Note: Pairwise deletion performed; *p<.05, **p<.01, ***p<.001;
Coding for Sex: Female-0, Male-1; City: LA-0, San Diego-1; ANP and KNP
stand for American and Korean newspapers. Bs and Betas are final
regression coefficients after all variables entered the regression equation
hierarchically block by block.
Everyday Activities in the Korean Ethnic Community
Economic Participation Cultural Participation
B Beta B Beta
SELF-VIC .28 ** .17 ** .20 ** .17 **
INGROUP-VIC -.11 -.07 -.09 -.08
OUTGROUP-VIC .07 .05 -.01 -.01
R Sq. Ch. 8.53% *** 4.78% **
OBJ-KNOW 1.20 * .12 * .01 .00
SUB-KNOW .33 .15 .31 .18
VIVIDNESS -.27 -.11 -.22 -.12
R Sq. Ch. 6.28% *** 5.41% ***
ANP READING -.07 -.07 -.19 *** -.26 ***
KNP READING .16 ** .16 ** .26 *** .35 ***
R Sq. Ch. 7.32% *** 19.66% ***
BLACK ID -.14 -.05 .02 -.01
KOREAN ID .53 *** .30 *** .21 ** .16 **
WHITE ID -.21 -.10 -.14 -.09
R Sq. Ch. 15.35% *** 3.99% ***
CITY -14.66 *** -.25 *** -3.70 -.09
R Sq. Ch. 5.35% *** 0.54%
SEX 6.48 ** .14 ** 1.58 .05
AGE .18 .09 -.04 -.03
INCOME .94 .09 1.02 * .13 *
ED -.88 * -.11 * -.07 -.01
R Sq. Ch. 3.62% ** 1.43%
Sig. of Eq. p<.001 p<.001
Note: Pairwise deletion performed; *p<.05; **p<.01, ***p<.001; Coding for
Sex: Female-0, Male-1; City: LA-0, San Diego-1; ANP and KNP stand
American and Korean newspapers. Bs and Betas are final regression
coefficients after all variables entered the regression equation
hierarchically block by block.
Adoni, H. & Cohen, A. A. (1978). Television economic news and the
social construction of economic reality. Journal of
Communication, 28, 61-70.
Berger, P. L., & Luckmann, T. (1966). The social construction of
reality: A treatise in the sociology of knowledge. Garden
City, NY: Doubleday.
Cho, M. (1993, March 24). Candlelight vigil spotlights recent KA
casualties. Korea Times Los Angeles, pp. 1, 2.
Coser, L. A. (1956). The functions of social conflict. London:
Coser, L. A. (1967). Continuities in the study of social
conflict. New York: Free Press.
Dahrendorf, R. (1958). Toward a theory of social conflict.
Journal of Conflict Resolution, 2, 170-183.
Dahrendorf, R. (1959). Class and class conflict in industrial
society. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Dahrendorf, R. (1967). Essays in the theory of society.
Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
Fruto, R. R. (1991, June 13). Death penalty sought in Memorial
weekend murder. Korea Times English Edition, pp. 1, 7.
Fruto, R. R. (1991, December 23). In pursuit of the American
dream, another grocer: Killed in action. Korea Times
English Edition, pp. 1, 7.
Fruto, R. R, & Kim, J. (1991, May 15). Shootout: Wounded grocer
kills two robbers. Korea Times English Edition, pp. 1, 15.
Gibbs, N. (1991, November 18). Shades of difference. Time. pp.
Greenberg, B. S., & Brand, J. E. (1994). Minorities and the mass
media: 1970s to 1990s. In J. Bryant & D. Zillmann (Eds.),
Media effects: Advances in theory and research (pp. 273-
314). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum.
Janowitz, M. (1967). The community press in urban setting (2nd
ed.). Glenco, IL: Free Press.
Hawkins, R. P., & Pingree, S. (1990). Divergent psychological
processes in constructing social reality from mass media
content. In N. Signorielli & M. Morgan (Eds.), Cultivation
analysis: New directions in media effects research (pp. 35-
50). Newbury Park: Ca: Sage.
Holguin, R., & Lee, J. H. (1991, June 18). Boycott of store
where man was killed is urged. Los Angeles Times, sect. B,
Light, I., & Bonacich, E. (1988). Immigrant entrepreneurs:
Koreans in Los Angeles 1965-1982. Berkeley, CA: University
of California Press.
Kim, I. S. (1981). New urban immigrants: The Korean community in
New York. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Kim, S. K. (1991, June 9). Family Red Apple owner sells store:
Jang wants "peace and quiet" after 16-month boycott. Korea
Times English Edition, pp. 1, 8.
Kim, S. K. (1992, January 20). In Cleveland Arab grocers fear
for life. Korea Times English Edition, pp. 1, 7.
Kim, S. K. (1992, January 27). Another casualty of everyday
shooting, Koang Ho Song: Six month shorts of reaching the
American dream. Korea Times English Edition, pp. 1, 8.
Kim, Y. Y. (1988). Communication and cross-cultural adaptation:
An integrative theory. Clevedon, England: Multilingual
Lee, J. H. (1991, July 2). Diary of a war of attrition in
volatile urban dispute. Los Angeles Times, sect. A. p. 1.
Lee, K. Y. (1992, May 18). Du's response against crime. Korea
Times English Edition, p. 6.
McAdam, D. (1982). Political Process and the Development of Black
Insurgency, 1930-1970. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Marks, M. (1992, January 27). Judge Karlin Issue: Jewish
indifference. Reprinted in the Korea Times English Edition,
McLeod, J. M., & Chaffee, S. H. (1972). The construction of
social reality. In J. T. Tedeschi (Ed.), The social
influence processes (pp. 50-99). Chicago: Aldine Atherton.
Merton, R. K. (1950). Patterns of influence: A study of
interpersonal influences and of communication behavior in a
local community. In P. F. Lazarsfeld & F. N. Stanton
(Eds.), Communication Research 1948-49 (pp. 180-219). New
Morris, A. D. (1984). The origins of the civil rights movement:
Black communities organizing for change. New York: Free
Olzak, S., & West, E. (1991). Ethnic conflict and the rise and
fall of ethnic newspapers. American Sociological Review,
Park, R. E. (1922). The immigrant press and its control. New
York: Harper & Bros.
Park, R. E. (1925). The city. Chicago: University of Chicago
Park, R. E. (1952). Human communities: The city and human
ecology. New York: Free Press.
Quinney, R. (1970). The social reality of crime. Boston, MA:
Rutten, T. (1991, June 21). Unity also a victim of shooting. Los
Angeles Times, sect. E, p. 5.
Seeman, M. (1981). Intergroup relations. In M. Rosenberg & R. H.
Turner (Eds.), Social psychology: Sociological perspectives
(pp. 378-410). New York: Basic Books.
Shim, J. C. (1992, May). The rise of an ethnic newspaper: The
organization and international networks of newsmaking.
Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International
Communication Association, Miami, Florida.
Shim, J. C. (1994). The role of mass media and intergroup
relations in the process of newcomers' assimilation.
Sungkok Journalism Review, 5, 5-21.
Shim, J. C., & Salmon, C. T. (1990). Community orientations and
newspaper use among Korean newcomers. Journalism Quarterly,
Stamm, K. R. (1985). Newspaper use and community ties: Toward a
dynamic theory. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.
Stamm, K. R., & Weis, R. J. (1986). Testing the community
integration hypothesis. Communication Research, 13, 125-
Stamm, K. R., & Guest, A. M. (1991). Communication and community
integration: An analysis of the communication behavior of
newcomers. Journalism Quarterly, 68, 644-656.
Subervi-Velez, F. A. (1986). The mass media and ethnic
assimilation and pluralism: A review and research proposal
with special focus on Hispanics. Communication Research,
Taylor, D. M., & Moghaddam, F. M. (1987). Theories of intergroup
relations: International social psychological perspectives.
New York: Praeger.
Taylor, T. R. (1980). Impact of directly and indirectly
experienced events: The origin of crime-related judgments
and behaviors. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology, 1, 13-28.
Tichenor, P. T., Donohue, G. A., & Olien, C. N. (1980). Community
conflict and press. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage.
Tyler, T. R., & Cook, F. L. (1984). The mass media and judgments
of risk: Distinguishing impact on personal and societal
level judgments. Journal of Personality and Social
Psychology, 47, 693-708.
Yu, E. Y. (1983). Korean communities in America: Past, present,
and future. Amerasia Journal, 10, 23-51.