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Friday, June 14, 2024

A year later, mass shootings still repeat, Korean Americans lament

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Ms. Soo-jung Jang, the owner of the Hair World Salon, explains about the mass shooting that took place a year ago in Dallas Koreatown, in front of her shop on May 10. [Yeol Jang, the Korea Daily]
The mass shooting incident in Allen, near Dallas, Texas, brought back the nightmare Dallas residents experienced a year ago.

On May 11, 2022, a gunman opened fire at Hair World Salon of Royal Lane in Dallas Koreatown, injuring three people, including two employees and a customer.

We visited the hair salon a year after the incident. When we asked about her memories of that day, Ms. Soo-jung Jang, who has been running Hair World Salon since 2015, could hardly speak.

“When I think back to that day a year ago, it’s hard for me to speak,” she said. “Two of my employees who were shot quit their jobs and moved out of state due to the trauma, and one of them still can’t use their arm properly due to the aftereffect of the gunshot wound.”

The shooter, Jeremy Smith, 37, barged into the salon and opened fire 13 times. It was a mass shooting in broad daylight in an area of highly concentrated Korean-American businesses. According to the indictment, the motive behind the attack was hatred towards Asians.

After that day, Jang immediately got rid of the “no guns allowed” sign from the entrance of her business.

“I thought it might have made the gunman feel safer because he thought, ‘There are no guns in that place,'” Jang said. “Since then, some customers have brought guns in for self-defense.”

A year has passed, and the nightmare has been reminded by another mass shooting. The shooting at the Allen Outlets near Dallas on May 6 stirred up memories of that day again. The bitter pain was deeply imprinted in Jang’s mind.

“When I heard the news of the shooting, I was so heartbroken because it hit so close to home,” Jang said, “I don’t want to think about it anymore. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”

On the counter of the salon were dozens of pamphlets from the Dallas Police Department with safety tips written on them. The pamphlets read, “Always be cautious and call 911 in case of emergency.”

“Even after reading them, I’m not sure how the authorities are managing the security and safety of the area,” Jang said, adding, “We just kept them because they were left here by the officers.”

Royal Lane, where Hair World Salon is located, is the heart of Koreatown, with various Korean-owned businesses operating in the area, such as Korean-American banks, restaurants, and markets. This place embodies the memory and history of Korean-Americans.

“In the 1980s, Royal Lane was initially a place of prostitution and various crimes in Dallas,” said Sangyoon Lee, president of the Greater Dallas Korean American Chamber of Commerce. “As Koreans started to settle here, the crime rate decreased, and soon became the Koreatown it is today.”

We headed to the nearby intersection of Royal Lane and Harry Hines Blvd. There are signs that read “Royal Lane” and “Harry Haynes Boulevard” in Korean. The bilingual signs were placed here in January to celebrate Korean-American Day, when the city of Dallas recognized the contributions of Korean-Americans. This prompted the Texas Legislature to pass a resolution to officially designate the Royal Lane area as Koreatown, and all they need now is the governor’s approval.

Despite the hugely-improved reputation and status of the Korean-American community, Korean-Americans are shaken by the recent spate of shootings. “After last year’s shooting at the Korean hair salon, we feel imminent danger from gun violence,” said Kyungchul Lee, senior vice president of the Korean Society of Dallas.

The mass shooting incident in Allen, near Dallas, Texas, brought back the nightmare Dallas residents experienced a year ago.

On May 11, 2022, a gunman opened fire at Hair World Salon on Royal Lane in Dallas Koreatown, injuring three people – two employees and a customer.

We visited the hair salon a year after the incident. When we asked about her memories of that day, Ms. Soo-jung Jang, who has been running Hair World Salon since 2015, could hardly speak.

“When I think back to that day a year ago, it’s hard for me to speak,” she said. “Two of my employees who were shot quit their jobs and moved out of state due to the trauma, and one of them still can’t use her arm properly due to the aftereffect of the gunshot wound.”

The shooter, Jeremy Smith, 37, barged into the salon and opened fire 13 times. It was a mass shooting in broad daylight in an area of highly concentrated Korean-American businesses. According to the indictment, the motive behind the attack was hatred towards Asians.

After that day, Jang immediately got rid of the “no guns allowed” sign from the entrance of her business.

“I thought it might have made the gunman feel safer because he thought, ‘There are no guns in that place,'” Jang said. “Since then, some customers have brought guns in for self-defense.”

A year has passed, and the nightmare has been reminded by another mass shooting. The shooting at the Allen Outlets near Dallas on May 6 stirred up memories of that day again. The bitter pain was deeply imprinted in Jang’s mind.

“When I heard the news of the shooting, I was so heartbroken because it hit so close to home,” Jang said, “I don’t want to think about it anymore. I don’t want to talk about it anymore.”

On the counter of the hair salon were dozens of pamphlets from the Dallas Police Department with safety tips written on them. The pamphlets read, “Always be cautious and call 911 in case of emergency.”

“Even after reading them, I’m not sure how the authorities are managing the security and safety of the area,” Jang said, adding, “We just kept them because they were left here by the officers.”

Royal Lane, where Hair World Salon is located, is the heart of Koreatown, with various Korean-owned businesses operating in the area, such as Korean-American banks, restaurants, and markets. This place embodies the memory and history of Korean-Americans.

“In the 1980s, Royal Lane was initially a place of prostitution and various crimes in Dallas,” said Sangyoon Lee, president of the Greater Dallas Korean American Chamber of Commerce. “As Koreans started to settle here, the crime rate decreased, and soon became the Koreatown it is today.”

We headed to the nearby intersection of Royal Lane and Harry Hines Blvd. There are signs that read “Royal Lane” and “Harry Haynes Boulevard” in Korean. The bilingual signs were placed here in January to celebrate Korean-American Day when the city of Dallas recognized the contributions of Korean-Americans. This prompted the Texas Legislature to pass a resolution to officially designate the Royal Lane area as Koreatown, and all they need now is the governor’s approval.

Despite the hugely-improved reputation and status of the Korean-American community, Korean-Americans are shaken by the recent spate of shootings. “After last year’s shooting at the Korean hair salon, we feel imminent danger from gun violence,” said Kyungchul Lee, senior vice president of the Korean Society of Dallas.
Gunshots still echo around the city. Korean-American victims are increasing day by day, including those from the mass shooting in Allen on May 6.

“When a Korean-American was killed in a shooting at a bar in Koreatown last month, authorities told us shootings like this happen once a day in Dallas,” Lee said. “It was a big deal to us, but they talked about it as if it wasn’t. I don’t think Koreatown is safe anymore.”

Politicians who should be stepping up to voice these concerns have been nothing but silent.

We reached out to Korean-American politicians in Dallas for interviews about the Allen Premium Outlets shooting, but none of them were willing to speak out about it.

A representative from the office of Councilmember Young-Joo Jeon of Coppell said, “I don’t think an interview would be possible,” and added, “I would like to express my sincere condolences to the victims of the Allen Outlets shooting.” Carrollton City Councilman Young Sung, who represents a large Korean-American neighborhood, also did not respond to an interview request.

The same goes for state legislators. The Texas House Community Safety Committee passed a bill shortly after the Allen Outlets shooting to raise the age to buy semiautomatic rifles from 18 to 21, but it’s already being criticized as merely a band-aid solution. Dallas media outlets have analyzed that the bill’s chances of passing are slim, with the governor likely to veto it.

“The governor says the shooter is mentally ill, the police can’t even define whether it’s a hate crime or not, and there are unjustified deaths every time,” said Youngjun Cho, 41, who was at the Allen Outlets memorial site. “Even Korean-American politicians can’t come up with a clear alternative, and from a Korean-American perspective, this is an example of how minorities are put in a blind spot.”

At New Song Church in Carrollton, where the Korean-American victims of the Allen Outlets shooting attended, a memorial prayer was held for the victims on May 9.

The funeral service for the victims will be held at New Song Church on May 11 (today). Coincidentally, it is also the one-year anniversary of the Hair World salon shooting.

BY YEOL JANG [support@koreadaily.com]