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Sunday, July 21, 2024

Community must demand justice for Jonathan Jung and Yong Yang

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In July 2021, Jung Sik Jung, 82, a missionary, lost his son, Jonathan Jung (then 45 years old), after five casino security guards at Bicycle Casino in Bell Gardens pinned him, causing his death. Jonathan’s sister, Vanessa (then 44 years old), took her own life after watching the traumatic CCTV footage of her brother’s death. Thus, Mr. Jung lost both of his children because of a single tragic incident.

In an interview, Mr. Jung expressed his desire to uncover the truth behind this incident, stating, “I want to understand why this happened.” Currently, a trial in Long Beach Courthouse is underway to determine the cause of Jonathan’s death.

Mr. Jung made an emotional plea during the interview, saying, “The casino has no regard for human life. I hope society recognizes this.” The lack of concern for life extends beyond the casino; it is also evident within the Korean-American community. The existence of Korean organizations, institutions, and politicians seems pointless as they have not issued even a single statement regarding this injustice.

After driving Jonathan Jung to the corner of the parking lot, five security guards quickly surround Jung as he panics and tries to run away. [Courtesy of Cameron Jones LLP]

It is not about expressing outrage over an individual’s wrongful death. Jonathan suffered from mental illness. If we do not improve the flawed response system for individuals with mental-health issues, another Jonathan will inevitably emerge. The Yong Yang case from May also highlighted the inadequacies in handling mentally ill individuals.

I meticulously reviewed the CCTV footage, which lasted about 50 minutes. Jonathan was asked to leave the casino for using foul language. He did not resist the request, nor did he pose any physical threat to others. Moreover, he was unarmed. The security guards chased Jonathan, who was peacefully walking out, cornered him in the parking lot, pushed him down, and pressed on him until he died.

Even though Jonathan had a mental illness, he did not harm anyone at that time. Does using swear words justify being chased, shoved to the ground, and crushed to death? The LA County Medical Examiner attributed Jonathan’s death to “methamphetamine toxicity,” while forensic experts concluded it was “restraint asphyxia.”

Jung Sik Jung, the father of Jonathan Jung, who was killed in the Bicycle Casino, talks to the Korea Daily about the incident. [Sangjin Kim, The Korea Daily]

Although the truth will be revealed in the ongoing trial, there are notable similarities to the George Floyd case. He also died from being pinned down. Initially, methamphetamine was found in Floyd’s system, but his death was ultimately ruled as asphyxiation due to the pressure on his neck and back.

The African-American community did not remain silent for George Floyd’s wrongful death. They raised their voices against the underlying injustices.

While covering this story, I wondered what the reaction would have been if Jonathan were African-American, and if this incident occurred within the African-American community.

Mr. Jung wants to uncover the truth and wishes society to recognize this need. If the Korean-American community does not join forces, incidents like those involving Jonathan Jung and Yong Yang could happen again at any time.

By Yeol Jang    [jang.yeol@koreadaily.com]