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Korean homeless men die in LA Koreatown, highlighting struggles on the streets

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Another person has lost his life on the streets of LA Koreatown. Father Yohan Kim, who runs a homeless shelter near 21st Street, received a phone call.

Taehong An, who had been living on the streets, died on the night of April 18.

It was another rainy day following the death of Peter Choi, a 34-year-old Korean-American homeless man who died on April 9.

However, the streets are still cold. It starkly contrasts the full bloom of spring in Los Angeles.

The disparity between the weather and the streets is a chronic problem in LA. For homeless people, the reality remains hopeless.

The Korea Daily reporting team went to the street where An died and heard the voices of Korean-American homeless people.

It was 10:50 a.m. on April 19, at the northwest corner of the intersection of Olympic and Saint Andrews.

It’s a small Skid Row in LA Koreatown. About 10 Korean-American homeless people live in tents.

An was one of them.

Father Yohan Kim sits in distress in front of the tent of Taehong An, a Korean-American homeless man who died on April 18. [Sangjin Kim, The Korea Daily]

We looked inside An’s tent. Only a small light bulb hangs from it. Two instant ramen packets are seen. Blood stains are all over the place. The cold tent represents An’s life.

We asked the homeless man in the next tent if he knew about An’s death.

“It was last night,” said Joon Park. “I opened my tent and found An lying dead on the ground.” “I informed Father Yohan Kim about the death, and Father Kim came to the scene himself and reported it.”

Joon Park used to be an entrepreneur in New York City. He had been living on the dangerous streets for a year now. One of his eyes was swollen and red. I asked him about his story.

“I was sleeping in a tent near Manhattan Place in Koreatown. A man suddenly walked into the tent and shot me,” he said, “and I lost my eye in that incident.”

Homeless people also fight for space. Some Korean homeless people are harassed by homeless people of other races. This is why Korean-American homeless people tend to flock to Koreatown.

An’s life was one of the lives of the people on the street. The news of An’s death is sad for other homeless people too.

When asking about An’s story, other homeless people declined to be interviewed, saying they were “not in the mood to talk.”

Father Kim also found a tent. He placed a Bible in the spot where An had closed his eyes and burned incense. As An was a religious man, Father Kim had to take care of the dead. “I plan to organize a small funeral at the shelter soon,” Kim said.

Father Kim showed us a video on his phone.

“I will live hard, earn hard, and live for those in need.”

The video displays An’s bright side in life. An had the will to live, and he was a highly respected person, even serving in the churches he attended. However, the harsh reality kept breaking his will to live.

Kangwon Lee, a former minister who helped the homeless, is now homeless.

 

We walked another block. It was in front of the Central Lutheran Church. We met another homeless man, Kangwon Lee.

He was a former minister who ran Agape Home Mission. He had gone from taking care of the homeless to being homeless himself.

Lee was so active in Agape Home Mission that he was featured in the media many times.

Lee struggled to light a small glass pipe. When we got closer, we realized that it’s not a cigarette. When I asked, he said he was inhaling drugs.

His body is bony. He’s not dressed properly. His speech is gibberish. It apparently shows how devastated his life on the streets is.

His teeth are almost all decayed. His speech is slurred. “I’ve been on the streets for more than five years,” Lee said, “and donations have decreased, making it difficult to run Agape Home Mission.”

There are also homeless women, not just men. “Two Korean-American women also live in this neighborhood,” Lee said.

He didn’t want to continue the conversation, and with blank eyes, he puffed on a small glass pipe.

This is the life of the homeless in LA Koreatown.

Father Yohan Kim prays in front of the tent of the deceased Taehong An. [Sangjin Kim, The Korea Daily]
BY KYEONGJUN KIM, JUNHAN PARK    [kim.kyeongjun1@koreadaily.com]

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