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Korean women attacked in Asian hate crimes

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Good morning! It’s Monday, August 14. Last week, unsettling hate crimes targeting Korean American women unfolded in both Los Angeles and New York, emphasizing the crucial requirement for increased awareness and collective action against such disturbing acts of violence.
Welcome to Katchup Briefing, the Korea Daily’s weekly English newsletter. Here, I will keep you informed with the latest news updates and perspectives from the Korean American community. If you’re interested in exploring more articles and columns from previous weeks, please visit koreadailyus.com.

Teenage girls are threatening an Asian family in the New York subway. Pictured at right is the attacker who turned herself into the NYPD. [Photo captured from online community]

Recent events have cast a disheartening spotlight on the surge in hate crimes targeting Asian Americans, underscoring the urgent need for heightened awareness and united efforts against such distressing acts of violence.

Last week, unsettling incidents unfolded in both Los Angeles and New York, magnifying the gravity of the issue. In Los Angeles, a black man pushed a 73-year-old Korean woman out of a Metro bus at a bus stop at Vermont and 24th Street around 2:50 p.m. on August 8. Adding to the distress, the assailant even spat on the elderly woman, leaving her collapsed on the sidewalk near the bus stop sign.

For over ten minutes, the elderly woman lay until police and paramedics arrived to transport her to a nearby hospital. Two Hispanic men pursued the assailant, who fled across the street, and held him until police officers took over. The entire incident was recorded by a surveillance camera in a small market adjacent to the bus stop.

Police stated that the woman suffered severe injuries to her head and back. The man was arrested on charges of assaulting a senior person, and investigators are probing whether this constitutes a hate crime. The motive behind the man’s attack on the woman remains undisclosed.

In New York, a similarly shocking incident occurred on August 6. A 16-year-old black girl, accompanied by two teenage peers, attacked a Korean American woman in front of her 11-year-old twin daughters and another passenger on a New York subway train.

The incident, captured on camera, has sparked discussions about public safety and the swift response of law enforcement. After the video clip of the incident went viral online, the girl voluntarily surrendered to New York police on August 8. Her identity was not disclosed due to her age.

According to the NYPD and victim interviews, the Korean American family – the woman, her husband, and twin daughters – were traveling to New York from Nevada. The family are U.S. citizens of Korean descent.

Police and paramedics tend to an elderly Korean American woman who collapsed on the sidewalk after being pushed off a Metro bus by a black man at Vermont and 24th Street in Los Angeles on August 8. [Screen capture from KBS America]

Sue Young, the victim who was identified as a retired doctor aged 51, recounted being attacked when she looked up after hearing three teenage girls loudly laughing across from her on the train.

“When I looked at them, they started laughing even louder, pointing their fingers at us,” explained Young. She tried to defuse the situation by joining in their laughter, but this seemed to further provoke the girls. According to Young, the girls then subjected her to verbal abuse, uttering xenophobic phrases like, “Go back to your country.”

The entire incident was captured on the cell phone of Joanna Lin, 34, another passenger on the same subway train. “This happens all the time, but there’s no coverage or evidence, so it becomes a rumor,” said Lin, who instinctively activated her camera with the thought, “If anything happens, I’ll have proof.” Upon realizing they were being recorded, the teenage girl rushed at Lin, knocking her down and landing a punch.

When Young intervened to protect Lin, she faced the same aggression. The assault persisted until the subway reached the next station, at which point fellow passengers aided the victims in disembarking to ensure their safety.

The NYPD is investigating the incident as a hate crime with racial motivations. Apart from the girl who surrendered, two others remain at large. Hate crimes against Asians have surged in the United States since the COVID-19 pandemic, and New York has witnessed a series of attacks on Asians in subway trains.

However, Young, who herself has been a target, expressed skepticism that the girl attacked them solely due to their ethnicity. “They are very young girls,” Young said, “and we need to hold everyone accountable as a society and a community, not just law enforcement.” Young expressed particular concern over the escalating anger directed towards the girls and the black community.

Young’s experience highlights a deeply concerning trend. Hate crimes against Asians have surged in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and public spaces like subway trains have become unfortunate arenas for these acts of hostility. However, it’s essential to recognize that the fight against hate encompasses more than just intervention by law enforcement.

Young’s plea for societal accountability resounds powerfully. She rightly urges us to stand together as a community, recognizing our collective responsibility to challenge bigotry. The fight against hate crime is a collective endeavor, requiring our steadfast commitment to creating safe spaces for all. Only then can we truly cultivate a society free from the shadows of hate and discrimination.

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By Mooyoung Lee    lee.mooyoung@koreadaily.com