For the first time in Korean church history, NJ and NY Koreans hold memorial service for Black victims of police brutality

June 23, 2020 Center for Cooperative Media

By Eun Sook Lim, The Korea Daily

Editor’s note: This is the English translation of the original story, which was first published in Korean by The Korea Daily. This version has been updated and edited, with permission from the author(s) and publication(s), for length and clarity.

NEW JERSEY — For the first time in Korean church history, members of the Korean American community in New Jersey and New York prayed and joined together in a virtual memorial service that was both the celebration and mourning of African American men and women who died at the hands of white police officers.

The names of George Floyd and other African American victims, whose deaths sparked recent nationwide protests against systemic racism, were read as Korean mourners paused for a moment and prayed during the memorial service.

Pastor Jung Ho Kim of the First United Methodist Church, in Flushing, NY, demanded reforms and end to racial discrimination and bigotry against people of color and immigrants. Tenor Kun Soo Kim sang a gospel for Floyd during the service.

“George Floyd, [along with other African American victims], is like the Korean patriotic martyrs, Park Jong-cheol and Lee Han-yeol,” Kim said in a sermon held on June 9. “Their deaths sparked the protests in order to begin a new chapter of American history. We (Koreans) should be in solidarity for economic democratization for African Americans.”

The torture death of South Korean student activist Park Jong-cheol changed the country’s political landscape. 

In 1987, police detained Park for interrogation, according to reports, where several officers used waterboarding techniques to torture him. 

Park died a few days later. His death then led to the June 1987 Democratic Uprising in Seoul, the capital of South Korea.

Lee Han-yeol, on the other hand, died after South Korean police officers fired tear gas canisters during the June 1987 protests. One of the canisters hit Lee in the head and penetrated his skull. 

Both Park and Lee became the symbol of the June 1987 Democratic Uprising. After the protests, the New Constitution—which strengthened the civil rights movement in South Korea—was passed and approved by referendum.

Conducted by the Korean Sanctuary Church Network, participants of the memorial service for Floyd and other Black victims include Dongchan Kim, president of Korean American Civic Empowerment (KACE); Pastor Myung Ho Yoon of the Korean Sanctuary Church Network of New Jersey; Pastor Jung Ho Kim of the First United Methodist Church in Flushing, NY; Pastor Jin Woo Kim, director of DREAMer affairs of the Korean Sanctuary Church Network of New Jersey; Attorneys Youngsoo Choi and Judy Chang.

This translation was provided by Jongwon Lee in partnership with the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University, and is supported by funding from the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation. The original story was written in Korean by The Korea Daily and is being republished under a special NJ News Commons content sharing agreement related to COVID-19 coverage. To read more, visit The Korea Daily.

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