Significance of Sa I Gu
Sa I Gu is a term used by Korean Americans to remember the 1992 Los Angeles Civil Unrest, which is commonly referred to as the LA Riots, the Rodney King Riots, or the LA Uprising. Pronounced “sah” “ee” “goo”, Sa I Gu translates to 4-2-9 and refers to the first day (4/29/1992) of the six-day civil unrest—this is how Koreans remember important dates of events. Using this term to recognize the event rather than calling it by its many other names means that the civil unrest is being thought and talked about through the experiences of the Korean American community. Sa I Gu was a very hard time for much of the Korean American community, especially in Los Angeles. For the Korean American community, which at the time was majority non-US citizen who had recently moved to the United States, it dramatically changed their understanding of belonging in America. It significantly shaped how the Korean American community started understanding the systems and big ideas—such as race—that had led to those six days of civil unrest and afterwards. Sa I Gu reflected a complicated bundle of experiences and feelings for Korean Americans, they collectively shared an extreme experience of what it meant to be a community of color in America. At the time, they felt targeted, endangered, sad, angry, helpless, and scared in the country where so many of them had chosen to build their lives. Because the Korean American community did not want to feel as helpless as they did during and after Sa I Gu, many community members went on to build community organizations (like afterschool programs or projects with non-Korean communities), run for government office in Los Angeles (like city council representative), and ensure community neighborhoods and spaces (like Koreatown in Los Angeles) would continue to blossom over the next thirty years.