“April 29, 1992 in South Central Los Angeles, California African-American customers revolted violently against Korean-American merchants.Of the $850 million in estimated property damage, Korean-Americans sustained 47% or $400 million of that damage, and of the 3,100 businesses destroyed, approximately 2,500 of them were owned by Korean-Americans” (Korean-American History,2010, Curriculum Guide: Unit 1).

Affirmative action: A form of reverse discrimination against Asians?

A final point of contention between Korean-Americans and other minority groups is how more successful minorities should be counted in terms of privileging historically discriminated-against groups in jobs and college admissions. A problem with discussing affirmative action for Asians is that it tends to characterize all Asian-Americans in the same manner. However, a refugee from Cambodia may experience economic, cultural and linguistic challenges in assimilating that another Asian-American might not, if he or she lived in the United States since birth and/or comes from a more affluent background.

A ” recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions on affirmative action preserved the system at most selective private schools in which Asian-American students with very high tests scores are passed over in favor of African-American and Hispanic students with lower scores because the schools want significant numbers of all ethnicities on campus. Supporters of such policies say a diverse student body helps everyone learn to live in the real world, and there are plenty of other fine colleges that take students, Asian-American or otherwise, whom they reject.” (Matthews 2004). Asian-Americans as a group are often more prominently represented on college campuses (particularly in the Pacific northwest) and in some professions (such as engineering) than Caucasians, which has raised calls for some Asian-Americans not to receive affirmative actions benefits, even if they have experienced discrimination in the recent historical past. “About 17% of Harvard undergraduates are Asians, who make up about 4% of the population.

Since the percentage of Asian-Americans at schools of comparable quality that do not practice affirmative action are much higher — 40% at Berkeley, 50% at selective New York high schools such as Stuyvesant”(Matthews 2004).

The issue continues to inflame tensions between Asians and many other ethnic minorities. Korean-Americans are often one of the categories of Asians thought to be of long-standing residence in the U.S., and sufficiently affluent enough not to be considered worthy of special consideration due to race. Yet this denies the complexity of the history and experiences of Korean-Americans and the prejudice they have suffered. The debate will rage on, no doubt, but regardless of how it is decided (and justice will likely prevail so that affirmative action is used in a context-specific way, depending on the composition of the institution and its relationship with the Asian community in past). Regardless, current success does not erase the considerable obstacles and discrimination Korean-Americans have overcome in their attempt to live their unique version of the classic American dream.


Korean-American History. (2010). Curriculum guide: Unit 1. Retrieved August 20, 2010 at

Matthews, Jay. (2004, October 12). Should.

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