The African American community in Dallas has been protesting a gas station run by a Korean-born U.S. citizen in a predominately black neighborhood in South Dallas for over a month, taking issue with what they claim were racial remarks by the station’s owner.
The Korean government dispatched the consul general of the Korean Consulate General in Houston to the area yesterday to help resolve the issue, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
“We made emergent contact with the Korean community, requesting that its members restrain from an emotional response and examine their relationship with other communities,” an official of the ministry said.
According to the ministry and the local Korean community, the conflict occurred on Dec. 9, 2011, between the Korean-American owner of a gas station in southern Dallas and a black customer over the sale of gas.
The customer, complaining that the price of gas at the station was much higher than at other stations, demanded he be able to buy gas by smaller amounts than what the owner set as the minimum sales unit. The owner refused and told him to go to another station, to which the customer responded by telling the owner to go back to his country. The owner responded by telling the customer to go back to Africa.
That triggered a boycott of the gas station by the black community in the region, followed by them speaking out against Korean and other Asian immigrant communities.
The Los Angeles branch of the JoongAng Ilbo reported that leaders from the black community in the region also requested cooperation from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the Nation of Islam.
The tensions are of concern to the Korean community in the U.S., with fears that the case may develop into a replay of the massive anti-Korean riot by African Americans in Los Angeles, which marks its 20th anniversary in April. The official of the ministry said the risk that this will happen remains slim so far, saying that the actions taken by the black community remain civil.
“It is also a conflict between U.S. citizens, so there is not much that we can do because it could be seen as inappropriately intervening,” the official said.
The Korean community in the U.S. said that the case reflects the underlying conflict between the two communities.
“We see the fundamental causes lie in the exclusivity of the Korean community, which is stingy in sharing with others, as well as the black community’s relative sense that the Korean community is depriving them of opportunities,” a member of the Korean community in the U.S. told the JoongAng Ilbo’s Los Angeles bureau.