Korean American Air Force Veteran Attacked, LAPD Investigating as a Hate Crime

March 2, 2021Joshua Skovlund
denny kim

Screengrabs from CBS video uploaded to YouTube. Composite image by Joshua Skovlund/Coffee or Die Magazine.

Denny Kim, a 27-year-old Korean American US Air Force veteran, was attacked in the Koreatown neighborhood of Los Angeles by two assailants — apparently because of his skin color and appearance, despite his being a native of Los Angeles. 

KTLA reported the attack happened on Feb. 16 and seemed to have been unprovoked. “[It was] absolutely unprovoked. I didn’t know who these guys were,” Kim told KTLA. 

At approximately 8:30 p.m., Kim was heading to meet a friend when he was attacked by two Hispanic males. They knocked him to the ground, and while physically attacking, they also shouted racial slurs at Kim. 

According to KTLA, Kim’s friend Joseph Cha witnessed the attack. Cha told KTLA that when he arrived to meet Kim for supper, he saw two men beating Kim. When he went to assist his friend, he was subjected to racial slurs as well. 

The two men ran off, and the Los Angeles Police Department is investigating the incident as a hate crime, according to the LAPD media relations unit. Kim sustained non-life-threatening injuries to his face during the attack and credited Cha for saving his life. 

“If it wasn’t for my friend that saved my life, my friend Joseph Cha, I’d probably be in a hospital right now in a coma or even possibly dead,” Kim told KTLA. 

Kim also said this wasn’t the first time he had been subjected to racist comments, even though he was born and raised in America. He said he experienced a lot of microaggressions while serving in the Air Force as well. 

According to Stop AAPI Hate — which tracks incidents of hate, violence, harassment, discrimination, and bullying against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, including COVID-19-related incidents — in Los Angeles County there were 245 incidents reported of hate speech and/or physical hate crimes from March 19 to Oct. 28, 2020. Of these, 76% involved hate speech; physical assaults and civil rights violations accounted for almost 8% each; and close to 3% were related to online hate speech and harassment. 

Among several examples from confidential sources that occurred in LA County during this period, Stop AAPI Hate reports the following: “A guy attacked me from behind and waved his fist when I sat quietly on the platform waiting for the subway. There was no one else except me and him at the time. Because I was wearing a mask, he scolded me as a ‘chink’ and a communicator of COVID-19. […] He then tried to use the front wheel of his bicycle to attack me.”

Coffee or Die Magazine received confirmation from the LAPD media relations unit that the LAPD was labeling the attack against Kim as a hate crime but has not received responses to further questions at the time of publication. 

Read Next: From Vietnam to US Marine: The Tana Le Story

Joshua Skovlund
Joshua Skovlund

Joshua Skovlund is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die. He has covered the 75th anniversary of D-Day in France, multinational military exercises in Germany, and civil unrest during the 2020 riots in Minneapolis. Born and raised in small-town South Dakota, he grew up playing football and soccer before serving as a forward observer in the US Army. After leaving the service, he worked as a personal trainer while earning his paramedic license. After five years as in paramedicine, he transitioned to a career in multimedia journalism. Joshua is married with two children. His creative outlets include Skovlund Photography and Concentrated Emotion.

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