photography

Honoring the historic work of Hyungwon Kang

Captions

1. Korean American volunteers shelter behind a forklift during a confrontation with demonstrators, many of them also armed. “They were merely trying to protect what was rightfully their own,” remembered Hyungwon Kang, whose Los Angeles Times photos of Koreatown storeowners were included in the 1993 Pulitzer Prize in Spot News category. “When their stores went up in flames, they lost life savings; they lost everything.”

2. Hyungwon Kang captured this moment of Payless Market storeowner Cornelius Pettus desperately throwing a pail of water at the neighboring Ace Glass store, trying to keep the fire from spreading to his own business. Pettus would battle the fire alone for the next 72 hours. Kang and Pettus have kept in touch since that moment.

3. On May 1, 1992, Hyungwon Kang witnessed local residents and neighbors banding together not only to save a shopping center on fire but also to save their own apartment building from burning down.

4. Hyungwon Kang’s photo of outnumbered law enforcement standing outside a burning shopping mall on the corner of 6th and Western in Koreatown shows how Los Angeles law enforcement and firefighters were unprepared for the protests and fires that erupted across Los Angeles after the “Not guilty” verdicts in the LAPD beating trial of unarmed Black motorist Rodney King.

5. Hyungwon Kang documented many fires that spread across Los Angeles’ Koreatown during the 1992 L.A. uprising, including this mall which would later be rebuilt. The fires and destruction caused $1 billion dollars in damage, almost half disproportionately in Koreatown.

6. Los Angeles Times photographer Hyungwon Kang captured the last LAPD police cruiser leaving Florence and Normandie on April 29, 1992. “When I heard ‘All units, all units, evacuate from Florence and Normandie!’ on the police scanner, that’s when I knew there was trouble, and that it was going to grow into a bigger problem,” Kang said.

7. Hyungwon Kang documented this photo for the Los Angeles Times of a security guard for California Market in Koreatown, along with armed employees and volunteers, guarding their store from an angry crowd on the second day in a row of civil unrest. Many Korean immigrant men had firearms training in South Korean military which requires three years of mandatory military service for all men 18-28.

8. Eighteen-year-old Edward Jae Song Lee was shot and killed in the crossfire while trying to protect a store in Koreatown. Over 5,000 people gathered for Lee’s funeral procession and parade in Koreatown. Hyungwon Kang’s photo shows one of Lee’s friends holding his portrait while pallbearers carry his coffin to be buried at the Forest Lawn Memorial Park cemetery in the Hollywood Hills.

Hyungwon Kang

Hyungwon Kang, a seasoned photojournalist, relocated to the United States from South Korea at age 13 and attended UCLA. Kang spent the subsequent three decades on the front lines of international news coverage for renowned media outlets like the Los Angeles Times, The Associated Press, and Thomson Reuters. In 1987, he was dispatched to South Korea to cover the June Democracy Movement and the country’s first direct presidential election. He won two Pulitzer Prizes, the journalistic equivalent of the Nobel Prize, in 1993 and 1999 for his coverage of the 1992 Los Angeles Riots and the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal, respectively. Following this, he covered the White House as part of the White House press corps, immortalizing historic moments of both American presidents and visiting South Korean dignitaries through his lens. Now, after more than 30 years of an illustrious career in the U.S., he has returned to Korea to rediscover and document its unique traditions and rich cultural heritage.

Work credits: Senior Photographer/Senior Pictures Editor (Assignment Editor), Reuters (2001-2019) Photographer/Editor, The White House (2000-2001) Administrative (Managing) Photo Editor, Washington, D.C., The Associated Press (1997-2000) Photographer/Editor, Los Angeles Times (1987-1997) Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography, Lewinsky scandal/ Impeachment of President Bill Clinton (1999) Pulitzer Prize for Spot News, Los Angeles Race Riots (1993)

Hyungwon Kang’s second photography book, Visual History of Korea, was published by Random House Korea (RHK) in September 2022. His book is available in the US online at: http://www.hanbooks.com/vihiofko.html