Gook

At the beginning of Gook, a title on the screen defines the term as a derogatory reference to anyone from East Asia or Southeast Asia; the term gained currency among Americans during the wars in Korea and Vietnam. When the film begins, April 29, 1992, a jury has just exonerated the police who beat up Rodney King, a scene that clearly shows unnecessary violence against someone being placed under arrest. Somewhere in South Central Los Angeles, a neighborhood of African Americans, there are two Korean businesses—a shoe store and a liquor store. The latter is run by Mr. Kim (Sang Chon), whose first customer years ago proved to him that he must be armed to stop shoplifting. The former, which Kim started with the father of Eli (played by director Justin Chon), is managed by Eli because his father has died. But Eli also employs another Korean, Daniel (David So), as well as Kamilla (Simone Baker), a six-year-old African American who enjoys working with the Korean duo much more than living with her father Keith (Curtis Cook, Jr.). Most of the film demonstrates that the Koreans often do not yet along, and their profanity toward one another is abundant evidence. The film also shows that Blacks will assault them as “gooks” if they are alone on the street. While the riot takes place, though not in the neighborhood of the two Korean businesses, Kamilla tells her father how she prefers to associate with the Koreans, leading to a violent confrontation. The film acquaints filmviewers with how younger Korean Americans experience the “better life” that their parents wanted for them in moving from Korea: For economic survival, they set up shop wherever they can afford and reap the hostility of enranged African Americans who cannot advance to their level. MH