In an incident that police are investigating as a hate crime, a 27-year-old Korean American man reports he was violently attacked in the heart of Los Angeles’ Koreatown this month.
Denny Kim told CNN that on February 16, he was waiting for a friend when he was confronted by two men who began shouting racial slurs and then punched him in the face.
“They all began to say really bad things all of a sudden,” Kim said. He also said he heard the men say, ‘You’ve got the Chinese virus, go back to China,’ before he was hit.
Asked about the attack, the Los Angeles Police Department reported in a news release that a possible hate crime that took place on Kenmore Avenue between 6th Street and Wilshire Boulevard on February 16 was being investigated.
The LAPD’s statement did not name Kim, but said that at about 8:40 p.m. local time, two suspects approached the victim, “yelled racial slurs” and “then hit him in the face” before fleeing the scene.
When he witnessed the attack, Kim’s friend Joseph Cha was dropped off by Uber to meet Kim. As the perpetrators kicked and punched Kim, Cha said he saw him on the ground with his arms around his face.
The suspects immediately fled in various directions when Cha arrived. Cha said that as they ran away, they shouted racial slurs.
“This guy saved my life, if it weren’t for him I don’t know what would have happened,” Kim said, referring to Cha. “It’s definitely been traumatizing.”
The two suspects, identified in their 30s by the police as Hispanic males, have not been found. One, with a bald head and brown eyes and wearing a long-sleeve grey shirt, was described as being around 5-foot-7, 170 pounds. The other was identified as wearing a white hoodie and being around 5-foot-6, 140 pounds.
Kim said he did not immediately report the incident because he feared for his life.
“For a couple of days, I did not want to report this to the police because I remember those guys telling me that they’re going to kill me,” Kim said.
Following support from a woman he met at a rally to spread awareness of Asian hate crimes, Kim finally agreed to file a police report.
“She was the one that actually motivated me to speak out about this so we could ultimately spread awareness and possibly prevent this from happening to somebody else,” he said.
Stop AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) Hate has earned over 3,000 anti-Asian hate accounts since the pandemic, according to civil rights activist Connie Chung Joe. Stop AAPI Hate was not officially monitoring these incidents prior to the pandemic, but another group, Stand Against Hatred, only monitored a handful of incidents in 2019.
Although over 3,000 cases of hate crime have been reported nationwide, Joe calls this the “tip of the iceberg,” since many incidents are not even reported at all. She argues that a big cause of underreporting is a language barrier.