Members of the Korean American community in Los Angeles are demanding that a mural which reminds them of imperial Japan “be removed or substantially altered,” The Los Angeles Times reports.
The mural in question was painted by Beau Stanton at the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools complex in Koreatown. It depicts the face of American actress and singer, Ava Gardner.
Gardner, however, is not the focal point of the debate. Critics of the mural have pointed out that orange-red and blue rays around Gardner’s face are reminiscent of the World War II imperial Japanese battle flag. Those rays, critics say, are offensive to Koreans and Korean American living in the area. They evoke painful memories of World War II.
According to an earlier report by The Los Angeles Times, the pushback against the mural came from a Korean-led group called the Wilshire Community Coalition. The group said the imagery was as offensive as painting a swastika on a school mural.
Now a different group, Gyopo, has joined the battle. Gyopo (which translates loosely to Korean diaspora) is made up of several artists and community members. Some of those members include Korea Arts Foundation of America board member Ellie Lee and UC Irvine professor emerita Yong Soon Min. All say they are not working on behalf of their organizations.
Ultimately, the LAUSD decided to reverse its decision to take down the mural after it received push back from artists and advocates who believed taking the mural down would be censorship. Many of those who advocated on behalf of the mural say they don’t understand why people are offended by the mural. Others have seemingly argued that is more important to protect art from censorship.
Artist Shepard Fairley even said he would insist that his mural of Robert F. Kennedy, the school complex’s namesake, be taken down as well.
Now, Gyopo has written a letter to the LAUSD asking the school district to reconsider. Gyopo believes those who think the mural isn’t offensive do not understand the perspective of people offended by the mural. They and other critics recognize that Stanton did not mean to offend anyone, but maintain that the mural is still offensive despite the lack of intent.
All parties involved in the situation- Gyopo, LAUSD, and Stanton- say they are open to discussing ways to fix the problem.
AsAmNews has Asian America in its heart. We’re an all-volunteer effort of dedicated staff and interns. Check out ourTwitter feed and Facebook page for more content. Please consider interning, joining our staff or submitting a story.