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L.A. School District backs off removing mural deemed ‘offensive’ to Koreans

The Los Angeles Unified School District has backtracked on a decision to paint over a controversial mural which members of the local Korean community dubbed “offensive.”

The mural, located in LA’s Koreatown, includes sun-like rays which remind some of the Japanese imperial flag. Koreans suffered horribly at the hands of the Japanese during World War II.

“It’s in the middle of Koreatown on [a] public school, not private property, and the sun ray thing, from Koreans’ view it looks so similar, enough to remind us of the rising sun flag,” said Chan Yong Jeong of the Wilshire Community Coalition.

According to NBC Los Angeles, the painting actually depicts actress Ava Gardner and is an homage to the Coconut Grove lounge which used to exist nearby.

On Monday, however, the district reversed course, saying the mural would remain as is for now, but added it would “continue the conversation” about it.

More from KABC:

“I think that the district made a decision based on a perceived route of least resistance. They just wanted the problem to go away. Now, it’s kind of backfiring,” said artist Beau Stanton, who painted the mural.

Stanton painted the mural in 2016 and said his inspiration was the ambassador hotel’s coconut grove [sic] nightclub where RFK schools is [sic] now located. Stanton has met with the Korean community and explained how the Japanese imperial flag played no part in his mural.

Over the weekend, Stanton received support from artist Shepard Fairey, who’s responsible for a mural of RFK at the same school. He said he’ll remove it if Stanton’s is painted over.

In a statement Fairey said, in part, “I sympathize with all victims of injustice, including Koreans who suffered at the hands of the Japanese, but perpetrating another injustice by removing Beau Stanton’s mural based on false claims that it represents the Japanese battle flag where no such connection exists, is foolish and selfish.”

Stanton said he used the rays because they’re “a universal representation.”

“It’s in a lot of my work,” he said. “[A] lot of Shepard Fairey’s work. I saw it on a billboard off the 10 freeway in a Sol Cerveza ad.”

MORE: University president urges campus murals be covered up

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