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Asian widow in Seal Beach gets hate letter days after burying husband: “Go back to your country”

Days after a Seal Beach widow buried her husband, she got this in the mail — a handwritten, threatening letter marking his death as “one less Asian to put up with in Leisure World.”

The note, written on yellow lined paper, referred to “fricken Asians taking over our American community!” and threatened to “Watch out! Pack your bags and go back to your country where you belong.”

Seal Beach police said Tuesday, March 23, that their agency and the U.S. Postal Inspector are investigating the incident as a hate crime.

The letter was sent to Yong Choi, who has lived in the senior community of Leisure World with her husband, Byong, for about a decade. On Friday, March 19, the same day the family buried Byong Choi, 83, someone mailed the anonymous letter, which the family received Monday.

“I can’t even imagine being so vile they would take time out of their day to target a new widow,” said their daughter, Claudia Choi.

The letter marks the latest possible hate crime targeting Asians in Orange County at a time when the Asian American community nationally is on high alert following shootings in Georgia last week that killed eight people, six of them women of Asian descent.

Choi said one of her three sisters first opened the letter and did not share it with their mother. She is grieving over the loss of her husband after nearly 57 years of marriage.

Instead, Claudia Choi called Seal Beach police and the FBI.

“We want people to know that Asian Americans can no longer and will no longer stay silent about the racist attacks that all of us have endured over our lives,” Claudia Choi said.

While the letter was postmarked Friday from Los Angeles, it specifically mentions Leisure World. Choi believes that the message came from someone in the retirement community because her father’s death was not publicized elsewhere.

A statement published on the Leisure World website condemns the act: “This malicious and egregious act of hate speech threatens our core values of racial equity and social justice.”

Seal Beach police are working to identify the letter’s author, using DNA and fingerprint analysis, handwriting analysis, neighborhood canvassing and a review of video surveillance.

“Hate directed toward any member of our community is disgusting and will not be tolerated,” Seal Beach Police Chief Philip L. Gonshak said in a statement. “Across the county we are seeing more and more violence committed against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. We will not allow this to happen in Seal Beach.”

Byong Choi came to the U.S. from Korea in the late 1960s on an academic scholarship. He became an American citizen and remained “very civic minded,” his daughter said. While living in Indianapolis, she added, he served as president of a Lion’s Club and was active in his church. He retired as a restaurateur and moved to California with his wife to live in Leisure World, which sits south of the 405 Freeway off Seal Beach Boulevard.

“He voted in every election and would help in every election as a volunteer,” said Claudia Choi, an L.A. resident. “He loved the United States. He loved America.”

Choi said Asian Americans have long put up with racist remarks, jokes and acts of hatred. That’s been exacerbated during the pandemic, with some calling COVID-19 the “China flu.”

“That’s really opened the door to hatred and scapegoating,” she said.

Last week, the national organization Stop AAPI Hate reported a spike in reported incidents against Asians: 3,795 between March 19, 2020 and Feb. 28, 2021. Nearly 45 % of those were reported in California, which had the highest number of incidents: 1,691. But many more are suspected to have gone unreported.

“We’re told as Asians to ‘Put your head down. Work hard. Don’t make a fuss’,” said Claudia Choi. “I’m here to say we have a place. We have a seat at the table. We’re part of the American fabric. And we need to be listened to.”

Seal Beach police ask that anyone with information contact Detective Jon Ainley at 562-799-4100, ext. 1113 or email jainley@sealbeachca.gov.


Source: Orange County Register

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