As part of its recognition of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the Los Angeles City Council on May 30 honored Michael Woo, the council’s first Asian American member.
Woo was elected to the council in 1985 and represented the 13th Council District, which included Hollywood and Silverlake, for eight years. He also ran for mayor in 1993 and California secretary of state in 1994.
Woo, who is now dean of the College of Environmental Design at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, was introduced by Councilmember David Ryu, the second Asian American to serve on the council and the first Korean American, who called Woo a role model.
Woo recalled that in addition to everyday matters such as zone changes and cracks in the sidewalk, he became involved in a national controversy in 1985 when a constituent complained about a Mickey Rourke movie that depicted the Chinese American community in a negative light.
The film, which Woo did not identify by name, was Michael Cimino’s “Year of the Dragon,” in which Rourke played a New York detective battling organized crime in Chinatown. Asian American civil rights groups accused the film of promoting racist stereotypes.
After meetings with community advocates, including Woo, MGM attached a disclaimer to the film. Cimino defended his film, saying that it was about racism but was not racist, and Rourke accused Woo of “grandstanding.”
The council also honored chemist Myung Ki “Mike” Hong, a South Korean immigrant who founded the chemical company DuraCoat.
“I can’t think of a better way to wrap up Asian Pacific American Heritage Month than to honor two trailblazers in the API community — Michael Woo, the first API elected to the Los Angeles City Council, and Dr. “Mike” Myung-Ki Hong, community advocate and philanthropist,” said Ryu. “This is a much-deserved recognition for the decades’ worth of service and leadership in the API as well as the greater Los Angeles community. We owe you both a debt for your tremendous service.”