How a Battle Over a Korean-Owned Kwik Stop Divided, Then United, South Dallas

Led by a little-known minister, protesters rallied to run a Korean store owner out of business. Then they learned a little more about that minister.

"You serve a news organ that has attacks everyone who stands up for black and poor people," he eventually told the reporter in an email. "You know your intentions better than any, but you are still a tool in the hand of the enemy of the rise of our community. I know who you really are, and it's not what you are being used for. More importantly, I know my enemy very well. He happens to be your enemy and you will soon see it for yourself, if you don't already."

Meanwhile, on went the protests. And if Dallas wasn't already convinced of the protesters' cause, a man named Arthur Carpenter approached the Nation of Islam with a story that would help seal the deal.

Two days after the press conference, Carpenter said, he ran out of gas down the road and walked into the store with a 5-quart oil jug to fill. Pak said it was an illegal container; he wouldn't let him use the pump.

Thomas Pak has owned the Kwik Stop near Fair Park for more than 10 years.
Danny Fulgencio
Thomas Pak has owned the Kwik Stop near Fair Park for more than 10 years.
The Reverend Ronald Wright was among the activists who called for a boycott of Pak's store.
Danny Fulgencio
The Reverend Ronald Wright was among the activists who called for a boycott of Pak's store.

After an exchange, an onlooker volunteered his gas can, so Carpenter walked outside to fill up. He went to a pump, out of Pak's sight, and started to pump gas. Pak leaned outside the front door and yelled for him to switch. Frustrated, Carpenter slammed the gas nozzle back into the holster. Pak says the customer broke it.

Pak was furious. The gas nozzles cost $400 each, and he replaced that nozzle the previous week. He stormed outside. One of his clerks grabbed the can of Mace from behind the counter and followed Pak out.

Pak says when he approached, Carpenter pushed him. Pak pushed him back, hard. According to Pak, the man reached into his pocket and threatened the owner.

"I'm gonna cut you up!"

The clerk reacted before Pak, Macing Carpenter. Carpenter says that Pak Tasered him and sucker-punched him when he hit the ground. The owner's version of events is even more horrific.

He says that after Carpenter was Maced, Pak was still scared. So he swung, connected with Carpenter's face, dropped him. Blind and stunned, Carpenter collapsed. Pak then reared back and kicked him in the face.

Carpenter looked to be out cold, but by the time Pak and his clerk retreated to the store to call the cops, Carpenter had stumbled off. The next time they saw him, he was in the front of the store. His right eye was black, the eyeball was bloody from burst vessels and he was in a neck brace. He held a sign:

"STOP Don't Shop. Racist."

Nation of Islam members interviewed him on tape, finalized the official name of the protest ("Don't Stop Don't Shop"), and had a 15-minute promotional video up on New Year's Day.

Muhammad's plan was falling into place. Observer columnist Jim Schutze showed up with a video camera and taped Pak's newly hired lawyer issuing a flurry of no comments, fueling animosity toward Pak. Muhammad went to City Hall and retold the story of Phillips' murder.

"A man was killed in the store who was chased down the street from the store. And this is something that has re-emerged as a result of the protest." He didn't mention that it was he who re-emerged it. "The man was shot in the back, and we're still waiting for information from our councilperson, who is looking into it." Davis voiced her support.

That same week, Peter Johnson got a call in Foundation/Justice Seekers' shared Oak Cliff office. It was Muhammad.

"We're at a 75 percent success rate!" Johnson announced to the Wright twins. Protesters were out in force everyday. Only a quarter of customers crossed the picket lines. Deliveries to the Kwik Stop slowed; Pak simply wasn't turning product over fast enough.


Pak was on the ropes, and the coalition hatched a plan to finish him off: They would find a black investor to buy out the beleaguered Pak. It'd cost about $500,000 to purchase it, Johnson and the Wrights figured, although they were going to try to force the price down. To do that, they were going to protest, denting his profits until he submitted.

By now the protest was making headlines in Korea. Friends and family called to make sure Pak was still alive. One of Pak's supporters says Koreans opened three bank accounts to channel money to Pak and his business.

Finally, Pak and his attorney reached out to Koreans. A few came to the rescue: Chong Choe, a lawyer with four postgraduate degrees and the Chairman of the National Korean American Coalition. Ted Kim, an ordained minister, the only independent banker in the country, and the vice president of the Korean Society in Dallas. And Charles Park, the eldest of Dallas' Korean community leaders, whom Ronald Wright referred to as "the Godfather."

Charles Park, who once held a post in the NAACP, and the coalition went to the NAACP and brokered a meeting with Anthony Bond, Wallace's good friend and the founder of the Irving NAACP chapter.

When they met, Bond looked Pak up and down.

"Did you call him a nigger?

Pak's eyes were red, and he was sweating. He nodded. Then, he started to cry. Pak told a different story.

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