The Jefferson County Attorney’s Office is reviewing a letter sent by one of its attorneys — through his private practice — that contains racially insensitive and inflammatory language.
Karl Price, an assistant county attorney, sent the letter to an attorney representing the family that owns Hwang Martial Arts Academy, who Price’s client is suing over a dispute about martial arts lessons. In the letter, first revealed on Thursday by the Kentucky Trial Court Review, Price repeatedly refers to the Asian-American owners of the business as “foreigners” and claims they are “relying on some ancient Asian principle” by refusing to agree on a settlement figure in the case.
Mimi Hwang, whose family owns Hwang Martial Arts Academy, told Insider Louisville the language is offensive and inappropriate, noting that her family has been American citizens for more than a decade.
The letter stemmed from a case in which a family signed their children up for lessons at the martial arts academy, but then pulled one of the kids out due to a medical condition. The two sides have been negotiating over the past year on a financial settlement to end the dispute.
In the letter sent to the Hwangs’ attorneys on May 22, Price said “this is a case of greedy foreigners who simply did not understand contractual relations notwithstanding the poorly written agreement to begin with.” He went on to say his clients are “law-abiding Americans,” then picked up with more language targeting their Asian heritage.
“Maybe if these foreigners would have set aside their bias then we would not be at this stage,” wrote Price. “In my last email to Mr. Kang, my client agreed to accept the (redacted dollar amount) plus his recoverable costs and these foreigners refused to pay it relying on some ancient Asian principle I suppose.” (sic)
Mimi Hwang, whose parents own the business, said they are offended by the language in the letter, noting that their attorney is also of South Korean heritage.
“I was just absolutely appalled,” said Hwang. “And it’s funny, my parents and myself have been U.S. citizens for over 10 years. And he’s calling us foreigners. It’s so crazy to me that somebody would stoop that low. I don’t know if he was just trying to get a reaction out of us.”
Hwang said her family has contacted the Louisville Bar Association and the County Attorney’s Office, concerned that someone with such views is in a position of power as a local prosecutor.
“I’m curious to see if he’s prosecuted Asians, or if he ever represented Asians,” said Hwang. “If he is saying this in his part-time work, I wonder if there’s been any impact on other Asians who have had to go up against Karl Price. Because obviously this guy just has a completely horrible view of Asian-Americans, or even other immigrants.”
In a phone interview with IL, Price said his remarks were not offensive or inappropriate because he had reason to believe the Hwangs might have been “illegal aliens” due to their “broken English” and the fact that they recently traveled overseas.
“I do not think that that was derogatory,” said Price. “I thought that that was an appropriate reference to them, because I don’t know them to be American citizens. … Some of those individuals (at Hwang’s) may be illegal aliens. I don’t know. My clients said that the individual they dealt with had some broken English. Now that doesn’t necessarily make them a foreigner, I understand that. But based on the information we had, no, I do not believe that that was insensitive to refer to them as that.”
Price said his clients believed they were stereotyped by the Hwangs as a “bad element” of “another African-American trying to get out of a contract,” but said his clients “are not part of that element” and live in a good suburban home.
“If I’ve offended anyone, I apologize,” said Price. “That was not my intent. I’m surprised that you send a lawyer a letter and all of a sudden it makes it to social media. But in any case, it is what it is.”
Jefferson County Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Jessie Halladay told IL her office just found out about Price’s letter today, and they are now looking into the matter.
“We’ve not received any complaints to our office related to this matter,” said Halladay. “It’s obviously part of Karl’s private practice work. But now that we have become aware of this situation, we intend to undertake a thorough review of the matter.”