Monday, April 30, 2007

Are you kidding me?


April 29, 2007 -- The following are facts. Make of them what you choose.

On Sunday night, April 15th, 12 hours before Cho Seung-Hui began his killing spree on the Virginia Tech campus, "Dateline NBC" devoted its entire show to telling the story of psychotic murderer Robert Hyde.

Hyde was a bright young man from Albuquerque who began to suffer a steady mental deterioration until, one day, in 2005, at different locations, he shot and killed five people.

Beyond the murders, the NBC show stressed that Hyde was a time bomb who was released from police custody and hospital care despite frightening episodes and warnings from many, including his family, that eventually there would be hell to pay, that eventually he would kill.

Hyde's story, it turned out, was roughly the same as Cho's life story, except for the killing part. Cho hadn't killed anyone, not yet.

The morning after NBC's show aired, Cho, described by schoolmates as an all-night TV watcher, shot and killed two people.

He then returned to his dormitory to mail a parcel to NBC. It included a note from Cho that began, "You forced me into a corner."

Then he traveled to a different section of the Virginia Tech campus, where he shot and murdered 30 more people.

Surely, Cho's diseased mind was prepped and primed to commit mass murder, at some point. But did NBC's show, the night before, serve as his prompt? In his afflicted state, did that "Dateline" installment push him over the edge? It's unlikely that we'll ever know.

Yet, the numerous similarities between the Hyde and Cho stories are inescapable. So is the timing. Cho's rampage began fewer than 12 hours after NBC's episode about Hyde ended. And Cho interrupted his rampage only to send NBC a you-pushed-me-to-do-this missive.

But even if it's all just a matter of bizarre, chilling coincidences, those coincidences seem too great to ignore or dismiss. They're worthy of your attention.


Dear students of Virginia Tech,

My heart goes out to all of you. The shocking nightmare of the ordeal that you have experienced is truly tragic and I can only imagine how scared you all must be. Your collective strength, dignity and maturity in the wake of this tragedy has been truly inspiring. And despite your relative youth, your humanity humbles all of us.

As both a parent and as a Korean-American man, this tragedy hits close to my heart. And although those two roles are very important to me, they certainly don't mean anything to you. And it's all of YOU that I keep thinking about.

I'm not old enough to be your dad nor young enough to be your peer. Nor do I have any professional background in therapy or grief counseling. But I think maybe sometimes it's helpful to hear the advice of a random stranger to give you some perspective on the horror that you've all just experienced.

Maybe I can help.

See, back on September 27, 1990, I too was a young college student. I was far away from home attending college at UC-Berkeley. College was a blast. Life was good. I was a happy young man.

Or at least I was until that night.

On that night back in 1990, I'd been studying at the library for a few hours. Afterwards, I joined some buddies at a bar to celebrate a friend's birthday. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a deranged madman burst into the bar and started spraying dozens of shots from a Mac-10 machine gun. Mayhem ensued. Both the friends standing immediately to my left and to my right were shot. Twelve inches in either direction and I would have been shot in the back of the head.

In the initial rampage, one student was killed. Seven others were wounded. For almost 8 hours, the gunman held 33 of us hostage. The killer was clearly psychotic and, at more than one point, all of us inside were unsure whether we'd ever make it out of there alive. Thankfully, the entire ordeal finally ended when the SWAT team raided the bar and fatally killed the gunman.

Aside from living in NYC during 9/11, nothing in my life has ever come close to the sheer terror of that experience. Hopefully, nothing else in your lives will ever come close to what you have just experienced.

And although our experiences are different, maybe they're not so far apart. So, with a grain of salt, I want to offer you my advice and tell you what you may expect in the near future. I hope that this, in some small way, helps you.

* The nightmares will be terrifying. You'll have a hard time sleeping for a long time. Every time you close your eyes, you're going to be reliving those horrific moments. I needed to drown myself in Jack Daniels before I could even think about falling asleep every night. I wish I could tell you a better way to avoid the nightmares but I can't.

* For a long time, the everyday sounds of life will have a much greater effect on you. Whenever you hear a car backfire, you'll hit the floor in sheer panic. The sound of breaking glass will make your heart jump out of your body. This will all be so instinctive that you are sure that it will never end. It will. It took me over a year. It took some of my friends even longer.

* You will find solace only with those with whom you shared the same experience as you. It's natural to develop a sort of "band of brothers" survivor mentality. And trust me, it's going to be extremely therapeutic for you to discuss your feelings with those who shared your experience and can appreciate the tragedy on a personal level. But don't shun friends or family because you think they just don't "get it." They love you and are trying to be empathetic. Allow them in.

* You may use alcohol and drugs to numb the pain and dull the memories. Be careful. I consumed more alcohol in the weeks following my experience than I had my entire life. I thought it helped but the healing really didn't begin until I stopped drinking and confronted the pain.

* See a counselor. Join support groups. Get professional help. Although I'd been through therapy before and was aware of its benefits, I had several friends who, prior to our ordeal, were not big believers. Trust me. Speaking to a trained professional can be immensely cathartic.

* Stay away from all members of the press. They often lend a sympathetic ear at a time when you could gratefully use one. Don't trust them. They do not have the slightest regard for your best intentions. In incidents like this, they will live up to their reputations as bottom-feeding scumbags.

* Turn off the TV. Forget about the newspapers. Don't surf the internet for stories related to the tragedy. You need some distance to process everything. The media coverage is only going to make you angry. People are going to use this incident to push their political agendas, voice their individual opinions, and attack their personal enemies. Ignore the vitriol. Those people don't care about you and you've got to take care of yourselves.

* Get away from it all. Grab some close friends and go camping. Take a vacation. Having friends with you will help you deal with what happened but putting some physical distance between you and the university will help also.

Your feelings of fear and anxiety are going to last for awhile. This is completely normal. Try and be proactive and address your feelings now while you're in the moment. Otherwise, you'll find yourself spiraling in depression months later. Trust me. I've seen it.

Ultimately the incident can serve as a learning experience. You're lucky to be alive. Be grateful for that. Maybe it will give you more insight into how precious life is. Maybe it will spur you to live your life in a different manner. It will affect all of you in different ways. Just try not to let the experience be a destructive one for you.

My thoughts and prayers are with all of you. Stay strong, Hokies.


RESPONSES TO ABOVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm graduating from Tech in only a few weeks. All I can say is that the past week has just been surreal, almost like it hasn't hit me yet even though I've seen hours and hours of coverage on CNN. I knew three people who died and two who were wounded, and it just floors me how supportive and caring people have been. Have you seen pictures of the candlelight vigil? It was simply amazing how many people came out in support and seeing pictures of it later, it was a beautiful thing.

Honestly, the best thing that has helped me was Nikki Giovanni's poem she read at convocation. When I saw/heard her saying it at convocation, I just broke down and cried. It's an amazing poem written by an amazing woman that just summed up everything perfectly. ( if anyone wants to listen)

Like Laura, I'm a VT student also. Thank you for posting this. It HAS been hard talking to my parents and sisters about all of this. They say the right things but I feel more comfortable being with my friends right now. I'll try to remember not to push my family away. Thank you.

I've been reading your blog for a couple of months now but have never commented until now. i want to thank you so much for writing this piece. i have had a heavy heart since Monday and I've been able to cry for the first time after reading this. i really hope that Va tech students also get to read your piece to give them some comfort in their pain.

this tragedy has hit me close to home. I immigrated to the US as a child, grew up in northern Virginia, and went to college close to tech. I've been overwhelmed by emotions after this tragedy. most of all i feel pain for the victims and their families, and their lost potential and innocence, but i feel sorry for the family of the assailant. when i read the media coverage, I get confused at why they keep referring to this kid as a Korean, when he is a Korean American. and it's also upsetting that Korean people are apologizing for the actions of this mentally ill individual just because he's of the same ethnicity. while i understand that Koreans come from a collectivists culture, i feel feel frustrated that they feel they should apologize for him. i'm originally Iranian but i'm not going to apologize because of the actions of that schizophrenic Iranian man just as it would be crazy for Irish Americans to apologize for timothy mcvey's actions. in any case, thanks for sharing this. i know that it will bring others some comfort.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Culture of Excuses

Here is a cartoon from Naver that was linked to by a commenter at the Marmot’s Hole that I found interesting. My Korean skills are limited but here is my translation, native speakers let me know if I’m off. The top frame has the American tank running over the names of the two girls killed and GI crimes while above it, it says the US has a culture of excuses in regards to these issues. In the bottom frame it says that the US is a culture of condolences after the Cho shooting at Virginia Tech.

Of course this cartoon is nonsense because USFK made apologies for the 2002 armored vehicle2002 accident and made restitution payments to the families involved. Additionally US president George Bush made an additional apology to the Korean people over the accident. Now lets compare that to when US Army Major David Berry was murdered in Itaewon in 2000 by a Korean man, no restitution was made, much less an apology from the President of Korea.

Additionally absurd is that for every GI crime that happens apologies are made from the chain of command even before the offender has even been convicted of anything. Perfect example is with the recent taxi cab related incident in Kunsan. The base commander apologized to the victim and locked down the camp before anyone has been convicted of anything. Heck when I was in 2ID I can still remember when the Assistant Division Commander, General Martz went to apologize to the mayor of Uijongbu for a taxi cab related incident.

Now let’s compare this to when Koreans have raped on multiple occasions, sexually assaulted, stabbed, assaulted, or kidnapped and paraded on tv, American soldiers. Koreans are usually not even arrested for crimes against US military servicemembers and on the rare occasions that they are, they serveno jail time . So which country really has a culture of excuses?

More VT Fallout


This blog post needs wider play, especially when you scroll down to some disturbing post-massacre YouTube videos, which are a compilation of anti-American sentiment in Korea in the wake of the mass murder.

NB: The above-linked blog post is actually a smorgasbord of links to (and lengthy quotes from) posts you may or may not already have seen elsewhere.



After reading several quotes from V-Tech students about what happened last week in Norris Hall, the question I asked myself repeatedly is; why didn’t they fight? I’m not judging, and I think this is a legitimate question.

Perhaps because Cho’s style was somewhat different than, for example, the Columbine shooters, it didn’t occur to them. In this case, Cho went from classroom to classroom, and some of these students realized what was happening, and that their classroom was next

But putting myself in those shoes, I think I would have at least tried. Hiding behind a door and waiting for him to enter. Indeed, Professor Librescu knew what was happening and sacrificed himself for his students. If they had waited form him and thrown books, chairs, whatever they could find, and rushed him, things could have been much different. Again, I’m not judging or blaming, and perhaps that would be impractical. I don’t know what the classrooms look like, so I can’t say for sure.

After 9/11 it became much less likely that passengers would allow a plane to be hijacked, so perhaps the same is true of classroom shooting like the one in Virginia Tech’s Norris Hall.

Two side notes.

* A member of our church has a son at V-Tech. He was at class when the first two murders took place in his dorm, and was supposed to be at class in Norris Hall later, but someone (erroneously) told him that class was canceled, so he went back to the dorm to sleep. In that way he avoided both kill zones.
* A 2002 shooting at the Appalachian School of Law, also in Virginia, saw three people get killed, but the shooter was stopped by two students who retrieved firearms from vehicles.

Hopefully in a few days I can write my take on this.....

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

what if VT happened here in Korea?

Foreigners cite nationalism, discrimination as barriers to life in Korea

In wake of Virginia Tech incident, Korean society called on to accept its own immigrants.

A 30-year-old foreign woman, who gained South Korean nationality last year after leaving her home in a central Asian country to marry a Korean, wept on April 20 as she talked to a Hankyoreh reporter. Her bloodshot eyes were mixed with anger and chagrin. Her anger centers on how her 10-year-old son is treated in school, where he is a third-grade elementary student. "Fourth and fifth grade students beat my son because he is different in appearance. Despite my appeals to the school, the matter hasn’t been resolved.” Because of the matter, she transferred her son to another school, but the situation did not change. "My son is scared of going to school," she sighed.


A 36-year-old Mongolian woman came to South Korea in 2003. Though she received Korean nationality last year, she has seen no difference in her poor treatment. While she received a Korean identification card instead of a foreigner’s one, and while her appearance is similar to that of Koreans, these do not help her. "When I go to a restaurant or a store, people use polite expressions to greet me. But when they hear my pronunciation, they begin to talk impolitely to me." She plans to change her name to a Korean one because her five-year-old son would otherwise be discriminated against at elementary school, which he begins next year. Even in kindergarten, students ask the teacher whether her son, Min-su (not his real name), is Korean or not.


Given this atmosphere, how would South Korean society react if an immigrant committed a crime similar to the Virginia Tech massacre?

In the wake of the tragedy caused by a South Korean immigrant, some critics pointed out that South Koreans should reflect upon their attitude toward foreign immigrants such as Southeast Asian workers and others. In particular, as some foreigners who have gained South Korean nationality still suffer from widespread discrimination and prejudice, racism in South Korean society is under close scrutiny.

The central Asian woman said, "While the U.S. is a multiracial society, discrimination and prejudice are much more rampant in South Korea because Koreans think of themselves as a homogeneous people." The Mongolian woman said, "When I talk with my Mongolian friend on the subway, I am surprised by the coldness seen in the reactions of Koreans around us." She said her Filippino friends were told by other Koreans they were being noisy when they talked in their mother language.

Lee Cheol-seung, head of a foreign labor consultancy in South Gyeongsang Province, said, "Typically, Koreans treat immigrants as expatriates because they aren’t ethnic Koreans. If one were to commit a crime similar to that of Seung-hui Cho, ethnic Koreans would consider him as a non-Korean, as still being a member of the society from which he initially came," Lee said.

Kim Yun-jae, a lawyer who emigrated to the U.S., said, "Most Koreans see the [Virginia Tech] tragedy as a cause for shame and guilt, instead of considering it an incident caused by structural problems in American society. In light of this attitude, most Koreans are likely to treat immigrants and naturalized Koreans in the same way [they treated the Cho incident]," he added.

Kang Seong-hye, head of an emergency call center for immigrant women, said, "To resolve the matter of Koreans’ nationalistic exclusivity, we should figure out ways to reshape the community, and teach this in schools in order to share it with society. Services are also needed to help immigrants adapt to being Korean," Kang said.

Seung-hui Cho and Hines Ward

Seung-hui Cho’s shooting spree left Americans and Koreans in shock. The biggest dilemma Koreans feel is the question of whether Cho was Korean or American. They think the answer will determine how much responsibility they have to feel for what happened. In fact, the only reason we distinguish this recent shooting from the occasional similar incidents like the Columbine High School shooting is that Cho, as a permanent resident of the United States who holds Korean citizenship, is a member of the "1.5 generation" immigrant generation, going over to the U.S. as a child.

The reason most of us Koreans felt shame or were so sure the event would lead to the spread of prejudice against Koreans when we heard the shooter was a Korean citizen is worrisome, because it stems from the kind of thinking of a society so occupied with nationality and bloodlines that they fail to take into account that he was in fact a member of the society in which he lived.

Cho may never have given up Korean citizenship, but if he grew up there since the third grade, he is, in terms of mindset and cultural association, at least over 50 percent a child of American society.

I am not trying to distort matters here in order to "free" South Korea and its citizens of "responsibility." Hines Ward had an admirable Korean mother, but I think it was American society that raised him to be an admirable citizen. If he had been in Korea, where there is racial prejudice and discrimination based on bloodlines, would the care of an admirable mother have been enough to make Ward the same man he is today? We need to stop going on about bloodlines and how great the "Korean race" is while getting so excited with joy or sorrow at the successes and failures of overseas Koreans. We need to begin working on eradicating our society from its racial prejudice and discrimination against foreigners. Today Korea has hundreds of thousands of migrant workers and their children living in its midst. International marriages account for roughly 12 percent of all marriages, and the number of so-called "mixed-blood Koreans" is rising rapidly.

We need to see that it is how we handle the cases of Seung-hui Cho and Hines Ward that will determine whether we raise someone of mixed racial background in our society into a Hines or into a Seung-hui. We need to raise a generation of these children with warm feelings toward Korea instead of hatred that can lead to violence.

I do not mean to say that overseas Koreans do not need our consideration. We should help them settle abroad, and we should support them in maintaining Korea’s language and culture and avoiding discrimination. This is something needed for Korea, overseas Koreans, and for everyone living in the countries in which those of Korean descent reside. Helping them maintain their cultural identity and respecting that identity is a very important condition for their ability to live with pride as global citizens. Cho reportedly had close to no interaction with the Korean community; had he had more interaction with people like the Korean students association and had more cultural pride, he may have been more mentally stable. Had that been the case, he might have contributed to both Korean and American societies.

Back when I lived in the United States, the cultural and linguistic differences and the new environment led to a massive amount of stress, and for a while I went to psychological counseling. It was through that experience that I learned quite painfully of how outsiders need our consideration. Helping immigrants settle in their new countries is something the countries they emigrate from and the countries they settle in both need to work toward. This would be one way to reduce tragedies like this recent event. The victims of the shooting and their families are surely in great agony, and the shock felt by Cho’s parents and siblings is surely no less severe. I can only hope there will never be another tragedy like this one.

A Question for Korean-Americans

Is what Kim Dae-joong claiming, that your childhood was ruined by coming to America, true?:

The children led their lives apart from their parents and roamed the streets. Living in blue-collar neighborhoods, the schools the children attended were often prone to crime and offered a poor educational environment. Not all of them, of course, but the children of many Korean emigrants, lived lives without pride or community consciousness, and eventually ended up on the wrong side of the tracks. In the end, many Koreans who went to America for the sake of their children’s education saw their children ruined by it instead.

I don’t think it is true that all these Korean-American kids are ruined by coming to America and Kim Dae-joong is just overreacting to one isolated incident of violence from one emotionally disturbed person. However, I am interested in hearing opinions from those who live in the community.


CPT KIM Apr 24th, 2007 at 7:26 am


Kim Dae Joong is idiot and he never experienced being a 1.5 Gen KA. Sure, in the beginning is never easy. I had to struggle to learn English and trying reach adolensce same time. I got into so much fight due to racism with White kids. I was enrolled in lower track classes due to my poor English skill. But we all over come it and assimilate into American life. Vast majority of us do succeed in life by graduating from college and have professional jobs. Just look at James Sun from the Apprentice. He is also 1.5 Gen.

Many non-Koreans keep on telling me that recent VT event has nothing to do with Cho being a Korean. But it was the same cultural background that we grew up which prevented him from getting treated for his mental illness. Korean parents do their best to hide their skeleton in the closet by not seeking professional help for any mental illness that their children might have. They all felt shame if local small Korean community found out about the illness. As long as Cho was not committing crime and he was studying hard in school, his parents have thought that the problem will just go away.

My 2 won-cents

BTW, I will be attending Mary Read’s Wake tonight in Annandale, VA. Her funeral is Tuesday.


VT massacre



Sunday, April 22, 2007

intresting comments

I am a twenty-six year old Korean-American female. Considering I was born in the States, I suppose that makes me a rounded 2.0, but adding in the caveat that I was born in the epicenter of Korean culture in the US, Los Angeles, perhaps I should deduct a couple of points, a -1.0?

I stumbled on your blog because I've been voraciously reading up on the Virginia Tech tragedy. It hit a nerve with me, especially because Cho was Korean-American - yes, yes, he was technically a "resident alien," but please, let's not argue semantics. He arrived in the US when he was 8, and he lived here for nearly two decades, he was Korean-American, and truth be told, those two cultures mesh poorly.

I've been waiting for someone to bring up race in an intelligent way, not the ridiculous, ignorant Fox News garbage you hear, e.g., "why don't they deport THESE people?!", but in a thought-provoking, well-reasoned, and equitable way. I think you've done an admirable job and I thank you. I agree with everything you've said in this post. I cannot begin to imagine the kind of intolerance, prejudice, and flat-out hatred you must have (and continue to ) endured as half Korean and half black (or African American, your preference). It has been my experience that Koreans (fine, MOST Koreans, not ALL) hate everything black. They hate all races, including other Koreans, but they're most scathing vitriol is directed at blacks. I suppose the LA riots didn't help - and I speak from experience. My parents' grocery store was looted. My father was indeed one those badass Korean men in a vest, gun in hand, on the roof of his store, firing shots into the sky. Thankfully, no one was killed, but the hatred lingers. That you even continue to identify yourself as partially Korean is testament to your generosity of spirit, because quite frankly, as a "pure" Korean, I get fed up with Koreans.

As to Seung Cho, I don't want mainstream media commentators like Anderson Cooper, Wolf Blitzer, Brian Williams, or Greta Whats-Her-Face, to discuss the race factor, because as understanding as they might want to be, they will NEVER understand. And in their well-meaning, hard-hitting, white-journalism way, they'll oversimplify what's going on and fuck the whole analysis up, because it's a ratings game. And then the ignorant white masses who watch these shows will take these simple analyzes as gospel truth and do stupid things like vandalize Korean owned stores and assault Korean Americans.

I want US, Korean-Americans to talk about it, because something is indeed rotten in Denmark, or Korea, or Korean-America, whatever. The funny thing is, a friend and I, another Korean-American (a male, by the way, who despite his parents best efforts managed to turn out okay), were discussing the shooting, and the first thing both us said was it was totally his parents.

Here's the profile they don't talk about: 23 year-old UNDERGRADUATE SENIOR at VIRGINIA TECH with a history of MENTAL ILLNESS. His older sister is a graduate of PRINCETON and works in some private subsidiary of the State Department. Look, my parents made it very clear that college lasts FOUR years, i.e., you finish at 21, because you go in at 17, if not earlier, and you have approximately ten choices of college - Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford being the top four - and allowances will be made for schools like Columbia, U Penn, Williams, Cornell, UC Berkeley, UCLA, and that's about it - VA Tech, while I'm sure is a fine institution in its own right, was probably akin to community college to Cho's parents. Before anyone complains that I'm stereotyping and generalizing, please, don't even start - you can't bullshit a bullshitter.

Why is it that when a Korean-American high school student makes 1600 (or 2400 now) on the SATs it is on the friggin FIRST page of the Korea Times (LA Edition)? Can you imagine any mainstream American publication, e.g., LA Times, NY Times, writing an article like that (and I'm not talking about those self-aggrandizing, voluntary "announcements" these papers have in the back celebrating weddings and the like). And add insult to injury, Cho had psychiatric problems - to my parents depression = not studying hard enough. Fine, I don't really know what went on in his house, I can only make assumptions and educated guesses, but I'm thinking his parents weren't all that supportive, loving, and actively seeking their son help. More likely than not they probably called him a dumb shit on various occasions asking him why he couldn't be more like his sister. So he withdrew into the voices in his head. He became delusional, and progressively more violent until he decided to shoot up thirty-two innocent students and himself.

Let me be clear, what Seung Cho did was hideous and inhuman - he took thirty-two innocent lives. What he did was wrong. He was an adult, and as such he is entirely responsible for his actions. I do NOT absolve him. But you know what, I don't absolve US either. By "us" I mean the Korean-American society at large this includes our parents and it includes their children - my generation, 1.5s, 2.0s, 1.73s, whatever - WAKE UP. There is something very wrong with Korean-American and we are in deep denial. We pretend we don't see our fathers smacking around our mothers, we pretend that it's somehow okay to be told you're stupid because you only managed to get an B+ in AP Calculus, we pretend it doesn't hurt when our parents wave around some article in the Korean newspaper about the latest Korean-American whiz kid and demand to know why we're not like that - yeah, I'm generalizing and stereotyping, but I dare anyone who says that they're Korean-American to tell me that their childhood wasn't littered with episodes like that. I have several Korean American friends, probably because they grew up exactly the way I did, and we laugh about our childhoods. Our non-Korean friends look at us with confusion and at times, something akin to horror. But my Korean-American friends laugh hysterically, because what is the alternative - despair, depression, withdrawal?

And I'm pissed off with all of these Korean people apologizing for Cho's actions. What exactly are you sorry about? That he killed thirty-two people? Or are you really sorry that he brought SHAME upon our good name? Those are two different things. And words without actions are meaningless. The candlelight vigils, the trusts in the name of the injured, the tears, the mea culpas, blah blah blah . . . worthless. If we want to truly show remorse, we need to take a hard look at ourselves. Why is it that domestic violence runs rampant in Korean America? Why is it that so many second generation Korean American females avoid their Korean American male counterparts like the plague? Why is it that college students would rather hang themselves in their dorm rooms than face the scrutiny and castigation from their parents at poor grades? And why is it that we don't talk about it . . . EVER?

And for anyone who wants to challenge the assertion that Korean and Korean-American culture is mysoginistic, sexist, and often abusive, stop lying to yourself. And I don't just blame the abusive SOBs, I blame the women too. Why? Because ladies, we take it. Our mothers take bullshit from their husbands, and then they pamper and baby their sons. And for the most part, their sons turn out just like their fathers, and their daughters turn out like their passive-aggressive mothers. Yes, there are exceptions - I KNOW, okay?

I'm not just angry at the "Korean" side of Cho. There's a lot that's screwed up with mainstream American culture too. The violence, perversity, and profanity (God, I sound like Bill Cosby - pull up your goddamn pants!!!) that pervades contemporary America probably played a large role as well. Yes, most serial killers, mass murderers, people on welfare, are WHITE. I know. I'm not saying that they're somehow not involved. Of course they're involved. But Cho, like me, like so many of us, walked that fine line where he wasn't just Korean, or just American. He was both, and unfortunately, it seems like he absorbed the shittiest characteristics of both cultures.

I suppose my post doesn't make much sense. It's not particularly organized or well-composed, but Seung Cho raises many turbulent and unsettling questions within me. It makes me scrutinize my upbringing, my parents, my heritage (like, I wasn't already doing that). And don't misunderstand me, while there are many things I dislike intensely about Korean-ness, there are many things I adore. I love the fact that we're family oriented and we believe in community. Honestly, maybe what bothers me most of all is that Seung Cho is all of us, Korean, white, black, Latino, old, young, male, female - we are all capable of great evil, and most of us, thank god, resist the temptation to succumb to the darkness, because we have the moral compass and support systems in place that bolster us during our most emotionally tempestuous times.

I don't know if you've seen the picture where he's smiling. His face is not facing the camera and he might be in a car, but he's smiling, and if you didn't know it was the same person brandishing guns and knives and hammers in other pictures, for a second, he just looks happy. As an older sister to a younger brother, as a fellow Korean-American, as a blasted fellow human being, it hurts to think that somewhere along the line this kid was destroyed and in being so destroyed he caused such senseless violence.

Final thought: How do you honor the dead? By doing right by the living. We come from a determined people - it's hard as all hell to come to a foreign country and make a decent living when you don't speak the language (seriously, what morons invented English - it is the most illogical language in the world), and yet, most of our parents managed. Think about what we could accomplish if we set our minds to improving not just our financial pocketbooks, but our mental/emotional ones as well.


Please read the above link.


If the Koreans are our friends, why do they dislike us so much?

Immigration reformer Craig Nelsen, who normally focuses purely on issues of population size, not of cultural compatibility, sent out this shockingly hard-hitting e-mail.

In the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings by a South Korean immigrant, the South Korean immigrant community held a church service to pray there wouldn't be a racial backlash against all South Koreans in the United States, and even though there hadn't been a single incident reported anywhere of any such "anti-South Korean backlash" occurring, the South Korean government had the chutzpah to issue a statement warning against an anti-South Korean racial backlash.

I'm insulted, frankly, at the nerve of this crappy little country.

In 2002, when a U.S. military vehicle accidentally struck and killed two school girls walking on the shoulder of a highway in South Korea, it unleashed months of "racial backlash" against all things American. Americans were attacked. American businesses were attacked. American military installations were attacked. The tightly controlled South Korean press failed to report the American military's apology, it failed to report the handsome monetary gift to the girls' families (paying off a victim's family is a disgusting and widespread Asian tradition), and massive riots were stoked by the Korean government. Never mind that our military, at great expense to the American people, are there to protect that crappy little country from the Korean whack job to the north in the first place.

Oh, did I mention that the deaths of the two schoolgirls was an accident? That the soldiers of the unit involved built a memorial to the two girls and held a candlelight vigil for them?

Compare that to the methodical murder, the intentional murder of 32 Americans by the South Korean killer at Virginia Tech. Did the South Korean community apologize to the families of the victims? Did the South Korean government express its sense of grief at the heartache one of their own had unleashed? No, not a word to that effect. And despite not a single whiff of any anti-South Korean sentiment anywhere, press coverage that took pains to describe the killer as "coming from our area (his immigrant family lived in northern Virginia)", the despicable South Koreans dared warn us against any backlash! It almost makes one want to do a little backlashing.

Here's a proposal. All Americans in South Korea, get out. Come home where you belong.

All Koreans in America, get out and go back to Korea, the crappy little country where you belong. Then you can all engage in all the anti-American demonstrations you please and no one will notice, because no one will care what goes on in your crappy little country. In fact, you can demonstrate right up to the point when WhackJob Ill-in-the-Head Joong takes over and throws you all into NK uniforms and shows you what anti-American demonstrations are supposed to look like.

If we'd thrown all you corrupt ingrates out a year ago, 32 of us would be alive today.

How dare you warn us!

Howard Sutherland writes:

Good job posting Craig Nelsen's comment about Korean gratitude. It is naive in the extreme to expect gratitude, but that's no reason not to resent Korean hostility. Did you see my Korean comment below? We'll see how this plays out, but I think the two-party state will close ranks to preclude any discussion of the immigration aspect of these crimes, while seizing on the Blacksburg murders to push confiscatory federal firearms legislation. If the Pelosi-Reid Democrats pass federal legislation further restricting firearms ownership, my bet is that Bush would--all the while reciting some platitude about the Second Amendment--sign it.

As for the comment Mr. Sutherland refers to, in an e-mail exchange two days ago, he had said that that the Second Amendment would be repealed. I said, "Please" (meaning, come on, don't be ridiculous), and he replied:

Hyberbolic, perhaps. But how do you think this latest atrocity will be spun? Despite Bush's throwaway line yesterday, I would not look to the mainstream GOP for any defense of Americans' rights under the Second Amendment. As for the Pelosi-Rodham Dems, they probably would criminalize private firearms ownership despite the Second Amendment, betting that federal judges will back them up.

The press is pointedly ignoring Virginia Tech's campus firearms ban which, however well intentioned, meant there was no-one around who might meet this crazed Korean on anything like his own terms. Just as they are trying hard to ignore his being a Korean alien in the first place.

Korean immigration has been a sore spot with me for a while. GIs, including yours truly in 1982 and 1987, have been keeping South Koreans safe from their own Communist countrymen since 1950. A lot of Americans have died for South Korea. Since America is, rightly or wrongly, in the business of making South Korea a safe place for Koreans to live in, why do the feds let any South Korean who feels like it move to America? After the Mexicans, is there a group of aliens more adept at scamming Uncle Sam? What really sticks in my craw is Korean (not only Koreans, but they are Exhibit A) "birthright tourism" taking advantage of the feds' misinterpretation of the Citizenship Clause of the 14th Amendment. Korean-owned companies based in Korea and, usually, California fly heavily pregnant Korean women to the United States so little Cho or Kim can be born here in Korean-owned and operated hospitals and collect that invaluable U.S. passport and California birth certificate before returning to The Land of Morning Calm. Whenever the Cho or Kim clan feels like relocating to America, they have their anchor ready...

RG writes:

I couldn't help but enjoy Craig Nelson's letter. I had the same reaction yesterday when I heard the South Korean government issue a statement dangerously close to warning Americans about any possible backlash against their people in our country. What nerve!

For several years now, they have almost continuous anti-American rhetoric spewing in all their major media and they've gone absolutely ballistic when there's been an occasional traffic accidents involving South Korean civilians and I mean ballistic!

Americans should send some choice comments to the South Korean embassy in Washington DC and also do our best to avoid purchasing South Korean goods, including their vehicles.

Edward D. writes:

Thank you very much for this posting, Mr. Auster. I see I'm not the only one who has a negative view of the Koreans. When I was in college back in the early 90's the dormitory in which I lived had numerous Korean students, and for the most part, they were distant, cold, and held a certain level of contempt of Americans. A constant theme running through my head when I dealt with Korean students (both foreign students and permanent resident immigrants) was 50,000 Americans gave their lives for these a*******? An uncle I never had the opportunity to meet was one of those men.

From what I've been told, this anti-Americanism is largely absent from the older generation, especially those Koreans who themselves fought in the war. But Korean youths are something else. And soon the older generation will be no more.

A few years ago during the 2002 Sal Lake City Olympics and the World Cup, it became crystal clear to me the sentiment the Koreans have towards Americans. Friends of mine who never spent much time with Koreans could not understand the boos from South Koreans toward the American World Cup team that year. It seems Americans are largely in the dark about Korean attitudes towards us.

MP writes:

I'm a regular reader. I had a few comments about the "If Koreans are Our Friends..." post. They may or may not be interesting or relevant, but I thought it might be worthwhile to send them, anyway.

Mr. Nelsen states that Koreans and Korean Americans haven't apologized, but only warned of a race-based revenge attacks in the U.S. This isn't true. There have been various apologies and expressions of condolence from individuals and representatives of the South Korean government. A Kor-Am senator, Paul Shin, said the following (from an article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, here.

"It hurts me deeply, knowing what happened to Korea and how much the U.S. helped," said Shin, an orphan who was adopted by an American soldier after the Korean War. "This is not the way to pay back the blessings we received."

Also, Lee Tae-shik, the Korean ambassador to Washington, made an apology himself, and said Korean-Americans should try harder to fit into mainstream society in the U.S.

Rho Mu-hyon, the president of South Korea, also expressed official condolences, and there was some talk of candlelight vigils in Korea (though only from the Korean Right). There have been other apologies as well, though these and the ones I cited seem to be only reported in the Korean media.

Certainly, mixed motives may play a part in this. These apologies and condolences may be intended to reduce some imagined backlash. Even so, they're still apologies and condolences. It seems natural to me that some Koreans would worry about being attacked, regardless of how unlikely it may really be. Korean cultural attitudes also play a part in this. There is a strong sense in Korea that one's group is responsible for one's actions, good or bad. The bad actions of one person shame the whole group. Fortunately, this isn't transferable to American culture, but it does explain why some Koreans would worry about a violent backlash. That's almost certainly what would happen in Korea if an American shot 32 Koreans.

Mr. Nelsen's description of conditions after the schoolgirl accident is accurate. I had friends who were there at the time, who endured a lot of that, and worse. Still anti-Americanism is not the defining feature of South Korean politics. The 2002 "movement" was led by the Korean Left, which tends to be either passively or actively pro North. The Right, though part of their motivation may be simple self interest, is very strongly, even viscerally pro American (complicated by the fact that much of it is associated with past military dictatorships). The Left has led the national dialog for the past decade or so. When I was in Korea myself though, I had occasional problems with stupid students, but I was thanked (unnecessarily, of course) far more often.

In any case, this isn't intended to be a pro-Korean email. Also, it's not intended to say anything about immigration (though I think there are some implications). I just thought Mr. Nelsen was not telling the whole story. I also apologize for the length.

P.S. If you're interested, a good blog to read on Korean matters is One Free Korea. It advocates the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Korea and renegotiating or abolishing the alliance. I agree with both of these points.

Stephen F. writes:

The Koreans are certainly exploiting the absurd "backlash" idea. But I don't completely blame them for doing so. I think they believe it to an extent--it's the way they'd respond themselves. And the American media is constantly pushing the fantasy that a bunch of white people wielding pitchforks and torches are ready to descend on any minority whose members do something wrong.

For another perspective, an article in the Korea Herald details what I think are genuine expressions of sorrow from Koreans. Note that it's the Americans quoted in the article who feel the need to assure Koreans that we're not a "racist" society.

We need to understand their thinking. Koreans see themselves as a people, a race. That's why they can act like "ugly Koreans" when in America. Notably there have been no comments coming from Korea to the effect that Cho is "not really Korean" because he grew up in the U.S. Therefore they feel a collective remorse and shame that Americans would not feel in the reverse situation. It is precisely because they blame Americans collectively for any misdeeds against Koreans, that they fear a "backlash" against themselves.

Doesn't all of this show for the millionth time that "good fences make good neighbors"? We station our military in Korea--of course they resent it. We protect them--of course they're ungrateful. We invite them to our country--of course they come. Korea has an ancient culture and warm people--if you visit them THERE, as a guest. Again, it's American "invade the world, invite the world in" policies that lead to friction and hatred. (Now the headlines are saying Cho was teased at school--good grief! I was teased at school too!)

LA replies:

Very well put.

Van Wijk writes:

It should also be noted that servicemen stationed in Korea marry Korean women on a very large scale, after which the new wife and her immediate family follow the serviceman back to the U.S. The town I live in has a very prominent Koreatown, and when I go to work I have the privilege of listening to them (and the Filipinas) babble at each other for hours in a language that is like an assault on the ears. When they do have to speak English, it is generally to refer longingly to their home country, which they have no intention of ever returning to.

Russell W. writes:

I knew the JAG defense attorney who successfully defended the driver of the large mine clearing vehicle that was driving on the highway that day at his court martial for negligent homicide. The facts revealed at trial showed that the driver couldn't see the girls from his vantage point and didn't know they were there because his headset was faulty and he didn't hear the spotter's warning. The girls, because of the noise, were walking with their heads bowed and had their fingers in their ears, so they didn't notice the vehicle coming towards them. In other words, it wasn't his fault.

Despite this, there were widespread claims in the media among popular commentators that the US soldier cheerfully aimed for the girls and was laughing afterward. Because of the violent protests in the country, during which the mobs often called for the man's execution by local Korean authorities, he had to leave the country in fear for his life.

His JAG attorney had kept in touch with him for several years, and revealed that he was still struggling with the guilt he felt over the incident, and some real fears that the US government would decide to bow to Korean political pressure and have him handed over to authorities there, where he would surely be imprisoned for life, if he was lucky. Right now (or at least the last time I heard), the guy was something of a mess of a person.

Despite the very astute comments about Koreans' belief in group responsibility, these facts still make the warnings from S. Korea about a backlash in America incredibly galling.

Ed L. writes:

I think that your piece about Koreans--and particularly the rant by Craig Nelson--is over the top and off track.

Attached is an apology statement that a friend sent me yesterday. I told him that it struck me as sincere and genuine (except for the one statement "because many of 2000 Korean-American professors...", which seems a bit off); I don't see any reason not to accept the statement graciously at face value. Nothing about it struck me as opportunistic or sly. The same cannot be said about apologetics of any kind coming from Muslims. The contrition that most Koreans have expressed, to their credit, is the complete opposite of the reaction from the Arab street after 9/11.

I think that such distinctions are paramount, and that by being ungraciously hard on Koreans, you unwittingly make yourself vulnerable to accusations of: "There, ya see, Auster's a crank about all foreigners, not just Muslims!" Unlike with Muslims, there's no creedal driving force that fuels terrorism and mass murder. Unlike Mexicans in this country or Muslims in Europe, Koreans aren't present in large enough numbers to pose any kind of demographic menace (If I'm factually wrong about this, let's discuss further.)

LA replies:

I thought Craig Nelsen's angry e-mail was worth posting. It put things in a different perspective and brought out something that many people were not aware of, the fact that a people most Americans think of as our friends and allies, actually dislike us and have been stunningly nasty to us, even as we keep opening our country to them and calling them model minorities and all the rest of it.

Here is the statement that Ed sent, from the Korean-American University Professors Association:

To the families and friends of the victims of the deadly rampage at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University and the University community

On behalf of the KAUPA (Korean-American University Professors Association), I would like to express my deepest and sincerest condolences to the families and friends of the victims of the deadly rampage occurred at the Virginia Tech campus on April 16, 2007. It is such a shocking and horrific event that is traumatic to not only the people who are directly involved in the rampage, but all of us who are in higher education.

We believe the university should be the institution for personal growth and social cohesion as well as for the discovery of knowledge. For these purposes, the university campus should be the arena that everyone feels safe, free and nurturing. The fact that the perpetrator was a Korean-American student gave particular sadness to us, because many of 2,000 Korean-American professors across American colleges and universities interact with about 250,000 Korean and Korean-American students quite frequently. We pledge that from now on we will be more vigilant to the emotional as well as scholarly needs of those students.

Our heart and prayer goes to the loved ones who are suffering from this unspeakable tragedy.

Pace Ed, this letter does not disprove what people in this discussion have been saying about Korean attitudes toward America. Of course people are shocked and saddened. Does Ed think that commenter's were saying that all Koreans and Korean-Americans dislike America, and that they dislike America so much that even the Korean-American University Professors Association would be unwilling to write a letter of condolence after this atrocity?


Now for What I feared would happen....


The revelation that the Virginia Tech shooting was carried out by a South Korean citizen must have been a dream come true for some in the Japanese language blogosphere. It wasn’t long before Japanese blogs began posting links to postings on Korean websites that pre-dated the announcement that the shooter at Virginia tech was South Korean. Some of the postings were just comments from random netizens assuming that a Chinese or Japanese was responsible. Others, such as an anti-American political cartoon about the shooting from a Seoul newspaper, were higher profile (the cartoonist responsible for one of the comics has since apologized). Not suprisingly, the ugliness has spread to YouTube.

One YouTube, user, going by the name Fuckorean1, has uploaded a video to YouTube which focuses on anti-American political cartoons that appeared in South Korean newspapers after the shooting occurred:

The video has been viewed over 52,000 times and is now near the top of the most-viewed videos on YouTube for today, and its comment section is a truly ugly mess of hate [Update: The video has been removed by YouTube. I assume it is because they banned “fuckorean” for having a user name like that, since the video itself was no worse than thousands of other videos on the site. As a consolation, I’ve added two similar video clips in its place, to give you an idea of the original video’s contents.]. Judging from the awkward English used in in the English translations in the video clip (and the visibility of those comic strips on Japanese blogs), it’s not unreasonable to assume that the creator of the video was probably Japan. In between the usual “Fuck you Japs” and “Korean are ugly” comments, there are a bunch of comments from users identifying themselves as Japanese netizens who are embarrassed that a fellow Japanese has uploaded such a video to YouTube (other commenter's have accused them of being Koreans pretending to be Japanese). We can probably expect a lot of similar videos in the days and weeks to come, but I doubt any of them will get as many views as this one has…


Looks like stupid is as stupid does.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

A Students Letter Home

A Student’s Letter Home
by Bryan Schamus
April 20, 2007

To my loving family and friends:

We continue to heal in Blacksburg. I look at the calendar and I see it's only been four days. It feels like months.

The outreach has been tremendous, especially at the Newman Community, Tech's Catholic Campus Ministry. We got the word out that we were providing a sanctuary for the students to come hang out. Take a look at our website for everything we are currently offering. (( We continue to receive food, drinks, priests, counselors and people in need all the time.

We have eight priests in residence right now and they take shifts to be in the house for whomever might need help. Some people come in and just need to watch a movie. Some need to talk to a priest. Others just need a big hug.

The Bishop of Richmond is traveling to Blacksburg to say Mass on Sunday.

The convocation on Tuesday was the most moving event I've seen, and might ever see, in my life. Put all politics and personal opinion aside, President Bush was in our basketball arena to be with the Hokie Nation. He spoke from the heart and brought tears to many. Governor Kaine was “right on" with his speech as well, as he described his experience with the Hokie Nation. The ceremony ended with a now famous poem from world renowned poet and English professor here at Tech, Nikki Giovanni. This was her poem:

We are Virginia Tech.

We are sad today, and we will be sad for quite a while. We are not moving on, we are embracing our mourning.

We are Virginia Tech.

We are strong enough to stand tall tearlessly, we are brave enough to bend to cry, and we are sad enough to know that we must laugh again.

We are Virginia Tech.

We do not understand this tragedy. We know we did nothing to deserve it, but neither does a child in Africa dying of AIDS, neither do the invisible children walking the night away to avoid being captured by the rogue army, neither does the baby elephant watching his community being devastated for ivory, neither does the Mexican child looking for fresh water, neither does the Appalachian infant killed in the middle of the night in his crib in the home his father built with his own hands being run over by a boulder because the land was destabilized. No one deserves a tragedy.

We are Virginia Tech.

The Hokie Nation embraces our own and reaches out with open heart and hands to those who offer their hearts and minds.

We are strong, and brave, and innocent, and unafraid. We are better than we think and not quite what we want to be.

We are alive to the imaginations and the possibilities. We will continue to invent the future through our blood and tears and through all our sadness.

We are the Hokies.

We will prevail.

We will prevail.

We will prevail.

We are Virginia Tech.

The crowd of 12,000, with 20,000 watching in the football stadium on the video screen, responded with resounding cheers and applause which led to the most spirit-filled "LET'S GO HOKIES" chant ever to fill Cassell Coliseum.

It was my first Hokie cheer ever. Since first coming to Tech, I've worked at every home football and basketball game in a "professional" capacity. I've never cheered with my fellow Hokies. I always dreamed about one day being able to cheer from the stands but I never wanted it to be like this. It was bittersweet. But I will always remember it. LET'S GO HOKIES!!!!!

We hug everyone we see. There is so much good happening here right now. But I would give anything to go to class to listen, take notes, without a worry in the world.

My good friend Theresa lost one of her best friends in one of the classrooms in Norris Hall. I can't even imagine. When she walked out for the ceremony next to President Bush, I didn't even know what to think.

Today I was interviewed by "Religion and Ethics", a television show on PBS.

Check your local listings to see when it airs, as it is different everywhere. They also filmed me singing Dona Nobis Pacem with some of my Newman singers.

Never, not three years ago or three days ago, could I have imagined what 4/16/07 would bring us. But in the aftermath of this tragedy, I’m reminded of all the reasons why I love with this place with all my heart. There is no other place on the face of the earth that could have dealt with such a loss in the way we have. As I told PBS today, when we gathered on the drillfield with candles and chanted, "LET'S GO---HOKIES", that was our prayer. Our ecumenical prayer as a united Hokie Nation. Thank you, Frank and Lisa McGrail for dragging me to Blacksburg three years ago. This is where I needed to be.

It will take many more days and months to heal. But I know all of you are praying and thinking of us. I apologize for not being able to return every phone call and e-mail, but please know that I read and listen to every one of them and they mean so, so much.

And I really hope that someday before I graduate, those of you that I'm writing to many miles away, can visit this campus and see what it's like without the world watching. Without the blood. Without the crime scene tape.

And without the sadness.

I am so proud to be a Hokie and I hope you are too. You all are Hokies. Wear your maroon and orange on Friday!

Please, please take a look at who this was sent to and send it on to others I may have forgotten or to those who would enjoy reading it. It's 1:30 a.m. and I'm running on fumes, so I am bound to forget people.

Keep the e-mails and calls coming and, of course, your prayers. I love you all.


Peace and goodnight,

A backlash against the fear of backlash

Original Post: I’m going to leave the psychology of all the talk about Koreans and Korean-Americans fearing backlash to others. I just wanted to share a few headlines:

* Braced for Backlash: Newsweek
* Korean students afraid of backlash on campus: The Daily Princetonian
* Defined by Horror: Korean-Americans fear backlash: ABC News
* Korean-Americans fear massacre backlash: UPI
* Local Korean-Americans Fear Backlash: KNSD-TV (San Diego)
* S.Korea worries about racial backlash after shooting: Reuters
* Koreans fear backlash over campus tragedy: Deseret News

And, for a little variety:

* Asians fear backlash after shooting:

Of course, none of this would be complete without a word from the Angry Asian Man.

So, the next time you hear someone state his fear of a backlash over the VT killings, take him by the hand, lead him aside, give him an empathetic look in the eyes…

…and bitch-slap him.

Hopefully that will shake the silliness out of him.

While I have little doubt that there will be a relatively small group of idiots who will respond in a stupid way to what that "nutjob" did at VT, there will not be protests in the streets against resident Koreans in the USA. Korean-Americans will not be banned from restaurants and shops. If anyone writes anti-Korean songs, most people will never hear them.

The BacklashTM is just not going to happen.

I am sure will see reports of taunts against Asians and some fighting in schools. Kids tend have a natural tendency to pick on those who are different and will go after red heads, fat kids, kids of different races and others (Children must be taught not to hate.). When kids want to pick on someone else, they use whatever reason they can find and the VT shooting is a ready-to-use excuse.

I do worry that some nut job will decide to attack a Korean church instead of the local post office. The body count would be the same but the racial angle will make it big news over here.

I also know that any incident that occurs is going to get hyped by people who want to play the “Asian-Americans as victims” card.

The fact is that most people in the US these days see non-first-generation Asian-Americans as just folk. In fact the interracial marriage rates for American natives of Asian decent show that they are integrating just fine. If and when East Asian immigration slows down, a lot of the difficulties between Asians and other groups in the States will diminish. Ethnic Asian American natives are not the model minority (a term only used by people who deride it), they are an integrated part of American society.

In any case the real ‘model minority’ is immigrants from Africa.

This is not just academic for me. The college where I work sends over a hundred students to the States to study every year. In fact, another group of about 25 (including about 10 from my department) is going there next week. If there was a reasonable chance that they would be attacked, we would not send them.

A similar message is getting out in the Korean media. Last night, among other reports, MBC news had a piece with interviews of VT students, all of whom said that what Cho did was not a reflection on ethnic Koreans.

Let’s hope that the same logic prevails among everyone.

By Andy Jackson | Posted in Korean Diaspora |

The Last Word

My good friend Adrian Hong of LINK fame has ended the debate on the anti-Korean backlash (that never was) with this piece in the Washington Post.

Korean Americans do not need to apologize for what happened Monday. All of us, as fellow Americans, feel tremendous sorrow and grief at the carnage. Our community, as it should, has expressed solidarity with and sent condolences to the victims, and as Americans, Koreans certainly should take part in the healing process.

But the actions of Cho Seung Hui are no more the fault of Korean Americans than the actions of the Washington area snipers were the fault of African Americans. Just as those crimes were committed by deranged individuals acting on their own initiative, and not because of any ethnic grievance or agenda, these were isolated acts by an individual, not a reflection of a community.

I would add that even a crime based on an ethnic or religious grievance only reflects on a larger group to the extent that the criminal’s views reflect the larger group’s views. Now, my favorite part:

Further, it is inappropriate for the Korean ambassador to the United States to apologize on behalf of Korean Americans and speak of the need to work toward being accepted as a “worthwhile minority” in this nation. While the Korean ambassador represents the interests of Korean nationals in the United States, and the interests of the Republic of Korea, he does not speak for naturalized Koreans here.

Absolutely. Adrian deserves kudos for dethroning Ambassador Lee from his imagined dominion over everyone of Korean ethnicity within our borders. I once met Lee briefly — though not enough to make much of an impression — but just about everything Lee has said this week has succeeded mightily at pissing me off, from his public expressions of concern that Americans would react with discrimination and violence, to this. For a guy whose job is to represent his country favorably, Lee Tae Shik could use a semester of remedial charm school.

The Korean claim to guilt and shame on behalf of Cho Seung Hui is well-intentioned but misguided. We are Americans first. While we share an affinity with Korea and appreciate and respect Korean culture, at the end of the day we are Americans. Our president is in the White House, not in the Blue House. And our response to this crisis should be as Americans, not as Koreans.

Read the rest on your own.

Finally, here’s an opposing view. The writing style of the commenter called “Wolmae” is as distinct as a fingerprint. There is only one person I know who writes like this. I won’t tell you who he is, but I will say he’s someone I respect very much, and whose views generally align closely with my own. He doesn’t happen to agree with me this time, although I think the passage of time is proving — thankfully — that there isn’t much of a foundation for his fears. Just the same, don’t miss it.

Friday, April 20, 2007

More views of what is going on in Korea due to 1 insane person.


UPDATE #2: It turns out that a Virginia Tech professor was the first person to connect Cho the Oldboy movie. Another blogger wonders if the Korean media had anything to do with inspiring the murder as well. I think this may become a growing sentiment. Just for the record I find Korean movies to be no more violent than the garbage coming from Hollywood. However it will be interesting to see how the Korean media reacts to this latest development when yesterday they were blaming American culture, white supremacists, bullies, and everything else to deflect attention away from the killer.

The Victims


UPDATE #1: There has been more links discovered to the Oldboy movie and Cho. These links have made the front page of Drudge and I was just watching BBC and they linked comments from Cho’s manifesto as being words used in the Vengeance Trilogy. Hopefully there will be web links soon. It looks like this may turn the debate to if movies cause people to kill now.


The New York Times is reporting that the South Korean movie Old Boy may have inspired the Virginia Tech killer Cho Seung-hui to commit the shooting rampage. I have to admit the images are eerily similar and possibly inspired by the movie. Was the killing rampage sparked by the movie? No way, this guy was nuts and would have killed people whether he saw the movie or not.

I was just watching the news and not only do I feel bad for the victims families but I also feel really bad for Cho’s family as well. The guilt they must feel for this must be tremendous. They just reported on Fox News that his family went into hiding and that Cho’s 81 year old grandpa in Korea wished he would have rather died earlier so he didn’t have to live to see this. He also said that his parents treated their son like a king. His poor sister who is a Princeton graduate and working for the State Department is being stalked by the media as well. I really hope the media lays off Cho’s family. I would hate to see one of them commit suicide over this, as is commonly done in Korea.

Fox News was also reporting that Cho’s family did have money issues because they were working to put their kids through school with their daughter graduating from Princeton in 2004 and the son attending Virginia Tech which isn’t a cheap university either. These money problems may explain the jealous rage against rich kids in Cho’s manifesto.

Also just from watching the news I don’t think showing his pictures and videos over and over again is really necessary. Report it one time and be done with it. The way Cho’s pictures and videos are being shown over and over again is beginning to create the appearance of a glorification of him that will only inspire more mad men to commit the same crime and go out in a blaze of glory. Cho admitted himself in his manifesto that he was inspired by the Columbine killers. Plus do the family members involved in this really need to see this guy’s face over and over again as well? Anyone else have any thoughts on this or am I just over reacting?

korea sorrow and guilt

One, I should be studying for another midterm but don't want to. Read: ExpatJane is procrastinating, big time.

Two, I thought these articles from Time and the Christian Science Monitor are timely due to Cho Seung-hui and the massacre at Virginia Tech.

Three, I think these do a good job of explaining the collective sorrow and guilt that people here in South Korea are feeling and why.

They also highlight what I've seen, first hand, which is the virulent anti-Americanism that I've seen while living here which is the inverse of the collective sorrow and guilt that's being felt now.

Time: South Korea's Collective Guilt

While Americans were grieving and trying to a make sense of Monday’s massacre at Virginia Tech, on the other side of the Pacific, South Koreans were shaking their heads in disbelief that one of their own could unleash the worst massacre in U.S history.

Most Koreans don't regard Cho Seung-Hui as a "typical Korean" since he spent the bulk of his life immersed in American culture. Still, a collective sense of regret and guilt was palpable today due to the strong tendency of Koreans to perceive the tragedy in terms of Korean nationalism, in which the group trumps the individual. "It's a notion of collective responsibility," says Mike Breen, the author of The Koreans. When a Korean does something wonderful, the country rejoices, but when one of its own goes off the rails, like Cho Seung-Hui, there's a collective sense of shame and burden. So much so that South Korea's Ambassador to the U.S., Lee Tae Shik, pledged to fast for 32 days to show his sorrow today. "I can smell a collective sense of guilt," says Lim Jie-Hyun, a history professor at Hangyang University in Seoul. "There is confusion [in Korea] between individual responsibility and national responsibility."

In a country where untold numbers of citizens seem eager to travel, work and live in the United States, many Koreans were dumbfounded when they discovered this morning that the "Asian" campus killer was in fact a 23-year-old South Korean citizen. "I was shocked," says Hong, Sung Pyo, 65, a textile executive in Seoul. "We don't expect Koreans to shoot people, so we feel very ashamed and also worried." Most important, he adds, "we don't want Americans to think all Koreans are this way."

Nor did President Roh Moo Hyun, who sent at least three messages of condolence to the U.S. and gathered aides for an emergency meeting on Wednesday morning, once it became widely known on the peninsula that the shooter was a South Korean student who moved with his struggling parents to the U.S when he was eight years old. Roh reportedly called for the meeting to discuss measures to cope with any possible fallout from the massacre — inadvertently stoking fears that Koreans living and studying abroad could be in for a rough ride. "Koreans still remember the riots in L.A., so we are worried about some revenge against Koreans," says Kim Hye Jin, 29, a web designer in Seoul, referring to Korean-owned businesses that were looted during the 1992 violence. "We are really worried about the image of our country."

Some Koreans even raised the prospect Cho's rampage could possibly inflict damage on U.S-Korea relations, including the recently signed tentative free trade agreement between the two countries.

This kind of nationalistic response can have an opposite effect as well — when the roles are reversed. In 2002, when two U.S soldiers accidentally ran over two schoolgirls with a tank north of Seoul, anti-American sentiment was widespread in Korea. Some restaurants even hung signboards reading "No Americans" rather than "No Soldiers Allowed." For weeks, thousands of Koreans staged protests against American soldiers, while some Korean media even suggested that the girl's deaths could have been deliberate.

The Chirstian Science Monitor: In South Korea, a collective sorrow over Virginia shooting

As news spread that America's worst killing spree was perpetrated by a South Korean who has lived in the US since 1992, reactions among South Koreans have ranged from profound personal shame to a fear of reprisal.

"Because Koreans are also very emotional, Koreans tend to behave more sensitively together than others," says Paik Jin-Hyun, a professor at Seoul National University. "So, one tends not to see the event isolated to an individual but as an ethnic identity."

Koreans are perhaps unique in their sense of a singular national identity, molded through a long history of invasion and occupation, says Yook Dong-In, editor of social issues at The Korea Economic Daily. The heightened sense of having one "blood" or ethnic race has led to a hypersensitivity about foreign perceptions, many experts say.

The collective sense of sorrow and penitance about the killings was reflected in comments by South Korea's ambassador to the United States, Lee Tae Sik, who suggested that Koreans in the US fast for 32 days ? one day for each victim.

Many people noted appreciatively the lack of anti-Korean feelings among Americans. YTN, a South Korean news channel, interviewed a Korean student who has been studying at Virginia Tech on a foreign student visa since 2005. "My Caucasian friend was shocked at first to learn that it was a Korean," said Ha Dong-Woo. "But he instead wanted to protect and take care of us."

Several of the people interviewed added that had an American student living in South Korea killed 32 people, American expatriates would face serious reprisals. To describe such an eventuality, many interviewees used the word nallinada, which can be loosely translated to mean upheaval, disaster, or chaos.

"Anti-Americanism would have become extreme," says Mr. Yook, citing the groundswell of anti-American activism during negotiations for the recently signed free trade agreement between the US and South Korea. The country also saw a protracted uproar after American soldiers hit and killed two young girls while driving a convoy in June 2002. The direct fallout from that accident lasted several months, says Yook, and hard feelings persist today.

One woman, who was interviewed in Seoul on Wednesday, said she is married to a Korean diplomat. Korea's foreign ministry, she said, held late-night meetings to discuss how to protect Korean-Americans from possible reprisals. She was certain that, had an American attacked Koreans, the reprisals would have been swift.

"People will throw rocks at them and tell them 'Yankees go home,' " said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous because her husband is a government official. "People will go even crazier here if exactly the same incident at Virginia Tech happened here but committed by an American."

I've been here for awhile and I was here in 2002 when those two soliders ran over and killed those two middle-school girls by accident. I was really shocked by the incident too. However, I was more shocked by the reactions of South Koreans. I was angered and hurt by the out of control nationalism that I saw. I still have people who try to bring it up as a point against the US. However, I point out things that probably influenced the course of events in the first place like the fact that Korean children are often seen crossing the road into oncoming traffic after they've lifted their arm to signal the vehicle(s) to stop. My theory is that happens here and is a successful way to stop a car because there is a collectivism here that you don't have in the States. You do expect your neighbor to watch your back, as they say. Now, as a foreigner, when I first saw that it shocked me. That might not have happened in the case of the 2002 accident, but you do see people walking with no fear in front of and near moving vehicles all the time.

Also, during that same period the 2002 World Cup hosted by South Korea and Japan was on. I specifically remember that North Korea fired on a South Korean vessel at sea and killed quite a few South Korean sailors.

A violent skirmish between the Koreans navies on the Yellow Sea leaves at least four South Korean sailors dead and at least 19 others injured. An estimated 13 North Korean sailors are killed when the South returns fire. (from Timeline: Tensions on the Korean Peninsula at

Where were the spirited protests over North Korea? That was most definitely intentional, but I saw nothing more than a murmur of sorrow from the public over those four dead sailors.

That's still something I've yet to get over. This is particularly true when you know that the huge amount of progress both in development and economics just would not have been possible if South Korea's security wasn't intact. Probably the most significant reason for that security, whether Koreans or anyone else wants to admit it or not, is because the US military has been stationed here since the end of the Korean War.

I can understand feelings of anti-Americanism at times, but it's often one-sided and very hypocritical here in the Land of the Morning Calm. In Is the Korean Media Race Baiting the Virginia Tech Tragedy? at the ROKdrop blog he tackles this hypocrisy head on

Sorry this [the US] is not Korea where a traffic accident led to assaults on Americans and foreigners on the streets, anti-US hate signs on doors and windows, as well as stabbings and kidnapping of US soldiers with the added addition of being paraded around on national television with no Koreans ever being held accountable for these crimes. When this happens to Koreans in America then we can start talking about racism in the US, but all this talk now just sounds like the media is actually hoping there is a backlash against Koreans so they can turn the subject on racism in America instead of on the shooter.

I hate to say that the undisclosed diplomat's wife is correct. If it had been an American who went berserk and intentionally killed South Koreans at one of their universities, Koreans would be in a collective uproar.



n an article "Americans Show Understanding Over Koreans' Backlash Worry" (April 19, 2007), reports:

Koreans and Americans appear to have different views on the causes of the Virginia shooting spree as the Korean fear of backlash was overcome by an American outpouring of compassion and help.

Koreans, especially those living in America, are still fearful that the recent Virginia Tech tragedy would spawn an anti-Korean backlash but Americans in general have extended their hand of support to Koreans, claiming that this incident had nothing to do with race.

Rather, they say, it was the case of a deeply troubled young man.

The article does not say what Koreans think about "the causes of the Virginia shooting spree," so I assume that what is meant not "different views on the causes of the Virginia shooting spree" but "different concerns about the Virginia shooting spree."

Fortunately, the American reaction so far has generally been supportive of Koreans in America. For the most part, Americans have viewed Cho Seung-hui's actions as those of a profoundly disturbed individual, not specifically as a Korean.

Probably, Koreans also think that Cho was simply insane. Nevertheless, they feel great shame over his actions, as is consistent with the degree to which South Korea is still a "shame culture." They thus also worry about Americans blaming all Koreans. My own students here at Kyung Hee University inquired about this two days ago, as I noted in one of my own comments to my initial blog entry on this Virginia Tech issue:

My students asked me if Americans would "hate Koreans" after this.

I said that I thought that most Americans would see this as yet another very American pattern of "insane loner with guns." I pointed out that this sort of thing happens every few years in the U.S. and that we know the pattern by now.

One of my readers, JK, suggested, "Assure your students that the focus is not on hating neither is most feeling directed; at. The greater feelings here are directed; for." I replied:

JK, I think that you said it fine, and I will pass along your message. My students will be glad to hear that Americans, of all groups, direct not hatred at [Koreans] but sympathy for [them].

We can't exclude the possibility of some disturbed individuals expressing hateful actions, of course, but such actions would be broadly and roundly condemned by nearly everyone . . . I think, hope, and believe.

And I do think that most Americans will focus upon the individual Cho Seung-hui rather than Koreans in general, for America, characterized by a "guilt culture," looks more to individual responsibility and blames Cho but not Koreans generally.

May this continue to be the case.

Comments that were sent to the Korean Times.

“The shooting is quite a tragedy, but I find it equally tragic that the Korean government, and perhaps many of the Korean people, seemingly feel somehow responsible, or connected to this tragedy,’’ according to James L.R. Moody in an email to The Korea Times. He said, “Ultimately, Cho is responsible for his actions, but the fact that he is Korean is in no way indicative of the Korean people. "

Maria Almamater said, “ While I am extremely horrified by what has happened in Virginia, with 32 senseless deaths, I wish to stand by South Korea in this time of distress.’’ “Suppose an American lunatic happens to sneak into Korea and kill someone _ should President George W. Bush apologize? Should Americans be sad? South Koreans, please don’t feel sad at all.’’


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