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.
WELL SOMEONE SENT THIS IS, ITS WORTH A READ!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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...
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.
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!)
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.)
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?
USinKorea’s comment IT A VERY INTERESTING LITTLE READ.
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…
THE NEXT VIDEOS ARE NOT NICE....
Looks like stupid is as stupid does.