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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