Thursday, April 19, 2007

OMG... I saw it and I still can not believe it...

this is from a few sites that I use and I will be updating later this evening and as more information comes in.

Gi Korea

UPDATE #5: The Washington Post has a good article up about the Virginia Tech shooting. From reading that and just watching the news today this guy was clearly nuts or mentally ill, but clearly being Korean had little to do with it. He had some serious issues that many teachers had noticed before the shooting happened. The drum beat of possible reprisals against Koreans is continuing:

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday the government hoped the Virginia Tech shootings, allegedly carried out by a 23-year-old South Korean native, would not "stir up racial prejudice or confrontation." (…)

The diplomat said there was no known motive for the shootings, and added that South Korea hoped that the tragedy would not "stir up racial prejudice or confrontation."

Korean President Roh Moo-hyun and Korean born UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also offered apologies and condolescences for the shootings. I seriously doubt there will be any "racial prejudice or confrontation" and it kind of makes apologies (which aren’t necessary) and condolescences seem hollow if that is what the reason is that they are offering such statements.


UPDATE #4: The Joong Ang Ilbo has an interview posted with the wounded Korean student:

Among Cho’s victims in the deadliest shooting in American history was a Korean graduate student who was shot three times. His injuries were not considered life-threatening.

"Shortly after the lecture began, he came in," said Park Chang-min, 27, a master’s degree candidate in civil engineering. "He shot the professor first and then started shooting the classmates. Blood was all over the place quickly and it was chaos. "I could tell that he was an Asian, but because of his mask and hat, it was hard to see his face," Park said. "There were about 15 students in our classroom. The shooting took place in a split second, and I had no time to hide. He then moved on to the next classroom."

Park said he got as low as possible instinctively and he did not even realize he’d been shot in the arm.

"Police came into our classroom after time passed and things were all quiet," Park said. "We were told to raise our hands if were are okay, and only three, including myself, stood up."

Park was sent to the Montgomery Regional Hospital for treatment.
The South Korean Embassy in Washington dispatched Consul Choi Seung-hyeon to the scene.

"Except for Park, there were no other Korean victims in the shooting," Choi said, at the time.

There are also concerns from Korean students that they may be targeted for reprisals:

After news reports about the killer’s possible identity, concerns grew among Korean students about discrimination. Located 390 kilometers (240 miles) southwest of Washington D.C., Virginia Tech has 26,000 students. The school has 1,600 Asian students, including 763 Korean undergraduate and graduate students.

"I am worried that the Americans will treat all Asian students, including Koreans, as criminals," said Lee Seung-wook, head of Virginia Tech’s Korean student association, before the gunman was identified as a Korean.

I for one would be very surprised if any serious reprisals take place. If anyone wants to talk about racially motivated reprisals how about the aftermath of the 2002 armored vehicle accident in Korea where GI's and foreigners were attacked on the street including kidnapped and paraded on TV. Or the signs put up in windows denying admittance to Americans or foreigners in general. Some how I doubt anything like that is going to happen after this tragic incident. Like past shootings these maniacs come in all shapes and colors.


UPDATE #3: It appears Cho may have targeted the engineering department because he had failing grades and had to transfer over to an English degree:

On a chat room of (mostly Asian) engineers that I’m on, someone posited that the killer was probably a “real major” (i.e., engineer, scientist, etc.) who played too many video games, “got horrible grades and had to transfer to english.” This hypothesis was put forth by someone who didn’t know about the killers’s anti-engineer department ramblings, so I’d say it’s a pretty decent speculation that he wanted (and failed) to be an engineering major. It would explain the note.


UPDATE #2: The Chosun Ilbo has a report up on the shooting. They have identified one Korean student as being injured in the attack:

The shootings have horrified the U.S. The death toll is expected to rise as some of the injured are in critical condition. Korean student Park Chang-min, who is in the civil engineering doctorate program, was slightly injured in the hand and waist, head of the university’s Korean student association Lee Seung-woo said. Park is not in serious condition. Some 450 Korean students study at Virginia Tech - 150 in the master and doctorate program and 300 in the undergraduate school.

Here is more from the Korea Times.


UPDATE #1: South Korean media was already exploiting the tragedy by drawing not so funny cartoons before they realized it was a Korean shooter.

GOOD cartoon

Good Cartoon

The shooting suspect, Korean!?

(On the man’s shirt is written “Overseas Korean”)



Bang, bang, bang…

In one bang, 33 people….This reconfirms the superiority of our gun technology.

Wow, Koreans are sure fast drawers. Below is a link to more Korean cartoons taking jabs at the US because of the shootings. Again, I believe the following cartoons were also drawn before Koreans realized that it was a Korean that did the shooting.

Korean foot in mouth cartoon's


The Marmot’s Hole has a whole lot on the announcement that the shooter responsible for killing 33 people yesterday at Virginia Tech is in fact a Korean student. The shooter’s name is Cho Seung-hui and is 23 years old and first came to the United States in 1992 with his parents. His parents run a shockingly a dry cleaning business in Centerville, Virgina and his sister attended Princeton University.

The Washington Post has good blog updates going on as well on this that is worth checking out. They say the students in Cho classes knew him as the question mark kid:

Classmates said that on the first day of an introduction to British literature class last year, the 30 or so English students went around and introduced themselves. When it was Cho’s turn, he didn’t speak.

The professor looked at the sign-in sheet and, where everyone else had written their names, Cho had written a question mark. “Is your name, `Question mark?”‘ classmate Julie Poole recalled the professor asking. The young man offered little response.

Cho spent much of that class sitting in the back of the room, wearing a hat and seldom participating. In a small department, Cho distinguished himself for being anonymous. “He didn’t real out to anyone. He never talked,” Poole said.

“We just really knew him as the question mark kid,” Poole said.

I’m watching the news right now and they are saying this guy is a V.T. student and had a reputation as a loner and a problem student. He is suspected of making prior bomb threats on the school and even starting fire before this incident. Supposedly he was using the bomb threats and the fire as experiments into testing the response time of the police and firefighters. They are also reporting that he bought the gun five weeks go, indicating that he has had this planned for quite some time.

Cho left a note at the scene of the first crime where he murdered two students in their dorm room with one of them suspected of possibly being his ex-girlfriedn. In the note he wrote about "rich kids" and "deceitful charlatans". His body found at the scene of the second crime had the words "Ismail Ax" written in red ink on one of his arms. BoingBoing was able to find this out about what "Ismail Ax" means:

-Ismail is an Islamic prophet.
-AX may also stand for the Alpha Chi Omega women’s fraternity, which I found does have a chapter at Virginia Tech.

This is how the New York Post broke it down:

The reference may be to the Islamic account of the Biblical sacrifice of Abraham, where God commands the patriarch to sacrifice his own son. Abraham begins to comply, but God intervenes at the last moment to save the boy … Abraham uses a knife in most versions of the story, but some accounts have him wielding an ax.

A more obscure reference may be to a passage in the Koran referring to Abraham’s destruction of pagan idols; in some accounts, he uses an ax to do so.

Michael over at the Metropolitician also has a very good post up explaining his thoughts on the shooting. Here is a sample:

There is going to be serious national shame, expressed through the shock of this "representative of the culture" – even if the kid had been living in the States most of his life. There will be Korean media pointing at the parents, expressions of shock that "a Korean could do such a thing" (despite the fact that violence in the schools and against women are actually rampant in Korean society), and the glee that many people here in South Korea have at pointing out "American" character traits whenever horrible things happen in the US will be inevitably tempered.

Because the flip side of the logic now applies, like a mofo.

So how will this play out in South Korea? I think it will play out much like how Michael suggested:

I wouldn’t even be surprised if this is used as more ammo to show just how much America can "corrupt" good Korean youth. Just like Western porn is responsible for Korean boys (and girls!) conspiring to rape and sexually extort the victims that have made the news in a couple of pretty scandalous cases over the last few months.

Michael also offers some very insightful commentary about how he has been asked in the past by college professors why Korean students in the US are most likely to be problem students. He also shares this fact that the world wide record for the worst shooting rampage in history is held by a Korean man named Woo Bom-gon who killed 57 people in South Korea in 1982 after an arguement with his girlfriend. Sound familiar? Lot’s more good stuff, go and read the rest.

Overall as others have suggested we shouldn’t jump to conclusions and blame the entire Korean race for the actions of one lone crazy man, unlike the Korean media which loves the paint the entire US military due to the action of a very small few that commit crimes in South Korea. So far at least in the US media I don’t see anyone blaming Koreans in general and most of the debate is now centered around gun control and not the stereotypical angry Asian man pissed off because someone stole his girlfriend.

For more good postings on this make sure to check out DPRK Studies posting on what to do about mass shootings and One Free Korea who has a good posting going on as well about crazy Cho.

Now from the Metropolitician


The Politics of Pride and Shame
[Update: I stand by my piece, which is mostly a bunch of questions, rather than statements linking race and culture in the explanative way it is being taken. I merely pointed out that as an American working deeply in the education field for years now, and having identified just such problems (and seen them connected in the Korean-language media for years), that perhaps questions about culture, as related to specific conditions that surround child-rearing, education, being educated overseas, the taboo of discussing mental health in Korean society, etc. might not have played some role here, on top of the fact that many Asian and Asian American males indeed might have specific ways of feeling alienated in "white society."

Obviously, to even broach mere questions is deemed "racist" by many readers. Fine. I don't delete comments (unless they are abusive) and people have a right to come in and say what they want – that's why I blog, after all. Yet, before we start flinging around the "R-word" I hope people actually think about what I'm saying, and remember that what I said was that cultural context may be helpful as far as looking at context, but that "Korea" and the rest of the world should look at him as an individual. I spend half my post saying that, and the two need not contradict.

And yes, when it comes to the fact that most serial killers have been/are still white men, it does astound me that America seems to have trouble talking about this obvious fact, and mums was the word when Columbine happened. Yet, broaching the topic is going to get one accused of saying their horrendous acts were committed "because they were white," which would again, be not what I said. But pundits of all kinds of backgrounds have license to talk about the concerns of "black youth" as it relates to drugs or violence for years. I don't call doing so "racist" although some strains of it certainly can be.

For those who call such explanations as this "back-tracking," well, I guess you can call it what you like. I feel that despite the obvious difficulty anyone can have theorizing culture as a backdrop for what are undeniably individual actions, people are only reading one side of what I am actually saying, even after I have carefully delimited the extent to which "culture" can be expected to lead to culpability.

I speak as an educator who watches (and inevitably participates in) the nearly inhumane grind of the education system here, the extreme testing regime these kids are expected to endure, the harsh penalties meted to those who can't, the sudden skyrocketing of youth suicide due directly to mental health problems linked to academic achievement, and myriad other pressures that quite often lead to education in the US as a goal for Korean kids. And even in the Korean American community, the culture of such processes, as well as the patterns of culture do not necessarily end with a green card or an American address.

So, in that context, this does frighten me, and I think this incident, while extreme, does warrant reflection on some serious structural shifts in Korean education, the family, and other factors between which Korean kids get crunched in the middle. If you want to call such efforts or lines of thinking "racist", I can't stop you. Yet, I think it's significant, from this side of the water, to think about the fact that yes, he is not a white kid from Colorado, especially against the backdrop of what's been happening in Korean education in recent years, as well the socialization of males in Korea and Korean culture.

And since mine is an identity partially shaped AS an Asian American man, as well as an African-American one, I have a more direct interest in asking these questions. And if you think I am saying I lay claim to all the answers, I want to make very clear again that I don't profess to have them, and I don't consider culture as responsible for his actions here. But to assume from the very beginning that "it doesn't matter," when I think it may be worth looking at, especially given the copycat nature of high-profile suicides in Korea over just the last couple of years, I would hate for there to be a similar effect over there. Call it "racist" if you will, but mental health professionals have been saying for years that there are cultural factors when it comes to mental health concerns, especially in communities in which such talk is considered taboo. I guess to raise such issues in this context, no matter how carefully prefaced or qualified, is taboo as well.

So, are all Muslims terrorists? Clearly not. Are the vast majority of terrorists in recent years Muslim? Clearly, yes. I don't confuse the logic, yet it's easy to do. Yet, the mainstream media talks about the mindsets and motivations of many of the young men who get recruited up into horrible acts. To talk about "culture" as some generalized, essentialized force would indeed be "racist;" but to talk about the factors of poverty, religion, and the motivations for entering such groups isn't; they are reasonable questions. Do they dismiss the actions of individuals? No. People are all responsible for their actions. Just as we talk about the "culture of poverty" or in more recent years, have more elevated conversations about African-American culture and what often leads black male youth to join gangs, or commit crimes in ways that white males generally don't – I also don't consider that "racist." But is a black gangster responsible for his acts? Damn straight s/he is.

I find it unusual that it can be legitimate for me, as a student back at Brown in the 1990's, as an active Asian American and "multiracial" on campus, to listen to job candidates for the Psych Services position talk about the "special mental health needs of Asian American youth" and for Asian American campus reps to sit there and nod approvingly while they talked about educational and familial pressures, relate those to Asian American notions of masculinity and femininity, and a lot of factors that I mention in this article as clearly relevant, but merely broach the subject now is completely out of bounds. Unlike the mainstream American media, or whichever talking heads are on TV right now in the States, I've been thinking about something like this happening for years now, in a Korean context; I've actually wondered when and if something like this might happen, and how this may play out. I come at this from someone who lives and works in South Korea who works with kids in high schools, college, and alternative schools daily. And as I look at this both as an Asian American and an American living in Asia, I don't think cultural pressures and patterns can be so easily discounted out of hand, as mere "racism", and suddenly unworthy as points at least worth thinking about.

In the end, Cho wasn't just another white kid who committed yet another school shooting. But he also isn't the representative of Korea, nor his diasporic nationality, nor his supposed "race." He was a warped individual. I am simply saying that perhaps there are factors in his "warping" that may have had cultural aspects worth thinking about, especially for those of us concerned about the mental and spiritual health of both Asian and Asian American youth.

And that's where I'll leave it. If you're looking for "answers," keep looking, and don't think you'll find them here, or blame be either for professing to have them, or not having them. I don't, and don't claim to. I lay out some things to think about below, but mostly ask a lot of questions that I think are worth asking. And I am somewhat surprised that even broaching the topic, no matter how tentatively or awkwardly, is somehow "racist."]

This is sort of a followup piece to "The Walking Wounded" post that clearly is spurred on by the recent events at Virginia Tech, with the mass murder-suicide of Cho Seung-Hui, the worst in American history.

As I try to formulate a response, I do so while trying to stay true to my own intellectual convictions, while trying to make sense out of something that is far more complex than any single person can make out.

How will I interpret this? How can I? I can't profess to know the mind of the killer, nor work from information that I don't have. And the media speculation will go on and on, while the Korean media will work in "national shame" mode that is the necessary flip side of the extended "national pride" that is taken in anyone of Korean descent who does anything of note overseas.

I'm of two minds about this, but I don't feel my impulses are in conflict. On the one hand, I feel like this incident makes it worth looking at some of the social factors that very well could have helped determine one man's actions; on the other, we have to remember that Cho was an individual, and that the faulty logic that "Korea" is the bearer of collective guilt over this incident is just as flawed as Korea taking full responsibility for a member of its "own" who had been socially cast aside, as was the case with Hines Ward. My posts on the issue:

Korean Folks Don't Like Black People

Hines Ward – Lost in Translation

Hines Ward – Nail On the Head

On 'Korean Blood," Social Policy, and the Dangers of Race-Based Nationalism

Hines Ward – What If?

The Gates of the Minjok

More interesting to me than the details of all this and trying to figure use the blunt tool of structural arguments and social psychology to tease out the subtle and complex motivations of an obviously troubled individual, are the implications this will realistically have for Korea tomorrow morning, when this hits the Korean public when it gets up to read the paper or catch the news over coffee and the morning commute.

This is a big moment – and I am thinking mainly along these two lines. There will be a lot of things worth thinking about, social problems worth looking at – but at the end of the day, Cho was an individual. And "Korea" can no more be held "responsible" for this horrible crimes than it could have been for Hines Ward winning the Super Bowl.

On the issue of someone like Hwang Woo Suk, the folly of setting him up as a hero and the irony of his inevitable fall was much more of a marker of the society in which he lived, because his status as a public figure depended on the collective mind and will of the public. He was not a true individual, but rather a figure created according to the needs of a government, media, and public who created him.

The shooter in Virginia was a Korean (the extent of his ties here having yet to be determined, regardless of when he apparently gained residency there), but he was also – and importantly – an individual. That is something that will be hard, but necessary, to remember over the days and weeks to come.

Cho Seung-hui will live in the national identity of Koreans forever. He is the anti-thesis of all the national "heroes" whom Korea imprudently lauds as extensions of the national character (again, Hwang Woo Suk), as somehow expressions of the positive character traits imbedded into the genetic material of Koreans itself.

Now, after this horrible affair, perhaps the faulty logic of those connections will be apparent. I wonder if the move will be away from that logic itself, or an ongoing circus show of national shame. I do hope that the logic of not performing the latter will be apparent. Strategically, the best thing to do would be for the South Korean government to express its remorse and regrets, make meaningful yet symbolic gestures expressing those sentiments, and move on. If an American did this while studying in another country, I would expect the same from my government. "That crazy dude has nothing to do with me."

But that's not the way this is going to go down, is it? At least at first.

There is going to be serious national shame, expressed through the shock of this "representative of the culture" – even if the kid had been living in the States most of his life. There will be Korean media pointing at the parents, expressions of shock that "a Korean could do such a thing" (despite the fact that violence in the schools and against women are actually rampant in Korean society), and the glee that many people here in South Korea have at pointing out "American" character traits whenever horrible things happen in the US will be inevitably tempered.

Because the flip side of the logic now applies, like a mofo.

Let me just say that I don't know the details right now, besides the basics of the shooter having been identified. Nor does anyone else at the present time, really. I'm writing, getting a million Messenger messages a minute, and don't have time to closely scan the papers as I write this, not that there's a lot of information, anyway.

In a way, I don't want to, as I want to write what I write clean, before the details make the issues temporarily more obfuscated, as they surely will. But in the end, will we ever know why Cho did this? Like the Columbine shooters, we'll speculate forever. Even when if and when we realized a concrete motive, how does one truly know when or how an emotionally fathomable rage becomes a horrible, inexplicable madness?

So I'll go with what I got, which is a lot of opinions about South Korean society, education, and social problems involving youth, education, and women in this society. I will say right now that I am extrapolating far too much from this incident from the git-go, but I think my lines of argument will tend to make more sense than the Chosun Ilbo or Hangreoreh will, or most "explanations" of this horrible incident. In a nation that wants to crack down on the rash of gang rapes and ongoing sexual violence committed against girls and women by launching a campaign against foreign porn sites as the main solution and logical conclusion, what, oh what, sense will the media make of Cho Seung-hui?

Let me just start by saying that I see a lot of social factors converging that might offer a social context – not an explanation – to this situation. It's also an excuse to talk about some social issues in Korea (since this is, after all, what this blog is about) and do some more productive hand-wringing than I think the mainstream Korean media will.

I wouldn't even be surprised if this is used as more ammo to show just how much America can "corrupt" good Korean youth. Just like Western porn is responsible for Korean boys (and girls!) conspiring to rape and sexually extort the victims that have made the news in a couple of pretty scandalous cases over the last few months.

And since my posts can tend to go on quite a bit, let me just list these topics, in no particular order:

This isn't new (HT to reader). New?

Several years ago, I was with a group of university administrators being given a tour by the US State Department, hosted by Fulbright Korea, and being given a tour by a respected mentor of mine when several of the administrators stopped to ask a question that seemed to be burning at them for some time.

"Why is it that Korean male students seem to have the most trouble adjusting to life in the US?"

Kind of surprised, but yet not, I and my mentor pressed further, and they explained that the students who had the most disciplinary problems of all their international students were Korean males. These representatives of large state universities all then cited incident after incident of Korean males threatening Korean students seen walking with a foreign man (a graduate student walking with her black professor – she received dozens of insults and death threats on her answering machine), physical conflicts with other graduate students over simple matters, and a some domestic violence in cases of Korean couples living on campus.

In that conversation, what came out is that many Korean men felt displaced and disempowered as males who lived in a society that catered to them, while in the US, those forms of automatic power and status – being male, rich, or having come from Seoul National University – mean nothing. And at the same time, Korean women experience a social liberalization compared to where they would often be in Korea; many Korean female friends and colleagues of mine who studied in the US cited how they felt constricted and uncomfortable (부담) when a Korean male would end up in a seminar with them, because often, the man would expect them to acknowledge or "respect" (인정) them. When they didn't receive it, and often were dressed down by people younger than them or female, or by the professor in front of the class, they often felt particularly frustrated. And that has been a big issue and has led to social conflict and trouble before.

And that is just about all I'll say on that.

Then there's the interesting fact that the record holder for the worst shooting in world history, Woo Bom-gon(우범근), is also Korean, this time a Korean national who lived in Korea. That's not in the least bit interesting? From about the only other site on the Internet I could find on this subject (there is exactly one I could find through Korean search engines, and that's a pretty weird site):

South Korean spree killer. Has argument with girlfriend. Being a police officer, Woo Bum-Kon robs the police armory and goes on a drunken 8 hour shooting spree through three villages, leaving 57 dead and 35 wounded before he suicides with two grenades in Uiryong. The Korean interior minister resigns. (28 Apr 1982.)

Sound familiar? So the top two spots for shooting sprees in history are now held by two Korean men. Hey – I just find this interesting. Is this information not somewhat relevant to the issue at hand? Don't know why the Korean media isn't picking up on this. Or maybe it will? This is another interesting fact to throw in with the others. Even The New York Times had a piece on it back in 1982.

Well before this incident, and with the high number of suicides and actually pretty gruesome serial murders that take place in this country without guns – and I've heard Koreans joking about this as well – people wonder what Korea would be like if guns were legal and freely available here. Given the recent spate of violence and suicide in the schools here, I also give a shudder.

Suicide is rampant in South Korean society.

It's the #1 cause of death in people in their 20's and 30's in Korea. And since I consider these incidents of mass murder as actually horribly violent forms of suicide – "take a few with you" – I think it's something worth thinking about. I've blogged about this extensively, especially as it's related to the education system. How do you add up the affects of parental, societal, and other kinds of pressure on Korean youth, the extent of which few American kids I know even come close to feeling?

I've already said enough about this that doesn't need to be rehashed here; it's better to just read them directly.

The Walking Wounded

On Suicide in Korea

Podcast #27 – The Korean Education System

EPIK as Case Study: Why Korean-Style Management Sucks

Attack of the Clones

The Phantom Menace

Violence against women is endemic in Korean society.

What would be called stalking or considered inappropriate is often standard practice here in terms of dating, sex, and marriage. I often cite the case of when I saw a man slap his apparent girlfriend as hard as he could, sending her head back with visible shock. In front of a police station in Chungmuro, where, as a photographer, I had made my haunt. I immediately walked over, shooting away with my motor drive, saying that "you can't do that" and that I witnessed it. He looked annoyed and ignored me, at which point I walked to the police station about 20 meters away and informed the older officer on duty of what I had seen, in fluent Korean. He seemed annoyed, but obliged to get up out of his chair, and he went over to the door, cracked it, observed the couple still fighting, and said, "It's OK. They know each other." After I asked him if "this is all cops do in Korea" and "shouldn't he go check?" he just told me to go home. He never even asked if she was in trouble.

That's a lot better than the incident, circa 2004(?), when a group of boys from some small town outside of the capital were convicted of serially raping 2 high school students (they had been in middle school at the time, if my memory serves) after one boy had had consensual sex with one of the girls but had videotaped it and used it as a weapon to make her sleep with other boys – up to 30 or 40, I recall – and also impress her friend into similar sexual service. When this was discovered, the girls were berated by police as having run a prostitution ring, and were called sluts and whores, while the parents of many of the boys as well as members of the community gave death threats to the girls' mothers for "ruining their sons' lives." And such stories keep popping up again and again here, while the tendency is to not punish the men at all, if possible. I personally attended a small protest around a large police station in relation to this issue, which many Seoul residents and the more enlightened did, to their credit, find reprehensible.

But the level of violence against women here, as many Fulbrighters have heard as they lived with Korean host families all across the country, in apartment complexes where you regularly hear women being viciously beaten and screaming at night – no one calls the cops, except for me, it seems – and the many times I've seen women just straight slapped around in public...the level of violence against women that is readily apparent if you live here is undeniable. I can't speak for all foreigners here, but this is something I hear again and again and again. And yes, there is sexual and domestic violence everywhere in the world, but this is a place where I can't even count on two hands the number of times I've seen a women slapped down in public. And no one does anything. How much is a woman's body really worth here?

Other factors? In the end, we just can't know.

So it's not even clear how much time Cho spent in the US, although it appears he has spent a considerable amount. The information is changing by the hour. How does one sum up one's connection to culture(s)? But I do think it is worth at least mentioning the factors that often affect Korean men living as foreign students in the US, the pressures that come from living in one of the least happiest developed societies in the world, where I argue that the mental violence of the repressively harsh developmental dictatorship has finally started to find expression, even as the pressure cooker that is the failed Korean education system sends more and more Korean students overseas at an earlier age, to experience more stress and even higher parental expectations.

What can we make of this? Well, it just strikes me that the motive for a male Korean student to commit this heinous act apparently includes being feelings of revenge against his girlfriend and was precipitated by a fight with her.

Beyond that, one can't really speculate. One can only talk about factors that might illuminate. But speculate and make specious extrapolations the Korean media will, and I assure you, dear readers, that they won't stop at mere speculation around social factors, but there will be a slew of culturally essentialist assumptions that lead to really suspect "conclusions" as to what the "real problem" was.

It will get more complex if he turns out to have lived most of his life in the US. Then, the onus of cultural responsibility can and will be shifted to "America."

If his ties to Korea are stronger, then perhaps his parents will be blamed for his actions. They will be anyway. Although it is not a nice thing to foresee, I wouldn't be surprised if other suicides out of shame come from this, especially if "national blame" gets shifted to the individual, and by extension, the parents.

In Sum

But sometimes, we just can't "know." The pathology of the individual isn't something nations should be responsible for, because this isn't a logical or fair thing to do. If I go out right now and kill all of my officemates and then blow up a building, much will be made of my political leanings, little "signs" from the scribblings on my blog here, and most likely the anger I had after Katrina and talking about the song "Bin Laden Didn't Blow Up the Projects."

But maybe it was me. Me who was crazy, me who wanted to take out my anger in a horrible way. Is my nation responsible? Is Bush? Are my parents? Was it because I played Sniper Elite on my Xbox, or Halo 2? When the process of going over Cho's life with a fine-toothed media freakout ends, I'm sure we'll see a lot of such explanations. But in the end, I don't think we can ever know.

How does one know the face of madness like this? If we could, wouldn't it be easy to spot and prevent?

However, this incident leaves a lot to think about. Not the least of which is the fact that the linking of "national pride" is just about as useless as the linking of "national shame", but the cultural logic of this is far from out of favor.

Perhaps if one positive thing comes out of this, it will be a national discussion of a lot of these issues, and if we're lucky, people will be even asking the question, "Does 'Korea' even really need to feel responsible for this?" One might even see an angry rejection of this "national shame" – which in some ways, I think would be healthy; psychologically, it may be useful and hence, inevitable.

In the end, this will be the beginning point for a lot of different discourses around culture, race, and nation. People can and should now talk about all the things that very well may have gone into influencing one Korean man's way of expressing his anger, however inappropriate that may have been. There are cultural patterns to things that are caused by clear and present structural influences, customary and culturally-informed modes of interaction, and a great number of things.

But that doesn't mean "Korea" is responsible. Thinking about both factors will involve walking a subtle line that will be very, very easy to cross.

I just hope the conversation can be more elevated than some of the things I can imagine being said about this incident, this one troubled man, and the culture of which he was, to some extent, a part.

A few more thoughts...

And on the American front, things are still swirling. How will race, gender, and sex play into this, as well as the stereotypes of Asian Americans in general and Korean Americans specifically?

One thing that occurred to me was that I'm sure Arab Americans are breathing a sigh of relief that the shooter was not of Arab descent or Muslim. That's the last thing the Arab community needs in the States.

I'm sure most people were expected the shooter to be a white male, as almost all mass murderers in recent years have been. What is interesting is the fact that the mainstream American media has never made much of the fact that serial killers are almost exclusively middle-class, white men. The FBI and criminal psychologists have this as a base assumption; interesting that in the public mind, this is not even a question. Imagine if nearly all serial killers were Korean; or Arab; or black; or female. Then, it would mean something, right?

The gun control lobby will have a field day with this, while the NRA will likely emphasize (thanks, Jacco, for changing my mind about this) the kid's immigrant status and the fact that it wasn't the gun who killed those people, but an immigrant on a visa. Yes, people kill people, and it's not just the guns; but is sure is easier with a Glock 9mm with a low trigger weight that pops off bullets as fast as your index finger can flex.

And back in Korea, I really hope that after the nation has gone through the expected paroxysms of guilt and shame, that some South Koreans will tire of it and say, "OK, enough. Why do I have to feel bad about some crazy kid who cracked? It's not my problem." And I think I'd feel the same way; I'd have to agree.

From there, if that happens, the real interesting questions and debates can begin. More than anything, I hope that this might be what it takes to partially break the foundations of national identity into smaller and more interesting parts, ones that can be digested by a logic other than the dichotomy of "pride and shame" and into something more complex.

An even more unlikely hope will be for the Korean media and by extension, a large part of the populace, to move past the crude and problematic stereotyping and categorical thinking that defines a lot of the discourse around foreign others, and even Koreans themselves. Perhaps now, the logic that because the murderer who dumped a girl's body in Ansan Station turned out to be Chinese means that "Chinese are dangerous" will now become suspect. Or that "Arabs are dangerous and terrorists" if the shooter in this case had been Arab, or that "America is dangerous" because of this incident, when it's much more likely that you'll be killed in a car accident than shot by a Crip in a driveby or even a crazed killer in a school.

Because by extension, that would mean that "Koreans are dangerous killers" who should be avoided, or "are all about to snap." I doubt Koreans would accept that, as well they shouldn't. I just hope that this can translate into the realization that the logic is equally flawed the other way around.

Posted by Michael Hurt on April 18, 2007 |


It's difficult to disentangle the causes, of course, of this particular incident. Korean culture, American culture, individual brain biochemistry, family idiosyncracies, etc.

We can't fully analyze this one guy, but your quotes about Korean males having trouble in the US really struck a nerve with me. I'm a white American. I lived in Korea as a teenager, surrounded mostly by Koreans who didn't speak English, so I learned Korean fairly well. By the time I left Korea to attend college in the US, most of my friends were Korean, and I had developed a real love for Korea and Koreans. I had been treated so well that I knew I would miss Korea terribly.

Naturally, when I started school in the US, I tried to make Korean friends in the US, both among the students and in the larger community. What I encountered was like a slap in the face. I'd walk into a Korean bookstore to get a dictionary and the people behind the counter would immediately start muttering about "the miguknom" in the store. I'd try to start conversations with Korean shopkeepers, martial arts instructors, etc., and often they would refuse to speak Korean with me, offended (some explained) that I would "consider Koreans too stupid to speak English", though it was only Korean men who reacted this way. Brand new arrivals (incl. men) seldom acted this way, but it seemed the longer they had been in the US, the more bristling with touchy ego they had become and the nastier they got. Some, however, did a complete flipflop when I explained that it wasn't that I thought they were too stupid to speak English, it was just that I missed Korea. Then sometimes their egos made me a hero, but that felt a little creepy, too.

It got worse on campus. Though there the Korean girls didn't hesitate to talk to me, this seemed to drive Korean guys into spasms of rage. Some Korean guys who later became friends of mine explained that they didn't blame me. It wasn't my fault, they explained. It was those *&#@ing Korean girls who were despicable, traitors to the cause, not "acting Korean". I tried to figure out what this cause of theirs was and, depending on who you asked, it was showing off the greatness of Koreans, destroying the Japanese, restoring the purity and glory of Korea's past, getting revenge against America for its unforgivable insults against all Koreans, and that sort of fun stuff.

Real Koreans were supposed to hate everybody, it seemed, especially hating other Koreans who didn't hate everybody. They also seemed to feel that the gravest insult they could dish out was to claim that another Korean wasn't "real Korean" enough, which required burning and unwavering national pride, hatred of Japanese, resentment of America, keeping the wounds of various perceived insults open so that if the opportunity for revenge presented itself there would be no hesitation ("even a thousand generations is not too long to wait for revenge for us Koreans with our 5000 year history"), etc., etc.

The pangs of Korean nostalgia were wearing off pretty fast for me, and my interest in one Asian country led me to curiosity about others. Pretty soon I had Japanese friends, too, who acted nothing like the Korean guys. (And the Korean girls also acted nothing like the Korean guys. They were mostly friendly to everyone incl. Japanese, open minded, etc.) One Korean guy informed me that other Korean guys had noticed that I had become increasingly friendly with Japanese students, and that although none of them felt that I bore their responsibility (yes, "ch'aekim") to hate all Japanese, they weren't going to associate with someone who was friendly to the Japanese. I had earned a grudging respect from some Korean guys for my love of Korean things, but I was about to throw it all away, I was warned. (Real traitors, like Korean girls who dated Americans, could expect no such leniency.)

I passed on the amnesty offer, so I lost most of my opportunities to practice Korean. I don't go out of my way anymore to find new Korean friends in the US, but I enjoy socializing with business colleagues in Korea. In Korea they seem much more "comfortable in their own skins". Before I encountered the raging insecurities, hatreds, and resentments of some Koreans in the US, I hadn't really paid much attention to it in Korea. Yes, there was always someone in Korea explaining who the Koreans didn't like this week and what the latest insult was, but I didn't pay much attention to it. The Korean in Korea were and still are kind to me, gracious, and mostly fun to socialize with (much less so to do business with, unfortunately.) I can see it clearly now, though, even inside Korea, but Koreans within Korea seem to have a lot of other interests. But outside Korea, those resentments and insecurities seem to swell up and completely consume some Korean guys, defining their whole identity. This phenomenon may or may not be relevant to the Virginia Tech massacre, but if I had to bet, I know how I'd bet....

Posted by: Glen | April 18, 2007 at 05:48 AM

I never said any fuzzy notion of "Koreanness" had to do with anything. All the people you just mentioned were individuals. They were also Americans, regardless of race. I'm not talking about RACE, people. Get it?

Now, we're all equally making suppositions here, but what if there were some cultural factors here that come from PERHAPS very specific attitudes to education, achievement, roles within the family, parenting styles, issues around language, etc. Who knows? I'm saying that there are some interesting things to explore here, since he's by far not the only Korean kid in the world who's been PERHAPS uprooted for the sake of education, pushed really hard by overbearing parents, had issues surrounding clashes of Korean and American behavior styles – what have you. It's all supposition, just like your estimation of him having some "kyopo" identity is also supposition. I know 1.5 kids who went to the States at his age and essentially never assimilated. Who have strong accents. I know some who you'd never know.

I'm just saying cultural factors are worth thinking about, considering the fact that the numbers of South Korean students applying to American colleges was the highest it has ever been, while the Korean education system falls apart, while the screws are getting tightened all the more on Korean students to make up the vast gap between the two.

And the kid had a history of mental illness. That's an issue people are talking about all the time, as suicide (which this kid committed, albeit on a mass scale) has become the #1 cause of death for Korean kids his age.

I think this scramble to disconnect him from Korea completely, from any possible cultural links that may be worth thinking about, is easy to do in the American context, where people just see this as falling into some "racist" category, whereas I'm asking perfectly reasonable questions about PERHAPS this kid being somewhat subject to similar cultural forces that have kids here committing violence in schools at a record rate (thankfully, without access to guns), suicide is the #1 cause of death for youth, and there seems to be a copycat phenomenon on suicide going on even among successful singers.

And yeah, the fact that the number if kids moving to the states for educational reasons has skyrocketed in recent years is also an interesting background factor.

And then you mix in American teen, racial, and gender politics, and you have one big, fat mystery and a pathology that has resulted in a tragedy of staggering proportions.

But everyone on the American side of the water seems petrified to even broach the possibility of cultural/structural issues that very well may offer some insteresting and needed insights into what may have driven this kid to depression, then suicide.

I'm not saying "Korea is responsible" nor am I talking about race; it's interesting that the record-holder for deadliest gun shooting spree in WORLD history is also a South Korean. That's not interesting? If these guys were Italian, I'd be wondering about what the heck might be going on in Italy, and perhaps might that extend to the Italian diaspora? Or Jordanians. Or Thai people. Whatever – I'm talking about societies, social patterns, and value systems that seem to be resulting in specific sorts of harm and mental illness to young people in Korea.

I see a kid who resembles and mirrors what's going on in South Korea and I start making connections – connections I've been making and writing passionately about for as long as this blog has been running.

If Cho had been Petricelli, and I were an American expat living in Italy and observed some of those striking similarities with what's going on in the Italian peninsula, I'd be writing the same post, asking the same questions.

So people – and Bluejives – stop trying to act like I'm having some essentialist conversation about RACE, or somehow trying to talk about a wishy-washy, undefined notion of "Koreanness." I ain't talked about none of that, and I've made the bases of my arguements quite clear.

And I just explained it AGAIN.

Posted by: The Metropolitician | April 18, 2007 at 05:54 AM

OYKWII - As I said, I'm not trying to psychoanalyze the guy. I, nor none of you, knew him. I'm just saying that it's strange that the Asian American community wants to talk about identity, there are myriad non-profits that work with Asian work according to the specific needs of the community, and 1.5 generation kids are often recognized as often caught between a rock and a hard place when it comes to Korean cultural influences and getting by in American society. Hence, we have the term "1.5" in the first place.

But because it's a touchy subject, Cho was 100% cornfed American with no trace of Korean cultural identity; in fact, in Asian American circles and community orgs, we always talk about the specific needs and issues of "Asian youth" or even "Korean men" or "Korean women." There are community orgs that actively deal with how cultural heritage and generational differences and attitudes towards education and parental pressure and god knows what else are complex factors play roles in the lives of Asian American people.

I'm not saying some possible connections to Korean culture made him do it; I'm just suspicious that suddenly, Asian Americans, even 1.5ers like Cho was, are suddenly denuded and disconnected from their culture because he's "American."

And to say otherwise, ask questions that were legitimate until April 16, 2007 – now it's off limits. When the DC shooter turned out to be black, everyone was surprised, because we all "knew" that serial killers were white. And if anyone was actually interested in his motives, perhaps questions about his adjustment and attitude to being black in this society, or racial attitudes in general, or the perceived slights against him – these are all relevant to trying to answer the question of "why?"

As for assigning communal blame? As I said in the post, the Korean community doesn't need to be apologizing to anyone. Blacks don't need to apologize for Malvo. Whites don't need to apologize for Columbine, even though the shooters obviously did have racist intent in at least several of the murders. Yet, in the end, one's actions are one's own to own.

But Cho is 100% American now, no cultural difference, absolutely no factors like that could have possibly played into it, right? This is rich coming from JK and Netizen Kim (Bluejives), considering how you two are nearly entrenched in the argument for an Asian American male subjectivity, one that is so easily offended when someone even mentions the penis size issue, because that is somehow inherently racist and offensive to Asian men. Yeah, because you let it be.

But you define this Asian male subjectivity, wax on about how offended you are at "certain" white men dating Asian women, the suspect reasons there must be behind it – you set all that up as relevant for consideration. Yet, you cut Cho off from any of that, because he must have necessarily, by definition, have had no particular identification as a Korean male, nor be possessed of an Asian male subjectivity – in a society you two yourselves adamantly insist harbors specific stereotypes against Asian men, discriminates against them, stereotypes them – but Cho necessarily was beholden to none of these influences, nothing that separated him from any of the white shooters like him, or the black shooter, Malvo.

Because they are all THE SAME, right?

"Move along, nothing to see here!" Right?

I'm not saying culture did play a role in things; but it's equally specious in saying that it absolutely didn't.

And I'm just saying is that it was possible, even likely.

I'm a "racist" again!

Posted by: The Metropolitician | April 18, 2007 at 11:21 PM

Teachable Moments

But the Virginia Tech case, while shocking, differs from 9/11 in two major ways, both in terms of scale and socio/ideological meaning. First, the grandiose and sheerly terrific effect of this attack on an entire nation undergirded the reactions to Arab-Americans and Muslims in the US. Second, no such pre-conceived notions, nor deeply felt and culturally embedded fear and loathing of Korean/Korean Americans exist, as they did and do for "swarthy" people from the Middle East. In the American cultural imagination, the "Arab terrorist" was guilty even before he was accused, as Oklahoma showed us in 1995.

So I knew that there would be no mass lynchings of Korean people, public vilification of them resulting in assaults or shootings, or even verbal/physical fisticuffs on a mass scale.


But such direct retaliation and mass discrimination is what Koreans in Korea fear(ed), because I think it is a fair extrapolation of how foreign Others are treated as scapegoats and categorical symbols of many Koreans' opinions of other nations and races.

One might say that this is not the time to bring this up; I say there's no better time.

I have to point out one thing: if this had been a white foreigner who had done anything like this, I wouldn't have left my house, would have ordered in for a few days, and have canceled appointments. I am dead serious, and based on the noticeable increase in verbal and physical attacks on foreigners in the fall of 2002, I stopped taking the subways (for some reason, older Korean men would always seem to come out of the woodworks to start a fight) and started taking the bus (where for some reason, I never found any trouble).

And under no circumstances would I take the blue #1 line, which is the place where the majority of Korean-foreigner confrontations happen, and where it was nearly guaranteed, at that time, that you would be yelled at for being a foreigner.

And that was in reaction to an accident, albeit one that was the fault of the American military, which is no favorite of a younger, more prideful generation of Koreans who see the United States as enemy, not friend.

I have always said about the 1995 incident in which 3 black men raped a middle school girl in Okinawa (see my post "When Blood Mixes") – if that had happened in Korea, there would have been serious and personal retribution. I am not being paranoid – given the fact that I felt the need to be on my guard in 2002 for Americans who committed a traffic accident, I wasn't one to be the newspaper story.

And regardless, the public reaction – or lack thereof – to many proprietors who put up signs refusing to serve Americans or even "all foriegners" directly after incident, or the fact that "Fucking USA" became a soundtrack I heard several times a day while walking nearly anywhere in central Seoul, while "미국놈" ("American asshole", roughly translated) became just as common in street usage as the neutral term "American"– that was the benchmark that I believe Koreans assume Americans will have.

Clearly, there is a pattern of extreme scapegoating, xenophobia, and even racism in this country; I think the assumption is that in America, the reaction would be the same.

So this fear comes not from any observed pattern of mass vilification of Koreans in the US (even though many Koreans still think, thanks to the Korean media, that blacks spontaneously attacked Koreans, and when asked, many people have never even heard of Rodney King), but rather from an extrapolation of this society's actual pattern of treating and defining "Others" in Korean society.

See, I've already done a "thought experiment" in which the shoe was on the other foot when it comes to overt discrimination, which is unapologetically practicable here.

Interesting is the ongoing stereotyping of westerners as sexual predators, perverts, and bail jumpers, when in fact these people are in the minority.

Even after the scandal that erupted when a teacher at the Paju English Village was accused of sexually harassing a student, when the media had a field day and the Korean Teachers' Union officially demanded a re-examination of allowing foreigners to teach English in Korean schools – even after it was revealed that the perpetrator was actually Korean, the KTU refused to retract its assertions.

Or the antics of SBS, which traveled to Hongdae after a crazy GI raped a senior citizen, at which point the entire area was characterized as a dangerous area where foreign men roamed wild, looking for fresh, female Korean meat to kill. Shortly after the area was again declared off-limits to American GI's (which it had been in the past, actually), SBS did a follow-up report the very next week that showed the equivalent of clean streets, fresh air, and chirping birds. The report was so utterly ridiculous, it made the reaction to the Central Park "rapists" or the Boston carjack race panic look nearly rational in comparison, although it could never have approached the scale. But at least they were vilifying a single group – how are "all foreigners" dangerous, roaming the streets one week (in an area where some occasional rude and drunk GI's make a bit of trouble in certain clubs, but generally aren't even on anyone's mind, much less foreigners in general), and squeaky clean the next?

Foreigners here always talk about the inevitable day when a foreigner will actually be accused of some actual, heinous crime against Koreans; given the treatment of foreigners who have generally not committed any serious crimes of that nature here – besides the "crime" of being seen in a picture with a Korean woman in a tasteless, nevertheless fully consensual situation (English "Spectrum-gate" and a more general post on Netizen "witchhunting" here) – no actual major crimes have been committed here. Well, the Korean police are always reporting any time some idiot foreigner gets caught mailing pot to himself or they bust a few people in Itaewon with drugs; that's bad enough.

What we fear is some foreigner – especially some Yank or Canuck English teacher –gets convicted of molesting children in their hagwon. Although that's horrible, we know what would happen. Without a heartbeat's hesitation, the essential cultural morality of "all foreigners" would be called into question without a second thought. Crackdowns of hagwons would happens, some more restrictive hiring laws would be passed (which can't be a bad thing, though), and people would surely be assaulted.

Or the spate of widespread verbal and sometimes physical acts of violence committed upon foreigners in Seoul (none of which were reported in Korean newspapers, even the attempted murder of an Army officer stabbed nearly to death by 3 Korean assailants on his home away from duty, while even verbal altercations between taxi drivers and GI's made national headlines) after the 2002 death of two middle school girls accidentally run over by a US Army armored car (here and here for some US military blogs related to it, and here for my more media-related critique).

One thing that a few people I knew were talking about before the shooter's identity and nationality was officially revealed was the fact that it he had turned out to be Korean, how interesting that would play out for a Korean media and pliant population that is notorious at unfairly targeting entire communities.

And that has yet to play out; this is something that should be as interesting for observers of Korean media as the Hines Ward show was. And you know I'll keep on blogging about it.


THE KOREAN MEDIA has begun to blame the incident on US racism and culture corrupting a poor Korean youth.

Yu Bum-hee, Dept. of Neuropsychiatry, Samsung Medical Center, said, “Virginia has a reputation for having comparatively strong white supremacy movements. It’s possible that Cho felt diminished by that atmosphere.” These are difficulties all Korean-Americans face as a minority in the U.S., and especially the 1.5 generation. Joseph Oh (34), who lives in Los Angeles, said, “As I grew older, I realized the ethnic barrier. I fought with white youngsters who teased me so many times. But I finally had to accept reality.” In some cases, the situation can lead to crime. New York Police estimates that a significant number of crimes in the Queens Flushing Koreatown are committed by ethnic Koreans under 18.


I fought with white youngsters who teased me so many times. But I finally had to accept reality”

Can I use this excuse for my actions today based on teasing I recieved (being a white, Christian male in the deep South) as a youngster?

Youngster’s teasing people for whatever they can think of to tease people —– “only in America”, eh?

I can’t remember where I wrote this yesterday —

—but, this event does have a chance of hurting US-Korea relations, but not like they think.

A lot of people in American society are checking out anything related to Korea on the internet trying to gather info on the case and understand it.

Traffic at my site went through the roof yesterday, and it has been significantly higher today….

…and the more people look, the worse it will probably be for South Korea, because since 2002, even think-tanks and members of academia have taken anti-US habits in Korea seriously and written articles about it. It goes beyond the K-bloggers like myself.

Then, web surfers will start hitting things like the Korean media and then the anti-US websites….

The more digging that goes on, the more dirt will be found.

But, any negative result from this will be based more on South Korean society than an ethnic Korean who was most likely fairly Americanized due to the amount of time he lived in the US starting at an early age who happened to flip out and kill a lot of people in a shoot spree which American society has experienced several times in the past going back decades.

And lastly, “What type of warped and shelter world do you live in where the first thing you think of in response to an incident like this is how this tragedy will effect the US-ROK alliance, entry visas, and a free trade agreement?”

A couple of days after 9/11, I went to a graduate level class in Korean Studies, and one of the Korean grad students kindly asked how I was holding up, then proceeded to explain how he and many other Korean grad students at this American university were worried, “That the US government would use this as an excuse to prevent Koreans who protest against the United States from getting visas to study in America.”

I was already too depressed to even get angry about it (at that time….)….


Today, my Korean wife got sucked into reading more Korean blogs than she intended. She reported it a fascinating if unproductive use of time. She noted that a few Koreans have raised the parallel between the Virginia Tech incident and the Korea middle schools accident. Those postings, however, have generated immediate responses deflecting the comparison along the lines that the girls were “killed” by authorized American service men.

In other words, there is no discussion of motive — which in a court of law would differentiate between voluntary or involuntary manslaughter and murder. But so far, apparently none of the natives of this peninsula are messing up their logic with this detail. It essentially comes down to “uri nara saram” vs. the “weigook-in” — and a failure to appreciate that sometimes a lone nutter does the unspeakable, regardless of nationality or ethnicity — and to add anything else to the story is only venting one’s frustrations and hang ups.

So, in a way, this incident does give some insight into the current Korean psyche. It certainly doesn’t look like much progress has been made in the collective thinking being able to consider matters beyond the limits of half a peninsula.


At the time, the mainstream media in Korea told the society the soldiers killed the 2 girls on purpose. They constantly described it as a “murder” rather than accident. MBC had a former Korean tank driver come on air and using disgusting pictures of the dead bodies, describe how the track marks on the bodies could “only” have been made that way — if some GI was standing outside on the ground directing the tank driver how to maneuvre.

Next, I think USFK made a mistake putting the soldiers on trial.

If they felt there was enough reason/evidence to do so - fine - they should have done it.

If they didn’t, they should have rode the anti-US phase out instead of holding a trial. There was no way in hell even a conviction of the GI's was going to stop Korean society as a whole milking the incident as long as they could. It was also EASILY predictable that if a not guilty verdict were given, it would make Korea go nuts and feel justified.

Lastly, one thing that still pisses me off about the events is — how the Korean media went out of its way NOT to report things USFK did — they did not report the monetary settlement reached between the parents, SK gov, and US gov less than 30 days after the accident. They did not report the base high ranking officers going to the hospital the day of the accident and giving the family the small amount of “bereavement” money that is customary in Korean culture. And they did not report the candlelight vigil USFK held on base with SK, US Embassy, and USFK VIPs attending as well as many GI'S - held within a week of the accident.

Instead, the press kept repeating and repeating that USFK would not “accept responsibility” for the event - which they described as a murder.



And no, that’s not on a scale of 1 to 10 either. 1.5 is a term used to describe Koreans who emigrated from Korea to the United States with their parents as youngsters, and that’s opposed to 1’s who are first generation, and 2’s who are those born abroad, or second generation emigrants. The Chosun Ilbo, asserts that the problems associated with being a 1.5 may have led Cho to his rampage.

Cho Seun-hui, the shooter in the Virginia Tech University massacre on Monday, came to the U.S. with his family when he was eight years old - a fact, experts say, that may have played a part in the tragedy.

Shin Min-sup, an associate professor of psychiatry at Seoul National University’s Children’s Hospital, said, “A sudden environmental change like immigration must have caused enormous stress to Cho.

I can’t say that I totally disagree because it must be very hard and stressful for a kid to be taken out of their normal environment and thrown into a totally different one. On the other hand, aren’t kids pretty resilient? Aren’t they in fact much more receptive to change than adults? There must be hundreds of thousands of people out there who were introduced to a similar situation when they were toddlers but who didn’t turn out to be psycho killers, no?

My wife used to work for a Chinese couple in the States who had three children. Ironically, they made their way to the States by stopping in South Korea for nearly ten years first. Their children had to adjust to two totally different cultures growing up (I’m going to call them 3’s) and they didn’t turn out to be psycho killers. In fact, two of them are now MD’s and the other is a Pharmacist.

Are there any 1.5′rs out there who care to comment?


Hi, longtime no write. The 1.5 rationale is pure cultural justification by Koreans to put any damper on immigration that they can. Of course, according to that thinking, something other than the PURE korean culture must have caused that boy to go BAD.

My lovely wife is Korean. Our son, born in Germany 1987, german kindergarten, german babysitter, he speaks fluent german. Transferred to korea in 1992, korean language schools, taekwando classes with 100% koreans, dod approved schools, wifes family interaction. Trf to US in 2001, public school finish 8th grade. Catholic school 9th thru 12th and is now doing well as a Soph at Ga Tech.

I just don't buy that stress and culture disorientation theory so easily tossed out there by the social feel good crowd. I think what matters is family interaction, support and a real parental effort to put time in with the child so as to set an example and a standard.

My Humble Opinion

Tom Walker




NOW A GREAT POST FROM KEVIN.......................


As the Virginia Tech tragedy continues to play out in the media, it has become obvious to many pundits in the Koreablogosphere and the mainstream media that Korea will default to Cover Your Ass mode. This will include loudly questioning how a Korean could possibly have done such a terrible thing, as well as focusing not on the thirty-two people who were killed, but on the question of American Backlash Against Us.

I think the fear of backlash is largely unjustified. America is stereotyped as a land of shotgun-toting bumpkins, ruled by a fear born of ignorance, but this is far from the case: our country is still one of the most welcoming (if not the most welcoming) nation on earth when it comes to immigrants and the tolerance of difference. If you judge us by our bumpkins, we'll feel free to judge you by yours. That's only fair, I think.

What you won't see in America is mass demonstrations by non-Koreans shouting, "Go home, Korean bastards!" What you might see is random acts of vandalism and perhaps the occasional act of violence as the ignorant among us show off their stupidity. These incidents will be few and far between. American "Netizens" will not be secretly cheering these punks on, and signs saying "Koreans Not Welcome" will not be appearing on restaurant and shop windows. Groups of wild-eyed white folks will not be burning Korean flags, and no Koreans will be lynched. As one commenter at the Marmot's Hole suggested, the Korean fear of the American reaction to this mass murder is sourced in projection, because as we expats know, Korea often slips easily into heedless massmind behavior. Perhaps from the Korean point of view, such a reaction is natural. But most Americans don't roll that way.

Koreans will probably latch upon every isolated instance of violence and take it as confirmation of their suspicion of a larger anti-Korean trend. When no such trend appears, many Koreans will simply drop the issue without publicly admitting they were mistaken. Such behavior isn't unique to Koreans, of course; I see it in all-Westerner comment threads all the time.

What's truly unfortunate is that some Koreans will also remember that certain Americans did, in fact, attack people who either were or looked Arab in the wake of 9/11. But as the years after 9/11 have shown, attacks on Muslims and mosques were nothing on the scale of what still happens in places like France, where Jewish schoolchildren are sometimes assaulted by Muslim children, and Jewish synagogues and cemeteries are routinely burned or defaced. I highly doubt that gangs of anti-Korean Americans will prowl the streets in search of Korean churches to spraypaint or Korean businesses to vandalize. If such gangs do appear, they will be the glaring exception, not the rule, and I will abominate them along with scandalized Koreans. What happened to certain Muslims in the months after 9/11 was unjustifiable, of course, but it needs to be put in perspective.

One reason why I think America will not react badly toward Koreans is that, in the wake of the VA Tech killings, Korea's reaction was not the same as Palestine's after 9/11. There, in Gaza, thousands of esctatic Muslims poured out into the street in celebration. As I recall, Korea's reaction immediately following 9/11 was the same as the rest of the civilized world's: there was an outpouring of sympathy from the peninsula to the States. Many of us Americans remember that and are grateful. Korea's reaction now, while perhaps selfish in the Cover Your Ass sense, is a far cry from jubilation in the streets. It is, in my opinion, a civilized reaction: people here are shocked, reflective, critical, and self-critical. Americans have doubtless taken note of this. Given that many Komerican communities routinely practice some form of neighborhood outreach, I doubt that those communities are in danger of being attacked and plundered.

In fact, if America's stupid people do rouse themselves to violent action, I suspect that many of them will hit the wrong targets: Chinese and Vietnamese and Japanese folks just minding their own business. So my message to Korea this evening is: remain calm. And if something does happen in the States, don't take that as evidence of an ominous trend. Such fear is self-justifying and self-perpetuating. Wait until there actually is a plottable trend before letting us have it in your papers and TV news. Remain at your civilized best.

Some bitter foreigners may find this hard to admit, but Korea is an eminently civilized country. Look around you, expats, and notice the distinct lack of AK-47s firing into the air. Koreans have little to fear from us, and we have little to fear from them.

Folks I know that this has been one huge post but I thought that allot of different voices needed to be said.

I will have my own comments later......

1 comment:

T & A said...

Good coverage of the Korean side, I knew if i looked on your site I would find it!