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Korean bloggers on Virgina Tech shooter Cho Seung-hui

Since the Virginia Tech massacre on April 16, 2007, it’s not hard to guess that the South Korea-born shooter, Cho Seung-hui, and what he did are among the hottest issues for Korean bloggers. As the visual shock of the mass murder is fading from the headlines, the angle from which bloggers are viewing the case has been changing.

Bloggers like Kim Hyung-hui criticize Cho Seung-hui as an example of problems coming from the excessive passion of Koreans for education:

미국에서 사상최악의 총기사고가 발생 하였다는 뉴스를 처음 접했을 때 나는 옆에 탄 승객에게 중국인이 아니라 우리나라 사람이 사고를 쳤을 것 같다고 이야기를 하였었다.왠지 느낌이 우리나라 유학생일 것 같다는 생각이 불현듯 든 이유는 사교육 열풍으로 부모의 강압에 못이겨 외국유학을 간 학생이 그 중압감을 못이겨 분노가 폭팔한 것으로 내 다 본 것이였다.우리나라처럼 부모의 광적인 교육열이 잇는 곳은 세상 어디에도 없기에 그같은 큰 사고를 친 나라 사람은 우리나라 학생일 것이란 생각이 든 것이다.

When I first heard the news, I told the person sitting next to me at that time that the criminal would be a Korean, not Chinese. I had a strong hunch that the person would be a Korean student who was forcefully sent abroad by the parents due to the fad of private education, and the student could not put up with the pressure and exploded. I just thought there is no place that has such a crazy education passion except Korea, so the person who would commit such a big incident would be a Korean student. (http://blog.daum.net/amunabaraba/10048294)

“Freedom, Self-dependence, and Independence” at the “Agora” discussion portal, Daum, compared Cho Seung-hui with Frankenstein and Pinocchio:

프랑켄슈타인의 괴물은 끝끝내 자신을 창조한 프랑켄슈타인을 살해하고, 그 스스로 자신의 몸을 불태웠다고 한다. 버지니아 공대에 또 한명의 프랑켄슈타인의 괴물이 잠들었다. 그와 반대로 피노키오는 그를 만든 제페트의 사랑으로 결국 한낱 나무인형에서 인간으로 거듭 태어난다. 한 사람을 무시무시한 괴물로 만드느냐, 나무인형에서 인간으로 화(化)하게 하느냐는 우리가 얼마나 진실하게 ‘마음이 가난한 사람들'을 다시 한 번 돌아보느냐에 달렸다. 우리에게는 더 나은, 더 아름다운 세상을 만들어가야 할 사명이 있다. 그것이 천명(天命)인 것이다.

The monster murdered Dr. Frankenstein, who created him, and burned himself in the end. Another Frankenstein at Virginia Tech. disappeared. On the other hand, Pinocchio could be reborn as a human from only a wooden doll due to Jefferd’s love. To make a human being a horrible monster or to become a human from a wooden doll depends on how we pay attentions ‘people having poor heart’. . . .

Some bloggers who study abroad identified with Cho Seung-hui's loneliness. The blogger 36.5°C talked about her own experience in a blog post entitled “loneliness of students abroad”:

고독이란건 무서운겁니다. 낯선 땅에 떨어지면 그 고독이란 녀석이 정말로 피부에 와닿습니다. 조승희씨는 한국말도 제대로 못했을 것 같네요. 그 나이에 가서 계속 영어만 썼다고 하면 말이죠. 그치만 미국에서도 친구 못사귀고, 그렇다고해서 한국에 돌아와서 한국말을 해서 일자리를 찾을 수 있나 돌아갈 곳이 있나. 조승희씨는 고립된겁니다, 이 세상에서요.

Loneliness is scary. When you are dropped off in a strange land, the loneliness touches you. Cho Seung-hui must not be able to speak Korean either because he went to America at such an early age and kept speaking English. But he couldn’t get along with American friends and he was also in a situation where he couldn’t come back to Korea. He wouldn’t find a job in Korea either. He was isolated from this world (http://laputian.net/483)

Another issue being discussed was identity. When the criminal was revealed to be a South Korean (in terms of his nationality), the Korean government and some associations apologized for this tragedy to American society, in part because of concerns about the safety of Koreans in America but also because of guilt that someone from the same ethnic group had done this. This attitude produced two responses: why do Koreans have to apologize? Some bloggers have also criticized the strong and unnecessary nationalism of Korean society.

Blogger Hugitong wrote:

솔직히 아무리 국적이 한국인이라고 해도.
걘 어릴때부터 미국에서 자라, 미국 교육을 받고 영어를 쓰는 미국인인데,
왜 한국이 대신 사죄한다고 하고 한국언론이 더 들끓는건지.
여기서 유학중인 학생들이나 한인들의 입장은 생각조차 안한다.
문제는. 한국인이 저질렀다. 가 아닌것이다.
진짜 문제는. 왜 이렇게 미국에서 총기사고가 빈번한가 인것이며, 왜 경고를 받았음에도 불구하고 학생을 방치해놨냐는 것이며, 그런 애한테 누가 총기를 팔았느냐인것이다.
자꾸 이런식으로 한국에서 들끓으면 문제의 포인트가 한국인-이민자들의 문제로 변질될까 걱정스럽다.

Frankly speaking, even though his nationality is Korean, he grew up in American since childhood and he is American, having received American education in English. As a Korean in America, I don’t understand why Korea apologizes and why the Korean mass media is so crazy. The problem is not that a Korean did it. The real problem is why America has so many gun incidents and regardless of the warning he was left alone and it was easy to buy guns. I am worried such a wrong direction that Korean society leads would distract from the real problem (http://hugitong.ibbun.com).

Another view expressed by Korean bloggers is that Cho Seung-hui was not actually the perpetrator, but a victim and even try to find similarities between 9/11 and this incident. Winemaster is one who has expounded on these theories, putting forward 18 reasons why Cho Seung-hui could not have been the shooter. The main points are translated below:

1. A person who can accurately shoot each target three times must be a professional. According to gun experts, it is impossible to shoot 32 people in several minutes unless you are a professional (13 dead with 900 shots from three guns by two people at Columbine). But he bought the gun a month ago.

2. Cho Seung-hui killed himself with two shots on his chest and one shot on his head. There are three ways to commit suicide with a gun. 1. above the ear 2. inside the mouth 3. right under the chin. A bullet was stuck in the backside of his head. Then who shot two bullets in his chest? He had three shots like other victims.

3. There was no one who saw his suicide. His corpse was discovered in the classroom. But one witness said that the shooter ran away from the classroom.

4. One witness said that the shooter was about 6 feet, but Cho is quite short.

5. The gun seller said that he bought 50 bullets. But according to the massacre, he needed more than 200 bullets.

6. He was careful to erase the serial numbers from the guns, but the receipt was found in his bag left in the place.

7 comments

  • Thanks so much for writing this! It’s really fascinating to read about Korean perspectives on this kind of story, we hear so little about them in Japan.

  • mahathir_fan

    At first, I was very surprised that a Korean citizen did it.

    Then I read that he moved to the US since he was 9 years old and after that everything made sense.

  • This is excellent, Hyejin. Thank you.

  • […] Global Voices Online » Korean bloggers on Virgina Tech shooter Cho Seung-hui “Another view expressed by Korean bloggers is that Cho Seung-hui was not actually the perpetrator, but a victim and even try to find similarities between 9/11 and this incident.” […]

  • Thanks for doing this, Hyejin – it’s a really important set of perspectives that we’re not really hearing in the US right now.

  • […] One blog post theorizes  that Cho could not have been the killer, because of the nature of the gunshots that killed him, early descriptions of a killer fleeing the building and of someone who was 6 ft doing the shooting. […]

  • […] 1. Cho was first reported as being Chinese and I recall a report that he was 6 ft. He was actually 5 ft. 8″ – much smaller. Here’s an article in the Chicago Sun Times with hat information. This is reportedly the google cache of the original story which is now off the web. It appears to have caused a flurry in the Chinese media and some speculation on how or why the mistake was made. There is also a theory that I saw posted on a Korean blog, which includes more details of the crime scene, and speculates that Cho was killed himself and had an accomplice. It says he was killed with 1 shot to the back of the head and 2 to the chest (haven’t seen this elsewhere), that the real killer was 6 ft and was seen running away (that is supported by other early reports that describe 2  shooters either running away or being apprehended.   It also compares Columbine where 3 guns, 2 shooters and 900 bullets were involved in the death of 13 people and notes Cho’s remarkable performance as incompatible with what we know of his firearm skill. 2. He was first reported as having had a relationship with Emily Hilscher, later denied. […]

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