Madman, not Koreans, to blame for shootings
By DeWayne Wickham
It seems this has to be said. What happened at Virginia Tech University had nothing to do with Korean-Americans. The carnage loosed by Seung Hui Cho had nothing to do with his national origin and everything to do with his dementedness.
(Prayer: Young Hwan Kim at a service for Virginia Tech organized by Korean-Americans. / USA TODAY)
Cho, who was born in South Korea but lived 15 of his 23 years in the USA, was a madman who took the lives of 32 people in a senseless spasm of violence before committing suicide. His victims were randomly chosen. They were black and white, Asian and Hispanic, native- and foreign-born.
The guilt for his actions is his alone to bear. But sadly, there are some in this country who think otherwise — people incapable of seeing Cho as simply a deranged young man.
After the Virginia Tech gunman’s identity became known, some Korean schoolchildren in Los Angeles were taunted with chants of “go back to Korea,” said Eun Sook Lee, executive director of the National Korean-American Services & Education Consortium.
That was one of many acts of misplaced rage that Korean-Americans have been subjected to in the wake of the Virginia Tech massacre.
Lee told me that a Korean-American woman who expressed concern about poor service at a Los Angeles post office said she heard someone respond contemptuously: “Don’t go shooting up this place.”
In upstate New York, the Korean owner of a dry cleaner in a white neighborhood said not a single customer came into his business the day after Cho was identified as the man responsible for the carnage at Virginia Tech. Korean-American residents of a San Francisco senior citizen building reported being told by some other residents to “go back home.” A maintenance worker in that building said to Korean residents that when he returned to work on Monday, “I hope you are all not here.” And Lee said she has also gotten reports from Korean-Americans in Michigan of the windows being smashed on Hyundai cars, which are made in Korea.
While these bad acts should pain us, they shouldn’t surprise us. Many Muslim Americans were the targets of hateful acts after the 9/11 attacks. In both cases, the people behind this intolerance are far from rational thinkers.
Anyone who takes out his anger over the shootings at Virginia Tech on people who had nothing to do with that senseless act makes little sense himself. Fearing just such a reaction, South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun has held an emergency Cabinet meeting and several times has offered his condolences to the shooting victims, their families and the American people.
Cho’s family was just as contrite. His uncle told the Associated Press “I sincerely apologize” for his nephew’s killing spree. Cho’s sister, Sun Kyung Cho, also said in a statement that her family “is so very sorry for my brother’s unspeakable actions.” He “has made the world weep,” she said, and her family prays for the “loved ones who are experiencing so much excruciating grief.”
It is this grief, and not the misguided efforts to blame other Korean-Americans for Cho’s crimes, that should move us to action. We need to do more to keep guns out of the hands of those who are mentally deranged — and to see that those who are mentally ill get the treatment they need to keep them and others safe.
“We are as shocked and as grieving as anyone else by his actions,” Lee said of Cho’s shooting rampage. But as troubled as she is by the scattered reports of people blaming other Koreans for what Cho did, Lee doesn’t want her concerns to deflect attention away from those who were killed or wounded. “We should not be considered a victim,” she said. “The victims were at Virginia Tech. But at the same time, we should not be seen as the indirect perpetrators of that attack either.”
Of course not. Seung Hui Cho was a mass murderer. He — and he alone — should be reviled for what happened at Virginia Tech.
DeWayne Wickham writes on Tuesdays for USA TODAY.