Wednesday, 18 April 2007

Virginia tech shootings

The man who killed 32 people and took his own life in the Virginia tech college shootings was from South Korea.
With this revelation the story has suddenly become more important and relevant to me as I live in South Korea.
Whilst this is undoubtedly a tragic story of a sad person who has committed unspeakable acts, I can’t help but be concerned and curious as to what this revelation will mean for the Korean communities in the US and how Korea will be portrayed in the world and US media. With a recent Korean news article highlighting the negative view of Koreans in Hollywood I wonder how Koreans will be received by the average American on the street.

Cho Seung-hui moved to the US when he was 8 and went to school and college in Virginia. The BBC seemed quick to point out that he was actually from Korea, even though he had lived the majority of his life in the US. Maybe they are just stating the facts but does it really matter where he was from?

The question that should be asked again is what drives these people, usually children to do these things? This is obviously not an isolated incident as shootings in US schools unfortunately seem to be common, since October 1997 there have been 19 school shooting incidents across the US, most resulting in fatalities, they are;

April 2007: At least 32 people are killed in two shooting incidents in the campus of Virginia Tech University in Virginia.

October 2006: A 32-year-old gunman shoots dead at least five girls at an Amish school in Pennsylvania, before killing himself

September 2006: Gunman in Colorado shoots and fatally wounds a teenage schoolgirl, then kills himself; two days later a teenager kills the head teacher of a school in Cazenovia, Wisconsin

November 2005: Student in Tennessee shoots dead an assistant principal and wounds two other administrators

March 2005: Minnesota schoolboy kills nine, then shoots himself

May 2004: Four people injured in shooting at a school in Maryland

April 2003: Teenager shoots dead head-teacher at a Pennsylvania school, then kills himself

March 2001: Pupil opens fire at a school in California, killing two students

February 2000: Six-year-old girl shot dead by classmate in Michigan

November 1999: Thirteen-year-old girl shot dead by a classmate in New Mexico

May 1999: Student injures six pupils in shoot-out in Georgia

April 1999: Two teenagers shoot dead 12 students and a teacher before killing themselves at Columbine School in Colorado

June 1998: Two adults hurt in shooting by teenage student at high school in Virginia

May 1998: Fifteen-year-old boy shoots himself in the head after taking a girl hostage

May 1998: Fifteen-year-old shoots dead two students in school cafeteria in Oregon

April 1998: Fourteen-year-old shoots dead a teacher and wounds two students in Pennsylvania

March 1998: Two boys, 11 and 13, kill four girls and a teacher in Arkansas

December 1997: Fourteen-year-old boy kills three students in Kentucky

October 1997: Sixteen-year-old boy stabs mother, then shoots dead two students at school in Mississippi, injuring several others

The same arguments will be brought up by the same people; some will say it is the proliferation of violent computer games, some will say it is the ease with which you can buy a gun in the US and others will have their own theories.

As a young Korean man who lived in the country of his birth for 8 years I would imagine that he had a real grounding in the Confucian style adopted by Korean society and all the pleasures and pressures that come with it.

It has often been said that the suicide rate is high in Korea due mainly to the amount of pressure put on students to succeed academically by their parents and their peers. Im sure this will all come to light over the next few days as will the fact that Koreans seems to have, at times an unhealthy appetite for computer games, you can walk into a PC bang and see people of all ages playing online games for hours on end, but then you can see it in houses all over the world too.

I think that in the nature versus nurture debate, each side has its merits but I know people who have unhealthy obsessions with all sorts of things but they don’t commit acts like this and if guns are so freely available in the US why aren’t there more incidents? I have to say that I think the single, most important factor in a child’s life is the influence of the parents and as a result parenting techniques or lack of may need to be looked at when examining the causes of these kinds of events. Im sure there are many causes for this kind of behaviour and I am sure that there isn’t a single one that is solely responsible, more like a combination of factors and I hope a single factor isn’t blamed although im sure it will be by some fanatic/pressure groups.

We will have to wait and see the reaction to this in Korea and the US but I hope the reaction is to the tragedy and the reasons why it happened rather than to try to assign blame and use this tragic incident as an excuse for xenophobic retaliation.

1 comment:

chris parfitt said...

Only just read your article mate and I'm sure you will already know as to which direction I will go. This was an extremely sad incident and one which should never happen again, but haven't we heard this all before?? why has this happened AGAIN?? It seems that not a year passes without equally horific tragedies taking place in the USA but nothing is done to prevent these attrocities. George 'Dubbya' is quick to say how saddened he is and that all America's prayers are with the families. It's time to wake up, prayers don't save lives.....they save souls (if you're inclined to believe in such a thing)which is a little too late, dont you think!! For me this is an insult to the families of those involved in the Virginia Tech shootings and every other incident involving firearms in the good ol US of A!
Why do the US government think that every American has the right to bear arms? Surley this 'right' was ok in the 19th Century but in todays modern society? Are Americans taking their rights a little too seriously here. American's were quite happy to let the Patriot Act fly through congress allowing the government access to everything they do just incase you're not red,white and blue through and through, but hell no, american voices in unicen 'you aint taking MY GUN'!!!
I suppose this is a bit of a tirade but is not directed at every US citizen, I have many friends from the States who are all very liberal thinking, intelligent people who would never dream of owning let alone pulling the trigger, but you're right Rob, how can Korean society and beliefs have had such a sufficient impact to create the mindset of a mass murder in his first 8 years on this planet? Surely America must finally look inwards at it's own society and start looking at it's gun culture and the absurd NRA(I know they're the land of the free but would thye allow such an organisation to exist in Iraq or Afghanistan?? Didn't think so)and not pick on the easy targets such as musicians and computer games(much of the world listens to the same music and has the same video games but does not have any where near the same amount of gun crime, surley they can see that!!!) I'm sure that some form of media or culture will bare the blame for this horror and that the ease in which one can access a gun in America will have nothing to with it!! But sadly, I feel another such incident in America is only just around the corner, the only thing we're unsure of is who will carry the can this time, because it will not be the government!

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