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The crimes of Cho Seung-hui have sent a shudder through

South Korean society.



JoongAng Daily, South Korea

The Legacy of Cho Seung-hui: America's Lesson to Koreans


"Cho's rampage reinforced Americans in the spirit of their founding fathers. For Koreans, the event must also serve as an opportunity to escape our own brand of nationalism."


By Kim Gi-bong


April 25, 2007


South Korea - JoongAng Daily - Original Article (English)

Cho Seung-hui, a student at Virginia Tech in the U.S., was the perpetrator of what is - for now - America's worst mass shooting.


When he was eight, Cho immigrated to the United States with his family and was educated there. He was a member of the "1.5 generation," which means he was born in Korea but raised in America.


When it was discovered that the gunman was from a Korean family, the Korean government tried to send a delegation to offer condolences, but the U.S. State Department declined. They said their decision was based on the fact that America is a multi-ethnic country, and as such would be uncomfortable having representatives of another government take an ethnic approach to the shooting.


While the Korean government and most Koreans regard Cho as a Korean, the U.S. government and its people think of him as American.


This disconnect stems from different concepts of nationhood, which were formed through the different histories of the two countries. Like its motto "E Pluribus Unum" which is on the Great Seal of the United States, the country is a melting pot of immigrants from around the world.


It would go against what America stands for if the country were to refute its racial mix just because a small impurity had dripped into the melting pot. If Americans were to define Cho as a Korean and let the seed of racism sprout, their nation could be doomed to suffer more conflict and hatred.


With this in mind, the U.S. government and media have chosen to view this violent act as a crime committed by an individual and use it as a reason to review its policies on gun control.


Written by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence espouses universal values such as the right to life, liberty and happiness. The Declaration starts with, "We the People," which shows the United States is a community that embraces all of its citizens.


Such noble ideals have a dark side, however, that can breed monsters like Cho. His shooting spree was a byproduct of America's past and Constitution, which embraced the right to possess guns. The violence has left Americans with questions about how to remove this dark shadow of history. But for Koreans, the killings provide a mirror for reflecting on themselves. Americans have the time bomb of racism; but Koreans have the curse of nationalism.


On the one side, Koreans chant slogans about how we must open our doors if we are to survive, as they did when the Free Trade deal with the U.S. was signed. On the other, however, Koreans still maintain a closed consciousness.


Now is the time to open our minds, and not just to trade. Unless we remove the deep-rooted nationalism in our hearts, our efforts to open society to greater prosperity through initiatives like the Free Trade Agreement will amount to nothing.


Korea must become an increasingly flexible and multi-ethnic society. In the past, official Korean history books concealed the fact that Korea is a multi-ethnic society. We were taught that we are all descendants of Dangun , the mythical founding father of Korea.


But with the exception of a few that originated from the Silla kingdom , such as the Kims, Parks and Chois - when we look at our family genealogies, most Koreans see that their roots began in China.


But rather than addressing this discrepancy between official history and our genealogies, we instead lead lives of schizophrenia.


We treated Hines Ward as a hero who exuded all of the great Korean traits. But before he became an NFL football star, he was seen as one of the "mixed-blood children" that we Koreans are so ashamed of.


We must now adopt an attitude of post-nationalism. By this I don't mean anti-nationalism, but rather a transcendence of nationalism as a prerequisite to opening up our society.


Recently, the Ministry of Justice decided to grant residence permits to four people from Mongolia who - while in the country illegally - saved 11 Koreans from a fire. Our society betters itself by embracing other types of individuals - even more so than when we emulate celebrities like Hines Ward.


History textbooks in the United States begin by pointing out that Americans have worked for freedom and equality throughout their history. Americans are a people who have learned how to realize the spirit of their Constitution, where "all men are created equal."


Cho's rampage reinforced Americans in the spirit of their founding fathers. For Koreans, the event must also serve as an opportunity to escape our own brand of nationalism.


*The writer is a professor of history at Kyonggi University.
























South Koreans are concerned that there will be an ant-Korean racial backlash, after the dicovery that the man who committed mass murder at Virginia Tech was Korean. Above, South Koreans pay silent tribute to the victims of the shootings near the U.S. Embassy in Seoul, April 18.

—BBC NEWS VIDEO: Before committing his desperate crime, mass murderer Cho Seung-Hui made a video as part of his 'Manifesto,' Apr. 19, 00:02:04RealVideo

RealVideo[LATEST NEWS PHOTOS: People in South Korea Grieve].

South Koreans hold a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre in front of Seoul City Hall, April 18.

South Korean Christians pray during a service for the victims of the Virginia Tech massacre, at a church in Seoul, April 19.

Christians walk toward the U.S. Embassy in Seoul with a wooden box containing memorial messages for the victims of the Virginia Tech shootings, Apr. 25.

'Two Koreans toasting their country's successful bid to host the 2014 Asian Games are interrupted by bullets from the shooting rampage at Virginia Tech University, after the shooter was identified as Korean-American Cho Seung-hui.' [Chosun Ilbo, South Korea]

'A rich man parks his Mercedes and uses a less-expensive car, after Cho Seung-hui, the gunman who killed 32 people in a shooting rampage at Virginia Tech University, said, 'Your Mercedes wasn't enough, you brats,' in a recorded video he mailed to the American media.'

[JoongAnd Daily, South Korea]

'A U.S. war correspondent, reporting from the scene at Virginia Tech, says, 'I am in Iraq.'

[JoongAnd Daily, South Korea].