Can't stick it on Korea


Can't stick it on Korea


By Zhang Xin
[ 2007-04-24 15:42 ]

Last week, in the immediate aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings, some people apparently tried to stick it on Korea, or China, or Asia in general, all on the strength of such weak arguments that Cho Seung-Hui was an immigrant from Korea, that he was sometimes (mis)taken as Chinese, or that he's Asian-looking.

I read somewhere that a Korean retorted, quite correctly, that Cho left South Korea at the age of eight and spent most of his formative years in the States so they can't possibly stick it on Korea. Cho, who killed 33 people including himself on Virginia Tech campus on Monday, April 16, 2007, was 23.

Likewise, you can't stick it on China. At least once Cho was mistaken as Chinese. "In high school, Cho Seung-Hui almost never opened his mouth. When he finally did, his classmates laughed, pointed at him and said: 'Go back to China.'" (Va. Tech shooter a 'textbook killer', Associated Press, April 19, 2007).

Nor can you pin it on Asia. After all, almost all East Asians look the same to the less discerning American eye.

Whom do we stick it onto, then?

If I have to assign blame, I will stick it first on Cho, obviously, then on gun control or the lacks thereof in America, then on pop culture and on society at large.

I, for one, believe it is not as far-fetched to blame it on society at large than on a specific target such as Korea. Society at large, you see, both yonder across the oceans and here in this country looks too much up to what is called success but has too little respect for and tolerance of what is considered to be failure. I mean, only by contrast do we tell success from failure. So theoretically for society as a whole, these two are equally important - we should therefore reserve a degree of respect for those who fail, who come up short but also run.

School bullies, for example, pick on practically anyone who's not regarded as "one of us". You may get glared at, jeered and sneered at for one of these perfectly harmless "crimes" - that you come from another country (or another province for that manner), that you don't get ushered to school by a sedan car, that you speak a non-local dialect, that you have an odd accent, that you have a physical disability or simply a harelip, that you have a mental problem.... The list goes on and on.

In the mainstream society of one-upmanship, pop culture craves for bringing up heroes (American Idol, or the Super Girl in China) and in the process create as a by product victims and villains, of whom Cho is but a latest and most disturbing example.

No doubt, blaming it on society at large is in vain. Cho himself tried to do it, and what consequences did he come to? Cho argued in his manifesto, sent to the NBC in between the murders, that he was out to avenge rich "brats" with had their "Mercedes", "gold necklaces", "cognac" and "trust funds". But he had no argument, really - none of the above justifies the shootings.

But, as a lesson, we as individuals need to be constantly reminded of the social callousness we often displays toward the weak and underprivileged.

In the same time society advocates winning, it'd best advocate also tolerance and understanding towards losing. By all means win, but please maintain a healthy respect for those who fall behind.

It's called "live and let live". In this age of wealth and profligacy in many places, we instead may advocate "thrive but let survive".



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Zhang Xin




Na Mi




Zhang Xin , “Can't stick it on Korea,” The April 16 Archive, accessed June 22, 2024,