Monday, April 23, 2007

I'm a hypocrite...

I hate feeding into and being a part of whatever ridiculously over-covered, over-analyzed story is the mass media flavor of the day (and especially part of the ignorance and (over)reaction that is almost always part of the inevitable initial media blitz). In this case, I'm referencing the unfortunate situation at Virginia Tech.
However, as the title of this post implies, I'm going to be a bit of a hypocrite because I came across something that seemed relevant to the discussion we had about the idea of Koreans as members of one nation/community (t'ongil minjok) vs. the perception that groups, in our case, again, Koreans, claim successful members of their community as their own while at the same time disowning those who don't distinguish themselves and, by association, the group. (I'm not saying this is a strictly Korean trait, I'm simply referencing our discussion).
I've been trying to avoid hearing about the whole ordeal, so when a friend sent this across, I had one finger on the delete button (by far my favorite button) as I was expecting to be assaulted with another nauseating dissection of Cho's dorm room, his diet, how long he took to shower, whether or not he slept on his back or his stomach, whether he liked ketchup on his fries, preferred pepsi to coke, etc.

Yet, this Time/CNN piece by Jennifer Veale (Seoul), although it still made me feel uncomfortable that some reporter was trolling around Korea and bothering an 85 year old woman (Cho's great-aunt, Kim Yang Sooon), had a few quotes that gave me pause.
  • Upon finding out that the shooter was Korean and a family member: "I can't describe my emotions...We don't even have any divorces in our family and everyone's sons and daughters obey their parents."
  • On the act itself and having brought such shame to her family: "In our family the children don't insult their parents..."I don't know how he could do this to his parents. I also feel terrible for the victim's families."
  • On the prospect of Cho's parents returning to Korea: "It would it would be too difficult for them if they returned here as this is a small country and Koreans are very gossipy...We wouldn't let them return and would even try and block them if they tried."
  • After saying she would have rather the neighbors didn't know, Kim adds, "After killing so many people, it is good he committed suicide."
There could be so many things at work here...translation issues, what questions were asked, the way the questions were asked, informational gaps, differences in sentiment/expression, a generation gap, etc. Nevertheless, the tone of the last two quotes really bothered me because of the certainty expressed, and, to be honest, the sentiment as well. Block them from coming back? It's good Cho killed himself?
Without judging, it just seemed a little harsh. Not that one can reconstruct a person or their values by analyzing a few truncated quotes, but I thought you all might find them interesting in light of our conversation, as I did...if only as something to reflect upon for a second.

1 comment:

Erin Robinson said...

This is a little similar to that... I was talking to my Chinese tutor (she asked me to describe what had happened in Chinese) and she seemed to think that the sister would be fired (should be fired?) and was surprised when I vehemently told her that that was illegal, and the government couldn't fire her for that.
She also seemed to think that the family would be deported, but I told her that unless they themselves had committed illegal activities, they really couldn't be.
I'm not entirely sure on the legalities, but I'm pretty sure I'm correct in this assessment. It just struck me as odd that my tutor (from Guangdong province in southern China) was convinced that the family had done something wrong, and could be fired or deported for their activities.