[LETTER TO THE EDITOR]Hyperviolent KoreaAll the editorials, commentary and opions expressed in this newspaper from a wide range of writers about the tragic shooting of eight soldiers on June 19 seem to miss the point entirely. Over and over again, I read that it was the stringent and unbearable rules and requirements of the military that helped provoke the young soldier to shoot his comrades.
Are we really to believe that a man kills simply because of some verbal abuse in the barracks? The problem is much deeper than that. It lies within Korean society itself, and the violence prevalent in everyday living here.
I do not mean the type of violence associated with the United States ―that is, gun violence. I mean verbal and physical violence, which, having lived in Korea for 10 years, I see on a daily basis.
The verbal violence in schools and hagwans, of kids against kids and teachers towards kids. Verbal violence between spouses, often on the streets. And from parents towards kids. All of it is constant, demeaning, belittling and degrading.
Then there is the physical volence: again, kids against kids, pushing, shoving and hitting on a daily basis. And teachers towards kids: physically striking, often hard, with sticks on the feet, hands, head and backside. Kids either feel or see the sting of the rod in the classroom daily, from elementary school right through high school.
Then there is spousal violence: man against woman, pushing, hitting, threatening, which I also see regularly here. And witness the millions of Koreans who play violent video games daily.
And all the rallies and demonstrations where pushing, shoving and hitting riot policeman is the norm. And the politicians.
The problem is, violence has such a long history in Korea, and is so accepted as normal, that most Koreans are totally desensitized to it and cannot even see what a hyper-violent society this is.
Please don’t tell me that this soldier snapped because of verbal abuse from a military commander. As is evident from all the recent commentary, people here do not recognize that the most likely root of this man’s problems was that he lived in one the most violent societies in the world.
by Mark Dake