How Koreans can helpA Korean-American student went on a shooting spree at a peaceful university in Virginia. A total of 33 people were killed. We pay tribute to those killed and wounded, their bereaved families and the country beyond the level of our alliance with the United States. The background is that a loner Korean immigrant, who had an antisocial character, committed a heinous crime. At the moment, no conspirators and accessories have been found. It may be said that this case would not have happened if people were not allowed to carry guns in the United States, no matter how much he got infuriated. However, the gravity of this case is huge. Even if the motive is personal, the spectacular crime is having serious and far-reaching consequences. We are scrambling to express condolences to the country even though Korea and its people have no responsibility for it. President Roh Moo-hyun issued statements of condolences to the country three times and made a call of condolence to President George W. Bush. Presidential candidates offered a silent tribute and military leaders sent a letter of solace to U.S. commanders stationed in Korea. The general public is also expressing its consolation and sorrow through the Internet.
The first thing that the two countries should do is recognize the sheer shock and distress of 2.5 million Korean Americans and students in the United States. Koreans may feel distressed in the same way as Arab-Americans felt after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. We hope that the U.S. government and citizens will embrace Koreans there.
The tragedy happened when the level of the alliance between the two countries has been elevated thanks to the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement and talks on the visa exemption. Both governments and their legislators should address this issue in a calm and mature way to prevent this case from having a negative impact on those important tasks.
The most effective helping hands to appease the terrible wounds will be from Koreans living in the United States. Koreans should display their strong willingness to share the sorrow, take mental responsibility and heal the wounds together with the United States. They should offer prayers, plan memorials and scholarship projects, and take measures to prevent this from ever happening again. They should roll up their sleeves to volunteer in the region where they live.
If both governments and Korean- Americans share thoughts and wisdom, then the 33 fallen flowers will serve as a precious tribute in fostering mutual relations.