[Outlook]Sifting through the ashes

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[Outlook]Sifting through the ashes

‘Schizo kids” means kids who suffer from schizophrenia and need to undergo psychiatric treatment. However, in the philosophical school of post-modernism, the term “schizo kids” refers to youngsters who lead nomadic lives and refuse to settle down.
They linger on the fringes of society and distance themselves from sources of authority such as family, school and church.
Cho Seung-hui, who stunned the world by killing 32 people at Virginia Tech University, seems to be an extreme example of a schizo kid in the post-modern sense.
He is the “1.5 generation” Korean-American who emigrated to the United States. It’s possible he suffered from an identity crisis, being a Korean soul dwelling in what he saw as an American purgatory.
His parents, busy building a new life, may not have had enough time to help ease the stress he suffered as he struggled to adapt to an unfamiliar life in the United States.
The memos and video clips that he sent to NBC Television in New York show that he barricaded himself inside his own mind, and in its dark corners he saw phantoms that urged him to despise rich people and attractive women.
We cannot say if his schizophrenic character pushed him to mass murder, and we don’t know how his mind was poisoned. It’s too late to help Cho Seung-hui. All we can do is examine his case like a family returning to a burnt-out home, anxious to see if they can salvage something from the ashes.
What lessons can we learn from this tragedy? How can we recover the damage done to our national image? What should parents teach their children? How can we protect Korean-Americans who may be blamed for the carnage caused by Cho?
The most immediate victims are those killed and wounded and the families who lost their loved ones. We grieve for them and offer our condolences.
Then there are Korean immigrants who live in the United States, and Korea as a whole. Both have suffered from Cho’s actions, although many American citizens have demonstrated great maturity by refusing to associate this tragedy with Koreans in general.
Most have seen Cho’s actions as the insanity of a single individual, and they have refused to condemn an entire race because one of their number turned into a monster.
However, some Americans do not always think in a reasonable way. In the future, where Americans find themselves in a quarrel with Koreans over trifles, some might speak abusively, citing the Virginia Tech incident.
That is why parents in Korea called their children at universities in the U.S. and told them not get involved in disputes with Americans. And Korean-Americans are exercising caution in their words and behavior. In the wake of this horror it is more necessary than ever that Korean parents, including Korean-American families, monitor their kids closely so they do not follow Cho down into hell.
Teenagers who mob the homes or rehearsal rooms of popular entertainers and offer their idols ecstatic adulation should be watched with extra care.
According to an argument developed by the post-modern French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, young nomads in a big city are the frontrunners of a cultural revolution that will liberate those individuals who are oppressed by capitalism.
However, we are happy to let Western intellectuals enjoy the merits of the nomadic lives of their offspring. We would rather concentrate on protecting our kids from evil.
The Blacksburg killings were so apocalyptic that world leaders, including the Pope, expressed their condolences and every media outlet on Earth had the incident at the top of their news programs.
It is inevitable that, for now, Korea’s image has been damaged.
Recently the image of Korea has been burnished by brilliant youngsters like the figure skater Kim Yu-na, swimmer Park Tae-hwan, soccer player Park Ji-sung, baseball player Lee Seung-yeop, ballerina Kang Sue-jin, conductor Chung Myong-hoon, the pop singer Rain and the movie star Bae Yong-jun.
To rely on the passage of time to repair Korea’s image is too passive an approach. It is necessary to develop civil and cultural diplomatic initiatives that our young stars could lead.
It is not our job to help America cope with its tragedy. Our task is to make sure we never have one of our own, and to ensure that the world sees Koreans for what we are, a people devoted to peace and adverse to bloodshed.

*The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Kim Young-hie
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