[Letter to the editor]Each of us abroad is the face of KoreaI was at my after-school academy when a teacher mentioned something about a shooting in Virginia. At the time I didn’t think much of it. It wasn’t until after I got home that I realized the seriousness of the situation.
As soon as I got on the Web, the words loomed huge before me: “The killer was a South Korean.” I was absolutely speechless. I clicked on reports about the “Virginia Massacre.”
The killer was described as a South Korean student attending a Virginia university. From all appearances, he was described as strange, a loner, as if this could possibly explain why he committed such a terrible act.
I thought for sure that he was a student who was studying abroad for a few years, but to my shock, it turned out that he had immigrated to the United States as a boy in second grade. Living in the States since the second grade would mean that he was almost American ― he would have spoken the language fluently. It would also mean that he was accustomed to American culture.
Having myself lived in the United States for 10 years, I think I am very familiar with American culture. I know from experience that no American is intentionally cruel to a foreigner, or a fellow citizen, based on that person’s race. Of course, there are some racists, some awful people, but they are out of the ordinary. There are people like that no matter where you go.
Some may blame people at the university for the killer’s actions, saying it was their fault for discriminating against the killer. However, considering the killer’s circumstances and my image of most Americans, the fact that he was a loner cannot be an excuse for the mass killing. There must have been something wrong with his personality, something that made him isolated from others. Whatever his reasons for the killings, it is very obvious that he was not thinking of his home country.
Koreans are minorities in America. It doesn’t matter how long you have lived there, or even if you were born there. Nothing can replace the fact that your skin is different. Therefore, Koreans should be twice as careful when they are there.
As a result of the killer’s actions, Koreans are starting to receive negative attention. There have been rumors that students of Virginia Tech University are telling Koreans to stop attending school for a while or even worse, to go back to their own country. These remarks may sound harsh, but try to think if you were in their shoes. To them, we all look the same. Most people cannot tell the difference between Chinese and Koreans; how do you expect them to tell good Koreans apart from bad ones?
My mom always told me to be cautious about my behavior, especially in public, because my face represents my home country. At first I didn’t understand her. How could I, one person, represent a whole nation? Now, as a mature high school senior, I have fully come to understand my mother’s words. Whether you like it or not, when you go to a place where you are the minority, it is by your actions that people judge your country. One act may be what decides whether a country will be looked upon with respect and admiration or viewed with hate and resentment.
I’m sorry this is too long. I was just so shocked at what happened, and I had a lot of things to say. Thank you for taking your time to read my opinion. I hope that it gets published so that others may also be able to consider different sides of this massacre.
GiHie Lydia Che,
a senior at Chungshin Girls High School, Seoul
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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