[Letter to the editor]Don’t write off Cho as just a crazy guyKorean people’s reaction to Cho Seung-hui’s shooting at Virginia Tech was mainly shock and shame about the fact that he is Korean, plus grief for the dead. For days after the shootings occurred, newspapers, television and the Internet updated us on Cho’s family, school life and mental health. According to numerous articles and reports, Cho’s family moved to the U.S. when he was 8 years old and ran a dry-cleaning center. Cho was extremely quiet as a child and was found “mentally ill and in need of hospitalization” by a Community Services Board. All the aforementioned facts about the shooter became common knowledge for most Koreans. But such personal facts are nothing more than amusing bits of gossip to readers. Moreover, such personal information only induces readers to ascribe the causes of the incident to the individual, which does not help prevent such tragedies.
The killings at Virginia Tech were committed by both Cho Seung-hui and society, especially the American society in which he lived. Cho said on the videotape he sent to NBC, “You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today.” Apparently, Cho resented not a particular individual, but society as a whole, which he viewed as both materialistic and hedonistic. This was similar to You Young-chul, who is serving a life sentence for killing 23 people in Korea. Cho also said, “You have vandalized my heart, raped my soul, and torched my conscience,” revealing the emotional pain caused by estrangement and exclusion. If the members of society remain indifferent to such alienated people, another mass killing by a social outcast is likely to follow those at Columbine High School and Virginia Tech.
U.S. society permitted Cho Seung-hui to buy a gun according to U.S. law, which allows anyone without a criminal record to possess guns. Since the weapon industry and the oil industry are the two pillars that support the U.S. economy, it has become nearly impossible to pass a bill that bans guns in the United States. Even after Columbine, there were debates about banning guns only for a while before the gun lobby silenced every legislator in the country. The only thing that prevented You Young-chul from killing dozens of people at once was Korea’s ban on guns.
The Virginia Tech shootings were not merely a crime committed by a crazy guy, considering the resentment the shooter had for society and the loopholes in the gun control laws. Yes, Cho was at fault. He blamed his misfortune on the people around him and did not seek self-improvement. The important point is that the cause of this tragedy be analyzed in a way that balances personal and social factors. There cannot be an effective solution without analyzing the cause.
Kim Hee-jin, Kyunggi Girls’ High School
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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