I searched the Korean news media web sites for the Korean perspective on today’s events. I thought the official response to the massacre at Virginia Tech was tepid at best and tasteless at worst. President Roh Moo-hyun sent his condolences to the families of the 32 victims at Virginia Tech who died at the hands of 23-year-old Korean student and U.S. permanent resident Cho Seung-hui. However, President Roh concluded by urging Americans to show restraint in response to the tragedy. Although I do hope that Americans show restraint and do not rush to judgment in light of today’s revelations about Mr. Cho’s identity, I thought President Roh’s conclusion was in bad form and faith.
I was also dismayed to find that the major left-wing Hankyoreh newspaper neglected to publish any articles or commentary on today’s tragedy. Instead, it chose to complain about the number of slots available to Korean students who want to sit for the TOEFL test, the test required for foreign students to study in the United States. It also published an article on documents released about the U.S.’ alleged involvement in a "civilian massacre." Blow it out your nose, Hanky. You may not be a friend to the United States, but you should be ashamed.
I hope that Americans do not personalize this tragedy and use it to single out Koreans who live, study, or visit the United States. The vast majority are good people, and Koreans should not fear reprecussions because of one man’s actions. However, I am very disappointed by Korea’s public response to this tragedy. For a nation that focuses incessantly on its own public image and is highly sensitive to how it is perceived on the world stage, Korea should know that it needs to handle this tragedy with care and respond appropriately when one of its own commits such an atrocity.