After VT, Koreans prepare for backlash


After VT, Koreans prepare for backlash


By: Hannah McBride and Andrea Rodi
Posted: 4/25/07
Acknowledging cultural repercussions of last week's Virginia Tech shootings, Koreans at Boston University said they have been facing racial pressures as details have emerged about the killer, who came to the United States from South Korea when he was a child.

Although Koreans -- whose culture traditionally values community support -- initially did not know how to react to the Virginia Tech shootings, many agree they should not feel responsible for the actions of Virginia Tech senior Cho Seung-Hui and should not fear persecution when expressing their culture, said BU Korean Student Association Secretary Clara Pyo.

"Because it wasn't racism-driven, personally, we can be sorry that it happened, but we shouldn't feel responsible," she said.

Almost immediately after Cho shot and killed 27 students and five teachers before killing himself on the Blacksburg, Va. campus April 16, many Korean organizations -- in the United States and overseas -- prepared for racial backlash against them. Members of BU Asian groups say they have not received a backlash from their peers, and the shootings are not a reflection of their culture.

Nevertheless, KSA discussed taking extra precautions before its Korean cultural show, "Lost in Translation," on Saturday. Officers considered postponing the show, and the Student Activities Office offered to bolster security for it, but the group decided to continue with almost no changes.

"We didn't know if we should be afraid or if we should celebrate [our heritage]," said Pyo, a School of Education sophomore, "but we decided that if there was any hostility against us, we didn't want to be swayed by the incident."

In the wake of the shootings, the media can affect Americans' perceptions of Asians, said BU Asian Student Union President Lisa Tobari.

"[Media portrayal] impacts the way you behave and the way you see yourself," the College of Communication junior said. "[However,] the fact that [Cho] is Asian . . . hasn't really affected our identities as Asian people living in America."

In following traditional Korean values of taking responsibility in the community, some natives have taken the shootings personally and feel dismayed by them, Pyo said.

"It's not our job to apologize for his actions as Koreans," she said. "Not to say it wasn't a big deal, but we had nothing to do with it."

The Virginia Tech shootings are another point in history when a specific group of people felt at risk for racial discrimination in association with violence, said New England Korean News Editor-in-Chief Andy Min, who referenced the 1991 Rodney King incident, in which the black New York taxi driver was beaten by three white police officers and a Hispanic officer, sparking race riots.

"Some people worry that we're going to get hurt from other people because we're Korean and the killer was Korean," Min said.

For Korean immigrants like Cho, an American upbringing can conflict with Asian culture, which may leave children confused and isolated, Min said.

"The children don't know why they came," he said. "There's a trauma and a breakdown between where they came from and what they're adjusting to."

Trying to honor both American and Korean cultures in shows like "Lost in Translation," one of KSA's goals is to reconcile dual-heritage conflicts, Pyo said.

"[Korean Americans] have the struggle of being appreciative of Korean heritage and being Americanized," she said. "[The show is] mixing Korean heritage with what we have experienced growing up here."

Cultural student groups and other students have the responsibility to foster a sense of community for isolated students to avoid situations like the Virginia Tech shootings, Pyo said.

"Anyone that feels alone or alienated needs to find a group to join for community," she said. "I think that was really missing with [Cho]."


Original Source:<a href=>The Daily Free Press - April 25, 2007</a>


Hannah McBride and Andrea Rodi


The Daily Free Press




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Hannah McBride and Andrea Rodi, “After VT, Koreans prepare for backlash,” The April 16 Archive, accessed January 22, 2020,