More Koreans Rethink Study in US

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More Koreans Rethink Study in US

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By Kim Tong-hyung
Staff Reporter

The senseless tragedy that took the lives of 33 people at Virginia Tech University has some Korean students reconsidering their plans to study at U.S. schools.

After the gunman of the worst massacre in U.S. modern history was identified as 23-year-old Korean-born student Cho Seung-hui, who took his own life during the rampage, there has been an apparent fear among Korean students that the anger toward the killer might bend toward those who share the same ethnic background as him.

Most U.S. media outlets seem to be downplaying the issue of race in their coverage of the incident, focusing more on the issue of gun control.

However, there have been sporadic reports of verbal abuse and threats against Korean and other Asian Americans, according to Korean communities in Virginia and other parts of the U.S.

Cheon Do-sang, a 30-year-old office worker in Seoul, has been studying between working hours in the hope of taking a master of business administration (MBA) course at an American university. Now, he is having second thoughts.

``I am thinking about choosing a school in London instead, where I might have an easier time finding a shorter course with cheaper tuition fees,'' said Cheon, who worries that enmity toward Korean students might develop in U.S. schools.

``I have already applied for a number of schools now, including a U.S. school which had originally been at the top of my list. However, should I be accepted to attend that school in September, it will still be a tough decision for me,'' he said, adding that he might look for other options next year.

Justified or not, Cheon's concerns seem to be shared by a lot of Koreans preparing to study overseas. An official at a consulting agency in Taechi-dong, southern Seoul, which specializes on helping Korean students find foreign schools, said he has been getting numerous calls from students and parents over the safety of studying in the U.S.

The company had recruited 28 middle school students who applied for an exchange student program at a U.S. school, which was to start in July. After the Virginia Tech shootings, however, four students called off their plans to participate, despite already paying 2 million won each as deposit money.

``The problem is bigger for older students or university graduates, who have spent a longer time preparing to study abroad but are now swept by a sense of uncertainty,'' said the company official.

Korean students are hardly the only ones fearing a backlash. The Korea Tourism Organization (KTO) said it pulled its ``Sparkling Korea'' television advertisements on CNN after the shootings.

``It would be inappropriate to air the 30-second ads featuring images of Korea's culture and natural beauty between the news reports of a gun shooting rampage by a Korean-born student,'' said Park Young-kyu, an official at the KTO's branch in New York.

In a more bizarre case, the Kangwon Ilbo, a vernacular daily based in Kangwon Province, printed a series of interviews with government officials to soothe local worries that the Virginia Tech shootings might have a negative effect on local efforts to host the 2014 Winter Olympics at the region's ski resort in PyeongChang.

Critics wonder whether the government is actually worsening the situation through its series of statements and diplomatic gestures after the tragedy, thus making it harder for Korean Americans by drumming up the ethnic issue.

Lee Tae-shik, the Korean ambassador to the U.S., in particular has been under fire from the Korean media after suggesting Korean American Christians fast for 32-days to mourn the 32 people killed in Cho's shooting spree while speaking at a Washington church.

``Why does a Korean diplomat bring up the issue of race in a tragic incident that left more than 30 people killed? That is a totally new level of stupidity,'' said Lee Dong-hun, a 30-year-old Korean law student in Boston.

``The Korean government should pay its condolences to the victims at Virginia Tech as other countries did, not an apology. People like Ambassador Lee might give a very wrong idea to Americans that Koreans only care about protecting their own ethnic group and less about the senseless crime that left so many young lives dead, which is so far from the truth,'' he said.

thkim@koreatimes.co.kr

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Original Source: Korea Times
<a href="http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/nation_view.asp?newsIdx=1317&categoryCode=117
">http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/nation_view.asp?newsIdx=1317&categoryCode=117</a>

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Kim Tong-hyung

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2007-10-09

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Haeyong Chung

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Kim Tong-hyung, "More Koreans Rethink Study in US," in The April 16 Archive, Item #1436, http://www.april16archive.org/items/show/1436 (accessed October 24, 2014).