Archive for May 28th, 2007

VT Students in Seoul: Making it an issue

Newsis reports on the arrival [Kr] of 18 students from Virginia Tech at Incheon International Airport today – they will be in Korea for a month studying Korean language and culture.

Though I try not to be cynical, my question is this: why is this newsworthy?

While many Koreans seem oddly fascinated at the idea that foreigners would want to come to their country, this appears to be a decidedly different situation. Though not overt, the statement read between the lines of this short article is pretty clear: “Look! They haven’t stereotyped us! Even after what happened!”

But making an issue out of VT students *still* wanting to go learn about Korean culture seems a continuation of South Korea’s strange apology for Seung-hui Cho’s murderous rampage. By making this “news” there is the subtle implication that there ever existed a legitimate reason for these students to forsake learning about Korea.

I’m not so naive as to believe there was no significant backlash against the Korean-American community following the VT shootings (I heard from friends who experienced this firsthand). However, those who lashed out showed neither character nor any semblance of cultural competency.

News media bear a significant responsibility in shaping public understanding, and this kind of coverage only furthers the invalid association between Korean society and Seung-hui Cho.

There is no issue here – there is no legitimate reason for VT students to have ever forsaken Korea. Indeed, the real news would be if college-educated students let ignorance and fear stand in the way of their cultural enrichment.

Photo taken from Newsis @ Naver News


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