A Pinkberry recently opened in Long Beach, so last night my husband and I decided to see what all the fuss is about. Pinkberry is a frozen-yogurt chain started by a young Korean-American woman in Los Angeles. It's been phenomenally successful, and now stores are popping up all over Southern California. The concept is based on a similar chain in Korea, called Red Mango.
The store's design is strikingly clean and modern, and the customers on the day we went were mostly young Asian-American hipsters. The frozen yogurt is light and tart, more like plain yogurt from the supermarket than the ice-cream-like yogurt at TCBY. We shared a medium, with blackberries, raspberries, and kiwi. I liked the sharp contrast between the tangy yogurt and the ripe sweetness of the fruit. It was so good that we've been talking about it all day, and I have a feeling we'll be back before the weekend's over.
Have you noticed the lengths Koreans will go to stay healthy? If it's not ginseng extracts, juices, dried roots, beer, tea, whatnot, it's some other herbal or exotic animal parts that need to be ingested. There's a saying, roughly translated and paraphrased, "If you ate well, at least you'll be a good looking ghost if you die after eating."
Who says things like that? Who says that to a young picky-eater?
In Korean (and other Confucian-derived value system) culture, there is
the concept of oori, which is a word that translates
more or less into "us" or "ours". It permeates Korean societal
order and dictates family roles and responsibilities. Often when one refers to her parents, she would say oori um-ma, oori ap-pa, "our mom", "our dad" instead of "my mom", "my dad", because no one singularly owns any relationship. We all belong to one another. Oori guides the actions of the community, government
policies and even the way businesses are financed and run. It stresses
loyalty, putting family first, coming together to help bring everyone up, truly leaving no one behind to fend for themselves
if you can help it. It means that if you feel happiness, everyone shares in that joy. And if you experience a setback, you are not left to get through it alone. But it can also mean if the ship is sinking, we don't go outside of our tight-knit circle for help - at least not voluntarily - even if it means we're all
going down with it (think Korean chaebol banking scandal in the '90s). While I've grown up in the U.S.,
in the Midwest no less, and I believe in personal responsibility and being
in control of one's own success or failure, I've
never been able to escape the pull of oori. Even
when oori has let me down, I still return to it with
hope of finding ... something.
I'm trying now, several days after the fact, to put together my thoughts about the Virginia Tech massacre. I can tell from our stats that just by the very nature that many of us here are Korean or have ties to Korean culture that people are interested in hearing what we have to say for whatever it's worth.
People are also interested in coming here to spew ignorant, racist remarks, and that is why, after much deliberation, we have decided to turn comments on for moderation (a practice I personally despise).
My fellow Kimchi Mamas and our commenters have been much more thoughtful on this subject than I can be right now. Right now what I feel most is anger.
Every time I see Seung Hui Cho's face on my computer or on my TV I want to smash it in. I am full of rage. As Koreans (or part Koreans) we can spend all day worrying about how the media is representing Cho or if his actions mean that there will be a backlash against Koreans, but the fact of the matter is: he was a disturbed, contemptuous, cold-hearted psychopath. And there already is backlash against Koreans.
At this point, I don't fucking care how he is represented or, to a lesser extent, what that means for Koreans. We won't be able to control the actions of a group of ignorant racists. For me, it's not about him or us anymore. Anyone that can't see the larger picture that this heinous massacre of beautiful, innocent souls was carried out by a seriously psychotic person—regardless of his ethnicity—has bigger issues to deal with.
Every culture, race, ethnic group knows evil. We are not immune.
Let's talk about the fact that he was a "known quantity." Who was there to help him?
Let's talk about the fact that the police knew about him two years ago when he was harrassing women at VT? Who dropped the ball there?
Let's talk about the fact that the gun shop owner just can't believe that guns bought as his shop were used to commit the crime. That's par for the course for a gun dealer, right? Oh, well!!!
Let's talk about mental health.
Let's talk about gun control.
Let's talk about the 33 people who are now only memories for the people who loved and knew them.
Let's not talk about him being Korean anymore.
Seung Hui Cho, I don't really care if you are an FOB, an naturalized citizen, "an international student," a Korean, or an American. Something was very wrong with you and you wanted to die. Your way out of the pain was to get back at those you thought were hurting you. I just can't understand why you needed so many other people to feel your pain.
My heart goes out to everyone involved in this tragedy. It's a sad time not just for Koreans, but for everyone.
Not too long ago, when this story came out, my heart sank... despite the fact that we hear sordid stories of child neglect all the time, despite the fact that, during the same week, we were hearing about other neglectful white parents leaving their children in their vehicles in subzero temperatures, I was apologetic to Papa Nabi about this Korean dad who gambled while his toddler son was left in their car on a cold Minnesota winter night.
When I first heard about the Virginia Tech murders I was driving
home from work and at that time there was not information about who the
shooter was. My first thought was what a sad and senseless tragedy this
was, and all I wanted to do was go home and hug my kids.
The next morning I found out the killer was Korean and the first thought I had was, Every Asian man in the United States must be terrified right now. And the second thought was When will the retaliation begin?
It didn't take long, as it turns out. As I'm finding more out, there
are a lot of questions and concerns that I have, as well as the rest of
the world. But many of my questions are going to be different as a
fellow Korean living in the United States.
For example, how do I write this post?
Of course, I want to extend my condolences to the victims and families of
this terrible tragedy. No person should have to face this kind of senseless loss.
Do I leave out my critique of how the media is overemphasizing his
race and residence status? Because this man has been living here since
he was 8, he is likely more "Americanized" than "Korean" in a cultural
sense. Yet the media continues to present him as a "foreigner" and as
an "international student." Is this another way for the U.S. media to
hype those who commit the most violent acts as "foreigners" i.e. the
The news coverage about the massacre at Virginia Tech has kept me on edge over the past 24 hours. And now, as more details about the gunman emerge, I am upset on many different levels.
Yes, I'm in pain thinking about the families and friends, Seung-Hui's family, and the members of the Virginia Tech community.
But with each subsequent news report that I read, the knot in my stomach is growing. Multiplesources have confirmed that Cho Seung-Hui immigrated to the US in 1992, and was from Centreville, VA. He is constantly referred to as "The South Korean" gunman and a "resident alien or green-card holder." In my opinion, he is being painted as an international student, but he lived in the US for 15 years!! In my opinion, he's American. Maybe he's not a citizen, but it sure sounds like he grew up in the US, went to school in the US, is just as much a product of our American culture as any thing else.
It is interesting that his name is being printed in a more traditional Korean way - family name first. I wonder what is behind all of this, how ideas about who is American will enter in to this.
What have other people read or heard about this? What are your reactions to what you've seen or heard?
UPDATE: Here are some other relevant links. Please feel free to share your own below.