I still remember the bodies of the slain laying in a neat row under yellow police tarps on a grassy median in front of Oikos University. They were nursing students and an employee of the Korean Christian-based school in Oakland whose lives had been snuffed out in an instant by a former student with a gun.
Before the theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., and the elementary school slaughter in Newtown, Conn., we had our Bay Area version of the national mass shooting madness. Six people who were studying to be nurses and one school employee were fatally shot.
In January, an Alameda County Superior Court judge found the accused shooter One Goh, a Korean immigrant who is a naturalized citizen, mentally incompetent to stand trial.
Tuesday will mark the anniversary of this tragedy. As the victims' families and the Bay Area community remembers those who lost their lives, we ask ourselves again as we did on that fateful Monday morning, why? What would possess someone to commit such a horrific act? School administrators have said that Goh, a former nursing student, had previously clashed with administrators when the school would not refund his tuition after he dropped out.
A magazine article in The New York Times published to coincide with the timing of the anniversary of the killings, offers another explanation for what may have helped trigger Goh's violent behavior. Jay Caspian Kang interviewed Goh at Santa Rita Jail a week after the Oikos shootings. In "The Other School Shooting" (Read it here: http://nyti.ms/10kWwGC) Kang -- himself a Korean immigrant -- suggests that Goh's traditional Korean upbringing could have helped cause the rage that eventually erupted, leading to the Oikos killings.
According to Kang, large numbers of people in Korea feel a hopeless sense of despair and anger at the injustices of the world that they keep repressed. It so often leads to violence -- against others or self that there's a name in Korean for this cultural anger. They call it han and hwabyung, a clinically diagnosed mental illness.
Kang argues that it may have helped push Goh over the edge as well as Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech shooter. Cho, who was a Korean immigrant, fatally shot 32 people and wounded 17 others on a two-hour rampage on the university campus before committing suicide.
The New York Times writer is not the first to link the two Korean mass shooters and suggest that their culture may have been a violence trigger. After the Oikos shootings, Winston Chung, a Bay Area psychiatrist wrote a blog post "Korean Rage: Stereotype or Real Issue" (Read it here: http://bit.ly/I0meIG) suggesting that hwabyung -- which means literally "fire anger" -- may have been a factor in both massacres.
"Individuals from any race, culture, gender or creed are capable of emotional violence and by no means are most Korean people prone to fits of rage," he wrote. "There may, however, be specific temperaments and ways of coping with and expressing emotions that are associated with certain cultures."
So, Korean culture makes people suppress violence which later makes some of them prone to fits of rage that leads them to commit mass murder?
This would differ from American culture how exactly?
I mean isn't that pretty much the story behind all the mass shootings that take place on a far too regular basis in this country?
Cho and Goh happened to both be of Korean descent but most mass shooters in the U.S. are white men.
Why should we connect the Virginia Tech and Oikos shooters just because both happened to be Korean and infer that some cultural mental flaw made them do it?
I'm not aware of repressed rage that explodes in shocking violence being unique to any particular culture.
What is unique is American's gun crazy culture that makes it so easy for just about anyone to get their hands on firearms.
Goh didn't buy a hot gun off the street.
He was able to legally purchase the .45-caliber semi-automatic weapon that he used in the Oikos killings -- despite the fact that court psychiatrists now say he is a paranoid schizophrenic.
Therein lies the problem, not his Korean ancestry.
The sad thing is, I can almost guarantee you that there are people who will read this and say that the real problem is the Oikos victims weren't also armed with guns.