There were a couple of articles from Sunday’s paper that I want to post. I’ll start with this one. It’s very interesting. It’s long, though, so if you get a headache reading long posts, you know what to do    It is written from the viewpoint of another Asian immigrant who understands what it is like for them in America. It contains the ideas I was trying to get across in my April 20 post.
silver glitter

 April 28, 2007, 7:00PM
Clear up the mixed signals Asian boys receive here
Anger suffered in silence triggered the Virginia Tech tragedy
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

It surprised many that South Korea, long known and admired for its disciplined, law-abiding, honest labor force, with one of the world’s lowest murder rates, would produce an an immigrant who became a mass murderer in the United States.

How did Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho come to commit his murderous atrocities and what can we do about it?

I believe the answer lies in better understanding the effects of Confucian-derived ideology on many young Asian male immigrants to this country, along with those of the Columbine tragedy and teenagers’ taunting.

Like the Korean shooter, I immigrated to America at age 8, and attended a grade school and high schools where I was usually the only Asian (or one of only two Asians) in a class. I attended a technical college, and eventually studied as a liberal arts major, as did Cho.

Society has changed since I went to college in the late 70s, but many immigration adjustment issues remain the same. Perhaps I can shed some light on how Seung-Hui Cho may have felt. Though he’s Korean and I’m Chinese, we’re both from the same Confucian-East-Asian culture.

What is it like to immigrate from Asia to America at age 8? Many of his teen acquaintances said Seung Cho was continually teased and taunted. Language was undoubtedly an issue. The English language is difficult and can carry many meanings; an Asian immigrant typically doesn’t have the verbal skills to defend himself. Cho likely swallowed his anger in silence as he was verbally being cut to pieces.

There have been studies that show Asian men are regarded as the least attractive by American women. If Cho was holding suppressed anger, he would scare girls even more. Perhaps that’s why he imagined a girlfriend from outer space.

Adjusting to America for an Asian is perhaps more difficult than for many other cultural groups because there are fewer Asians from which newcomers can develop their own social norms.

Black Americans are abused more than Asians, but there are more social traditions and institutions that restrain, rechannel or suppress blacks’ anger. Hispanic immigrants come in larger numbers and have established cultures that help restrain their anger.

For an 8-year-old Asian immigrant, life can be painfully distressing. Almost certainly, Cho initially followed his parents’ Korean (Confucian-derived) ethics. Unfortunately, however, these ethics don’t always work as well in the United States, and U.S. culture no doubt influenced him differently as well. This friction can mean problems at home as well as at school.

On the plus side, his parents’ Confucian-derived ethics would teach Cho the value of hard work, honesty, respect for elders, lots of self-discipline, as well as encouraging him to lean toward academics.

But these ethics can be problematic for an immigrant youngster in a school and social environment where verbal attacks, abuse and social rejection continually occur.

Because they arrived here as adults, Cho’s parents came here with their sense of ethics, self and family already established. People in their circumstances would most likely always be “foreigners” anyway, preferring their foreign customs and tastes and their political ideology to that of their new home.

On the other hand, their children would almost certainly be faced with conflicting cultural norms, expectations, differing social institutions and different reward systems. This is not just the case for Cho; it is the experience of tens of thousands more like him. That is why many East Asian immigrants’ sons carry a burden of suppressed anger and sadness.

How is it, then, that Cho’s sister, also an immigrant child, did not become a social deviant? East Asian societies are patriarchal, and the son’s discipline is almost always much tougher than the daughter’s. Asian parents love their children — but their sons must be taught to be both good and successful while their daughters generally are regarded as being inherently good.

This means that the daughter can do less wrong; she’s given lots of love, but whether she succeeds or not, she is subject to far less criticism by her parents. If a daughter raised this way becomes success-oriented she can do well, because she has had less parental criticism (which would turn into self-criticism) than a son. Typically, she has received continual parental love with the same Confucian emphasis on academics that a son would receive.

When it comes to raising boys, however, Asian parents will typically be very critical of their son’s development. Why? For centuries, this is how Asian parents have raised their sons.

The problem for an Asian immigrant boy in America is that he is also trying to adapt to American school and other Western cultural norms that tell him much of the “constructive” criticism voiced by his parents is invalid.

Thus, an Asian immigrant son can feel unjustly criticized on all sides — at home, at school, by the larger society and by the popular culture. It is easy to see how he might become lonely and angry.

Confucian ethics is simply ethics — and the real world isn’t always ethical; so Confucian disappointments are always present. The Eastern religions, notably Buddhism and Taoism, have psychological comfort measures to deal with these disappointments. These include meditation, spiritual practices and religion-derived maxims.

In the Cho situation we see:

• An immigrant’s son who might have felt unjustly criticized at home by his parents’ Asian ideologies on how to raise a son.
• An immigrant’s son who was evidently criticized and taunted at school.
• A young man who grew angry and had trouble making friends and girlfriends due to his anger.
• A Western society without the religious means to soothe the young man’s anger.
• A Western society with fewer social means to soothe his anger.
There were almost certainly other possible issues: Cho’s older sister was more successful, which would cause more difficulties for the typical Asian male. Possibly, he had mental illness. Like so many young East Asian immigrants, he carried his anger in silence until it erupted into tragedy

Why did Cho’s anger translate into cold-blooded murder? Why didn’t he become a wife beater or commit suicide, or drink alcoholically and abuse drugs?

I believe part of the answer is that the tragedy at Columbine offered a new and deadly, destructive outlet for Cho’s anger. It seems likely Cho would have seen some kind of twisted retribution for himself in copying the actions of the Columbine shooters, who were also taunted by their peers.

East Asian immigrants’ sons aren’t the only ones who experience such deadly frustrations in our Western society. Muslim immigrant sons also frequently feel society treats them unjustly The London subway bombers were Pakistani immigrants’ sons.

So there is the matter of justifiable anger. I understand how that feels. But it by no means confers legitimacy on either Cho’s crimes or those of the bombers in Britain.

The solution is not simply tighter gun control, better psychiatric evaluation controls, or faster emergency response. And, it would be very expensive to stop teasing and taunting in the pre-college years.

One idea would be to offer courses that teach immigrant youths how to deal with the types of cultural adjustments so many face. Such courses would help these youths see past the cultural issues and unjust parental and peer criticisms, teach them how to handle the teasing and taunting, and more.

Considering the deadly alternatives, they seem worth trying.

Sun, a Houstonian, is owner of, a Web design company. He can be e-mailed at


15 thoughts on “

  1. :sunny:Hi there…
    It was told that this young man, Cho, had mental problems from way back… even his family said he did… so, I don’t buy it… sure there are cultural differences, but, there was something WRONG with his BRAIN!!! 
    This all sounds like excuses.. if I were the parents of one of the students that died or the spouse of one of the teachers, this article would make me very angry… well, it makes me angry now…
    Thanks Mr.Sun for explaining your culture and confucism…. but, this is not the reason he killed all those people…
    Awwwww… welp, off to bed….
    Hugs to you, Connie
    Oooooo… I was first!!:p

  2. I agree 100% with you Connie. There are lots of AMERICANS who get teased just as much…especially children, like Cho was, because they just don’t know any better. That doesn’t justify what he did, it’s just a bunch of excuses, not reasons. It makes me really angry too to read that, I can’t imagine how it would be of a family member or friend of one of the lost at VTech. Thanks for sharing though 🙂

  3. Wow. I think both of you misunderstood, and suspect you may not have actually read the article in depth. 
    This man said that it does NOT excuse what Cho did. He is simply offering reasons why Cho’s mind was in the shape it was in. I believe he most likely did have mental problems, but the way he probably was raised on top of it was the trigger. Yes, there was something wrong with his brain, but the way he was treated helped to further shape that brain.
    It isn’t simply being teased that makes a person this way. It is being constantly ridiculed because you are different, plus being constantly criticized because you aren’t measuring up to anybody’s standards.  Yes, many people are teased – that’s very true. And most don’t turn out to be mass murderers. But many, many people who are treated this way, turn out to be very angry people. They might not shoot 33 people, but they might make life miserable for their families and close friends because of their anger inside. I think this happens far more than we realize.
    No…this man is not making excuses. He’s simply trying to show what might have been a very powerful trigger that finally pushed that mentally ill person over the edge. When you heap stress onto a person who seriously cannot handle stress, it is a disaster in the making.
    We need to have compassion because, if he truly was mentally ill, then he had very little control over what he did. You cannot argue that he was wrong for doing something, and then turn around and say there was something wrong with his brain and that’s why he did it. That’s arguing two different sides.
    While it was wrong to shoot all those people, I still feel sorry for Cho. It does not excuse anything. It just means my heart breaks for people who lived with constant criticism, and never felt like they measured up – never felt like they could do anything right.  I know them. They are in my family.

  4. I’d like to add something about the teasing, too. Please note that I am not making excuses for what Cho did. I’m simply pointing out something that most people probably don’t see.
    We, and I mean those of us who are relatively normal white Americans, probably don’t have a clue about the type of teasing someone like Cho endured. It’s more than just saying, “Your Mamma wore combat boots.” (That was a common tease when I was little, but now women DO wear combat boots!) It’s more than just gentle teasing that’s more playful in nature. We tease Mark at church about not having hair (if we don’t say it first, he will.) He came into the kitchen at church Sunday night, carrying 4 huge boxes of chicken for the dinner after church, and I said, “Here comes Chicken Man.”
    And E…I’m gonna bring you up. We have teased Ethan because he is Korean. In his job (he’s in the Air Force), he gets teasingly accused of being a North Korean spy. But he knows that those of us who love him, don’t mean it. And we would never ridicule him for anything in the world.
    The kind of teasing I’m talking about is hateful and ugly. Downright mean. Like being told to go back to their own country. Or being ridiculed for having specific facial features that they were born with and cannot change. Features they should not ever fell like they should have to change. Or being hated because their skin is darker, in the case of black people or Asian Indian people. If you go back and read the very first comment on my April 20 post, you’ll see what happened to a man from India, who has lived here for a very long time. Pure hatred. And this was a mild case.
    Now….tell me that you can endure being ridiculed for physical features God gave you, and told how you don’t measure up – maybe even that you will never amount to anything. And told to go back to another country because you don’t belong here. Or here’s a good one that was used on someone in my family – being told that you get one day older and two days dumber, and hear that all your life. And be told, “See what so-and-so is doing? Why can’t you be like her? She’s the “good” one in the family.” 
    Then tell me you wouldn’t have the kind of anger that makes you want to lash out at people. In a mentally ill person, it makes you want to hurt others – the ones you see as hurting you.
    A person has to learn to control anger. But a truly mentally ill person cannot do it.

  5. :yes: Awesome insight…thanks for sharing. 
    RYC:  Yes, get him on the back of the head…the kind where you come up from the bottom of his head towards the top…and while you’re walking away, you can tell him that’s from me!  😀

  6. You know what’s sad? They interviewed one of Cho’s classmates a few days after the shooting. She was in one of his English classes and for one of their assignments, they had to give a speech in front of the class. He didn’t want to. The prof said if he didn’t, he’d fail the semester. When he got up and started speaking, his COLLEGE classmates laughed at him and told him to go back to China. People in their 20’s – graduate sutdents- acted like that. I don’t excuse his actions whatsoever, but good grief, it’s not surprising the outcome.

  7. Hi, Lauryn. What’s inexcusable is that adults – and that’s what they are supposed to be – can act like that.
    Can you imagine being beaten, ridiculed by the crowd, and then being nailed to a cross to die a horrible death? But while up there on that cross, Jesus said, “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.” He wanted to forgive all those really mean, cruel, stupid people, because they truly did not understand the severity of their actions. That’s the kind of compassion we need to have. Few ever will.

  8. you mean I can’t just toss my fragile stuff in and hope for the best?! 😆 Oh man, I bubble-wrapped, newspaper-wrapped and then used that strange papery stuff that Crate & Barrel ships their stuff in on top of the bubble wrap and newspaper! That stuff could be dropped from a plane and make it safely! I’m such a perfectionist when it comes to most things (except chem)… that stuff could survive a nuclear explosion. People should hire me to pack their breakables.

  9. Thank you for the article. This is the first chance I had to read it… although I have visited your site at least a couple of times today because I missed you :love: Love everyone… especially those who are rejected and hurting… that’s what Jesus did… that’s what my favorite Pastor at my church does… he is the cross-cultural pastor… he is truly “broken bread and poured out wine” to the neediest segment of our society… the displaced… the rejected by so many.I emailed the article to him.Hope you are having a great day… love you.

  10. Hi, Suzanne. Thank you. :heartbeat:
    I want people to understand that in no way does any of this excuse what Cho did. It simply points to the why. My heart really goes out to people who are hurting.

  11. :yes: Very good article. I can understand where they are coming from. Cho’s upbringing perhaps was very different than if he were truly an American…what I mean by that is … if he were white and not Asian.  And not only that … I’m sure he was also driven to do this by the enemy of our souls. satan really must have worked on Cho’s mind … he had a lot of help. My heart goes out to all families who lost their children…Cho’s family included. ~Carolyn

  12. I think this may mark my first and only public comment about the shootings. :goodjob:As I read about the way the shooter had been treated, I remembered this article from the Onion: guess you could say I empathize with Cho. I’m not condoning, excusing, or defending him, but neither will I ever dismiss attempts to understand the circumstances leading up to his actions as “excuses.”The fact is that exclusion, teasing, bullying, and all other forms of ostracism are about the cruelest things you can do, because they hurt just as much as physical violence, but the victim is left with an insatiable feeling of helplessness, because any form of retaliation will be viewed by others as unprovoked, thus served to be completely ineffective while reinforcing the stereotype of “outcast.”To be completely honest, most kids and college students need a good slap upside the head and a kick in the pants. But the victim knows that doing that will get him in basically the same amount of trouble as more drastic measures, and he thus pursues the most drastic measure possible. My first thought on hearing that Cho killed himself was “what a coward.” But if you make the effort to empathize with him, and understand the helpless feeling I described, you understand exactly why he took things as far as he did. To quote a famous movie, that’s all I have to say about that.

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