Virginia Tech Shooter Was Cho Seung-Hui, a U.S. Permanenent Resident From Korea

cho-abc-photo.jpgPolice identified the classroom shooter as  Cho Seung-Hui, 23, a senior from South Korea who was in the English department and lived in another dorm on campus. They said Cho committed suicide after the attacks, and there was no indication Tuesday of a possible motive.  [AP]

Police also report, however, that Cho left behind a “disturbing” note that may give us some idea what kind of ideas took root inside this young man’s fevered mind.  I’ll post more when I know more.

And yes, he was described as “a loner.”   

Update:   Photo cred:  ABC News.

Update 2:   Some irony from the Korean Embassy:

South Korea’s Foreign Ministry also expressed its condolences, saying there was no known motive for the shootings and that South Korea hoped that the tragedy would not “stir up racial prejudice or confrontation.”

Yes, let’s all learn from Korea’s example.  We should never, ever  hate or generalize about an entire group based on the crimes — much less the  mere accidents  — of a few individuals.  That would be irrational.  I think the Embassy’s statement is at once insulting and telling.

Update 3:   Is this perverse vindication for Lee Won BokThank God for a “wall of Jews” that stood  bravely in the way of evil.  [More.]

Update 4:   Much more about the killer’s motives:  First, and contrary to the speculation of some commenters below,  he was  an equal opportunity murderer (thanks to a reader).  We also  learn that nationalism has once again lured the Chosun Ilbo into  a spurious and incorrect line of speculation:

Commenting on reports that the killer was Asian, Lee said it was unlikely to have been Korean since few Korean students have weapons due to the difficulty of obtaining a gun license.

I’m so embarrassed for them, and for Yonhap, which  is tersely describing the killer, a Korean citizen, as an “ethnic Korean.”   On the other hand, you have to wonder what this poor guy did:


We also learn some unsurprising things about the killer’s mental health:   

The gunman suspected of carrying out the Virginia Tech massacre that left 33 people dead was identified Tuesday as a English major whose creative writing was so disturbing that he was referred to the school’s counseling service.

News reports also said that he may have been taking medication for depression, that he was becoming increasingly violent and erratic, and that he left a note in his dorm in which he railed against “rich kids,” “debauchery” and “deceitful charlatans” on campus.

Cho Seung-Hui, a 23-year-old senior, arrived in the United States as boy from South Korea in 1992 and was raised in suburban Washington, D.C., officials said. He was living on campus in a different dorm from the one where Monday’s bloodbath began.

[…]  Lucinda Roy, the department’s director of creative writing,  […] had Cho in one of her classes and described him as “troubled.”

“There was some concern about him,” Rude said. “Sometimes, in creative writing, people reveal things and you never know if it’s creative or if they’re describing things, if they’re imagining things or just how real it might be. But we’re all alert to not ignore things like this.”

She said Cho was referred to the counseling service, but she said she did not know when, or what the outcome was. Rude refused to release any of his writings or his grades, citing privacy laws.

The Chicago Tribune reported on its Web site that he left a note in his dorm room that included a rambling list of grievances. Citing identified sources, the Tribune said he had recently shown troubling signs, including setting a fire in a dorm room and stalking some women.

Investigators believe Cho at some point had been taking medication for depression, the newspaper reported.

Update 5:   OK, I’ve just perused a “play” Cho wrote, now posted at The Smoking Gun, and to me, this truly looks like a case of a deranged individual with some very serious mental health problems.  In spite of some unsourced murmurs I see  on the net,  nothing about Cho or his problems  appears to be  specifically or uniquely Korean.   This guy  was just crazy. 

Plenty of people have concluded that the answer to this problem is to control guns.  I differ from those people (see comments).  I wish, for example, that Liviu Librescu had had a gun.  I think the answer is to do a better job of controlling (a) criminals, and (b) the unmedicated insane.  And whatever medications Cho was on were not enough.

Update 6:   For those who want to know more, see Richardson’s post.  The killer may have had a Cyworld page, too, but it’s not confirmed, and it’s just more insane ranting.

Update 7:   The Korean-American Coalition has published a statement of condolence, which is both well-intentioned, and in my view, unnecessary.  Maybe it’s this idea of group identity that I’ve never felt comfortable with, but this guy was just a crazy individual.  Other Koreans or Korean-Americans  are not  responsbile for his actions any more than most American soldiers are responsible for a small number of thugs wailing on Korean taxi drivers at Camp Casey.  This was not a crime of nationalism.  There is not a need for the kind of introspection the Muslim world failed to have after 9/11.  This was one insane, evil,  individual  SOB.

Update 8, 19 April 2007:   OK, I see a whole new kind of madness taking shape:  Korean and, yes,  American  media are spreading junk “news” — which turns out to be based on a few anonymous  idiotic blog comments  and some active  imaginations  — that South Koreans and Korean-Americans are hiding in their basements and keeping their kids home from school over the fear of reprisal attacks.  See also GI Korea’s extensive post.

Now, I don’t know about you, but this weekend, I’m going to be in a crowded  shopping mall somewhere with the three people in this world I love the most — all of them at least 50% Korean by ethnicity — without a hint of fear for their safety.  I call bullshit — evil, fetid, manipulative, cynical,  fear-mongering  bullshit — and I challenge anyone to find a substantial  factual basis for it.   

Since I’m not seeing one, how can I explain the inexplicable?  I mean, what kind of a society  would break out into mass  mobbery in reaction to one isolated tragic event?  Who would turn hatred of a friendly allied  nation into fodder for popular  movies and songs?  Who would use another nation’s most painful living memory  as an occasion to show its hatred?  Who would discriminate against  an entire national group, commit multiple acts of random violence  (here, here, here, here, here), or peddle hate to  the kiddies in school  (here, here, here,  with extra points for the  approving reference to 9-11)?  What nation would seek political  advantage  from one tragic event  by propogating hatred for  an entire  nation (here, here, and  here), much less  find it to be  a winning electoral strategy?  And where would such hatred find broad societal acceptance?  Surely not in an educated, developed, industrialized society.  No civilized people in our times could  subscribe to  the inspiration of the world’s most brutal and backward system of government, one that openly espouses racism and is willing to kill as many babies as necessary  to prove its commitment to that notion of  purity. 

Now, let me  just briefly  speak to that two percent of you who are not mature adults  for a moment.  My point here is not to justify in any way this kind of bigotry toward persons of Korean ancestry or any other.   (Fair warning:    anyone leaving a comment to that effect can expect to see it removed, and to be banned for good.)    Nor is my point to deny that bigotry exists here, although I submit that our society overwhelmingly rejects it, and will severely punish anyone a court of law convicts of acting on it. 

Now, directing my voice to back the adults … my point here is to  suggest that the  great majority of the bigotry and generalizing — both of Americans and of Koreans — is happening  in South Korea, where I  sense a lot of mental  role reversal happening.  I also suspect that for many of the same people,  the  acceptance of collective guilt  is just a stepping stone to a claim of collective victimhood, which leads right back to collective scapegoating.  Does anyone else  see a pattern here?

This is wrong on several levels, starting with the fact that the 32  actual victims  haven’t even buried yet.  We should be mourning them.  We live in a world where there’s plenty of real victimhood  and little need to invent more.  I’d  like to see a whole lot less of all of this “collective” b.s. on  all sides of  all oceans, regardless of the nationalities of  those concernedI mean, didn’t Brian express it best?  So please, let’s call off the Category 5 pogrom alert.   


  1. ok simple. I have been a freak. One of those people that loves piercings tatoos etc… I wear my hair in blue black purple red orange whatever suits me. I read an article and i agree. We as the freethinkers or people who just want to be our selves get trampled on. Conform conform conform. It goes back to the model ideal of beauty in american society. And what’s socially acceptable. His statement of you and your mercedes means he probably was either poor or middleclass. Or the other possibility a sensitive spirit that saw the suffering of others and took a path instead of mother terressa; he took the path of violence forcing this into other’s faces to basically shatter thier lives and make them say hey we’re only going to take it for so long. Much the same as the la riots but on a more personal and individual scale. We freaks namely myself and those dressed in black and chains etc have been beaten simply for what we wear to school. I got beaten up on my back on the buses more times than I care to remember. Goth guys got called queers and other derogatory sexual terms just cause of our clothes. Some where in the back of his brain his conscious mind thought…
    “ok if i can kill enough of the preppy bastards then perhaps i’ll affect enough of the rich bastards lives that they’ll finally take notice.”

    Further in the back of his mind i think also a part of him said..

    “Fine they want to hate us and fear us because of what we wear and listen to and things we like that are different from the norm of society. Fine I’ll give them a reason to fear. Let’s see how many survivors say “hey halloween is over freak! get a life” etc…”

    my quotes on his thoughts not any in documents etc…

    In short it is very tragic. But having been through it and yes I don’t think until now how many people finally realize just how brutal american highschools are for the freak,gay,bi communties. Cause a ton of people have thought of this. The only difference is as one thing I have read on it said. We all had our reasons. Friends that are freaks that might get hit instead of our targets. Teachers we actually liked. Anything to disuade us from it. Including jail time. But sometimes when you have no girlfriend or true friends. When you’ve been betrayed. When you’re tired of being abused just because of the things you enjoy you snap and slah your wrists. Or instead he snapped and metaphorically speaking slashed the wrist of those around him. Ending thier lives instead of his own. And he knew like most he didn’t wish to die as a villain or be locked away forever since he was most likely a free spirit that just wanted someone. So he ended his life both out of fear of being villified and out of fear of retribution and the laws.


  2. Jesues Christ this makes me sick. I see so many say he could have done this or he could have done that. Go to a gym and work out become more manly.. WTF?! Why do we have to conform to your ideals as a whole to be loved. And one thing that ticks me off about most not all but most christians is the fact that if i’m wearing a pentacle (not the inverted pentagram which is also a misunderstood statement they by deffinition are the same but the upside down version) Why the heck am I suddenly beneath you. I wear black so i must be evil or rude? If I’m fat I don’t care about myself and aren’t worth your time? WTF?! Apathy plain and pure apathy is what society has created. What freaks use “I’m me don’t like it tough deal with it” attitude. Normal society not all but alot has reversed into thier own twisted version. “You’re not like me. I can stand you tough I don’t want to know you. So deal with it.” attitude.

    Come on! Open your eyes. It took 10 years and me finally being out of highschool to see norms and freaks taking parts from each others culture finally. I see preps and norms with eyebrow rings. When I was in highschool that could and did get me beaten. Now it’s ok. The world is changing slowly. And sometimes it takes violence. It sucks but it’s true. My condolences to the families. Apathy isn’t just not caring. It’s callousness and sarcasm also.

    So we learn that we must go out and have sex with fat ugly people…
    God give me a break.

    No the moral is drop the bigotry, drop the stereotypes, and for christ sake look at something other than people’s appearance. Simple… This one thing makes all the difference.

    Listen to us. Don’t look at us. But listen to us…


  3. Quick, someone have sex with mmfcl before something bad happens.

    Seriously though, I don’t think any amount of teasing or isolation can cause people to do what Cho did. Some people are just nuts.



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