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Saturday, April 21, 2007

Koreans in midstate fear backlash

Shippensburg University professor Hong Rim was shocked when he learned that Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho was South Korean.

But Rim, who is Korean, said that shock became concern when he learned a man of Korean descent was abducted in Derry Twp. a day after Cho killed 32 people and himself on the Blacksburg, Va., campus.

A 29-year-old Alpine Heights man was jogging near his apartment Tuesday when a group of men abducted him, threatened him and released him in Shank Park, according to Derry Twp. police.

"There was limited conversation between the victim and the suspects," Derry Twp. Police Lt. Pat O'Rourke said yesterday. "He is Korean, but we're certainly not investigating this as a hate crime."

Hate crimes, according to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, can be motivated by a victim's race, religion, gender, disability or sexual orientation.

"We have been thinking about this since the Virginia Tech incident and wondering if there will be a backlash," said Ann Van Dyke, an investigator for the commission. "This is always a concern when the perpetrator is not white, Christian and male. When the perpetrator is white, Christian and male, no one assumes his race, sex or religion has anything to do with the crime.

"There are many people who are very quick to blame everyone who is similar to the perpetrator if the perpetrator is any way in the minority."

Midstate Koreans' grief over the Virginia Tech shooting is amplified by perceived connections to the shooter, religious and cultural leaders said.

"We have nothing to do with him, but he was identified as a South Korean, and people might now feel differently [about us]," said Rim, the president of the Central Pennsylvania Korean Association board. "But he could have been anyone.

"We want to be a part of American society, and we are shocked also. [Cho had] a social problem, a psychological problem, not a Korean problem or any other ethnic group." [Link]

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