Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Murder of an English teacher 11 years ago

While reviewing my 'history of scapegoating English teachers' post and seeing a reference to AETACK, which stands for 'American English Teachers Attacking Corrupt Koreans,' I did a search for it and found an interesting page of links to messages they wrote over a decade ago. Be warned that there is far more chaff than wheat to be found there. One message, however, was quite interesting:
Oct 21 1998
Korean Patriot Murders American English Teacher

On Sept. 7, 1998, a Korean man walked into Sunchon Boys High School, located in the South of Korea near Kwangju, and asked if there was an American teacher employed there. Due to a lack of security or concern by the Korea staff, the inturder [sic] soon found the American teacher.

The man engaged him in a brief conversation, then proceeded to stab him in the back as he was walking away, going down the stairs from the second floor. The victim, Scott James Kennedy, 33, from North Dakota, died upon arrival at a hospital in Sunchon.

When interrogated, the attacker said that he murdered Scott because he didn't want Americans in Korea teaching Korean children. It was also noted that he said foreigners should not be allowed to hold jobs here while many Koreans are unemployed.

It should be noted that Scott's murderer had a history of mental instability and was institutionalized in the past.

Although Scott's murderer had a history of being mentally unbalanced, I believe that his anger and hatred are shared in various degrees by many Koreans who have been often considered to be highly suseptible [sic] to the psychopathology of xenophobia which is often interpreted to mean fear of foreigners, but can just as well be understood as hatred toward foreigners.

Scott is the second American English teacher to be murdered in Korea this year. Mr. Beau Smith, a young man from Fort Lupton Arizona, died a horrible death in Seoul after being exploited and extorted by his Korean employer who took his passport, airplane ticket and cheated him on his wages. His body was found dumped into a construction site.

Is this yet another repercussion of the economic crisis sweeping through Korea or just another example of a Korean stealing from a foreigner? In this case, his life.

Jack Hawke
This is obviously the same murder Brian mentioned here; The other death I know nothing about. A search on KINDS turned up nothing about the first death.

15 comments:

Roboseyo said...

Holy crap!

kushibo said...

Hmm... When I first saw the your title on my blog, I thought you might be talking about "Salvador Smith," a man whose story is the same as "Beau Smith."

The story of Salvador Smith was discussed on lists like Kexpat and other places, but there was a notable lack of outside information about him other than what was going around through emails. The US embassy (I checked through some people) didn't seem to know anything about him.

The story, if I recall, was that he was seen climbing out onto a construction crane and even the police had stopped him and asked what he was doing, to which he indicated he wanted to see the view.

The rest of the description, about the evil boss, was part of the story. The idea behind the emails was that what seemed like a suicide was at best a suicide sparked by an evil boss or a murder covered up by an evil boss who'd gotten the police to say what they said.

That is, if the story is true in the first place (and if it is, my apologies for the cynical speculation).

The first murder you mentioned is something I recall. It was in the papers, as were other occasional murders of military people by Koreans, almost always by people with a history of mental illness, including homeless people.

Lest one thinks that's how murders of foreigners are brushed aside, the same thing is true of quite a few murders of Koreans, including people pushed into oncoming subway trains by homeless in Hoehyŏn Station and other places (which is one reason for all the recently installed safety equipment).

sonagi92 said...

The murder of Scott Kennedy in Sunchon was not reported directly by the Korean press, but rather, indirectly through a letter to the editor from one of his friends shortly after the murder. The message sounds like identical in wording to the letter to the editor.

Ironically a few months after the murder of the American English teacher, a Korean student was shot to death during a racially-oriented multi-state shooting rampage, which got a few days coverage in the local press, including photos of the grieving Korean father. Not one drop of ink for the dead American teacher, nevermind a photo of his grieving parents.

Kushibo is correct that murderers of foreign nationals are usually described in the media as mentally ill. The multi-state shooter killed himself, so he was never tried, but his history suggests that he was mentally unstable.

kushibo said...

Sonagi wrote:
The murder of Scott Kennedy in Sunchon was not reported directly by the Korean press, but rather, indirectly through a letter to the editor from one of his friends shortly after the murder.

Are you sure? I'm only going from memory, but I thought I saw a news report on it. I seem to remember trying to find out if the news story and the other stuff jived. But like I said, I'm going by memory.

Ironically a few months after the murder of the American English teacher, a Korean student was shot to death during a racially-oriented multi-state shooting rampage, which got a few days coverage in the local press, including photos of the grieving Korean father. Not one drop of ink for the dead American teacher, nevermind a photo of his grieving parents.

I remember that story. Even in the American press, it was a big deal, and that alone would make them a bit of an apples-and-oranges comparison.

For a real contrast, the GI who was killed in broad daylight while walking and laughing with his girlfriend in front of (I think) Ŭijŏngbu Station got only short mentions in the English and (I think) the Korean press, but there was a days-long orgy of coverage for Yun Kŭmi, who was brutally raped and murdered, presumably by a GI.

Of course, the brutal rape aspect also makes it an apples-and-oranges comparison to some degree, as did the SOFA issue — would the suspect be tried in a military court or would the Korean court get to handle the case?

(I briefly mentioned the GI murder here and here, where I also mentioned Salvador Smith in the context of it maybe not being true.)

Kushibo is correct that murderers of foreign nationals are usually described in the media as mentally ill. The multi-state shooter killed himself, so he was never tried, but his history suggests that he was mentally unstable.

Like I said, though, I don't think that's necessarily brushing it off: someone randomly killing a stranger over some issue like these represents serious cognitive or mental dysfunction.

And also like I said, the same type of explanation is often (typically?) presented for cases when Koreans are murdered by strangers.

Anyway, I'm not so sure any of this really represents a population under siege. Sadly, the treatment of these cases is not so different from the treatment when Korean-Koreans are murdered.

And the number of cases... well if there are 50,000 teachers (E2 + F2 + F4) and we apply, say, the 1.9 murders per 100,000 people, we might expect one person to be murdered every year. More if we count other foreigners, and arguably more if we consider that 50K is only the number of potential victims but the number of potential culprits is a thousand times higher.

sonagi92 said...

I read both the KT and KH daily and am absolutely sure neither paper covered the murder of the teacher, story of great interest to the foreign readership. At the time I was not fluent enough in Korean to read the Korean language media.

Crimes committed by foreign nationals are regularly covered, and the occasional murder of a Korean by a foreign national gets big press, so the omission seems deliberate. Murders of US military personnel, like the doctor who left behind a pregnant wife and four kids, are covered by the English media in Korea, probably because of the need for 'balance' against Stars and Stripes.

Prior to the emergence of K-blogs, knowledge of foreign non-military crime victims was largely by word of mouth. I believe that the death of Stephanie White's son would not have been explained away by the Chosun Ilbo if the K-blogs hadn't publicized the case.

One of my favorite examples of bias were two side-by-side rape stories. One involved a foreign rapist and a Korean victim. That story got twice as much page space as a story about a female GI who got gang-raped by two Korean men. Had she not been a GI, I doubt her case would have gotten any ink at all.

Anyway, I'm not so sure any of this really represents a population under siege. Sadly, the treatment of these cases is not so different from the treatment when Korean-Koreans are murdered. I did not imply that white people are under siege. I have stated and will state that stories with Korean victims and foreign accused get much, much more attention than cases with foreign victims and Korean accused. Thus, the treatment of cases of foreign murder victims IS different from the cases of Koreans, especially if the accused murderer is a foreign national of any ethnicity.

Another difference is that the US media, reflecting its diverse readership, cites race if it is a possible factor in a crime. The Korean media, reflecting its 99.5% Korean readership, glosses over or ignores crimes where race was a possible motive.

Anonymous said...

Kushibo,

Sonagi's facts are accurate. I distinctly remember a friend of mine calling one of the English language papers to complain about the lack of coverage. The paper replied that the story had already been covered...in the op-ed section (the letter from a friend that she mentions).

Anonymous said...

If my memory serves me right, there were rumors that he/a teacher had been found dead at a construction site. According to the story, cops had concluded that he died of an insulin overdose, but the victim wasn't diabetic (according to his family)...or so the story goes.

Roboseyo said...

just to get this straight: this guy is another one -- not connected with the foreigner deaths discussed in this seoul podcast?

http://www.seoulpodcast.com/archives/364

By PhoenixStorm said...

The exact same thing happens in the United States. Look at the news when a person of color gets murdered in comparison to when someone white is murdered.

A young, white, female victim is more often likely to receive media coverage than a person of color.

It's media bias and its just as awful when it happens back home as when it happens here.

sonagi92 said...

@Phoenix Storm:

There is bias in all media, but any racial bias in the US media is not as glaring.

Murders are always covered in the local papers at least regardless of the race of the victim or the accused. If there is a possible racial motive, the crime often gets national attention. Most victims of crimes with racial motives are people of color. The US media most definitely not ignore or refuse to cover a story about an Asian man murdered by a white who didn't like Asians. If you have any examples, by all means, share.

sonagi92 said...

most definitely not ignore = most definitely does not ignore

Won Joon Choe said...

Lady Sonagi says:

"There is bias in all media, but any racial bias in the US media is not as glaring."

I cannot emphasize this enough.

The standard modus operandi of Koreans or their foreign apologists is to insist on the bromide that "it happens in the U.S., too" as a catch-all talisman of sorts.

But that's not the point. Of course, no human institutions are perfect. Out of the crooked timber of humanity, nothing ever straight can ever be fashioned, to quote Kant.

The all-important issue is rather how a given institution (or practice) rate comparatively and contextually. And in this respect, South Korea's press is embarrassing in its biases and outright fabrications.

Won Joon Choe said...

Metropolitician had a good take on the South Korean media here:

http://metropolitician.blogs.com/scribblings_of_the_metrop/2005/11/the_irrelevance.html

David said...

Does anyone know the "real story" behind the Burger King murder(s) by 2 "foreign men"? I've heard it was Itaewon and I've heard it was Hongdae.

Anonymous said...

Burger King murder was in Itaewon. The BK is no longer there though, I believe its now a Coffee Bean.

Before it became BK, it was Denny's during the 80s ~ early 90s and there was a another incident inside the business where a Korean student was severely beaten by a US military personnel. But that was way before the advent of the internet so it did not get too much media play but I do remember visiting Korea right after it happened and getting told to avoid Itaewon.