The World Reacts to Virginia Tech Massacre and Asks Why

The reports on local news stations in Hong Kong and other major Asian cities lacked major independent reporting. They were almost completely dependent on agency, cable, and U.S. network reports.

Nearly all Asian reports, however, did point out the sad history of mass shootings on American campuses, from the University of Texas to Columbine and others. There was clearly an undertone of shock and revulsion with America's gun culture, as nearly all reports pointed out that President Bush reiterated his belief that all Americans have the right to own weapons.

This is expected to be a focus of editorials in Hong Kong in the morning. Most Asian societies, where firearms in the hands of civilians are forbidden, or strictly limited, do not understand the "gun culture" in America. Outside of civil wars and a wave of terrorism in some parts of Asia, violent crimes among civilians using guns are rare in most Asian cultures -- (the Philippines, a former American colony, being a notable exception). Mass shootings and murders using guns are not unheard of in Asia, but are still extremely rare. (As I write this, I've just heard that the Mayor of Nagasaki in Japan has been shot … this is amazing … but still VERY RARE).

When the initial speculation began that it could have been a Chinese gunman a spokesman for the foreign ministry was quick to point out that the story had not been confirmed, and went on to publicly offer his condolences to the students and faculty of Virginia Tech.

The government of China sent a formal letter of condolence to the United States. Meanwhile, the speculation about a "Chinese suspect" was widely disseminated on the Internet today. The Web is the dominant source of news for young people in Asia, and Chinese student blogs and chat rooms not only expressed revulsion, they expressed concern about how Chinese students might be viewed in the future. There was clearly concern that the shooting (if it turns out to be a Chinese student) could negatively impact other Chinese students applying for student visas in the months to come.

The news of the Virginia Tech shooting travelled quickly to Japan, making headlines across the country. All major Japanese television stations carried live reports out of Virginia. Many questioned the level of security at the school.

Although no Japanese student was hurt in this particular incident, the news concerned many families here as the United States is a popular destination for Japanese students seeking higher education. More than 38,000 Japanese students are currently studying in America.

South Korea: Concern Over International Relations

The South Korean Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade officially announced that the shooter is a permanent resident, which means he has a green card, but holds South Korean nationality. The ministry noted the gunman immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1992.

"We express our indescribable condolence to the victims of this shooting. … The government is working on safety policies for the Korean Americans in case of emergency. We are closely cooperating with the local Korean American community and the authorities."

South Korea's largest newspaper Chosun Ilbo reports that the South Korean government is concerned that this incident might have a serious negative effect on South Korean-U.S. relations.

Some comments reported on its Web site include:

"I'm in shock and can't believe a Korean could be that cruel."

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