Korean-American Community Grapples With Oikos Massacre
Family and friends of nursing student Lydia Sim gathered today for her burial. The 21-year-old was sone of seven people killed in Monday’s shooting rampage at Oikos University. The suspect, One Goh, has been charged with seveb counts of murder, in addition to attempted murder, kidnapping, and carjacking. The victims came from many different counties, but the incident has hit the Korean-American community particularly hard. KQED’s Mina Kim has been speaking with civic and religious leaders and attended a prayer vigil for the victims on Tuesday, and Stephanie Martin interviewed her today. The audio follows the transcript:
Stephanie Martin: How has the Korean community been coping?
Mina Kim: This incident has really rocked the community. It occurred at a school that caters mostly to Korean Americans and recent Korean immigrants, among the dead are 2 Korean American women in their early 20s , and the shooter himself was Korean American. So there’s a lot of shock and grief and confusion.
At the same time, there’s some discomfort over how this might impact people’s perception of Korean Americans. This is a community that’s not often in the media. One service provider I spoke with actually used the word ‘invisibile’ to describe Korean Americans. So when the two biggest stories involving Korean Americans have been deadly campus shootings — the Virginia Tech massacre and now this Oikos University shooting — there’s definitely a concern that people will think these are problems inherent among Korean Americans. One of the faith leaders I spoke with said that was in part why they decided to have Tuesday’s prayer vigil at Allen Temple Baptist Church, which is predominantly an African-American church. They wanted to remind people that all communities are impacted when a massacre of this magnitude takes place.
Stephanie Martin: I understand that some in the Korean-American community are hoping this incident will help address the stigma against mental health issues…
Mina Kim: It’s been well-documented that seeking mental health services can be pretty taboo among Asian Americans, and in the Korean-American community in particular. Often that can mean trauma or other mental health issues will go untreated. I spoke with one mourner at the vigil, Justin Hong, who said he felt this is a chance for the community to speak up and reach out to people who might be troubled. “As a culture that experiences shame very strongly, it’s important for people to know that it’s okay, everyone struggles,” Hong said.
Stephanie Martin: Some details have emerged about the alleged killer suggesting there were signs he needed mental health support. What do we know about that?
Mina Kim: He was reportedly very self conscious of his limited English speaking skills, that he had significant debts, and that he had recently lost a sibling and his mother. At the same time, students and administrators reportedly described him as being a loner, having anger management issues. So there were signs out there that can cause people to ask what can we have done better to try to address these issues.
That said, my sense from speaking with civic and religious leaders is that right now is not necessarily the time to have these types of conversations, that they want to focus more on the families of the victims and the witnesses of the massacre.
I’ve even heard that the head of Oikos University is still in some shock. He wasn’t present at the memorial; it was the school’s vice president that represented the university on Tuesday. So the focus right now is on consoling and comforting and getting through the immediate shock of the tragedy.
Stephanie Martin: And the city of Oakland has set up a crisis line for anyone affected.
Mina Kim: Yes, the city and county have been working with Asian mental health services in Oakland and the Korean Community Center of the East Bay to coordinate mental health services. So far both organizations have told me they haven’t necessarily sensed a surge in demand, but they are at least prepared should the need arise.
The number is 510 567 8109.
Listen to the audio: