Posted by: L | April 25, 2007

V-Tech-Mid-East Connections/oddities in Cho’s family – updated 5/3

Update: This article says that Cho’s father went to Saudi Arabia to work in the oil fields, after he was married, not before, as the others state.

The piece also claims that the Cho’s bought a house worth $145,000 in Virginia in 1997, when Cho Sung Hui would have been 13, an age when psychological problems often become worse. This doesn’t square with the theory that the family was too poor to afford mental health care for him, as they likely carried medical insurance. The more plausible explanation is the stigma attached to talking about family problems to others, a stigma felt especially in Asian families.

There is also speculation in this piece that Cho might have wanted to get into V Tech’s engineering program and failed; and that that was the motive for his attack on Norris Hall — revenge.I am not entirely convinced by it.

Another interesting angle here is Cho’s sister’s intense involvement with her faith – prayer meetings and so on. I wonder whether Cho was involved in any of it. Cho was not unattached to his family – he seems to have called home every Sunday evening while he was at V Tech.

This little additional piece of information will spark more jihadi/psyop speculation:

I saw it on this blog. (OK, I found it on, as well as in the Guardian and it’s been out since 4/19. I just hadn’t seen it, since it was a foreign source).

It seems that Cho’s father (now 61) worked in Saudi Arabia in oil for ten years. Reports describe the family as poor and living in a two-room basement apartment in S. Korea where they owned a second-hand book store. The story from relatives was that they went to the US to make good because they were poor. Of course, it depends on what the father did. I found further details in this Mirror (UK) article:

After they were married, he went away twice to Saudi Arabia in the 80s to try to make some money in the construction boom. He came back with about £2,000, which was enough to buy a small house in Seoul. He also ran a second-hand bookstore. His mother was living in the States on a long term visit to stay with his sister. She asked him to bring his family to live there.

“His sold the house to pay for the emigration costs and rented instead but there were lots of delays and eventually the whole process to get the permissions and organise things took eight years.

“By that time the money from the house was nearly gone. They were barely making ends meet so they had nothing to lose and had this idea of the American dream where there was a lot of money to be made.”

Here’s the excerpt from the Guardian:

“Cho Seung-Hui was born in South Korea. His mother, Kim Hyang-im and his father, Sung-tae were from two different backgrounds. She was from a well-educated family of North Korean landowners, who had been forced to flee without possessions during the Korean war; he was from a poor family in the south, but had made enough money to marry by working in Saudi Arabia for 10 years on construction sites and oil fields. He was 10 years her senior. Cho’s mother was forced into an arranged marriage with his father.

As Hyang-im was 29 – a late age for a woman to find a husband in South Korea – Her father told her she had to accept the proposal. “She didn’t want to marry, but she gave in,” said Yong-soon (her Aunt). “Her husband was not fit for her. But she always followed and obeyed him. She never fought him, though sometimes I wish she had done.” No one in the family recalls any violent behaviour from Cho or his parents that might have hinted at the carnage to come.

Cho’s maternal grandfather said even as a young child Cho was not like other grandchildren and would never come running to him. “The boy was so different from his super-intelligent older sister. His extreme shyness worried his parents. I thought he might be deaf and dumb.” Cho “didn’t talk much when he was young. He was very quiet, but he didn’t display any peculiarities to suggest he may have problems,” Kim(An Uncle) said. “We were concerned about him being too quiet and encouraged him to talk more.” Soon after they got to America, Cho was diagnosed as being clinically withdrawn. It amazes me that he ever made it into university. I guess he must have had some mental problems from birth.” Even though his parents worried about him because he was shy and withdrawn Cho was always well behaved.”

End of quote

The blog also has additional information about Cho’s text messages to women. Apparently, they included a quote from Romeo and Juliet:

By a name
I know not how to tell thee who I am:
My name, dear saint, is hateful to myself,
Because it is an enemy to thee;
Had I it written, I would tear the word.

Now, I have no idea how the blogger got hold of this information, perhaps from information from students that escaped media attention, and I haven’t seen it confirmed anywhere. It might be from a local newsreport that escaped the national media.

It seems to fit in with the general picture we have of Cho, who made references to Macbeth (Richard McBeef) and to Moby Dick (Ismail – at least, that’s my take on it, so far) as well.

The Guardian and Mirror reports seem to hint at problems between the parents, (they were 10 years apart in age) although this isn’t enough information to go on.

1. What I find odd here is this description of the relationship between father and children:

“But the father doted on his son and daughter. “He lived for his children. He would have done anything for them,” the grandfather recalled. “But now this has happened. It’s as if everything they’ve done, the reason for their whole existence has been for nothing. It’s as if they’ve not lived at all.”

Overtly, that doesn’t fit with the portrait of the father figures in those two wretched plays, Mr. Brownstone and Richard McBeef. But, on the other hand, we have no idea how much of this rage was based in any real life abuse. It might just be a product of Cho’s own anger, for whatever reason. OR, the rage could be directed against a teacher/mentor/some other family member.

2. The other oddity is one I have noted before:

“Soon after they got to America, he was diagnosed as being clinically withdrawn. It amazes me that he ever made it into university. I guess he must have had some mental problems from birth.” (Yong Soon, Cho’s mother’s aunt)

Now, how come there are no records of that? Shouldn’t Cho’s university health care also have had theatrecord?

Cho’s mother was described as very devoted and she apparently cared enough about him to plead with his dorm mates to help him. She reportedly spent time in church praying that he would grow more outgoing. There is also information in the Mirror article that the family was too poor to pay for a specialist, when they first came to the US:

“Both his parents knew he had mental problems but they were poor and they couldn’t send him to a special hospital in the United States.

“His mother and sister were asking his friends to help instead.”

His parents worked and did not have time to look after his condition and didn’t give him special treatment.

“They had no time or money to look after his special problem even though they knew he was autistic.”

3. The third point I find odd is that again, in these articles, Cho is described as extremely fond of video games, spending all his time on them. (Now, there was a Washington Post account that had mentioned this and then that information was withdrawn. I will try to find the URL).

But, Karan Grewal who lived with him in the same suite at V-Tech says he didn’t ever see him playing video games. It could be Grewal was mistaken, of course. But I find this odd. Of course, these reports are from his high school years or earlier. By college he might have given up the games.

So far, the Middle Eastern connections are:

1. Father worked in Saudi oil fields for 10 years

2. Sister worked in Iraq reconstruction. I hear contradictory reports, some saying she was a contractor and not in the state department; others saying she headed up some department. I think the former is more likely to be the case.

3. The name Ismail Ax marked in red ink on Cho’s arm and the name A. Ismail on the video package he sent to NBC

4. The words al quaed and anti-terror and the reference to Osama on the tape. There are also more ambiguous references to ‘my brothers and sisters who have been oppressed’ (I am using a euphemism here for Cho’s actual words on the tape).

The context of the references though, tend to go against this. I just found this in a Mirror (UK) article:

He wrote: “Now that you have gone on a 9/11 on my life like (deleted) Osama. Now that you have (depleted) your own people like (deleted) Kim Jong-Il. Now that you have gone on a hummer safari on my life like (deleted) Bush? Are you happy now?”

And what about this:

“You loved crucifying me. Do you know what it feels like to be impaled on a cross and left to bleed to death for your amusement. ”
As I said in another post, that sounds like a generalized rant to me. The right-wing blogs are convinced that Cho was a jihadi and the left-wing blogs that it was a psyop. The evidence could lend itself to both speculations. At this point, I still think it was a case of anti-social loner, the classic school shooter profile, according to many experts. One expert thinks the video shows that he wanted to win notoriety in popular culture – which of course, replaying the video on TV had done.

What I am certain about is that this will only further drive the federalization of data bases and the imposition of more stringent gun laws as well as other security-related changes.

I wrote extensively (a whole chapter on the Nick Berg beheading video as well as on other material) in the Abu Ghraib book about the use of video material in public propaganda and the difficulties of judging the accuracy of what is presented. You could be dealing with information, disinformation, deliberate hoaxes, genuine mistakes, red herrings…

Again, the political/historical context and the overall trend of public policy and laws are often better guides to deciphering the significance of material in the public realm.


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