Thursday, July 26, 2007

the looks on my students' faces

A Korean hostage has apparently been killed, but the hostage crisis still gets no mention on sites like Drudge Report (at least as of this writing).

Some of my students are upset by what's happening in Afghanistan. Can't say I blame them: some of these girls might themselves have been contemplating mission work; others might have close or distant connections with the hostages and/or the relevant religious/aid organizations.

I find it hard to maintain a cynical sneer in the face of the hurt this is causing my girls. Sure, we might say that this is, to a large extent, a self-inflicted wound: it was stupid to head blithely into such danger. But we should remember, too, that the Taliban should be held accountable for their actions. They are not animals: they are people who know what they're doing, and as such, they are accountable for whatever bloodshed they commit.

The current misery is the result of a confluence of factors: the naiveté or arrogance of certain Korean organizations, the relative weakness of the US-supported Afghan government, and the religious fervor of the Taliban, to name a few. Placing all blame entirely on the missionaries (if that's what they are) is unfair and uncalled for.

In my Level 1 writing class, one student, a devout Christian, wrote that she was praying for the safety of the hostages. She wrote this before we heard about the first killing. Personally, I'm not hopeful that God will intervene; I have grave doubts about the physical efficacy of prayer. If the Taliban decide that enough is enough, Korea will soon be reading about its first platoon of latter-day martyrs.

I hope it doesn't come to that.



Malcolm Pollack said...

Well, I mentioned it at my place, even if Drudge hasn't taken notice.

My purpose was to excoriate the Taliban as the savages they are, but I did in passing touch upon the obvious fact that these missionaries were utter fools to put themselves in this position in the first place, and of course that's what has attracted the most comments.

I don't know what the blogosphere is coming to, when you can't even call an imbecile an imbecile.

Kevin Kim said...

I thought your post laid it out quite well, and the same sort of sentiments are being expressed in the expat Koreablogosphere. There's been a lot of talk of "Darwin awards" and so on, but people like Robert Koehler (who runs The Marmot's Hole, the biggest Koreablog by far) have also noted that "stupidity shouldn't be a capital crime." I think everyone agrees it's terrible for any of the hostages to die, but there may be some disagreement about how much scorn to heap upon them at a time like this.


Jelly said...

I watched CNN early yesterday morning. It was the "Headline news" segment, and they lead in with the story that one of the Korean hostages had been killed.

Very quickly, the segued to what must have been a 3 minute story on the new British PM talking about terrorism and the UK's role in Iraq. Then they went on to another story, and another after that.

I waited, thinking there would be more to the Korean hostages story, but there wasn't.
I was kind of surprised. And I wondered how much press it would have gotten if it was a group of Americans.

And by the by, have you heard about Bush putting through a law to ban war protests? It's not even news, which is kind of odd.

Everything is odd.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kevin,

Slight correction regarding the martyrs (and you may know it already): Korea slaughtered many Catholics under the Chosun dynasty. There are museums commemorating these martyrs in various parts of the country, and there's one in Seoul close to the Han River near the Hapjeong Subway station.

I agree with the general tenor of your post, and I think it well-thought out.

Kevin Kim said...


I probably should have been more careful; I wasn't thinking as historically as I could have. I'll add the word "contemporary" or "modern" into the post as a correction.


Sean said...

I agree with Kevin's sentiments as well and am disturbed by the law enacted by bush. only 17 more months until he is gone - hopefully someone better gets elected.