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Atlanta spa shots reverberate in South Korea, long an ally of the United States

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SEOUL The murders took place more than 11,000 km away. But for many South Koreans, the Atlanta spa shootings have struck near their homes. The victims were Korean mothers, a headline from the country’s largest newspaper read on Sunday.

Of the eight people who died, six were women of Asian descent, four of whom were identified as ethnic Koreans, aged 51 to 74. One was of South Korean nationality.

The outburst in Georgia reverberated through the nation of 52 million people, which in the decades following the Korean War had a deep and lasting relationship with the United States. The two are allies and share close cultural ties.

It can often seem like every Korean knows someone with relatives or friends living in the United States. South Korea sends more of its children to America to study than in any other foreign country.

Lee Myung-kyu, a 55-year-old office worker, said he knew many South Korean families who dreamed of immigrating to the United States in the hope of a better life. Her own daughter wants to go to school in America. But Mr. Lee said he now had doubts.

I keep wondering if something like this could happen to him, Mr Lee said.

Protesters call for an end to anti-Asian violence in the United States Protests and vigils calling for an end to violence against Asian Americans took place in the country over the weekend

A rally in Washington, DC, demanded the safety and protection of Asian communities on Sunday.

olivier douliery / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

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A rally in Washington, DC, demanded the safety and protection of Asian communities on Sunday.

olivier douliery / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

Local police said the white Georgia man charged with murder in that case said he was motivated by what he called sex addiction. Authorities say they are investigating whether the killings were racially motivated.

The attack sparked fear at the same time police and government officials in New York and other U.S. cities said hate crimes against Asian Americans had increased since the start of the Covid pandemic. 19, which first appeared in China.

Han Ye-rim, 32, said she has long idealized the United States as a diverse society. But looking at a list of victims that looks a lot like her, Ms. Han wonders how she would actually manage to leave Seoul.

Hearing about the Atlanta incident was a wake-up call to me, Han said. I realize that I can be targeted to be different if I leave this country.

What made the Atlanta rampage particularly shocking was how good South Koreans and Korean-Americans have been feeling lately about their position in the United States.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin visited Korea on their first overseas trip. Just over a year ago, the South Korean film Parasite came out with an unprecedented win for Best Picture at the Oscars. BTS, the Korean pop group, had recently performed at the Grammys and topped the Billboards album charts.

People gathered in Atlanta on Saturday. Photo: Shannon Stapleton / Reuters

Meanwhile, South Koreans had rushed to the local box office to see the American film Minari, which portrays a new family of Korean immigrants in rural Arkansas and which itself has just been nominated. for several Oscars.

It’s really kind of a weird dichotomy, said Abraham Kim, executive director of the Council of Korean Americans, a Washington-based nonprofit group, with pop culture celebrations on the one hand and what he’s got. described as Asians targeted by each other’s violence. .

South Korean media covered extensively the Atlanta shootings. In an editorial Thursday, Kyunghyang Shinmun, a left-wing newspaper, called American society defenseless in the face of racist attacks. Another outlet, right-wing Segye Ilbo, urged the United States to take effective action to ensure that crimes against humanity do not take root.

President Biden, saying the investigation was still ongoing, mourned the victims on Friday and said hate cannot have a safe harbor in America.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in called the Atlanta murders shocking. Photo: Jewon Heon-kyun / Associated Press

South Korean President Moon Jae-in has called the Atlanta murders shocking, while the country’s Foreign Office has supported the US government’s efforts to oppose hatred and violence. Such a crime is unacceptable under all circumstances, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

Walking with a friend a few blocks from the United States Embassy in Seoul, where the American flag continues to fly half-baton in honor of the shooting victims, Yoon Ji-a recalls living in California during his youth. Her parents had a few brushes with racism, she said. But the events in Atlanta took her by surprise.

It’s scary, said Ms. Yoon, a 20-year-old student.

There are around 1.8 million Korean-Americans, according to US figures. The largest Korean populations are found in the metropolitan areas of Los Angeles, New York and Washington, DC, according to figures from the Pew Research Center, analyzing US data. Atlanta ranks seventh.

Jean Lee has two children living in the United States, although she did not learn of the shootings in the Atlanta area until local media began to broadcast coverage of the protests and weekend vigils. in nearly two dozen American cities. Today, the 48-year-old fears that her children will be targeted.

Much hate speech surfaced when people started calling the coronavirus the Wuhan virus and it is unfortunate that this issue came to light because of the shootings, Ms. Lee said. It feels late for Asians who have been discriminated against for so long.

Jenna Lee, 25, owner of an online mall, said she lived in Atlanta for two years as a teenager. For the past few days, she said, she has watched Minari, with her story of struggling immigrants, and that made her wonder if Asian Americans would be forever strangers and forever invisible.

Asians are more than just people trying to assimilate into American society, Ms. Lee said. And in her opinion, she said, the shootings show how vulnerable we are to discrimination.

Write to Timothy W. Martin at [email protected] and Dasl Yoon at [email protected]

Copyright 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

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