Thursday, March 5, 2009

Dave Franklin stabbed by angry Korean student whose country he mocked

I'm pretty sure that when the whole story is out, this will be the conclusion. 

The facts were these:
  1. Dave Franklin is an ass who admits he was living in Korea and mocking students. He even writes books about it. 
  2. Dave Franklin is from either Australia or New Zealand, but the two are essentially interchangeable. 
  3. An angry Korean student stabbed his Japanese teacher in New Zealand (also named Dave) because the teacher was constantly mocking Korea
Really, what other conclusion could there be? 

Koreans have a history of murderous assault on Japanophilic Westerners in their home country who belittle Korea while promoting Japan. Just ask Durham Stevens

[left: Durham Stevens. Behind the scenes he worked to strengthen the hold Tokyo had on Korea through its status as a protectorate, and advocated toward annexation. His clandestine efforts to act on behalf of Japan while working as a paid adviser to the Korean government were all out of love. If foreigners don't come in and let Koreans know what a fu¢ked up country they have, he reasoned, who will? Yes, that's how much Durham cared about Korea.]

In all seriousness, this kind of story is troubling. There is never excuse for deadly attack or violent retaliation like this, no matter how one is offended. And if New Zealand really is becoming a dumping ground for "troubled" Korean kids whose parents can't afford to send them to North America or the UK for study, then that's another problem. 

Having said that, I have to also relate that I have met a few such professors or teachers as this one is being described (and I also acknowledge that the description of him could be wrong). One of them at my university has a habit of mocking his students from Taiwan, telling them that they "don't live in a real country," that "Taiwan is a joke," and that the rest of East Asia would be better off if the letters "TAIWAN" got wiped off the map (i.e., that it would be an improvement if Taiwan were to be re-absorbed by China). 

These are not one-off comments, but things we would say to goad his Taiwanese students (particularly the female ones) almost every day. During a cultural festival, one of the Taiwanese students (who studied Japanese language) wore a yukata, a traditional Japanese costume. "So you admit Taiwan has no culture of its own?" he snidely remarked to this student. 

When I first heard this, my first thought was that this guy was trying to make friendly jokes — little jabs that some Americans are wont to engage in — or that maybe he was even lamely flirting with the students by giving them some attention. But when I talked with this supposed academic at a student-faculty gathering, he let loose on this screed against Taiwan that was so bad I was reeling from it for quite some time. Someone must have really done a number on this guy, I thought. 

His taunting of his Taiwanese students got bad enough that some of them dropped out of his courses, while others banded together and considered filing a formal complaint (which is something I encouraged them to do, though I don't know how that turned out). I do know that if one of them had had a pair of scissors handy when he said some of these things, he might have ended up needing stitches. 

[As a parallel, I wonder how many Korean students would have trouble remaining calm if their teacher told them, "Japan should have allowed to keep Korea. Imagine all the problems that could have been avoided if the US had taken Japanese advice and allowed this." I suppose some might be scrambling for him to get fired at least [wink]. Telling an American that they'd be better off had the Americans lost the Revolution wouldn't have the same punch, but I guess telling someone from the US that "you Americans had it coming with 9/11" could evoke anger or even violence. Still, that's an imperfect parallel.]

Students don't pay thousands of dollars to hear gratuitous mocking of their country on a daily basis. I'm all for constructive criticism (and engage in it myself, as you may have noticed), and I certainly do NOT condone violence over mere insults, but one has to wonder if there is any truth that this attack was provoked in some way. Some people claiming to be current or former students of the school claim that the teacher in question was visibly discriminatory toward Korean students. 

Not that that's okay. It's not okay. Physically assaulting people because you don't like what they did or said is not okay. And since none of us were there, we should note that it's also possible that this teacher is a saint and that the student has psychological problems that could have triggered such violence. After all, he is the one who committed physical assault, not the teacher.  

And I apologize for the disjointed thoughts in this post, as well as its nasty tone. It's been cold in Hawaii for a month and I'm on edge (yeah, it only dips down to the mid-60s, but we don't have heaters in these dogdam cement caverns!)

UPDATE (Wednesday, March 4 HST):
The "suspect" has been named and his picture released. He is 17-year-old Tae Won Chung (정대원? 정태원?). His father is on his way down to New Zealand from Korea but his mother, who supposedly "suffers from a heart condition," has not been told. 

Police are saying that Chung had discussed doing such an attack with other students, indicating some degree of premeditation. 

The new report from the New Zealand Herald says that Chung had been at the school, Avondale College, for two years, including all of 2008. He was also a student of David Warren, the stabbing victim, last year as well. This contradicts earlier reports that Chung had only been there a few weeks. (Is the media reliable anywhere?)

UPDATE #2 (when I got up the next morning):
Some people simply cannot tell the difference between trying to understand and explain the reasons behind a bad act and condoning that bad act. Trying to make sense of something — especially if it's something you yourself would not do — is not the same as "making excuses" for it. 

This blog from New Zealand seems to take an informed and level-headed approach to the story. I haven't read Lew's comments section, but his three-part approach about the reasons for lingering anti-Japanese sentiment in Korea is spot on:
Koreans have an abiding hatred of the Japanese, founded (among other things) on the crushing occupation they suffered through the first half of the 20th Century and not helped by a) pervasive anti-Japanese propaganda at home and b) continual denial by the Japanese of any imperial wrongdoing (not unlike their attitude to China and elsewhere).
My only quibble is that "Koreans" is by no means everybody in Korea: safe to say, however, that there is an abiding hatred of Japanese among many Koreans. The Japan bashers are the loudest group, certainly, and they make others fear ostracism, reprisal, or embarrassment if they show dissent, but there's plenty of indirect evidence that a lot of South Koreans like, love, or at worst feel neutral toward Japan (even if those same people might be dismayed by some right-wing Japanese b.s. from Koizumi or whomever). 

Still, I haven't seen any evidence that anti-Japanese sentiment played a part in this attack. The alleged attacker, after all, was taking a high-level Japanese language course, something I would assume was voluntary. 

You can never overreact too much. In response to the stabbing, martial arts instructor Grant Buchanan of Young Forest Martial Arts Academy in Bay of Plenty, a nearby region of New Zealand, is offering free martial arts self-defense lessons to teachers. Because those sneaky Koreans are so dangerous that even if you take away their penknives, box cutters, mechanical pencils, arts-and-crafts scissors, and ballpoint pens, they can still go all taekwondo on your ass. 

The principal of the school is angry about all this talk about racist teachers and faculty. 


  1. The stabbee is named Dave Warren and most likely has no relation to Franklin.

  2. Oh, I know there's probably no connection, but we were having a grand old time taking the piss out of that jackass.

    But, yeah, same (first) name. Wrong country.


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