Friday, November 20, 2009

South Koreans targeted in Saipan shooting that killed five?

The reports I've seen are only spotty right now, but AP (via WaPo) is reporting that five are dead after a shooting incident on the island of Saipan, in the US's Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Saipan and its neighbor Guam are both popular tourist destinations for South Koreans. Quoting AP:
Officials say a gunman opened fire on the Pacific resort island of Saipan, killing four people before fatally shooting himself.

Public Safety spokesman Jason Tarkong says among those killed in Friday's rampage are a 4-year-old boy and a 2-year-old girl.

At least five people were wounded.

Tarkong says the shooter is a contract worker in his 30s or 40s from Asia.

Officials say the shootings occurred in two different areas of the island, starting with a popular tourist spot where the gunman fired a barrage of bullets from his van at visitors from South Korea. A 39-year-old man was critically injured.

The suspect then drove to a shooting range where he killed two men and the two children.
While it's not clear who was killed or where they were from (i.e., locals, Mainland US visitors, foreign tourists, foreign workers, etc.), Yonhap is reporting that six South Korean tourists were hit by gunfire:
Six South Korean tourists were wounded Friday on the Pacific resort island of Saipan when an unidentified gunman sprayed bullets in a daylight attack, officials here said.

It remains unclear whether the attacker specifically targeted the South Koreans, who were visiting a popular tourist spot in downtown Saipan, they added.
We'll probably know more later. Thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families. [Update: The story is being carried in the Wall Street Journal, Korea Times, Korea Herald, Joongang Daily.]

Saipan is a part of the US, of course, but its distance even from Hawaii and its proximity to East Asia has meant that it relies on Japan, South Korea, and increasingly China and other places for its economic well-being. Japanese tourists dominate, but South Koreans are also a major presence. Exemption from some Mainland immigration and labor laws means that the CNMI can allow workers from East Asia to come and toil in factories that, at least in the past, were little more than sweat shops.

If the dead and injured are tourists, this could put a crimp in the number of visitors, at least for a while. Japanese and South Koreans go there, in part, because it's the "safe" part of the US, and this certainly undermines that image, unfairly I suppose.

Not that I'm trying to make light of this serious news story, but it appears the Wall Street Journal, in relation to this story, has labeled Saipan a Korean island.

The Donga Ilbo's Korean-language edition is reporting that the shooter was a Chinese national of Korean ethnicity, or Chosŏnjok ("중국국적 조선족") who was running a shooting range (HT to yuna).

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