According to the English version of the Korean newspaper Chosun:
The older sister of Virginia Tech shooter Cho Seung-hui works for McNeil Technologies, a contractor for the State Department in a reconstruction project in Iraq. Three years her brother’s senior, Cho Sun-kyung graduated from Centerville High School and went to Princeton University in 2000. After completing the undergraduate course with a major in economics in 2004, she returned home to work in Virginia and lives with her parents.
Headquartered in Springfield, Virginia, McNeil Technologies provides information management and analysis, language services and program assistance to customers, mainly U.S. government agencies like the departments of defense and energy.
Cho’s parents are Cho Sung-tae, 61, and Cho Hyang-ai, 51. According to an article in the Guardian:
Cho’s mother was forced into an arranged marriage with his father, Sung-tae, who was 10 years older and from a very different background. 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 ion construction sites and oil fields.
As Hyan-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.
According to an article about Cho’s parents in the Mirror UK in which reporters spoke with Kim Yang Sun, 85, (above) an aunt of Cho:
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.
According to Yang Sun, Cho was diagnosed as autistic shortly after he arrived in the United States with his parents. She said that Cho’s parents did not seek special treatment for him because they were poor, could not afford it, and had to work to survive.
From the McNeil Technologies website, following are some of the “services” the contractor provides:
- Intelligence Architecture Operations in support of the US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).
- Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) which supports the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) and other government agencies, and
- HUMINT (Human Intel) operations in support of DIA, or with federal counter Intel outsourcing effort.
- Our Linguist operations, with linguists deployed in various theaters of operations,
- Translation operations which include document and website translation,
- Testing, Training and Research of language and cultural awareness.
The Security Center at McNeil Technologies provides “full spectrum security services:”
- …Physical Security which includes Access control, escorts, and Guard services, Electronic systems monitoring, as well as classified mailroom and package inspection.
- Personnel and Logistics Support is provided by MILPO operations
- Program Security consists of arms control and nonproliferation support, treaty vulnerability assessments, and support of Balanced Survivability Assessments
Maybe there is little relevance or significance in these connections, this assortment of facts. If you read this article about Sun Cho, Cho’s sister, she sounds progressive. She spent time working with migrant workers in Burma as a grad student and says the experience deeply affected her and resulted in her changing her thesis. We all have to work, and when we are at war, as in the war we’ve made on Iraq, there are plenty of jobs available for college-educated, multilingual persons with companies which contract with the Department of Defense. It sounds sort of positive to work for a company which is helping to oversee “Reconstruction” efforts in Iraq. Perhaps Sun Cho’s work has no more significance than that she needed a job and this was the job she found.
As to the father’s work in Saudi Arabia, it’s entirely possible that he was just one of the many Asian people who were poor and took their poportunity to earn much-needed cash by shipping out to work construction in Saudi Arabia. From what I’ve read, Asian workers in Saudi Arabia are, in general, treated poorly, and his work may have had no significance other than, he needed cash to support his family.
Maybe it’s true that Cho was diagnosed autistic. This would have been decades ago, in the dark ages so far as the way autism was diagnosed, and especially, treated. There is no reason to believe Cho’s aunt would lie about this; there is also no reason, in particular, to believe that the diagnosis of autism was correct. This was a quiet young immigrant boy who didn’t speak English or spoke English poorly and who was being diagnosed by white American doctors.
So. Maybe there is no significance in any of this information. Or maybe there is. At the very least, it is really interesting and thought-provoking. These are the questions and thoughts which come to my mind:
- What the heck is “Open Source Intelligence”? (!) Something like Wikipedia intelligence? A gathering of helpful hints and factoids about easy-to-implement espionage, psy-ops, black-ops, photo-ops, surveillance you can use at home?
- How creepy is the creep factor of the acroynym “HUMINT” for “human intelligence?” This is spies, right? I mean, “HUM” intelligence as opposed to what kind? Nonhuman?
- What might the term “Intelligence Architecture Operations” mean? Is that something like engineering, designing, building a surveillance/intelligence infrastructure? Sounds like it to me.
- These acronyms and strange terms are redolent of language used by the Unification Church (“Moonies”), a shadowy, extremely conservative religious organization with a lot of money and many powerful connections worldwide, whose founder and leader, Sun Myung Moon, is South Korean.
- It sounds like Cho’s father was in Iraq during the Desert Storm era. Is there any end to the way the U.S. moves the world’s citizens around in order to support its ongoing commitment to, and activities around, accessing, make war over, mining for, making friends with the owners of, and depleting the world of, oil?
- Who might Cho’s father have met in Saudi Arabia?
- The implications of Cho having been diagnosed as autistic, if he really was, and yet gaining admission to Virginia Tech and presumably performing adequately are staggering.
There is more about some of these and other possibly interesting connections here. The comments thread has interesting discussion of the issue Akkari, I think, raised as to how Cho might have developed the gun-handling expertise he demonstrated in the shootings. As one commenter said, “You don’t get that playing video games.”
Thinking about all of this can become sort of a postmodern hell experience. Is this a story about marginalized people, trying to survive, struggling, and one of them losing it in a spectacular way? Is there a story underneath about the way these very human struggles might have been exploited by Americans with money and power in ways which aren’t readily apparent? Or was the shooter, like so many other, similar shooters in American history (supposedly), just a disturbed loner, playing copycat in a way which was deadly and horrifying, but which seems eerily familiar, because by now, it is a familiar story to Americans, especially, and so there is the temptation to create connections out of whatever clues we can find, just to make sense of what in fact is senseless?
Does the press sensationalize and hype everything because that’s what Americans want? Because the press is racist and xenophobic or Americans are racist and xenophobic? Or underneath the hyping and sensationalism is something else at work, an interest in diverting attention from other important issues, like the Gonzalez fiasco, or our obvious failure, as Harry Reid called it, in Iraq? If so, what would the mechanics of that diversion actually be? A straight up orchestrating of a calamity? Or “just” exploiting a calamity for partisan purposes?
Or might it just be that Americans are more interested in following calamities like this one than the usual calamities, like thousands of people dead in Iraq and hundreds more every day, like the unprecedented dismissals of highly respected Attorneys General, with the knowledge of Karl Rove, at least, and possibly George Bush himself? Or “smaller” calamities, mostly of interest, sadly and discouragingly, to women — like the exoneration of the Duke stripperhounds, like the outlawing of “partial birth abortion” so called, like the unfinished business and partisan and diplomatically sensitive politicking around Japan’s treatment of the “Comfort Women,” many of whom, and among the most visible of whom, interestingly, are South Korean?
Just questions is all I have right now, no answers.