What’s in a name? EVERYTHING – Cho Seung-Hui vs. Seung-Hui Cho

Is it me, or is the media’s reporting of the Virginia Tech “massacre” referring to Cho Seung-Hui rather than Seung-Hui Cho is really starting to bother me! I caught a part of CNN’s Special Reports – “Massacre at Virginia Tech” this afternoon, and CNN kept on referring to Seung-Hui Cho as Cho Seung-Hui.

This really bothered me after a while, especially after CNN showed the receipt of one of the guns that Seung-Hui had bought, where he had written his name as “Seung Cho.” Why does this bother me and a lot of Asian-Americans? Because this is not only how Seung-Hui Cho referred to himself (besides the times he signed into class as “?”), but because Cho Seung-Hui is the direct Korean translation and is “foreign.” As Claire had commented on the NPR opinion piece, “Cho Lived and Died as an American,” Seung-Hui was living the immigrant experience that many Asian-Americans have been living.

Sure, Seung-Hui still was a South Korean, but he had emigrated with his family when he was 8 years old, and lived over 15 years in the United States and had his green card. I know plenty of Koreans and Korean-Americans living in the United States that are in their 20’s and 30’s, and NONE of them go by their family name first and given name last.

When Seung-Hui’s sister, Sun-Kyung Cho, released a statement on behalf of the entire family, the news media correctly refers to Sun-Kyung in the proper order: given name, family name Sun-Kyung Cho – NOT Cho Sun-Kyung.
So I guess I just have to attribute the misnaming” of Seung-Hui Cho by the news media as just plain ignorance or laziness, or both! I guess that’s no surprise, but still very annoying.
In the online English version of The Chosun Ilbo‘s (The Korean Daily News – South Korea’s largest newspaper) article, Virginia Tech Killer’s E-Mail, Phone Records to be Scrutinized (4/23/07), at the end is an Editor’s Note:

“English.chosun.com has so far used “Cho Seung-hui” for the shooter’s name in the Korean format of the surname followed by the given name. This is also the format initially provided by the local police and school officials earlier last week. But out of respect for the family’s preference for the Americanized format of the given name + surname, as expressed in a statement in AP, we will hereafter use “Seung-hui Cho” instead of “Cho Seung-hui.” “

Even a South Korean newspaper, corrected itself in the English version of its website.
So I hope that in the near future, the news media will correctly identify Cho Seung-Hui as Seung-Hui Cho.
How would you like it if YOUR name, was reversed and reported by the news media? (hopefully for something good, rather than bad!). How would CNN reporters Paula Zahn and Wolf Blitzer like to be called Zahn Paula and Blitzer Wolf? I’m sure Larry King wouldn’t mind being called King Larry, and who the hell knows if Anderson Cooper should be Cooper Anderson (what kind of name is that – sounds foreign to me either way? 🙂

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About John

I'm a Taiwanese-American and was born & raised in Western Massachusetts, went to college in upstate New York, worked in Connecticut, went to grad school in North Carolina and then moved out to the Bay Area in 1999 and have been living here ever since - love the weather and almost everything about the area (except the high cost of housing...)
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