Normal Reaction to a Gun

Dear Korean,

I've been a fan of Korean action-thrillers for a while now, but there's something weird that I think only happens in Korean movies: there are almost no guns. Even when the main character is a gangster/assassin/cop is more usual to find them using knives, bats or just kicking around than shooting. And when someone uses one people around them act like they have pulled out a bomb (the recent
Ajeossi for example.) Is there any reason for that (gun control or something)?


The answer to this question is easy, and was partially covered in a previous post about gun control in Korea. Guns are extremely rare in Korea -- private ownership of a gun is virtually nonexistent. 

The recent hit Korean movie 26 Years, which shows the plot to assassinate former president Chun Doo-hwan, gives a good showing of just how difficult it is to obtain a gun in Korea. In the movie, one of the main characters -- a young woman who is an Olympian shooter -- has to resort to a makeshift air-pump gun as her weapon. Most Koreans live their lives without ever seeing a gun, except for males who serve in the military. So if a Korean person saw a gun in ordinary circumstances -- heck, even in relatively unordinary circumstances, like fighting bad guys -- the normal reaction is a stunned paralysis, at least initially.

Obviously, this post is in reaction to the unspeakable tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut -- another mass shooting, this time killing 27, 18 of them little children. (-EDIT- Now it's 20 children. Good lord.) It is safe to say that this type of event only happens in Korea very, very, very rarely. In fact, mass murder of a comparable scale (outside of military context) happened only once in modern Korean history. In contrast, U.S. has had a mass school shooting -- just school shooting -- once every month since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999.

In fact, the Korean realized something today:  Americans will never know just how much of a peace of mind there can be in a society whose people lack the capacity to kill randomly, how liberating it is to not live in fear of strangers all the time, not to have that dark fear in the corner of our minds that something horrible can happen to our little children because a deranged maniac can obtain guns any time he wants to.

If you still think there is absolutely nothing wrong with America's gun culture after this, go on feeling that way. If the senseless deaths of 20 toddlers do not change your mind about guns, why would this post be any more effective? Go on and keep living in fear of others, hoping that your gun -- your voodoo god of safety -- will ward off the threat. Just know that, in the majority of the civilized world, people feel much safer without that voodoo god in their lives, because it is a savage god that requires constant human sacrifice.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at