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Guns Are a Cultural Issue

Sueng Won Kim on rifle rangeBy Seung Won Kim

Gun control is one of the most sensitive issues that divides Americans and foreigners in the United States.

I was quite surprised that there were not many people who were against using guns when I first came to this country because guns are prohibited in my country of South Korea. In South Korea, anyone who owns guns in his or her private residence is generally considered a criminal unless they work for the military or other government organizations.

For these reasons, and perhaps more, international students tend to have negative opinions and ideas about possessing a gun. However, because it is not unusual to have guns in the States, international students should take advantage of opportunities to learn about the responsible use of firearms.

Last week one of my American friends invited me to his uncle’s house to shoot guns. I saw three rifles, and we were shooting for about an hour. It was such a new experience for me to shoot popular rifles so I posted a picture of myself holding a rifle on my Facebook page to show it to my Korean friends.

However, my parents called me after seeing my profile picture to tell me that it looks inappropriate since they are conservative when it comes to guns. Because guns are only used in the military and police stations in South Korea, they told me not to use guns and not to hang out with the American friend who invited me because they regarded anyone who owns guns or enjoys shooting as violent or impolite people. They did not want me to be influenced by those kinds of people.

When I told this story to my Asian friends, they somewhat agreed with my parents’ opinions, but my American friends did not. One of my friends from New York said that his parents owned guns ever since he was born and nothing bad ever happened. He is not worried about possessing guns.

Another one of my friends from Hawaii said that there are many people where he is from that just collect guns as a hobby, and it is not considered weird behavior.

Because there are these sorts of cultural differences between Asia and America, sometimes international students from Asia may feel pressure from their native community. My parents also expressed their concern that I might get into trouble if I become too assimilated into American society.

This is understandable because some American values are extremely different from Asian values so I may have conflicts if I go back to my country after I graduate. If I put myself in a bad situation back home by expressing “American” ideas, I may treated as an outcast in my native community.

However, there is no reason to be condemned just because you tried to learn about another culture and follow the trend. It is such a great opportunity for international students to mingle with Americans. Therefore they need to make wise decisions every time to find a happy medium between their own culture and a new culture in America.

Although I changed my profile picture on Facebook, I did not end the relationship with the friend who introduced me to rifles. I am still finding a way to be as flexible as I can between two cultures, since learning a new culture in the United States and keeping a good relationship with my native community are both important for my future.

The wisest decision I can choose to make might be getting along with American friends by learning their hobbies and actively participating with them, but at the same time keeping respect for the culture of my native community.

In this case it is not a bad idea to behave differently when I am active in a different culture, and no international students should feel awkward about doing the same.


  1. RE: Guns are a cultural issue: Sueng, this is a great article. And, I appreciate your thoughts as a person learning about other cultures. By learning about the culture here in the U.S. you also get to teach others about Korean and Asian culture. And by doing that we all can understand one another and find how much we have in common as people.


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