The Story of a Tragic Life

A story of immigration, broken dreams, and mental illness.

If I look to my left while working at the University Bridge here in Seattle, I can just glimpse a bit of the campus of the University of Washington. I love that place. A drive through campus makes me feel like I’ve entered Hogwarts, such is the castle-like architecture of many of the buildings. And the cherry blossoms blooming on the Quad are breathtaking harbingers of spring for me. I enjoy walking through Red Square, and gazing at the library, and fantasizing that I’m a student again. I wish I had gone to UW. If I had, I’d have made it to Seattle that much sooner. But…

…I recently discovered that I’m extremely glad that I was not on UW’s Red Square on October 30, 2008. That was the day that In Soo Chun chose to set himself on fire.

The fact that I may have walked right over the spot where he immolated himself gives me the chills. It also makes me very, very sad.

In Soo Chun’s life had been nearly as tragic as his death was. He had been a teacher in Korea, a very honorable position in that country, deserving of the highest respect. He came to America in 1977 and attended a few different universities. One article says he got a masters degree, but another says he never completed any of his studies. He became a US citizen in 1983, and divorced his wife that same decade. He was estranged from his only son.

He had already been struggling with mental health issues for many years. One doctor even went so far as to scan Chun’s brain to prove to him that there were no microchips in it. The test revealed no foreign objects at all, but Chun refused to believe it. He said the microchips traveled around his body, sometimes coming to the surface. He refused to seek psychological help.

He lived alone in the Miranda apartments, within walking distance of his job. I’ve driven past that dreary building hundreds of times, never knowing the despair that once engulfed one of its residents. It would be hard not to despair while living at the Miranda, in my opinion.

He also had a long history of ending jobs on a confrontational note. He had sued several employers, but he had not won any of the lawsuits. Chun never felt that his hostility was the problem, despite the fact that it was the common denominator.

Unfortunately, his angry confrontations with fellow custodians at UW caused his supervisor to attempt to assign him to a different building. Rather than accept that assignment, he took a vacation, never returned to work, and was subsequently fired. He attempted to file for Unemployment Compensation, but since he was let go for abandonment of his position, he was not eligible.

And so a very troubled Chun decided to set himself ablaze in Red Square.

A student tried to stop him when he was pouring the gasoline over himself, and he got soaked in the stuff as well, but fortunately was not burned. Chun definitely was, though. Students tried to beat out the flames with their jackets, as well as dousing him with water and using fire extinguishers, but it was too late. He died not long afterward.

He left a 128 page manifesto, alleging that the school was involved in a drug and prostitution business, that the CIA and Korean operatives had infiltrated the Custodial Services Department in order to spy on him, and that the government had planted microchips in his head. He also believed he was the Staff of God, and that the Bush and Clinton families had used him to become politically successful.

I can’t imagine how profoundly effected the witnesses to this tragedy must still be to this very day. A mentally ill Chun may have thought he was making a political statement, but what he did was snuff out his life while traumatizing many others. It’s a heartbreaking end to his story.

In Soo Chun was 61 years old.

If you or anyone you know is contemplating suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Sources for this post:

https://www.dailyuw.com/news/article_6320d067-89a0-5ee9-a30b-8e1455628f55.html

https://www.seattlepi.com/local/article/Man-who-set-self-on-fire-was-custodian-1290349.php

http://nwasianweekly.com/2008/12/letter-in-soo-chun%E2%80%99s-apparent-suicide/

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This Wondrous World

I was surfing through Google Images in hopes of being inspired for a blog entry when I came across an amazing photo that led me to an equally amazing website called Atlas of Wonders. This site has photographs of some of the most beautiful and unexpected places on earth. I wound up searching this site for a good hour and a half, which is, roughly, 88 minutes longer than my usual attention span. I contacted the site owner and was given permission to share some of my favorite photos with you, provided I credit the photographers. So without further ado, here is the beauty that we call planet earth. If this doesn’t make you stop throwing cigarette butts out your car window, nothing will.

Painted Hills Oregon Painted Hills, Oregon. Photo by Scott Butner.

Humahuarca, Argentina Quebrada de Humahuaca, Argentina. Photo by Ra Moon.

Dallol, Ethiopia Dallol, Ethiopia. Photo by Pierre-Yves Burgi.

Jeju Island South Korea Jeju Island, South Korea. Photo by Korea.net.

kaui, hawaii Honopū Valley, Kauai, Hawaii. Photo by Wallyg.

Croatia Plitvice Lakes, Croatia. Photo by Oissaly.

Zhangye Danxia IV Zhangye Danxia, China. Photo by Mohsin A. Soomro.

 

 

Where is China, Greenland and the Whole of Africa?

Since I haven’t been able to afford international travel in the past several years, I travel vicariously by checking out the countries of origin of the people who visit my blog. WordPress is even kind enough to provide a nifty little world map, with the countries that have visited colored in for me.

WordPress.com_20130223_085359

When I get a new country visitor, I’m always so excited. I imagine someone from Bangladesh, for example, sitting at their computer on the other side of the world, looking at something I’ve written. What is that person like, I wonder. What does the room in which they’re sitting look like? What sounds are they hearing out their window? What drew them to my blog? Did I make them think about something in a different way? If it’s a country that I know very little about, I rush off to Google and learn a thing or two.

It’s a particular thrill when it’s a little tiny country, because I figure the odds are a lot longer that someone there would visit. I’d love to get Andorra or Lichtenstein, for example.

I’ve had visitors from 49 countries so far. In addition to the countries visible on the list from my screengrab picture above are Switzerland, Chile, Singapore, Austria, Greece, Ukraine, Slovenia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Finland, Mauritius, Israel, Guatemala, Iceland, Thailand, Croatia, Turkey, Viet Nam, France, Lithuania, Nepal and Brunei Darussalam.

I was particularly excited when I got my first visitor from the Russian Federation, because that REALLY added color to my map! What I can’t figure out, though, is why I haven’t sparked any interest at all from any nation on the African continent. What does a girl have to do? I’d also love to get Greenland and China. I’ll really know I’ve arrived, though, when I get someone from North Korea. But I won’t hold my breath.

So if you are a new visitor, welcome! I am waving hello to you from another part of the planet, and I’m really glad you’re here! Come back soon and bring your friends!