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Leave U.S. Ways Behind, Korean Parents Warn : Asia: When their children go West to study, families hope they won't return corrupted by vice and disrespect. One such youth is accused of killing his parents for their money. Westernized youths are known as the Orange Generation, which may be a reference to Orange County.

October 16, 1994|JU-YEON KIM | ASSOCIATED PRESS

SEOUL, South Korea — When their children leave for U.S. colleges, South Korean parents hope America will not also teach them vice, gambling and disrespect for their elders that can even lead to murder.

Many South Koreans believe that is what happened to Park Han Sang, on trial for stabbing his parents to death and burning their bodies.

"America is not like Korea," Park said in a confession he later recanted. "There, gambling was unrestricted and temptation was everywhere."

Insular Korean society not only fears for the approximately 25,000 young people who go abroad each year, but is outraged by the intrusion of MTV and other American pop-culture influences.

A generation gap has developed: Westernized youth are known as the Orange Generation, which some believe is derived from Orange County, Calif., where many South Koreans go to study.

"The unchecked entry of foreign cultures has resulted in great confusion of mores in South Korea as the younger generation grows up accepting foreign ideals without questioning their value," said Paik Sang Chung of the Korea Social Pathology Research Center.

"Our society will face a great catastrophe unless the current social trend is reversed."

What disasters lie in wait? For many South Koreans, Park Han Sang has become a symbol of what can happen in America to a spoiled but harmless boy.

Park, a chubby 23-year-old, was sent to California to get a college education and learn English. After returning to Seoul, according to his confession, he stabbed his father, a wealthy herbalist, and his mother with a hunting knife, poured gasoline over the bodies and set them afire. The young man inflicted up to 90 stab wounds on his parents, police said.

"When I stabbed my mother, she did not resist, but I had difficulty with my father," Park confessed to police shortly after the murders in May.

In a nationally televised news conference, Park said both the murders and the method were the fault of America. He killed his parents to inherit their wealth and pay $23,000 in gambling debts he had run up in California, using a method learned from an American movie, he said in the confession.

"The overseas life of . . . Park Han Sang is closely related to the direct motive of his alleged crime," said the Korea Times, an English-language daily.

Violent crime is uncommon in Korea, and crimes against parents are rare in a Confucian society that stresses reverence for elders.

Koreans were shocked by the brutality of the Park murders and by the evidence of careful planning. The case led them to question foreign influences and try to restrict cultural imports.

A national newspaper, Joong Ang Ilbo, published articles on the degenerate life of Korean students abroad. Newspapers and broadcasts castigated the foreign ways of Korean children reared, as they said, on hamburgers and Hollywood movies.

Retribution followed:

* "Beverly Hills 90210," a hit TV series about American high school students, was taken off the air because of fears by watchdog groups that the "unwholesome" content would corrupt South Korean youth.

* The Culture Ministry canceled a concert by All-4-One, an American rhythm and blues group.

* The Korean Broadcasting Commission, a semiofficial censorship panel, banned "The Crying Game" from television because it "violates public sensibilities and broadcast mores." The movie was allowed in theaters with an adults-only rating.

* The South Korean version of Penthouse magazine was classified as pornographic and the publisher's license revoked. Police confiscated copies of the magazine.

* A racetrack and amusement park near Seoul barred men who wore earrings, had long hair or peppered their Korean with English words. Police in the southern part of the country arrested two women who wore T-shirts and bared their midriffs in public.

Chastity for single women and arranged marriages, both traditions in Korea, have been abandoned by the "Orange Generation." Another theory of the name's origin, scandalous to the older generation, is that a woman indicates her sexual desire for a man by giving him an orange.

Many Koreans attended sessions of the Park trial in August to see personally what evil America had wrought.

"I just wanted to see him for myself, see if he resembled a human," said a middle-age woman with a son of her own. "To kill your parents, how could you be human?"

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