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Oikos University shooting: Private Christian school catered to Koreans

According to investigators, 43-year-old shooting suspect One Goh was upset with students at the because of the way he says he was treated when he enrolled at Oikos University two months ago. NBC's Kristen Dahlgren reports.

Oikos University, the private college in Oakland, Calif., where authorities say an expelled student methodically gunned down seven people, caters to a fast-growing target market: Korean-American Christians.

One L. Goh, 43, a South Korean national, had been a nursing student at Oikos. Oakland police do not have a precise motive yet, but they say the alleged gunman was upset with his former school, where he apparently had been teased over his poor English. He went hunting for a female administrator at the school on Monday and then opened fire on others when he couldn’t find her, according to police.

Oikos, a one-building evangelical Christian college in an industrial park near Oakland’s airport, was founded in 2004 by the Rev. Jongin Kim of San Leandro, who remains the school’s president.

According to its website, its mission is to “educate men and women to be the leaders to serve the church, local communities, and the world by using their learned skills and professions in the areas of biblical studies, music performance, Asian medicine and practical vocational nursing.”


Oikos awards degrees in nursing, biblical studies, music, ministry, divinity and Asian medicine. It attracts mostly Korean Americans from the Bay Area as well as Koreans from abroad. Tuition runs between $2,200 and $3,100 per semester for most bachelor’s programs and students are required to attend church services.

The school is one of about 1,400 institutions licensed by the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education, established in January 2010 within the Department of Consumer Affairs to oversee private postsecondary schools operating in California.

Police: Oikos shooter targeted female administrator

Bureau spokesman Russ Heimerich says the state has not received any merited complaints about Oikos. But he says the school’s nursing program, separately accredited by the Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians, could be in hot water because its pass rate for the nursing exam is well below the state average of 75 percent. (Oikos’ nursing pass rate was 58 percent and 41 percent, respectively, for 2010 and 2011, Heimerich said.)

“They are in jeopardy of having their accreditation altered in some way or withdrawn” if the school doesn’t bring up its pass rates, Heimerich told msnbc.com.

NBC's Kristen Dahlgren reports.

It was not immediately clear how many students attend Oikos. The school's website lists about 50 instructors.

Boyung Lee, associate professor of educational ministries at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, says Oikos is among a number of theology-related schools catering to Korean-Americans that have sprung up in Los Angeles, Atlanta, northern New Jersey-New York and other places around the U.S. with sizable Korean-American populations.

In South Korea, Christianity is the dominant religion; about 35 percent of the population are either Protestant or Catholic, Lee says.

“In Korea getting into college is extremely competitive so a lot of parents send their kids abroad. We have this term called 'goose family,' where the father stays in Korea and makes money while the children and mom are abroad  for education,” Lee says.

“Every parent wants their children to be fluent in English. Some parents may feel safe if their children are attending a school like Oikos because of its exclusive fundamentalist Christian environment.”

Pyong Gap Min, a sociology professor at Queens College in New York, said about 60 percent of Korean immigrants in the U.S. are Protestant. "Korean immigrants have drawn largely from the Protestant segment of the population in Korea and many non-churchgoers in Korea attend Korean churches here," Min told msnbc.com by email. "But Korean protestantism is very interesting because they are heavily evangelically oriented.  They have sent  about 15,000 missionaries to all over the world.  This number is the second largest group in the world next to the U.S."

Andrew Sung Park, a professor of theology and ethics at United Theological Seminary in Ohio, told CNN that most of 1.3 million Korean Americans are Christian and they generally subscribe to evangelical Protestantism.

Jeff Chiu / AP

An Oakland police officer walks outside of Oikos University in Oakland, Calif., Tuesday, a day after a deadly shooting.

"There is a saying that when Koreans get together in the United States, they establish churches first," Park, who is Korean-American, told CNN. "Some other Asians are more concerned with businesses or finances, but Koreans care about religion and about Christianity."

Kim, the school’s president, didn’t return media calls Tuesday, and Oakland police said the school is closed indefinitely. According to the Oakland Tribune, Kim is affiliated with the Praise God Korean Church in Oakland and is listed as the president of California Ezra Bible Academy in Sunnyvale.

The term "oikos" is ancient Greek for household or family. In a statement on Oikos University's website Kim says the school’s main goal is “to foster spiritual Christian leaders who abide by God’s intentions and to expand God’s nation through them.”

The statement adds:

“To accomplish our mission, we actively seek out, educate and train students, ministers, teachers and church leaders to become more qualified leaders. Oikos University has rapidly grown in its quality and size to become an institution that contributes to and positively changes their surrounding environment--and the world in general.”

The school’s “Doctrinal Statement” lists 11 fundamental beliefs, including the Bible, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Number 11 on the list is Satan:

"We believe the existence of a personal, malevolent being called Satan who acts as tempter and accuser, for whom the place of eternal punishment was prepared, where all who die outside of Christ shall be confined in conscious torment for eternity. He can be resisted by the believer through faith and reliance on the power of the Holy Spirit."

“I was taken aback by how fundamentalist and conservative these systems are. I assume that those beliefs, doctrines were taught to students,” Lee said.  “I wonder whether such a system creates liberation among students.”

Msnbc.com's James Eng contributed to this report.

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