U.S. Korean Community Shocked at Virginia Shooting

      April 18, 2007 10:24

      Korean communities in the U.S. were horrified when it emerged that the gunman who killed 33 others at Virginia Tech was Korean student Cho Seung-hui. Recalling the nightmare of the 1992 Los Angeles riots, Koreans in the U.S. worried about retaliation from other ethnic groups. Some are considering leaving the U.S. There were also fears that the incident could negatively affect U.S. deliberations on including Korea in its visa waiver program.

      "I was horrified to hear that the shooter was a Korean man," a Korean sophomore at Virginia Tech said. "Until yesterday, they said it was an Asian. Korean students have started to feel threatened." Another Korean student at the Blacksburg university said the campus fell into silence after the tragedy. Korean students stayed in their dorm rooms and are afraid to go out, checking up on each other's safety by phone, he said.

      Korean students worried about their future school life and retaliatory action by other students. The college has told students in an e-mail that all classes for this week are canceled. Some Korean students at Virginia Tech plan to stay in their dorms for the time being and leave for the homes of relatives in other parts of the U.S. by the weekend.

      Yook Jong-ho, the chief of a vocational training center for Koreans in Fairfax, Virginia said this was an incident "that shouldn't have happened." He worried that the campus shooting could hurt the image of Korea in the U.S. in the same way the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks hurt relations between the U.S. and the Middle East. Koreans in Virginia swiftly moved to guard against possible fallout from the massacre.

      A photo of Cho Seung-hui in his high school days. Cho killed 33 people before turning the gun on himself at Virginia Tech on Monday.

      In a meeting of some dozen members of the Korean-American Association of Northern Virginia Tuesday, its chairman Baek In-seok said the entire Korean community was "shocked" to learn that the shooter was a Korean student. He expressed hope that the actions of an individual will not translate into ethnic conflict.

      One Korean woman there worried about the future life of her children in the U.S. Koreans in other parts of the U.S. were also shocked. Kwak Dong-hoon, of Saint Paul in Minnesota, said he asked his children to keep safe out of concern of possible ethnic conflict.

      Kim Joon-yeop of Bloomington, Indiana, said the incident will have serious repercussions for Koreans in America. Some Korean students worry if they can continue studying in the U.S. Lee Hyun-seok, a student in the doctorate program at the State University of New York, said he missed classes since he feared retaliatory attacks. A Korean high school student in Seattle also said he was so anxious that he skipped school, adding he may not be able to go to a U.S. college next year due to aftershocks of the atrocity.

      Korean Ambassador to the U.S. Lee Tae-shik said he was shocked to learn that a Korean committed "such a dreadful act." He pledged to do his utmost to come up with an effective response. The Korean Embassy formed a task force and sent a consul to Virginia to discover the damage to Korean students.

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