중앙데일리

Condolences and concern after massacre

Despite fears, no backlash incidents reported against Koreans in the U.S.  PLAY AUDIO

Apr 19,2007
Koreans in front of the U.S. Embassy in Seoul last night remember the victims of Monday’s shooting. [YONHAP]
Korea’s political leaders paid condolences yesterday to the victims of the massacre in the United States, while relatives and parents expressed concern for the safety of students studying at American universities.
In addition to President Roh Moo-hyun’s offer of condolences, Lee Tae-sik, Seoul’s top diplomat to Washington, offered yesterday to fast with churchgoers for 32 days as a gesture of grief, but the Foreign Ministry asked him to reconsider.
“On the occasion of this shocking incident, the Korean community needs to reflect on itself and take it as an opportunity to incorporate itself with the mainstream of American society,” Lee said, in a speech to churchgoers in Fairfax County, a suburb of Washington, according to Yonhap.
Cho Seung-hui, a Korean citizen who moved to the United States in 1992, killed 32 people and himself in a shooting Monday at Virginia Tech University. He injured dozens more.
A government official said yesterday that Lee’s remarks were a gesture of solidarity with Americans in light of the deadliest single killing incident in U.S. history.
Koreans expressed concern that the killings would have a chilling effect in various ways. “It’s an enormous tragedy,” said Lee Jie-eun, 24, who is planning to apply to graduate school next year in the United States. “I am worried that the proportion of the killings will make things harder for me to get a visa or acceptance by an American university.”
Nevertheless, a U.S. Embassy spokesman said yesterday, “There have been no changes to our visa procedures.”
The case was an “individual accident,” and should not be treated as a racial incident, William Stanton, deputy chief of the U.S. Embassy to Seoul, told Uri Party lawmakers, according to party spokesman Suh Hae-suk.
Meanwhile, President Roh held an emergency meeting yesterday with senior government officials to discuss the matter.
He also tried to comfort the victim’s families saying that he would pray for them.
“On behalf of the Korean government and people, I would like to offer my heartfelt condolences and consolations to the victims, their bereaved families and the American people. I hope that the United States recovers from its grief and becomes peaceful again,” he said.
There had been no reports of backlash against Koreans in the United States that caused any concern, said a Foreign Ministry official who declined to be identified.
The Foreign Ministry ruled out issuing any type of travel warning or statement to Koreans living in the country. On Tuesday, South Korean diplomatic missions were advised to keep close communications with Koreans living in the United States.
A Korean government official said that sending a delegation to Washington had been considered, but the the United States said it was not necessary because the shooting was an individual case that occurred in a multi-racial society.
“Definitely not. We are not sending anyone,” said the official.
He said U.S. officials said the issue was purely domestic and South Korea had nothing to do with it.
A Virginia Tech graduate who wanted to be identified only by his last name, Chung, said yesterday he was worried.
“I talked to a couple of alumni here and putting myself in the shoes of those who are still at school, I think it would be pretty awkward to be a Korean studying in the classroom with others,” he said. “So there is a lot of concern right now.”
Foreign Minister Song Min-soon expressed his grief over the incident to his U.S. counterpart, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, in a written note on Wednesday night, the Foreign Ministry said yesterday. Other officials followed suit.
Eugene Oh, 26, who works for a South Korean conglomerate and graduated from a college in Georgia in 2003, said, “It was the case of a loner. But if you are a Korean student studying in the United States, psychologically you can’t avoid being connected to the case, no matter what. If I were still there I would be worried. It’s something you can’t just shake off and forget.”
Hwang Sang-min, a professor of psychology at Yonsei University, said people are concerned because so many students from Korea study in the United States.
“Every year, we have tens of thousands of elementary kids being sent to the States for language training while we have so many people taking Toefl [Test of English as a Foreign Language] tests. The United States has become another place for our education,” said the professor.


by Brian Lee Staff Writerafricanu@joongang.co.kr



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