Childhood friend recalls a different side of Cho
‘Seung-hui could have been a popular kid, but he kept distance from others on his own.’
“It’s nonsense that Seung was a loner,” Kim Gyeong-won, a 23-year-old senior at Kyung Hee University in Seoul, said yesterday as he talked about his childhood friend Cho Seung-hui.
Kim, who was friends for three years with the boy they used to call “Seung,” described Cho as an athletic student who was good at math and English. Cho was shy and reserved, but tall and a good dresser who was popular with the girls, Kim recalled.
The two met in the fifth grade at Poplar Tree Elementary School in Fairfax County, Virginia, a suburb of Washington, D.C. The school had only three Korean students, and Kim and Cho became close friends, attending the same classes and riding the school bus together.
Kim said he arrived in the United States with his parents in 1995. His family moved to Atlanta when he entered middle school 10 years ago, and he never saw Cho again. He was stunned to see his friend’s photo appear in the media everywhere, as the killer of 32 people Monday in a rampage at Virginia Tech University.
“At school, Seung-hui was noted for his math skills,” Kim said.
Many of the teachers encouraged foreign students at an English as a second language class by pointing to Cho’s achievements, Kim said. “Teachers said Seung-hui finished the three-year program in a year and a half, and they used him as an exemplary model for other students.”
Cho was also good at sports, Kim remembered. “He was the most active in physical education class. He was really enthusiastic about marathons. I can still vividly picture him in his blue gym clothes,” Kim said, adding that Cho was a particularly good basketball player.
Kim said Cho was a boy of very few words. Whenever Kim asked Cho a question, he only gave a short answer. Cho’s mother also complained to Kim’s mother that her son did not talk much at home. Kim said the shy boy rarely hung around with many friends, except when they were playing basketball.
Kim, however, said Cho was not a loner during childhood. “He was mature, and nobody hated him,” Kim said. “Cho was recognized by friends as a boy of knowledge.”
He said there was no racial discrimination at the school. “Seung-hui could have been a popular kid, but he kept distance from others on his own,” Kim said. “I only have good memories about him.”
By Lee Hyeon-gu JoongAng Ilbo [firstname.lastname@example.org]