Sister of Virginia gunman belongs to Class of 2004
Though Monday's shootings at Virginia Tech had already cast a shadow over campus, the news yesterday morning that the gunman's older sister is a recent Princeton alumna brought the tragedy even closer to home.
Sun-Kyung Cho '04 was an economics major who interned at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok during the summer before her senior year and wrote briefly for The Daily Princetonian. She now works as a "State Department contractor," The Washington Post reported yesterday, and was listed on Princeton's alumni directory as living in Centreville, Va., with her parents.
The shooter was identified early yesterday morning as 23-year-old Virginia Tech senior Cho Seung-Hui. Later in the morning, the Chicago Tribune's "The Swamp" blog reported that Cho had a sister who graduated from the University.
Sun-Kyung Cho's and Cho Seung-Hui's home addresses in Centreville, Va., are identical. Reached on her cell phone yesterday afternoon, Sun-Kyung declined to be interviewed for this article.
At Princeton, Cho wrote her senior thesis on "ethnic enclave[s] and wage earning" among Korean immigrants in California. Her thesis adviser, economics professor Orley Ashenfelter, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
In the past two days, intense national media scrutiny has been focused on the Cho family as the public struggles to understand the shootings.
University spokeswoman Cass Cliatt '96 said the Office of Communications had received inquiries from at least seven media organizations yesterday about whether the shooter's sister had gone to Princeton, including ABC, CNN, the Newark Star-Ledger and The Washington Post.
Cliatt said she could not disclose any information on Sun-Kyung Cho besides the fact that she had been a student, what she studied and when she graduated.
Cliatt added that she also received a call from an alumna who was unrelated to the shooter and whose last name was also Cho. "She was concerned that she was receiving a lot of calls" from reporters regarding the shootings, Cliatt said.
Marc Fisher '80, a columnist with The Washington Post who was at the Chos' Centreville townhouse yesterday along with dozens of other journalists, described the situation as a "puzzle with virtually blank pieces."
Close media scrutiny of the family's life was motivated, he said, by a "very human need to know and understand."
"Partly out of courtesy and partly out of the urge that people have to just find meaning, there's a rush to delve into the shooter's life," he said, "and usually we come up fairly empty in that pursuit, and the competitive juices get flowing, so you end up with a lot of scenes that are almost comical, such as having 50 reporters standing outside an empty townhouse."
The Chos had been escorted from their home before Fisher got to Centreville and have not spoken to the press.
Fisher said the media's close attention to the Cho family would likely continue for at least another week. "I think we're just at the very beginning of that process of trying to figure out who he was and the family story and how they got here and how he got to such an extreme point," he said.