Cho '04 calls campus friend
While family members of the Virginia Tech gunman have secluded themselves during the last three days to avoid media attention, his older sister, Sun-Kyung Cho '04, reached out to a close friend and spiritual adviser from her Princeton days yesterday, offering the first glimpse of how the shooter's closest relatives are reacting to Monday's killings.
At a discussion forum organized yesterday by the Korean American Students Association (KASA) to help students cope with the shootings, Manna Christian Fellowship director Rev. David Kim told the group that Cho — a member of Manna while at the University — called and talked to him over the phone yesterday morning.
Some of Cho's conversation with Kim focused on the guilt he said she's feeling in the aftermath of her brother's actions. Kim said that Cho apologized for any negative repercussions Koreans on campus may have experienced after Monday's shooting.
The 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui — who shot himself after taking the lives of 32 people Monday on the Virginia Tech campus — immigrated to the United States in 1992 from South Korea, along with Sun-Kyung and their parents.
"When she called, one of the first things she did was she apologized because she felt so bad for the Koreans on campus," Kim said. Several Korean students and alumni have expressed anxiety regarding a possible nationwide backlash against their community following the Virginia shootings.
Kim added that in the next few days, Cho would release a public statement on behalf of her family, since her parents do not speak English. Cho has taken a leave of absence from her job with a State Department contractor, ABC News reported yesterday, and her parents left their Centreville, Va. house Monday before media members swarmed the location.
Cho could not be reached yesterday. She declined to comment when contacted on her cellphone Tuesday.
In an interview after the forum, Kim said that Cho is "doing okay and [that] she appreciates the support of the Manna community that she knows." He added that he wanted to respect Cho's privacy by restricting his public comments about her, emphasizing his desire not to "compromise [his] ability to support her as a friend."
Manna, a Christian undergraduate group, has historically had heavily Asian-American membership though its website emphasizes that it seeks diverse student involvement. Cho was involved with the group during her time at the University, but it remains unclear whether her affiliation with Manna reflected her family's religious beliefs or convictions she developed on her own.
Cho was an economics major who interned at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok during the summer after her junior year. She also wrote briefly for The Daily Princetonian. Kim said he had known Cho when she was an undergraduate at the University and described her as "one of the sweetest people."
He also said that though her family was in great need of support, Cho told him that rumors and media reports that her parents had attempted suicide were untrue.
During the discussion last night, some Korean students said they could not help feeling somehow connected to Cho Seung-Hui. "I can't help feeling a relation to him," Jin-Hee Kim '07 said. "I feel connected to him even though there is no pressure from others." She explained that, like Cho Seung-Hui, she has two foreign-born Asian parents.
"We feel embarrassed because we associate him as one of our own," Jae Han '09 said.
Andrew Kim '10 said he felt differently about the situation. "I think the feelings that we have are a manifestation of what the media is putting into us," he said. He added that he believes the media tends to emphasize Cho's ethnicity unnecessarily. "I feel that it is important to not become part of that." But, he emphasized, as a Korean, he does not feel threatened or uncomfortable on campus.
Juyoung Chung '10 said he, too, hopes that the tragedy at Virginia Tech will not become too closely tied to the Korean ethnicity. "Even though Koreans can feel associated, I hope people recognize that this was an isolated event," he said.
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