South Korea’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday the government hoped the Virginia Tech shootings, allegedly carried out by a 23-year-old South Korean native, would not “stir up racial prejudice or confrontation.”
Late Tuesday evening in Seoul, the shooter was identified as Seung-Hui Cho, a senior in the English department, who the ministry said had been living in the United States since 1992. Cho was the only suspect named in connection with the deadliest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history that left 33 dead.
“We are in shock beyond description,” said Cho Byung-se, a ministry official handling North American affairs, after learning the suspect was a South Korean native. “We convey deep condolences to victims, families and the American people.”
He said there was no known motive, and added that South Korea hoped that the tragedy would not “stir up racial prejudice or confrontation.”
South Korean diplomats were traveling to the site of the shooting, said Cho Hee-yong, another ministry spokesman.
Earlier, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said the suspect had gone to live in the United States while in primary school and had permanent residency there while maintaining his South Korean citizenship, citing an unnamed official.
Hours later, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, who had been traveling in Japan before the incident in his home state, seemed to address the concerns of the South Korean government.
Calling Monday “the darkest day in the wonderful history of Virginia Tech,” Kaine pledged to make “every effort in the days to come” to help the American university recover.
Saying he had known of a fatal victim of Monday's violence — a member of the Virginia Tech faculty who was Asian — Kaine downplayed the risk of ethnically motivated acts of revenge. “This is an incident that cuts across all the barriers. There’s grief for all. I don’t see this as an excuse to exercise prejudice and intolerance.”
"This is a grief that does not know an international boundary. It affects not just this little town; it affects the entire world.”