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South Koreans Shocked by Identity of US University Gunman

As Americans mourn the victims of Monday's massacre in Virginia, South Koreans are expressing shock and shame at word that the man behind the worst mass shooting in U.S. history was one of their own. VOA's Heda Bayron reports from our Asia News Center in Hong Kong.

South Koreans are painfully coming to terms with the fact that the man who massacred 32 students and teachers at Virginia Tech Monday before killing himself, 23-year-old student Cho Seung-Hui, was himself a South Korean.

Cho immigrated to the United States with his parents in 1992, nevertheless, the revelation of his national origin has hit hard in South Korea, a country that fiercely values its pride.

Go Eun-ja, a 50-year-old civil servant in Seoul, expressed the disbelief and shame that are being widely reported in South Korea.

Go asks, how could a Korean commit such a terrible crime? She says the whole world watched the rampage at Virginia Tech and knows the gunman is Korean. I feel shame as a Korean, she says.

President Roh Moo-hyun issued two statements of condolence to the victims' families and the U.S. Tuesday, reflecting his country's collective anguish. Mr. Roh held an emergency meeting with aides Wednesday, and repeated his condolences.

"I and the Korean people cannot escape from big shock, sadness and pain," he said. "We pray for the victims and express deep condolences to the victim's families and the American people. I also hope the American society can overcome this big sorrow as soon as possible, and regain calm."

Mr. Roh sent a telegram to President Bush Wednesday expressing the same sentiments.

The South Korean government has dispatched diplomats to Blacksburg, Virginia, where the university is located. The country's foreign minister has sent his own letter of condolence to U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

South Koreans are particularly sensitive to their national image. The South Korean scientist who claimed to have made a major breakthrough in stem cell research in 2005 was hailed as a national hero. When it was revealed that the scientist had faked his research, South Koreans treated it as a national disaster.

Some are worried that South Koreans might be singled out for discrimination in the U.S. as a result of the shooting.

Ju Gang-ik, a 53-year-old housewife in Seoul, says she thinks it will become more difficult to immigrate to the United States.

The gunman's motive for the shootings is still unknown.