SEOUL, South Korea South Koreans fear the killing and wounding of dozens of people at Virginia Tech University by a Korean national will cause a racial backlash against them in the United States.
"We are very worried about it," said Choi Hyun Soo, deputy general manager of the Kukmin Daily newspaper. "We worry about the setback against Korean people in the USA."
Cho Seung-Hui, a 23-year-old English major, killed 32 people and wounded 17 others in a shooting rampage Monday on the Blacksburg, Va., campus. He then took his own life. Cho and his family moved to Virginia from Korea in 1992.
South Korea sends more students to American colleges and universities than any other nation. Currently, there are about 93,000 South Korean students studying in the United States.
"Korean parents are concerned about the safety of their children in the United States. They call them every hour," said Hubert Y. Huh, a Korean businessman. He also expressed sympathy for the families of those who were killed or injured.
Some Koreans first heard news of the rampage late Tuesday night, Korean time. Many others woke up to the horrific events this morning.
Local television news stations devoted significant time to the story as it broke and it became evident the shooter was a South Korean. Korean and English language newspapers carried front page stories and photos. The page one headline in the Korea Times read: "Korean Students Worry Over Racism."
Korean students at Virginia Tech told the newspaper they feared hostilities against not only Koreans but Asian students in general, adding they may have to be careful for a while.
Huh said that he hopes it doesn't become a racial issue because the rampage reflects the behavior of one person. He said he also hopes there are no attempts at revenge or retaliation, because the killer's actions are not reflective of all South Koreans.
"The first thought I have about this is that it's a terrible tragedy," said Kim Ji Hyuk of the Korea Press Foundation. The shootings, he added, could leave the Western world with a bad impression of the Far East, particularly Korea.
"It's going to be difficult for Korean citizens to travel to the United States," he said.Comment on this story
Kim said Korean nationals, Korean-Americans and Asians can expect discrimination. "Korean-Americans are going to have a hard time to overcome the perception," he said.
In Seoul there was also concern that the killings would have an adverse effect on U.S.-Korean relations. The federal government is considering extending its visa waiver program to South Koreans, making it easier for them to travel to the United States. Koreans worry that Monday's events will hurt negotiations.The Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs issued a statement Tuesday expressing condolences, saying he hoped the incident would not cause diplomatic problems.