S Korea in shock over US shootings

Vigils held as it emerges Virginia Tech gunman was a South Korean national.

    Many South Koreans have taken to the streets to express their grief at the shootings [GALLO/GETTY]
    According to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, South Koreans account for about 15 per cent of all foreign students.
     
    Condolences
     

    "I and our people cannot contain our feelings of huge shock and grief"

    Roh Moo-hyun,
    South Korean president

    On Wednesday a march and vigil was held outside the US embassy in Seoul as mourners prayed for the victims.
     
    "I want to express my condolences to the families of the deceased," said Cho Young-chang, Head of the Committee of Korean Pastors of Southern California.
     
    "I'm participating today to apologise, as a true Korean."
     
    South Korea's president has also raised the issue at a meeting of his cabinet.
     
    "I and our people cannot contain our feelings of huge shock and grief," Roh Moo-hyun said during a news conference.
     
    "I pray for the souls of those killed and offer words of comfort from my heart for those injured, the bereaved families and the US people."
     
    One South Korean website set up to offer messages of condolence reported that more than 8,500 messages had been left by midday on Wednesday.
     
    Better life
     

    Korean newspapers have expressed fears of
    a backlash in the US [GALLO/GETTY]

    The shooting rampage, the deadliest in modern US history, left 33 dead, including the gunman, Cho Seung-hui.
     
    A senior in the university's English department, Cho had been living in the United States since 1992.
     
    According to South Korean media reports Cho's family had struggled to make ends meet and when Cho was eight years old they decided to emigrate to the US in search of a better life.
     
    The family had lived in a rented basement apartment in a Seoul suburb, usually the cheapest unit in an apartment building, reports said.
     
    Gun ban
     
    Although South Korea remains technically at war with neighbouring North Korea its citizens are banned from privately owning guns.
     
     
    In 1982 South Korea was the scene of one of the world's deadliest shooting sprees, when Woo Beom-gon, a police officer, killed 55 people and wounded 35 others in an eight-hour overnight rampage in the southeastern village of Euiryeong.
     
    The shootings were apparently triggered after Woo quarrelled with his live-in girlfriend.
     
    In 2005, a military conscript believed to be angered by taunts from senior officers killed eight fellow soldiers, throwing a grenade into a barracks where his comrades were sleeping and firing a hail of bullets.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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