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South Korea Fears Link To Virginia Shooting Could Stir Prejudice

Updated:
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) _ 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 Cho Seung-Hui, a senior in the English department, who the South Korean Foreign 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-je, a ministry official handling North American affairs. ``We convey deep condolences to victims, families and the American people.''

The diplomat said there was no known motive for the shootings, and added that South Korea hoped that the tragedy would not ``stir up racial prejudice or confrontation.''

Kim Min-kyung, a South Korean student at Virginia Tech reached by telephone from Seoul, said there were some 500 Koreans at the school, including Korean-Americans. She said she had never met the shooter Cho. Fearing retaliation, she said South Korean students were gathering in groups ``as it could be dangerous.''

South Korean diplomats were traveling to the site of the shooting, Foreign Ministry spokesman Cho Hee-yong said.

Cho was in the U.S. as a resident alien with a residence in Centerville, Va., but living on campus, the university said.

``He was a loner, and we're having difficulty finding information about him,'' school spokesman Larry Hincker said.

Earlier Tuesday before it emerged that the shooter was from South Korea, President Roh Moo-hyun offered his ``deep condolences to bereaved family members and wished quick recovery of injured people,'' the president's office said in a statement.

A South Korean student was also among those injured in the rampage, and Roh instructed diplomats to care for the student and confirm whether any other South Koreans were hurt.

Despite being technically a state of war for decades against North Korea, South Korea is a country where citizens are banned from privately owning guns and where no school shootings are known to have occurred.

However, the country has not been immune from shooting rampages.

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.

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