'We Share the Same Grief, the Same Agony,' S. Korean Ambassador Says
Wednesday, April 18, 2007; 9:52 PM
South Korean Ambassador Tae-Sik Lee journeyed to the seat of Fairfax County government this evening -- for the second time in 24 hours -- to express remorse for the mass killings at Virginia Tech, and the hope that the actions of a deeply disturbed countryman would not create a backlash against Korean Americans in Northern Virginia.
"We share the same grief, the same agony," said a solemn Lee, at the beginning of an emotional 45- minute session with several members of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. Lee added that he wanted to meet with the families of those who died at the hands of Cho Seung Hui, "at the appropriate moment."
Lee attended Tuesday's prayer service at the Fairfax County Government Center, organized by the Korean American Coalition. But yesterday afternoon, he asked for a meeting with the county's elected leaders to convey the fears within the Korean community that the homicidal rampage of Cho Seung Hui will spawn discrimination or reprisals.
"This is quite a critical moment for Koreans in America," Lee said in a hushed voce, seated at the head of a horseshoe-shaped conference table, bare except for a bottle of water. "Many Koreans feel some kind of anxiety."
Lee said he wanted to meet with the families of the shooting
Toward the end of the meeting, Harold Pyon, a Korean American civic leader and Fairfax resident who accompanied Lee, wept as he described the anguish many in his community feel.
"The Korean community is upside down over this issue," said Pyon, 53, a Commerce Department official active in Republican politics. "Koreans are so proud of coming to this country."
Supervisors took turns offering assurances that Korean Americans would not suffer as a group. Supervisor Michael R. Frey (R-Sully), whose district was home to Cho's family, said his community was no stranger to sudden, senseless violence. He described last May's murder of two Fairfax County police officers outside the Sully station by 18-year-old Michael Kennedy.
Frey said everyone understood that it was the action of a lone, troubled youth.
"That is the way the community perceives this," he said.
Other officials reached for more personal frames of reference to offer support. Supervisor Gerald W. Hyland (D-Mount Vernon) said his chief of staff married a South Korean woman last year. County Executive Anthony H. Griffin, who rarely speaks about personal matters in public, recalled his military service in Vietnam and his experience with South Korean Marines.
"They're pretty special," he said.