Looking for Blame and Souvenirs From the 'Obliterated' Cho Family

The Virginia Tech shootings "triggered a lot of dark memories for us," David Kaczynski told ABC News. "You are so full of questions. We didn't know Ted was violent, and we felt the same isolation as the Cho family. It's hard to disassociate yourself from your family member."

Kaczynski said his family was so tortured they considered changing their name. "What life is left for you?" he asked. "Will you ever have the respect of other people again? When they finally got a statement from us, I would have rather walked through fire."

But immigration experts say the Cho family faces a grief compounded by living in a new culture. Poor and looking to forge a new life and a fresh future for their children, the Chos moved to Virginia a decade ago.

Their then 13-year-old son -- uncommunicative and troubled even as a toddler -- was caught between two worlds. His family worried about him, but never sought help.

Rising up the social ladder is hard for new immigrants, said Frederic Bemak, professor of education at Virginia's George Mason University, particularly when they are isolated.

"It's a tough road to uproot," said Bemak, who has worked with Asian refugees since 1982. Family dynamics change as children enter school, learn the language and more easily maneuver the new culture.

The burden of having a child with problems is even greater in "collectivist" cultures where families and community are held responsible for a child's upbringing. In such countries, which make up 70 percent of the world, "social networks predominate and the individual is secondary," Bemak said.

Americans seemed baffled by the outpouring of apologies from Korean groups, but having watched the reaction to Muslims after Sept. 11, Korean-Americans felt "a unique combination of fear of discrimination, shame and embarrassment -- and a reflection on them," said Bemak.

Some criticized the Cho family for waiting five days to respond, but Bemak said the shock of their son's crimes was paralyzing. "They had to regroup," he said. "I have a feeling they didn't know what to do and were running scared."

Finding help for Asian immigrants who deal with mental illness presents unique challenges, according to Sung Ha Suh, assistant professor of counseling at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.

Emotion Is a Self-Indulgence

"Our parents' generation valued action and hard work," said Suh, a Korean-American. "Emotion is a self-indulgence. You aspire for the capacity to control emotions, so going to a mental health professional is a foreign concept."

The Virginia Tech tragedy has forced Korean-Americans to think about their identity in a more public way, as they try to remain loyal to their heritage while becoming American, Suh said.

Since the shootings, Korean-American stereotypes have been sadly reinforced, said Professor Moon of Wellesley College. Americans often view them in extremes: gun-toting shop keepers who staved off looters in the Los Angeles riots or mathematical brainiacs who attend MIT. "We've read a lot of viscous commentary with too little information," said Moon.

Some have criticized the Cho family for not speaking directly to the media, instead offering a letter. But writing a statement "is an understandable response," said Moon. "For a lot of Koreans, to put something on paper is a very meaningful and sobering act and carries moral weight."

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