The sister of the gunman responsible for the deadliest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history works as a contractor for a State Department office that oversees billions of dollars in American aid for Iraq.
Sun-Kyung Cho is employed by the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office, according to U.S. officials and a State Department staff directory that says she works from an annex near the department's headquarters in Washington.
Messages left on her office voicemail, in which she identifies herself as "Sun Cho," were not immediately returned on Wednesday.
The Virginia Tech gunman was her brother, Cho Seung-Hui. Thirty-three people died in the rampage Monday, including the 23-year-old student, who committed suicide.
Spokesman Sean McCormack would not discuss Sun Cho's status but told reporters, "This person is not a direct-hire employee of the State Department." He refused further comment, citing privacy concerns. Other U.S. officials confirmed she works for a contractor.
The office was set up by President George W. Bush to coordinate the reconstruction program in Iraq and offers jobs to "highly skilled and motivated United States citizens" to work at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, according to State Department documents. The office also has several Washington-based positions.
"Our mission is to support the sovereign, democratic rights of the Iraqi people to govern themselves, defend their country and rebuild their economy," the office says in its recruiting brochure. "This ongoing mission is one that is unprecedented in size and scope."
Sun Cho's current job is her third stint with the State Department, according to Princeton University, where she graduated with an economics major in 2004.
She previously worked as a summer intern at the department's International Labor Office and held a three-month economics internship in the summer before her senior year at the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, sponsored by Princeton's International Internship Program.
"They were the most amazing three months of my life," Cho told the university's weekly bulletin in Nov. 24, 2003, article about the program, describing her experiences in the Thai capital.
"I found that the best way to get to know the city was taking the skytrain to random locations and walking around for a couple of hours," it quoted her as saying.
"I think it is always easy for Americans to maintain an American way of life abroad. The best thing is to avoid these traps and go out there and immerse yourself in a new culture."
The article described a visit to a border town where she saw deplorable working conditions for Burmese migrant workers.
"She said the experience was so profound that after returning to campus, she changed the focus of her senior thesis to a more labor-related topic," the article said
The Americans came to realise that they would have to either leave the region or weaken their presence there. It is Russia that is filling the vacuum now