Thursday, February 23, 2012

Immigrant Mass Murder Syndrome in Gwinnett County, GA: Korean Immigrant Murders Two Sisters, Brothers-in-Law at Family Business, Commits Suicide

By Nicholas Stix


5 members of prominent Korean family slain at Norcross spa
By Joel Anderson and Alexis Stevens
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Su Jung Health Sauna was meant to be a sanctuary for its customers, with steam rooms, water fountains, a Korean cafe and comfy recliners among its many amenities.

The spa was a family business, owned and operated by Korean immigrants in Norcross who were known well in Gwinnett County's thriving Korean-American community for their civic activism and charitable endeavors.

But Su Jung is now notorious as the site of a mass shooting Tuesday night that left five people dead, including the gunman.

Norcross police said an argument between family members may have led a middle-aged man to shoot and kill his two sisters, their husbands and then himself.

The bloody rampage staggered residents and officials in the west Gwinnett city of 9,000, which already has a homicide toll -- five -- that ranks as its most in a year since the FBI began tracking such data in 1985. A Norcross teen was shot to death in a home invasion earlier this month.

“Protecting human life is our top concern,” Norcross Mayor Bucky Johnson said. “It’s just too bad when people think so little of it.”

Norcross police were dispatched to the spa in the 6000 block of Buford Highway around 8:40 p.m. Tuesday after getting a report of a shooting. Officers found five [sic] victims and .45 caliber handgun at the scene. [N.S.: Officers found five bodies, but only four victims, unless, that is, the AJC now classifies killers as victims. Or is it only certain killers?]

Surveillance camera footage shows a man walking into the spa Tuesday night and talking to a victim before shots were fired, police said. About 20 people were inside the business at the time.

Four victims died at the scene, and the fifth was pronounced dead at a local hospital, Norcross police Capt. Brian Harr said.

"It was reported the suspect was at the business earlier in the day and was asked to leave by one of the female victims," Harr said in an emailed statement. "The suspect returned at approximately 8:40 p.m. and spoke briefly with a female victim and then produced a semi-auto pistol and shot the victims."

Although names have not been released pending notification of surviving family members, police said the male shooter killed his two sisters and their husbands before turning the gun on himself. All five of those killed were believed to be in
their 50s or 60s.

Friends and colleagues have identified one of the victims and spa owners as 65-year-old Byung-Ok Kang.

Wednesday afternoon, authorities were still working the crime scene and had roped off the spa's parking lot with yellow tape. Harr said his department was nearing the end of its investigation.

"All the pieces are there," he said. "Now it's just a case of writing everything down and documenting it."

Members of the local Korean-American community mourned the deaths Wednesday.

Michael Park, president of the Atlanta chapter of the Korean American Coalition, told the AJC that the family had been involved in community activities and recently started attracting a more diverse clientele to their business.

“It’s a really tragic end to what was a great story, living the American dream,” Park said. "It's so shocking that it happened so close to home."

One of the spa's regular customers, Bouchra Eloualy, said she would go to unwind in the swimming pool and steam rooms.

"It was very nice in there," said Eloualy, who works at a pawn shop across the highway from Su Jung. "They were busy at all times of the day."

Kevin Kim, vice president and morning show host at Atlanta Radio Korea WPBC-1040 AM, said callers were passing rumors about the source of troubles within Kang's family.
The shooting was the primary topic of interest at the station Wednesday.

"Everyone is very shocked, very depressed and very sad," Kim said.

-- Staff writers Mike Morris and David Wickert contributed to this report.

[Thanks to reader-researcher RC for this story.]

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