I have discovered some additional info about this problem -- it has nothing to do with vsftpd configuration.
If I boot with the kernel originally shipped by SuSE, vsftpd starts and runs perfedtlllly. When I use the kernel that I compiled, the problem occurs.
It is my preference to build a kernel with all modules builtin that are required to get the system up and running (i.e. support for ext3, vfat, cdrom, SOCKETS, etc.). SuSE uses the initrd mechanism to load modules at boot time. Obviously, I have screwed up somewhere. Does anyone have any idea which modules might be involved with this OOPS: socket problem?