Email
Password
Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageAfter the death tolls: South Korea continues to cope with SEWOL Special

By Dinh Nguyen     May 6, 2014 in World
Imagine yourself standing off the coast of an island and watching a ferry sink as workers do everything they can to rescue survivors. Your son, daughter, brother, sister, parent — a loved one is on the ship.
There is a good chance that they are alive, but that glimmer of hope diminishes with every second that passes. You are powerless. There’s nothing you can do, but stand helpless while they slowly run out of oxygen or freeze to death.
While the rest of the world moved on, the SEWOL ferry tragedy continues to affect all aspects of South Korean society. Public festivals and celebrations throughout the country have been postponed, canceled, or downsized. Schools are forbidden to go on field trips until June. At least 29,000 concerned parents have signed petitions to urge the board of education to completely remove school trips from the curriculum. Vigils in memory of those lost to the accident are being held regularly as lanterns and candles light up the streets night after nights, while South Korea collectively mourn.
This year's Buddha's Birthday (one of the country's largest holidays), which took place today, has become associated with the ferry tragedy. As temples and parades throughout the country held tributes for the victims of the maritime disaster, a civilian diver lost his life the day before, on Children's day, in an attempt to locate the 39 still-missing bodies at the sinking site.
A yellow ribbon is pinned to a Buddha s Birthday lantern display at a Temple in Busan  South Korea. ...
A yellow ribbon is pinned to a Buddha's Birthday lantern display at a Temple in Busan, South Korea. The ribbon is in memory of the SEWOL ferry disaster that claimed the lives of hundreds of high school students.
During the holiday a rescue team continued to search the waters off the coast of Jindo island, where the ferry sank, while South Korean President, Park Geun-hye once again apologized on behalf of her government for the systematic social deficiencies that she believes is responsible for the SEWOL's gloom outcome:
"People who were blinded by worldly desires and did not follow, and overlooked safety regulations, have caused the deaths of others," she said during a SEWOL tribute in the center of Seoul, held by South Korea's largest Buddhist sect, the Jogye Order. "I ask for your support to correct deep-rooted irregularities and evils, and establish justice in our society, following the teachings of Buddha."
Park, who's Government has come under scrutiny by the public for their inefficiencies during the ferry rescue mission has stated a similar apology before. As reported by the guardian, shortly after the tragedy, her Prime Minister, Chung Hong-won took full responsibly and resigned:
"Keeping my post is too great a burden on the administration," he said in a public announcement on April 27. "On behalf of the government, I apologize for many problems from the prevention of the accident to the early handling of the disaster."
While many are outraged and openly protest and criticize the Korean Government and cultural norms for the SEWOL sinking, the country continues to grieve.
Like cancer awareness pins, yellow ribbons in memory of the tragedy and in support for the victim's loved ones have overrun the Korean wardrobe.
People throughout South Korea wear yellow ribbons in memory of the SEWOL ferry disaster.
People throughout South Korea wear yellow ribbons in memory of the SEWOL ferry disaster.
The yellow ribbon is also a common site in posters hung at the entrances of schools all across South Korea to show solidarity. Isles of rope tied onto trees and fences were also constructed throughout the country. These memorial alters collect larger golden ribbon attached by people who wish to pay their respect. They act as memorial grounds and beacons of support for those affected by the ferry tragedy. The ribbons tied to them carries a hand-printed message or prayer from passersby.
A passerby stopped to write a message on a ribbon and tie it to an alter as a sign of respect for th...
A passerby stopped to write a message on a ribbon and tie it to an alter as a sign of respect for the victims of the SEWOL ferry accident.
Institutions that are independent of the Korean government have also contributed to the mourning process. According to Time over 130 memorial alters have been constructed throughout South Korea. Like many of its kind, a memorial and candlelight vigil was held in Jongo, Seoul, by the World Peace Freedom United organization (WPF) on April 27.
"This is a memorial for the SEWOL victims, their families and all of Korea," said WPF CEO, Jaechul Ahn. "[The memorial and the vigil] are not associated with protest, government criticism or any other agenda. We simply want to unite as people and help each other through this time of great suffering."
One of many alters constructed in memory of the SEWOL ferry accident. This one was built by World Pe...
One of many alters constructed in memory of the SEWOL ferry accident. This one was built by World Peace Freedom United.
On the same day, a Buddhist festival in Seoul centerpieced an alter that stretched for miles as a rope fence for attendees to attach ribbons of loving messages and prayers to. The ropes were tied to giant white balloons that floated high in the air to help deliver the messages and prayers into the cosmos. A candlelight vigil with Buddhist lanterns and white lotus flowers followed in the evening.
Balloons lift ropes filled with yellow ribbons of prayers and messages into he sky.
Balloons lift ropes filled with yellow ribbons of prayers and messages into he sky.
Each day hundreds of people from all ethnic backgrounds, and age attend memorial events or vigils to collectively grief. Everyone in Korea is affected.
"My grade three students have just begun to learn how to speak English. Today when I asked one of the classes 'how are you?' they all replied with feelings of anger or sadness," said David Heng, an American English teacher in Busan, South Korea. "Even though their speaking level is very low, they somehow found the words to have a conversation with me about the ferry accident. Even the children are shaken by it."
An eight year-old child writes a message onto a yellow ribbon in memories of the high school student...
An eight year-old child writes a message onto a yellow ribbon in memories of the high school students who lost their life when the MV SEWOL ferry sank off he cast of Jindo island.
South Korea is home to thousands of foreigners working aboard, most notably English teachers, who, like the rest of the country, are still recovering from a mix of emotions caused by catastrophic ferry incident.
A Polish-Canadian woman writes a message in her mother tongue to be tied to a SEWOL memorial alter.
A Polish-Canadian woman writes a message in her mother tongue to be tied to a SEWOL memorial alter.
"Every morning I hear many helicopters flying over my home, which is very unusual with my island being so quiet and rural," said Canadian English teacher Nicole Hemmer. "I saw many foreign people in Jindo, which is very rare. All of a sudden, my island had become world famous for this event, whereas before many of my family and friends had no idea where [it] was.
"Throughout those 5 days following the ferry sinking, this feeling bleakness and sadness was present and felt throughout the island. It seemed that the weather even coincided with what many people were feeling...many people are sad. Many feel guilt and upset about what happened."
The SEWOL ferry search for missing bodies has entered day 22. Currently 263 have been declared dead, while 39 people are still unaccounted for.
Message and prayers on ribbon alters displayed as a Buddhist festival in Seoul. They come in many di...
Message and prayers on ribbon alters displayed as a Buddhist festival in Seoul. They come in many different languages.
More about sewol, south korea ferry sinks, South Korean Ferry, Jindo Island, Soth korea
More news from
Latest News
Top News