The Sewol Ferry Tragedy
“How could he tell those young kids to stay there and jump from the sinking ship himself?” Ham Young-ho, grandfather of 17-year-old Lee Da-woon, one of the dead, speaking of the ship’s captain.
Mostly, I stay away from watching television or the news, so I didn’t even know this tragedy had occurred until much later. Without the pictures, reports and images in my head, I’ve been somewhat disconnected.
But today, for some reason, I’ve been hit hard. I can’t stop crying.
I keep thinking about all of those high school students trapped in their cabins, waiting for rescue. And the agonizing wait of the parents on the shore. And how it all could’ve been avoided.
See the thing is, that Korean children are very naive and trusting. As a North American, I was shocked by how “young” and innocent the kids are here. Sixteen year olds seem like North American 12 years olds. I’ve even met 40 year old Korean mothers, who were shocked to find out about the existence of strip clubs. They are, mostly, really that innocent.
These children were told to stay in their cabins, while the captain and most of his crew jumped ship and were rescued. (A glaring exception being the heroic efforts of 22 year old, Park Ji-Young, who perished, saving students before herself). They obeyed. Because Korean children are taught, from the moment they are born, to obey authority unequivocally.
I’ve wondered why these teenagers didn’t leave their cabins, even while water was coming into their rooms and the boat was tilting drastically to one side. Was it simple obedience? Wouldn’t the instinct for survival be stronger than any need to follow orders?
Reports have come out stating that passengers were told to stay in their cabins, because it was “safer,” and that the Coast Guard was only 10 minutes away. I can only think that the teenagers stayed put, because they thought this is how they would survive. By the time they realized it wasn’t, it was too late.
And to me, this is the real tragedy. The part that I can’t stop crying about. That they died unnecessarily, just when they were on the brink of graduating high school and beginning their adult lives. What an utter waste.
(I have hesitated to write about this until now, because I think I’m still processing, and we don’t know all the facts yet, but I felt that I needed to write something…)