People Who Have Stopped After April 16, 2014
People Who Have Stopped After April 16, 2014
  • Reporter Lee Mi-yeon
  • 승인 2018.05.10 09:53
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▲Photo of the recovered Sewol Ferry / Yonhap
▲Photo of the recovered Sewol Ferry / Yonhap

“All of the students are our own children who have become stars in the sky”, President Moon posted on his Facebook page on April 15. “They have changed South Korea. After the tragedy of the Sewol ferry, we have changed, changed to put lives first and to share in the burden and hurt of our neighbors.” Most of the victims aboard the fated Sewol ferry, which capsized on April 16, 2014, were high school students on a field trip to Jeju Island. Among the 304 people who died, 250 were sophomores at Danwon High School in Ansan. Crew members told them to stay put while the ship was sinking, but the captain Lee Jun-seok, managed to escape. He was sentenced to life in prison for involuntary manslaughter in 2015. President Park Guen-hye turned this accident into an affair. The things that president had to do was made very clear: To identify the exact cause of the accident, and to punish the people in charge, reshaping the social safety system by rearranging the structure for public protection and disaster relief, arranging for proper compensation to the victims and their families and a memorial facility, however, there were only crocodile tears, none of these things had been accomplished. The disaster galvanized the nation and revealed loopholes in the government’s response process. Prosecutors discovered that President Park Geun-hye had been in her bedroom consulting with her confidante, Choi Soon-sil, and getting her hair done when the accident occurred. Her relationship with Choi sparked protests against her administration and led to her impeachment in 2017. The candlelight protests and new government began with the Sewol ferry incident.

Four years have passed since the accident. An official memorial service for victims was held at Ansan, the city where Danwon High School is located. It is the first time the government has sponsored a memorial service for the Sewol ferry incident. Over that weekend, civic groups in Daejeon and Chungcheongnam-do held flash mob performances and walks to remember the victims. There were also pilgrimages to Paengmok Harbor, the closest point on land to where the ferry capsized. As the memorial day neared, a post uploaded on Facebook said, “I hope you do not just remember the Sewol ferry disaster, but also remember the other disasters, including the Sampoong Department Store Collapse, and the Daegu subway tragedy”, implying that, what was so special about the Sewol ferry disaster. And on 18, April, “To the people who said the Sewol ferry disaster was boring, from a survivor of the Sampoong Department Store Collapse.” was posted. He said he received a proper apology from the government but the bereaved families of the Sewol ferry disaster have not. Also he posed a question “Why do they put up with expressing the grief and anger that comes from losing children just because people like you are uncomfortable to see? “Please be silent if you can not sympathize with other people’s pain”, he said.

“For us, time stopped on April 16, 2014.” The bereaved families were completely excluded from the investigation. They are called ‘stakeholders’, not ‘victims’, and have not heard any information. They could not leave until the truth about their children’s deaths were revealed. Some of the bereaved families spent three years waiting for their family every day on Jindo. There were originally nine missing victims, but the remains of four were found inside the ship after it was pulled onto land. After placing the Sewol ferry in an upright position, the research team carried out a detailed inspection of the vessel to find the remains of four. For those who had left their family only for a moment, the government only added to their suffering when it said something that would not lead to further action.

Four years ago on that day, private divers were the first to dive into the ocean to save people. The divers did the impossible, diving up to four times a day to save one more. However, the results of their dedication were disastrous. A diver died while diving and the coast guard forced them to exit without any proper discussions with them, however, they remained a presence. They suffered from anxiety disorders, depression, and sleep disorders. They have lost ‘me before the Sewol ferry disaster’. The Kim Kwan-hong Act, which is a protective measure for them, was proposed, but it was not approved by the National Assembly, and the nation has yet to respond to their sacrifices.

Their time stopped on April 16. The memorial service should not be an end, but a beginning.

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