It seems that it was not just the ferry that sank into to the waters with hundreds of passengers on board. The entire country lost its motivation. South Korea is now completely stopped.
Turning out to be the worst non-natural disaster in Korean history, only 174 passengers were rescued out of 475 passengers on board on the Ferry ‘Sewol’. Three weeks have passed since the accident happened on Wednesday, April 16, and too few survivors have been found on the submerged ship, which made the families of the lost ones, mostly high school students, more devastated than ever. 275 bodies were recovered and 29 bodies are still missing somewhere in the overturned ship.
Fury and outrage swept the entire country as the survivors and the media told that the captain of the ferry and his crew members were the first ones to escape when the Coast Guard had arrived at the sinking ship. It is known that crew members told the passengers on board to stay inside the cabinet with their life jackets on until the rescue team arrived. However, the captain fled and hundreds were killed. It is common sense and morally acceptable that the captain and his crew members’ top priority is the safety of the ship’s passengers. The captain, Lee Jun-Suk and his crew members were arrested for further investigation.
The action of the captain created a whirlpool of chaos. The whole country, unable to stand the innocent death of hundreds of high school students who were on a school trip to Jeju Island among others, were filled with disappointment and sorrow. As the investigations continue, more and more human errors have been found; the ferry was overloaded with containers and illegally renovated. However, the people including the families waiting for their loved ones in the gym at Jindo, where the accident happened, were more outraged at the government’s reaction. Now, here’s what American newspapers didn’t cover. There is more to it than reporting about how many bodies have been discovered.
President Park Geun-Hye promised to provide “all available resources” and that “a thorough investigation and stern punishment for those responsible” will be coming. However, people are blaming government for dealing with the situation so late. Government agencies, like the Ministry of Security and Public Administration, the Coast Guard, and the Navy gave their very best effort to bring back at least one survivor in spite of fast currents. The Prime Minister, Chung Hong-Won made a statement about taking all the responsibility and he will resign, but the president said managing and solving the situation was the first priority. To the sensitive, exhausted, and outraged people’s eyes, there was only the mistakes the government was making and an unsolvable mistrust prevailed. That’s how it is. The sorrow and sadness had been replaced by mistrust of the government.
What’s even sadder is there was nothing citizens could do except pray. Many citizens volunteered to help the families and civilian divers gathered to help the Coast Guard and the Navy for fast and efficient work.
Waiting and waiting, the nightmare seems to have no end. TV stations cancelled all the entertainment shows and soap operas scheduled, universities cancelled their annual festivals, and families cancelled their family trips. Due to the the anger and mistrust toward government, depression spread throughout the entire country making people unable to concentrate on their works and studies.
“Every day, sad music is coming out of radio. There’s nothing I can do and I can’t stand it anymore,” one citizen living in Seoul, Korea said.
T.S. Elliot once said, “April is the cruelest month,” but as searching for the bodies continues into May, known as Month of Families in Korea, turned out to be crueler than April.
What’s exacerbating the whirlpool full of conflicts and problems is that the press and social media are beyond its ethical limits. The reporters seem to have forgotten the media ethics and social media is full of unidentified rumors and conspiracies. The newspapers and TV broadcasts are merely telling people about how many people have been found dead and the official reports from the government. Even worse, the reporters appeared out of nowhere and asked the survivors, who were shivering from the cold and utter fear, how they were feeling after their friends died. More unethical and painful coverage afterwards made Koreans outraged once more. The media had totally forgotten its role in the society. It was busy telling us what happened in Jindo, not all of it was facts. One interviewee was arrested for saying wrong things about the rescue process in the interview. Constantly saying “I don’t know what to believe,” with despair, Koreans were more confused than ever before, sadly admitting there was no one to trust.
Along with the press, Facebook and Twitter, was the root of confusion. Messages from the students inside the overturned ferry turned out to be fake, causing immense disorder. Those responsible were arrested. Facebook pages uploaded huge amounts of unverified facts, rumors and conspiracy theories. That’s why Koreans were more exhausted and depressed when they saw the news coverage and heartbreaking post that certainly made families of the lost ones more shattered.
The families in Jindo requested the press stop the overheated coverage competition and the rest of the Koreans to stop fighting on the Internet. People now calmed themselves and started to mourn quietly and attend the memorial services. The yellow ribbon, symbolizing the return of the missing ones, are now everywhere in Korea, even in the profile pictures of messenger, Facebook, and Twitter. The yellow wave spread throughout the country.
Holding yellow ribbons and candles, Koreans discovered the deep wound in Korean Society, which was small at first but is now deep and large and unable to regenerate. There were huge man-made disasters before, like the collapse of a department store and a bridge, a catastrophe at a subway station and so on, but government and citizens alike, neglected the first priority, safety, and forgot about the tragedy.
People who are responsible for the accident, such as crew members, the employees at the company that made and renovated the ship, and businessmen in the marine industry have been arrested so far and prosecutors are still investigating. Bereaved families who were finished with the memorial service went back to Jindo to help other families who were waiting for their beloved sons and daughters to come out of cold water. As time passes, the families go beyond sorrow and outrage, and now just want the government to listen to what they are saying.
This is the message from students of the submerged ship spreading out to the entire country. What if they were alive, if somebody just told them to jump out into the water. What if the society was healthy enough to trust its government? It’s just assumptions that will never happen. Remember “Sewol.” Koreans need to remember this catastrophic disaster in order to prevent it from happening again. It’s our job to do and it’s our future.
It may be hard to admit it, Korean society is just like the ferry “Sewol.” It crashed. Just like the ferry, Korea lost its motivation.

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