• 폰트크기작게
  • 폰트크기크게
  • TTS
  • 단어장
  • 기사스크립
  • SNS
2015-04-15 16:54
By Oh Young-jin

It was a year ago today.

A news flash scrawl appeared on TV in the morning, saying a ferry was sinking but indicating there were few casualties.

Then, the enormity of the tragedy fell one big piece by another into place, knocking the daylights out of the nation.

Some rescue experts talked about air pockets in the 6,000-ton capsized vessel where survivors might hang on waiting to be rescued.

Such hope died in a matter of days.

Soon, bodies of those young students and other passengers, as well as crew, were recovered from the ship, bringing a stark reality crashing down on us all.

Then, a shocking revelation came in a photo that showed the captain in his underwear jumping from the ship with the help of the crew and coast guard.

Footage showed the students in life jackets trying to cling to fixtures inside their cabins while the ship was listing fast.

Heard in the background were instructions from the crew over the public address system telling the students to stay put.  

They did not show any sign of youthful rebellion and did what they were told.

They all died. They did not know they were lied to until the last minute.

They were the hapless victims of those adults who wanted to make a fast escape from the sinking ship without bothering to think of their duty to help evacuate passengers.

Then, the students’ smartphones captured them encouraging each other to be brave ahead of an imminent death.

One student mused about how death would feel, while another said goodbye to their parents.

The chance was that they might hope against hope that somebody would come to their rescue.

No help came.

The students came back as corpses, some with life vests still on.

The remains of nine have not been recovered.

The recovery operation continued for months after the tragic sinking.

The nation turned into one big funeral home, engaged in the collective counting of the number of bodies recovered.

In Ansan, the site of the school, in Seoul Plaza and elsewhere across the country, long lines of people visited joint memorial altars to pay respects to those dead and missing.

Yellow ribbons appeared by the thousands on Jindo Island, which is close to the accident site.

They bore the names of the missing and wishes for the best.

In this mournful atmosphere, few could afford to be distracted from the unfolding tragedy.

That moment of a joint wake, however, did not last long.

A manhunt got under way to bring those responsible to justice.

The owner of the company that operated the ferry service turned out to be a former cult leader.

His sprawling business empire was exposed, showing how the ferry operator cut corners to take on more cargo and passengers, one of the known reasons why the Sewol tipped over.

The body of the owner was found in an advanced state of decomposition.

One could not be blamed for wondering whether a heap of bones and desiccated skin were indeed those of Yoo Byung-un.

In hindsight, the manhunt could be one big ruse to divert the nation from its outpouring of anger.

In other words, the Yoo clan should be held responsible for oversight but all brouhaha looks to be taken out of proportion.

Then, when Yoo was found dead, the nation looked for another outlet to vent its anger.

It couldn’t find one, leading to a major display of ideological implosion in the political arena.

Parties fought each other in one great blame game that neither could win.

People were divided by their beliefs.

Nobody has provided the leadership that is desperately needed for the nation and people pushed into a mental cul-de-sac.

At times, the President looked aloof, failing to find ways of connecting with people in deep mourning. She may have needed a shoulder to lean on.

Perhaps her traumatic experience when she was young handicapped her, preventing her from embracing the mourners with open arms.

The most illustrative sign that captures the worst state the nation is in is that the bereaved families are protesting against the absence of change that the sacrifice of their loved ones failed to bring about.

Some of them are still in tents in Gwanghwamun Square, in the heart of Seoul.

Some people may want to say, “Enough is enough.” Weighed by the leaden atmosphere, few would dare.

One year ago today, the nation was in shock. Today, it looks clueless on how to overcome it.

  • 폰트크기작게
  • 폰트크기크게
  • TTS
  • 단어장
  • 기사스크립
  • SNS