- Posted April 17, 2014 by
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For English Teachers in South Korea, Ferry Accident is Personal
It was only two days prior that I was joining our running group in order to memorialize another terrible event: the Boston Marathon bombings. The event resonated with me deeply as a runner, and as an American. One year later, another sickening tragedy is resonating with me again.
I am seeing constant updates via Facebook and text message from other friends who are English Teachers and professionals here in Seoul, South Korea. I have talked with several friends on the subject as well, and there seems to be a general consensus. People are taking this event personally. Quotes from my friend's Facebook pages are running the emotional gamut; disbelief, shock, anger, sadness, and hope:
"This makes me sad, and angry that only one lifeboat was deployed of 46. After living in Korea for 4 years, I'm not shocked. I hope that this upcoming generation learns to challenge authority rather than trust in authority figures. It's sad that the captain fled the sinking ship while so many young students lost their lives. Such cowardice!"
"R.I.P children and adults of the sunken ferry heading to Jeju Island.
It is a very sad day."
"Sad about it, praying for the passengers. I really wish and hope that there will be more survivors. But time is the worst factor here. Sea is cold, and the ferry is in the position that difficult to get in. But I really hope... "
So, why is it especially poignant for us?
Besides the geographic closeness of the situation, these could have been the children that we teach. Any of our schools could have decided to use one of those ferries to take the children on a trip. Those parents could be the parents of our students; the people we've come to know love their children so deeply. Or, it could have been us. My husband and I were just talking about planning a trip to Jeju for the upcoming holidays of Children's Day and Buddha's Birthday.
Another reason is, as the first Facebook quote I pasted above mentions, these children are taught to respect Korean authority. They were told to stay put, so they did. It is absolutely heartbreaking to know that these students, who had their whole lives ahead of them, will most likely die because they did what they were told to do.
Moving forward, I hope that the authorities can get to these students, dead or alive. At this point, the horrible fact is that the former is more likely. Their families need closure so that they can begin to mourn. I hope, that when that happens, there will also be some closure for us, too.