A tragedy that never should have happenedI love Korea. Growing up abroad, I always felt proud to be Korean. But a few months ago, I couldn’t help but have second thoughts about that pride.
When I was getting my driver’s license in the United States, I remember the strict laws about driving in school zones. Any violation would bring a steep fine. I used to be annoyed by the special precautions afforded to school buses and school zones. Why did I have to drive so slowly in front of a school? Now I realize why those rules are important.
Koreans don’t seem to have the same concern for safety. I don’t mean to say that Koreans don’t cherish life as much as they should, but they tend not to heed very basic safety rules and to treat violations of those rules lightly.
In April a bus that was carrying students on a field trip hit five students crossing a street on the Anyang University campus in Gyeonggi province. It was an accident that shouldn’t have happened. The bus had gone up a hill so steep that the bus driver couldn’t have possibly seen the students crossing at the crest of the hill. After visiting the site, I was shocked to find that there were no signs warning drivers or pedestrians of the danger.
Three of the students, including someone very precious to me, didn’t survive the accident. And how did the school officials respond to the cries of grief by the students’ families? They threw a little money at them, apparently thinking that would make up for their loss. It was just an accident, they seemed to be saying. The dean of the school didn’t even comment about the students’ deaths until several days later. And how was the accident portrayed in the media? With a small blurb on the back pages.
All life is precious. Remember the candlelight demonstrations held when two U.S. soldiers were acquitted after they ran over two school girls with a tracked military vehicle? What is the difference between these two accidents? Only the nationalities of the drivers of the vehicles. In both cases, young people died needlessly. And in both cases their deaths were initially treated with indifference.
No more people should die in senseless accidents like these. We are negligent as a society if we take the deaths of young people so lightly. Though it may seem inconvenient, the only way to avoid such tragic losses is to pay attention to safety and enforce the laws.
by Kim Ji-young
Ms. Kim is a student at the University of Michigan and intern at the JoongAng Daily.