Hearty applause for our heroesAl Qaeda’s attempt to blow up a passenger airplane bound for Detroit last Christmas ended in failure, thanks to two courageous citizens aboard. One of them was Korean-American flight attendant Cho Seung-hyun, who saved the lives of all passengers on board by bravely subduing the terrorist and quickly extinguishing a fire on the aircraft. He was given the title of “Courageous Citizen,” together with appreciation from U.S. President Barack Obama.
“America will remember his heroic behavior forever,” Obama wrote in his letter to Cho.
At Shin-Okubo Station in Shinjuku, Tokyo, there is a monument commemorating the late Lee Su-hyun, who was killed by a train while trying to rescue a drunk man in 2001. Ten years have passed, but people still lay flowers before the monument in memory of Lee’s noble sacrifice. On a trip to Korea this spring, former Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuya Okada laid a wreath on Lee’s grave to pay tribute to his sacrifice, saying, “The Japanese will never forget him.”
We have seen many civilian heroes like Cho and Lee this year, too. At regular times, they were just plain office workers or students. But in times of need, they showed a marvelous spirit of courage and sacrifice to help people facing hardship. High school student Kim Han-seul is one of these extraordinary people. Upon seeing a baby on the verge of falling from a second-story window, she rushed to catch the baby in her arms. After the incident, she had to undergo surgery and a lot of treatment because she ruptured ligaments in her shoulder.
But she said: “If I were placed in the same situation again, I would respond in the exact same way.”
Nam Ki-hyung, a construction company worker, is another example. He rescued six people trapped in a burning high-rise building by setting up a ladder before firemen arrived on the scene.
Yesterday, 19 remarkable people, including Kim and Nam, received the “Citizen Heroes of the Year Award,” co-sponsored by S-Oil, the JoongAng Ilbo, and the Korea National Council on Social Welfare. We believe all of them deserve the prize because they demonstrated great courage without expecting a reward. We also hope the entire society will remember their noble sacrifices forever, as the United States and Japan do, rather than granting them temporary applause.
A society in which heroes are respected creates space for more heroes to shine in the future. We extend our heartfelt congratulations to each and every one of our amazing citizen heroes.