Trauma after Samho: Nightmares, withdrawal

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Trauma after Samho: Nightmares, withdrawal

Although the rescued Korean crew members of the Samho Jewelry eventually returned to their loved ones after their ship was hijacked by Somali pirates and rescued, some are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder because of the violence they went through.

“I’m happy that my son returned alive as I dreamed ... but I can barely give him a phone call because he’s having difficult times,” Choi Yeong-su, father of Choi Jin-kyeong, the third mate of the Samho Jewelry, said in an interview with the JoongAng Ilbo on Saturday.

Choi said his 25-year-old son was mentally and physically exhausted, especially after he was questioned twice by investigators at the Korea Coast Guard who wanted to get testimonies from the rescued crew to charge and try the pirates who were captured and brought to Korea.

Choi said his son was questioned on his return on last Wednesday. He complained he couldn’t see his son for a long time during the Lunar New Year holiday.

After graduating from Mokpo National Maritime University in January 2010, Choi Jin-kyeong joined the Samho Jewelry in September for substitute military service for three years. Choi didn’t choose mandatory military service because he wanted to build a career as a professional sailor.

Choi’s dream of becoming a sailor turned upside down four months later when Somali pirates hijacked the vessel.

Choi’s father recalls his son as a man of passion, who is outspoken and has a cheerful personality, but he says his son now barely speaks.

Jin-kyeong told his father that he can’t sleep because he remembers the horrible rescue operation, during which bullets rained down with ear-blasting noise and corpses covered with blood were crumpled on the floor of the ship.

Even when he falls asleep, he wakes up in horror when he hears any small noise in the house. Experts warned that if Choi and others don’t get help for their post-traumatic stress disorders, they could suffer for years.

Psychiatrist Lee Jeong-nam said families’ and friends’ unconditional love could only help.

“His families and friends should never leave him alone,” Lee said.

What worries Choi’s mother the most is he needs to return to the ship to complete his military service. Otherwise he will be drafted.

Choi’s mother, Kim Mi-seon, is asking for leniency from the Korean government.

“He suffered from the hijacking,” she said. “How can he possibly go back to the ship?”

By Yu Ji-ho []
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