In praise of citizen heroes

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In praise of citizen heroes

Amid the cataclysmic disaster brought on by the torrential rain that has ravaged the central region of the Korean Peninsula, the courage and sacrifice demonstrated by citizens warm our hearts. They acted out of a sense of unconditional support for flood victims by rolling up their sleeves and extending helping hands to anyone in distress.

At a rustic village in Bangbae-dong, southern Seoul, where five residents were killed by a landslide, Cho Yang-hyun, a 42-year-old man, emerged as one of these citizen heroes. Although he didn’t even live in the neighborhood, he strived to prevent the landslide from hitting the village when he saw it on his way to work at the interior-design store he owns.

Cho initially tried to move the mud with a shovel, but to no avail. Then he drove his truck to buy a number of plastic bags filled with sand to block the slide of the mud onto the village. His bravery inspired other villagers who helped him build a small bank with sandbags to combat the mudslide.

In the village, another brave hero saved the lives of his neighbors at the risk of his own life. Kim Je-young, 57, who lived there for a long time, immediately escaped from his house when he saw the mudslide approaching. But he realized the danger faced by two families renting semibasement rooms, and he stopped to help get them get out safely. Later, he humbly said he didn’t have time to think about his own safety.

In Dongducheon, Gyeonggi, a conscripted young policeman, Cho Min-soo, lost his life trying to save a citizen engulfed by rapids. It was his last month doing mandatory military service, but he didn’t hesitate to act upon seeing a citizen in danger.

At a guest house in Chuncheon, Gangwon, 10 Inha University students lost their lives after the building they were in collapsed under a landslide at a summer camp where they taught science to elementary students in the rural area. All of them were devoted volunteers who extended their hands to the underprivileged. We express our deep condolences over the sad deaths of Cho and the college students.

When a massive disaster like this hits the country, some citizens express their anger in a violent way. But we need to be calm and recover from the disaster to secure the community’s well-being and build a more prosperous future. The commendable spirit of self-sacrifice and humanity that was magnificently manifested in this time of crisis is no doubt a fresh impetus to rejuvenate the declining trust in our society.
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