A generation to blameThe ferry tragedy is the worst since the founding of Korea in 1948. In terms of the death toll, the collapse of Sampoong Department Store in 1995, in which a total of 501 people died, is worse, but the Sewol disaster led to the deaths of innocent high school students, many of whom perished because they were following orders. Hundreds of them are still trapped in the sunken ship off the coast of Jindo, South Jeolla. The tragic deaths of the 118-person crew of Russia’s nuclear-powered submarine Kursk in 2000, which sank in the Barents Sea after an explosion, cannot be compared to our tragedy.
In Jindo, families missing children are still waiting and weeping. That’s the most heartbreaking scene. On seeing a mother sitting on a rock absent-mindedly, a foreign correspondent quietly clicked a camera shutter, which will graphically deliver the tragedy to the entire world. The older generation has killed its young.
The cruelest thing is the detailed descriptions of recovered bodies: a gold-crowned molar, a black spot on the right side of the chin, a pimple on a forehead, a white-colored wrist watch. Only a mother could know if it is her son or daughter’s body.
Korean society lacks consideration for the young generation. Roads in front of schools in the United States have a 25-mile speed limit without exception. How many drivers in Korea would follow similar regulations? An American teacher reportedly lectured her elementary school students for an hour before going to the theater. Do we have such a teacher here?
The result is the kind of deaths our students faced at Sealand Youth Training Center in 1999, a resort in Gyeongju in February and at a private Marine camp last July. Heedless deaths, heartless deaths.
Children are different from adults. They are weak, immature and naive. That’s why they need special care from their elders. People in charge, whether at a resort or on a ferry, must teach students how to respond in an emergency. Children must be protected, because they are the future of our community. The submerged Sewol must be salvaged and displayed to the public so it can be a permanent reminder of our society’s irresponsibility.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 24, Page 26