Petitions call for Sewol’s heroes to be recognized
Under official regulations, the government may recognize any citizens who have sacrificed their lives or injured themselves trying to save others. Those honored will be buried in a designated national cemetery and their families will be granted financial support and benefits.
Those applications can only be filed by the victims’ family members at local government offices, and it is up to the Health and Welfare Ministry to review and accept the request.
Some petitions regarding the Sewol ferry heroes have already been filed with the ministry. While others have been posted online to gather signatures and rally support for others who died in the sinking, official procedure states that only the victim’s kin may file an application.
An online petition calling for the recognition of Park Ji-young, the young crew member known to have handed out life jackets to passengers and helped them out of the ship, has already been posted on a discussion page on the Internet portal site Daum.
“I would like to appoint the late Park Ji-young as a person who sacrificed herself saving others, to praise her meritorious actions and to have her name remembered,” the request read.
Only 22 years old, Park was found dead on the day of the accident. Since April 18, her petition has been signed by more than 50,000 people.
So far, petitions to praise the selfless sacrifices of seven people, including Park, have been filed with the ministry or registered on Daum’s discussion page.
They include 17-year-old students Jeong Cha-woon and Choi Deok-ha; Nam Yun-cheol, 35, and Choi Hye-jeong, 25, both teachers at Danwon High School in Ansan, Gyeonggi; and Kim Gi-woong, a 28-year-old part-time worker, and his girlfriend Jeong Hyeon-seon, a 28-year-old crew member.
Park and Choi both have petitions on their behalf posted online.
The Incheon Metropolitan City Government took the first step among authorities in recognizing its own in the ferry disaster. Kim and Jeong were both residents there. They reportedly woke three crew members on the third floor of the ship and stayed behind to help passengers escape during the ferry’s capsizing.
“We immediately applied for their appointment because it was confirmed that they had died trying to save others,” said Bae Dong-hwan, the head of the Incheon government’s social welfare department. “The Jindo government was supposed to file the applications, but we did instead given they are busy handling the accident.”
The Ansan government has not yet started the process. “We need to get consent from the families for the application and confirm their actions first,” said Park Yong-deok, the head of welfare policy for the Ansan government.
“When applications are filed, we will hold a judging committee and finalize them by May,” an official from the Ministry of Health and Welfare said.
BY SHIN SEONG-SIK AND JANG JOO-YOUNG [email@example.com]
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
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