Shrines open up across the nationA group mourning altar was set up in Seoul Plaza, in central Seoul, on Sunday and 16 other altars opened yesterday morning nationwide to allow the public to pay their respects to the victims of the Sewol ferry accident, which has left nearly 200 dead and more than 110 missing.
Until then, only a temporary mass mourning altar in Ansan Olympic Museum in Ansan, Gyeonggi, had served mourners.
The shrine was visited by nearly 180,000 people, including more than 40,000 on Sunday alone. It was closed yesterday at midnight, and an official group mourning altar that will open today at 10 a.m. at another park in Ansan will take its place.
Despite the rain, the altar in Seoul Plaza had been visited by more than 10,000 people as of yesterday afternoon. A few lined up under white tents to take shelter from the inclement weather. Alongside them, yellow ribbons were tied to ropes, fences and boards with messages by the visitors.
“We are sorry. We hope for the safe return of the missing and repose of the deceased,” read the banner hung on the Seoul Metropolitan Library behind the altar.
Mourners laid flowers at the altar, offered silent tributes and sometimes left more messages on the board.
Park Jin-seon, 28, visited the altar yesterday after finishing work.
“I feel really sad because there’s nothing that I can do for the victims,” she said. “All I can do is just say my last goodbyes to those poor teenagers.”
When asked what he wished while placing a white chrysanthemum on the shrine, Choi Hyung-kyu, 33, responded, “I just said that I am sorry over and over again.
“I think the young people are not just the victims of the ferry sinking, but [they are also the victims of] the adults’ ignorance and mishandling. We should feel sorry for them,” he said. Choi added that he was going to visit the altar again during his lunch hour.
An official of the Seoul Metropolitan Government said that the altar’s official hours were from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
“But about 120 more people visited even after operating hours on Sunday,” the official added.
Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon also paid a visit at around 3:40 p.m. on Sunday and laid a flower at the shrine.
Sixteen other localities also opened group-mourning altars yesterday, and many government heads and officials paid a visit as soon as they opened.
The Seoul Administrative Court yesterday accepted the petition from civic groups that have been jointly holding a candlelit vigil in Gwanghwamun Plaza, in central Seoul, for the victims since April 20. These organizations had originally requested to hold a parade on Wednesday following their vigil, a request that the Jongno Police Precinct rejected earlier in the day.
The police expressed concern that the event would cause the roads to become congested.
The court is planning to review the group petition on May 1. Until then, those organizations may hold parades following their vigil.
BY KIM BONG-MOON AND PARK EUN-JEE [email@example.com]